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Marwayne Main Street, 1988. [Enlargement size 455KB]
The river where the family landed. [Enlargement size 460KB]
The Family Reunion, 1988. [Enlargement size 566KB]
Lea Park camper (R.V.) park, 1988. [Enlargement size 560KB]
W.C. Marfleet's Memorial Stone. [Enlargement size 564KB]
for an enlargement.


Family History

Welcome Board, 1988. [Enlargement size 182KB]

The Story of Marwayne, Alberta, Canada

  In January 1977 a letter was received from Ena MARFLEET [K.030F-036] of Vancouver, British Columbia, in which Ena writes:

"I am enclosing a 'skit' put on in Marwayne some years ago, which gives a pretty good idea of the trip. Nearly every one on the ship that brought the family out was sea sick. My husband was the only one that never missed a meal. Lots of times he would be the only member of the family at the table at meal times.

Lots of little 'items of interest' of not mentioned in the 'skit'. Such as the pleasure of living in a sod roof shack. It would rain three days outside, and drip three more inside. Grandma Marfleet being an invalid spent most of her time in bed, which would be covered with every available pan and bowl. Also clouds and clouds of mosquitoes that plagued people and animals.

The boys would work in lumber camps and brick yards in the winter time, so it was not long before a proper roof was put on the shack.

There were no roads in the country, just prairie trails, full of pot holes. Provisions had to be brought in from great distances. Some would pack in big loads on their back, using snow shoes in the winter. Once they were able to get a team of oxen and a walking plow, land would be broken for a garden. Fortunately rabbits were plentiful and saved many a family from hunger.

People nowadays cannot picture the life of a pioneer in those days.

VOICE: Trails of the Pioneers .. Chapter Fifteen .. "The Trail to Marwayne".
  Every highway, every road, every slender pathway winding round lakes, over hills and through trees has been travelled by someone before you. There are always the trail blazers, those who lead the way and prepare for those who come after. Such were the pioneers of Northern Alberta, ... and it is the Trails of the Pioneers we follow.
  One person, or one family doesn't make a community, but in our story of the Trail to Marwayne we shall, for the most part follow one family, the family from whom it gets its name.

The excitement of the Coronation of Edward the Seventh had hardly died down in England when another type of excitement found its way into hundreds of English homes. A certain Reverend Barr was circulating information about land available in Canada. Each member of each family to go out and settle there could claim 160 acres ... a fabulous amount of land for a person in England to visualize. In the town of Wainfleet in Lincolnshire not far from the North Sea the news of Reverend Barr's colony in the Canadian west came to the family of W.C. Marfleet through young Gilbert Nicholson, a suitor for their eldest daughter. It seemed a wonderful opportunity for there were four boys and three girls in the family besides Mother and Father Marfleet. Long hours of family discussion were put in, and then it was decided to lay the whole matter before young Fred, who was in the navy.

  His Majestey's Ship MARS had just put in to the harbour at Gibraltar and the mail from home had been distributed. RMA Fred Marfleet had just read a long letter from his sister Fan at home.
FRED: Just listen to this Herbert. "According to Mr. Barr's information each of us shall have 160 acres in Canada."
HAROLD: (COCKNEY) Crickey ..... hundred sixty acres, all for one family?
FRED: Not all for one family. A hundred and sixty acres for each one in the family.
HAROLD: Strike me pink! 'Ow many in your family Fred?
FRED: Counting my four brothers .. my dad and mother ..
HAROLD: ..... you got six right there. Let me see .. six hoes is hoe .... six sixes is thirty six .... six ones is six, add on the three. You got 960 acres, Fred. Why the Marfleets of Wainfleet will 'ave a blinkin' hestate.
  So the Marfleet family decided it would be Canada. Three of boys were sent on ahead, two of them travelling with the main body of Barr Colonists on the steamship Lake Manitoba. It became obvious almost from the start, the Reverend Barr had let his colony idea get away from him. At the beginning he may have intended to move just a few hundred English families to his reserve of land in the northern prairies, but his office was swamped with requests in London, and he accepted practically all of them. The Lake Manitoba's complement of passengers normally was not more than 1200. On this trip she carried more than twice that number with the resulting hardships of poor food, inadequate accomodation and all the dangers that go with an overcrowded ship. When they arrived in Saskatoon they were within 150 miles of their goal, but hardships had only begun. Saskatoon was a village. There were few stores and fewer stopping places. More than two thousand people camped out with little food because there was little food to buy. A few hundred hardy souls went on despite the long trek, prairie fire, and complete lack of knowledge of life in the wilds. Among them were the three Marfleet boys who took out homestead west of the main colony near where the Vermilion river flows into the North Saskatchewan. They built a hut of poplar poles with a sod roof. They spent most of the winter of 1903 and 1904 with the rest of the Bar Colonists near Lloydminster on one occasion hauling a ton of groceries from Saskatoon for Hall and Scotts store.

The rest of the Marfleet family were due to arrive in Edmonton by rail in June of 1904 and the Marfleet brothers travelled by wagon across the prairies to Edmonton to meet them. It was a happy family re-union with the three boys Harry, William and Fred united with young Teddy, their three sisters, Fan, Floss and Molly and Fan's fiancé .. Gilbert Nicholson. Another family conference was held and they agreed to follow the example of other settlers and float down the North Saskatchewan river to their homestead in a scow. Little time was lost in buying the lumber from Walter's Mill on the flats on the south bank of the river and turning it into a 24 by 24 foot scow. It was built pretty well according to the pattern followed by others except it had a small upper deck with a canopy over it for Mother Marfleet. You see Mrs. Marfleet was an invalid and did not have the use of her legs. They thought if Mother could ride above the load she would get a clear view of everything that went on, and would be clearly visible to every one in the family.

In mid June the launching took place. Aboard the scow were placed a team of horse and wagon, all the Marfleet household effects including a piano, and many of the precious articles of furniture which had graced their home back in Lincolnshire. There were provisions too ... barrels of flour, dried apples, a number of whole cheeses, large pails of lard, sacks of beans and barrels of sowbelly. There was Father Marfleet's precious flock of Buff Orpington chickens and the family cat and dog. All these and nine people. Almost from the moment they shoved off the Walterdale flats the Marfleets ran in trouble. Two of the boys had run ahead to the Fraser Mill to get them to pull in their boom for holding saw logs. Just in time the boom was pulled aside while the good ship Marfleet sailed on down the river. Around the first bend they found an outcropping of coal and filled six bags. "What a country," they thought ... "When you can go out and gather your coal by the bag full."

Other things surprised them pleasantly ... the quantity of fish available at the mouths of the little streams which flowed into the river ... and the picturesque scenery along the river itself.

But not everything was pleasant. They hadn't been travelling long before the scow caught on a hidden rock and turn around on itself completely before shaking loose. It was then decided two of the boys should travel ahead in a boat and by looking back spot the places where the rocks and rapids were. Then they'd warn the men at the sweeps which steered the awkward craft in time to direct the scow around them.

  They used to make fun of the green Englishman. And it was true there were many among the Barr Colonists who were completely ignorant of life in the west and completely unprepared for the bleak, uncivilized reception which awaited them on the prairies.

But picture this English family, newly arrived from a small provincial town within smelling distance of the North Sea, navigating the North Saskatchewan as it wound through a country almost uninhabited. Think of them pouring over a map as they calculated the number of tributaries they would have to pass before they reached the mouth of the Vermillion; imagine them as they tied up on shore at night, the womenfolk sleeping on the scow while the men curled up by the fire on the bank; see in your mind's eye the eldest girl, Fan, as she got the men to build a fire on the sands until they were red hot, then raking it round her tins of bread dough and leaving it there for an hour until it was done perfectly. Fan was an expert cook in the old countlry, but she knew how to adapt what she had learned to the situation. And that is always the sign of a true pioneer.

So five days after they left Edmonton they tied up at the mouth of the Vermilion River. Long hours of work were necessary to build a road from the river level to bank above. Everyone helped and when it was ready they hauled as much as they could to the little poplar shack 12 miles away, then went back for more. The new arrivals were surprised to see outside the door a heap of rabbit skins four or five feet high. When asked for an explanation the boys replied ... "What do you think we lived on last winter?"

So a house was built later that summer, a substantial home for a large family. It was made of poplar logs from stands of burned over trees, killed by fire and left standing dry and firm. Part of the house was made of lumber from the scow ... but that's not all.When the Reverend Smythe first held services in the Marfleet home a year or so later, the other settlers sat on benches made from the planks of the scow. Later a cutter was made from more boards from the scow, a cutter which Fred Marfleet used to drive regularly from Kitscoty to Marwayne with the mail.

But what of Marwayne. How did the name come to be? Here's the story.

KEITH: It's 1906 and the scene is a boarding house for bank clerks and young business men. Fan Marfleet has been cook for them. After clearing away one evening she approached a young bank teller named Billy Briesbach.
FAN: Billy .... how good are you at thinking up names?
BILL: Boy or girl?
FAN: Silly .... it's for a Post Office. We're going to have a Post Office on our farm near the Vermillion River, and the government wants Father to submit a list of names.
BILL: How about Marfleet?
FAN: That's too easy ... try again.
BILL: Well, where are you from in England?
FAN: Wainfleet in Lincoln.
BILL: Wainfleet .... Marfleet .... Wainfleet. Tell you what Fan .. just scuttle the 'fleets' and what have you left?
FAN: Wain-mar ....
BILL: No, no ... Marwain. Marwayne, Alberta. What say? ...
  So in 1906 the little Post Office on the Marfleet farm was begun and the name Marwayne was chosen. The elder Marfleet kept the Post Office until he died in 1921 when his son, Fred, took over. For years Marwayne was just a small country Post Office, the settlers going all the way to Islay or Kitscoty on the Canadian National for their supplies. But in 1926 the Canadian Pacific put a branch line through from Lloydminster to Edmonton, and a townsite was laid out within a quarter of a mile of the original Marfleet Homested.

The Hamlet of Marwayne mushroomed into a settlement of 2 or 300 people within a matter of months. Within the first year no less than six elevators were built and now each of them has just about doubled its capacity. Young though it is the village of Marwayne is proud of its progress and last year it was incorporated as a village with its own mayor and council.

Marwayne is in its infancy as towns go. Twenty-seven years in the life of a community is as nothing compared to the long years which lie ahead ... years of promise and fulfillment. And always as an example for those who shape her destinies are the pioneers who gave up the comparative ease of their home in a land centuries old, and exchanged it for a scow, a log house in the bushland, and season after season of backbraking toil. But ask them now, those who are left, "Was it worth it?" ... and they'll answer with a knowing smile, ... "This is our country. We have made it, and it has made us what we are. Of course it was worth it."


(Although undated, this 'skit' is thought to date from about 1933.)

Marwayne Post Office 1906. (Click for names)
John's Homepage
© Marfleet Family History 2000
The Story of Marwayne
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