The Eymas

From Big Hill Country

Not only Queen Juliana enjoys a visit to the Eymas but so do people in all walks of life. 

The Eymas, who now live on the Chinook Ranch, are very pleased with their home and surroundings but are a bit sorry they did not continue to call their ranch the “Robber’s Roost” as it was called in earlier days. Pierre realizes he did not know the history of the place when he came or he would have done just that. 

Pierre was born in Leerdam, Holland, in 1905. In 1924, after attending College in Holland, he came to Canada on a C.P.R. ship, the S.S. Melita. He was one of the first Hollanders to immigrate to Canada. 

He went to Quilchena on Nicola Lake, in British Columbia, to learn about fur farming. Later he came back to Calgary and started the Chinook Silver Fox Farm on land adjoining Harry Hays’ farm, just south of the old polo grounds. He imported silver fox breeding stock from Prince Edward Island for $2,000 a pair. 

When Pierre first came to Calgary he was anxious to meet young people. The streetcar that used to come out to the loop at Kingsland on Macleod Trail, stopped quite a distance from any house. He thought maybe it would be a good idea to get in his Model T and give some of the girls that got off a ride. He drove up to the loop and sure enough, a lovely blonde girl got off just loaded with parcels. She accepted his kindness and he drove her home, doing his damndest to get a date but with no luck. One day he was asked by a neighbouring fox farmer, Henri Andersen, to give him a hand. Pierre was asked for dinner, and to come in and meet the wife. When Pierre was introduced to Henri’s wife, Nini, the girl he had driven home, all he could say was, “Mrs.!” 

In 1932 Pierre came to Cochrane and bought a quarter section of land for the exorbitant price of $5.50 an acre from Jim Baptie of Exshaw. The going price for the land was $2.50 to $3.00 an acre. The cabin on the land had been called “Robber’s Roost” and the place was referred to as the Old Mill. Apparently, Tom Quigley had had a sawmill on the property and after that, it became a haven where single men, with no fixed abode, made their home in between jobs, which, in the 1930s, were hard to find. The story has been told about one cowboy riding in hoping to get a good dinner on his way to the Dog Pound Stampede. Seeing a clean shirt on the line, he decided he was no longer hungry, exchanged his dirty shirt for the clean, and rode on. People say the boys staying there would give you the shirt off their back but sometimes it was your own shirt. 

Pierre decided to come and live at Cochrane so he built himself a four-wheeled trailer to pull behind his Chev roadster. He moved seventy foxes, all his pens and equipment to Cochrane, a distance of fifty miles, making 52 trips in all. No easy task when it rained, as the Cochrane Hill had not been hard-surfaced and sometimes the ruts crisscrossed on the hill were a foot deep. 

On his very first trip, Pierre met a rider who, in a very quiet voice, while chewing his moustache, introduced himself as D. P. Mc Donald. After the usual salutations, D. P. wished him well but warned him whatever he did to watch a certain Dave McDougall. Half an hour later a second rider came galloping up the road and, in a voice that was anything but quiet, introduced himself as Dave McDougall. Before he left he reminded Pierre to be sure and watch that D. P. McDonald. Pierre found himself in the middle between the Hatfields and the McCoys. 

One time Henri Andersen came with Pierre and was so taken up with the country that he went back to Calgary and brought his friend Peter Hansen out. Later Henri and Peter bought land in the next valley. Pierre considers that he is to blame for the Danish Invasion in Beaupré. 

The original Robber’s Roost, although not exactly level, had been well built and the doorstep was a cut round from a huge log which served the purpose very well. Lying on the doorstep were five rods with Roman numerals on them that puzzled Pierre for days. Finally, he asked a friend what they were for. When told they were survey pins and you could be heavily fined for having them in your possession, Pierre soon decided to move them somewhere else. Later he quietly watched a neighbour move one of his survey pins out of the proper hole. After the coast was clear, Pierre put the pin back where it belonged. This fellow never did find out how he lost the land he was figuring to gain. 

His biggest problem when he first came to this district was keeping the neighbour’s cattle and horses out of his field. One lady not only used his corrals to corral her horses without asking but told him off because they were not in good repair. 

One day in desperation Pierre decided to go to Delbeke and tell him in no uncertain terms to keep his cattle in his own field. Pierre changed his mind when he got to Delbekes and claims he got even with him because Marie Delbeke, the oldest daughter, is now Pierre’s wife. 

Pierre and Marie were married in 1935. They have three children, Anita, Jay and Clay. Anita married Newt Kessler. They have four children and live in Houston, Texas. Jay married Lynne Smith. They have four children and live in Jackass Canyon in the home place. Clay finishes school and helps his parents on the ranch. 

In 1939 just before World War II was declared, Pierre took his wife and two children, Anita and Jay, aged three and two, back to Holland for a holiday and to meet his parents. Their return tickets were booked for passage on the Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess of Bedford was not able to leave port so her passengers were given a first place on the Athenia. The Eymas, desperate to get back to Canada due to the unrest in Europe, was given the last cabin on the Empress of Australia. The Athenia was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland with the loss of most of her passengers. World War II was declared the day the Eymas arrived in Montreal. 

Soon after Pierre came to Cochrane he added to his fur-bearing animals by buying platinum foxes and platinum mink. He takes great pride in his show rabbits, pigeons, chickens and guinea pigs and has been engaged in this endeavour since 1913, as an eight-year-old in Holland. His family is very proud, and justifiably so, of the over 1,000 ribbons and trophies he has won over the years. 

The walls in Eymas’ trophy room are covered with hunting trophies and different collections of interest. They have over 60 sets of horns in their place. One thing in the trophy room that is really fascinating is Pierre’s Hans Brinker skates. When he first came to Calgary in 1924 he decided he would join a skating party on Elbow Drive. He quickly strapped on his skates and went skating across the ice. Everyone wondered what the heck because they could not see his skates.

The Eymas now have a new home, and their prize birds have taken over the original Robber’s Roost, which has been enlarged several times during the years. 

Pierre and Marie have been kept busy but have had time to fulfill their interest in community life. Pierre was president of the Ghost River Pony Club for ten years. He was a school trustee for Beaupré Creek School until it closed in 1962, was instrumental in getting the Beaupré Community Association started, and was president of the Association for five years. 

The Eymas have not been fur farming for several years. They raised thoroughbred horses and dairy cattle. The only drawback with the property was the road and gate problem. At first, there were seven gates to open from the main road to their home, a distance of about five miles. Dirt roads were seldom fit for travel by car in the spring or winter, so they left their car at the Hollowood Store and would drive a team and wagon and leave them there while they went to Calgary and back in the car. The team is tied up for hours at the fence resulted in many a runaway with feed and groceries scattered along the trail. 

One of the highlights of their life was the visit of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, in 1967, accompanied by the Ambassadors and Consuls and their wives, from both Canada and Holland. 

The security precautions before and during the visit were most impressive. At one point when the Queen was leaving, one of the detectives spotted a movement in the trees and whipped out his gun. Pierre almost lost one of his best bulls. 

The Dutch Princesses, Queen Juliana’s daughters, attended Pierre’s uncle’s (Kees Boeke) private school in Holland. 

When Queen Juliana was shown through the trophy room she showed an amazing knowledge of hunting and wildlife. 

QUEEN JULIANA'S VISIT (1967) - by Clay Eyma 


The visit of Queen Juliana begins like this. One cold, snowy day in March, the Dutch Consuls from Edmonton and Calgary came to visit us. On April 30, they came again and were joined by His Excellency, the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Canada. 

May 12, the Consuls from Edmonton and Calgary called again and informed us that Queen Juliana would visit us May 22, at 2:15 p.m. for fifty minutes. We could not tell a soul as it was top security. 

Mom immediately started to clean the house and do some fancy cooking. Mom also got out her lace tablecloth and china for the big occasion. Dad tidied up the place outside. I cleaned my bedroom. 

May 18, twenty security men, including R.C.M.P. detectives and army officials, arrived to see where to park and where they would be

pictures of the place and who had an interview with Dad. These pictures were shown in Holland the following day. On May 21, four more television men came out to take pictures of the scenery. It was quite an experience to see how plans are made for dignitaries. 

We were informed by the Edmonton Consul that Queen Juliana’s flight would be late and she would arrive at 3.15 p.m. instead of 2.15 p.m. First, the R.C.M.P. police car came up the road. They went up past our house and later came down the road again. A little later a car arrived, stopped by the corral and the men started setting up their cameras. Within minutes a second car stopped at the same place and the men put their cameras up. About ten minutes later we saw a bus coming. When the bus drove up, about thirty reporters and more television men jumped out. By this time we felt that we were invaded. 

About fifteen minutes later two R.C.M.P. Police cars followed by a cavalcade of seven cars came up the road. A small white car drove up to our gate on the walk. The door opened and before anyone could assist her, out stepped Queen Juliana.

Her Majesty’s hair was almost golden in colour. She wore a blue dress with black shoes, a hat and a purse. Her Majesty was introduced to the family while cameramen were pushing and shoving everyone around. Finally, we managed to get into the house. 

After talking a few minutes, the Queen was asked to see the den. In the den, she looked at the deer heads, moose horns, coyote, bear, badger, goat and muskrat hides, and many different varieties of birds. 

While the Queen was in the den, the table was set up and when the Queen came back, coffee was served. We had moose meat sandwiches among other varieties of sandwiches and the Queen chose to eat four moose sandwiches. 

The Queen was to stay fifty minutes but stayed an hour and a half. The cameramen wanted to take pictures inside and asked her permission. Her Majesty said, “Certainly not. You’re not going to spoil my visit when I am enjoying myself.” That sure made the cameramen keep quiet for a while. 

We served coffee and tea to sixteen people who included the Lady-in-Waiting, the Canadian Ambassador to Holland, the Dutch Ambassador to Canada and their wives. There was also an “Equerry” which is a sort of General. He was dressed in a Dutch uniform which was navy blue with a gold braid, and a matching cap. Altogether there were about fifty people including the press and cameramen who were being served lunch outside. 

Her Majesty had to leave as she had another stop and an engagement in Calgary at seven-thirty p.m. The Queen was very charming. Before she left, she asked if she could take greetings to anyone in Holland. Dad replied by asking her to say hello to everyone in Holland for him. 

We were very sorry to see her go so quickly. My father’s uncle was a teacher to the princesses, Her Majesty’s daughters, and several of the Royal Party were acquainted with his relatives in Holland. There were three families picked out of one hundred families, the Lublinkhofs, DeWitts and ourselves. 

NOTE: Written in 1967, the year of the Royal Visit, when Clay was thirteen years of age.

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