The VanMetre name first became known in the Lashburn, Canada area
when our parents, Charles Luther and Gertrude VanMetre arrived from
VanMetre, SD in 1914, with my oldest brother, Louis VanMetre, in his
Our father was called "Dutch" by his friends as his ancestry on
his father's side was Dutch from the Pennsylvania Dutch Colony. He
was born in Vermillion, SD, in the southeast corner of the state.
He eventually owned a ranch on the banks of the Bad River near
VanMetre. This small town was first named Bison, then later named
VanMetre when the railway came through and had to cross land owned
by Grandpa VanMetre. The Bad River was aptly named as it was very
treacherous. In the morning it could be low and easily crossed, but
later could be a raging torrent becoming very high with dangerous
currents. Our mother told us how our father, an expert swimmer,
rescued several people from this river.
Father also had a livery stable in VanMetre. The wealthy cattle
buyers from Chicago would come and hire him to take them to
out-lying ranches to conduct their business.
The ancestry on our mother's side was Sioux Indians of the
United States, his mother being a quarter-blood Sioux. He and my
three oldest brothers were members of the Sioux Indian Nation. A
U.S. Indian Treaty signed in 1919, stated that any descendents of
the Sioux after that date would not be considered members and would
not receive free parcels of land from the Nation. Because my
youngest brother and I were born after that date, we were not
eligible. My three oldest brothers each had a quarter of land with
oil rights, in the Cheyenne River Indian Agency.
When our father sold his Indian land to move to Canada, he gave up
his Indian rights. In a ritual, proclaimed by President Taft of the
United States, he was given an arrow, considered to be the last one
shot from the bow, indicating he was no longer to live the life of
an Indian, but was now to live the life of a white man. This arrow
was to always remind him of his noble race and of the pride he felt
in coming from the first of all Americans. This gave him American
He was also given a purse, a flag and a badge. I remember the
arrow in our home as I was growing up but not until recently, did I
know why it was there. I still have the purse and badge and can
remember Mother using the purse many times through the years.
When our father was 13 years old, he shot his first buffalo. I
have a small amount of hair from that buffalo. It had been used to
stuff a small pillow and given to me several years ago.
Our mother was born in Minneapolis,
Minnesota of Swiss and German descent. Her father was born in
Dubuque, Iowa, but the ancestors on her father’s side can be traced
back to 1756, as all having been born in Glaurus, Switzerland.
Mother spent most of her youth in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she worked
at an orphanage, caring for young children. She and a girlfriend
traveled west to South Dakota where they bought a homestead. We still
have the repeater rifle she learned to use. I have been told she became
a very good marksman.
met and married our father in Oacoma, SD in 1909. Their first two babies
died; the first at birth and other at one month of age. Our oldest
brother, Louis, was born in 1913, and it was the next year they moved to
Canada where the soil was good and the land cheap, unlike the drought
and hardships they had been having there (Oacoma).
The homestead on which they filed was 15 miles north of Lashburn and the
price was ten dollars. They built a log home, plowed the land and sowed
the crops with many hardships along the way. Mother took her babies in
carriage and stocked the grain or picked the multitudes of wild
strawberries so plentiful then.
Lashburn was a small town and the only one close enough where
they could sell their grain and buy supplies. Mother made butter in the
pound press and took it to Snyder and Armstrong’s Store where it was
exchanged for groceries.
Father increased his holdings by buying another quarter of land about
two miles from the homestead. This was owned by a man named Carl Winters
and has, since that time, been referred to as the “Winter Quarter.”
According to a letter Father received from a land trust company, they
sent him a cheque for $585 for hauling estate’s share of grain, namely
58½ bushels at ten cents a bushel.
Families used to get together on Sundays and drive to the North
Saskatchewan River for picnics and swimming. Being an excellent swimmer,
our father saved the life of Fred Suttaby on one of these outings when
Fred became caught in a dangerous current in the river. Sundays were
also for visiting friends. There was a different meeting place every
week so all had their turn. Homemade ice cream often was the order of
the day on these occasions and ball games and other games kept everyone
busy. I remember hearing the names of many old-timers in this respect .
the Christies, Nappers, Tingvalls, Turveys and Coolidges, to name only a
few. The nearest gathering place for social functions was Banana Belt
School where my three oldest brothers started their education. They rode
horseback a distance of four or five miles from the homestead. Our
father was known to have much vocal talent and was quite often the
master of ceremonies at most programs and functions.
early 1922, our family had increased to five children: Louis, Charles,
John, Roy and myself. We were all about two years apart.
Unfortunately, our father was not able to see much of the fruits of his
labor or his family grow up. A heart seizure brought on by high blood
pressure took his life in July of 1926. The farm property was auctioned
and the land rented. Mother became ill and was taken to the hospital. An
aunt from South Dakota came up and took us back to the states for a few
months while Mother was getting medical treatment. When she regained her
health, she came down on the train and brought us back to Lashburn where
the good people there had obtained a house for her to rent. This house
was three-quarters of a mile east of Lashburn and owned by the late
Frank Spence. My four brothers attended the old Lashburn Public School.
late 1929 or 1930, Mother heard there was a possibility of a new school
being built near the homestead and decided the farm would be a better
place for the boys to be working. By this time, Louis had quit school
and gone out to work. With four of us to increase the enrollment, the
district was assured permission to build a school. It was named Lenwall,
after two soldiers killed in the first world war, Len Moffat and Fred
Wall. It was not long before Charles quit school and went out to work,
too. John, Roy and myself continued our schooling, the boys quitting at
15 years of age and going out to work between helping farm the land.
dry years of the 30’s came along with many hardships. I can remember the
scourge of potato bugs – picking them off the plants and throwing them
into a can of kerosene. We had no sprays then. Because of the loss of
the potato crops, there were many time we had a diet of carrots and
saskatoons for several days and our school sandwiches had lard instead
of butter. I can’t ever remember going hungry though as our mother, it
seemed, could make something out of practically nothing.
Many times she would stay up at night to wash the boys’ heavy underwear
and dry them around the stove so they would have it clean by morning.
Money was too tight for many changes of clothing.
second world war began in 1939, and my three youngest brothers were
drafted. Roy was in the air force and John and Charles in the army.
the early 50’s, our mother moved to Lloydminster to live. She lived
alone until she was 93 years old when a disabled hip made it necessary
for her to go to a nursing home for care. She was in the Lloydminster
Auxiliary Hospital for four years and finally was called to rest in
January, 1980, at the age of 97 years and 10 months.