The Richards Family

by Audley and Jim Richards, as told to Wendy Vaughan

 The Richards Brothers, Bill, James, Albert (Ab), and Dave resided at McLaren’s Depot, Frontenac County, Ontario, where they farmed and ran a general store. 

In 1902 Bill Richards came West to Calgary and went into the sawmill business with a man named George Hatt. The mill was located on the south side of the Stoney Indian Reserve at Morley. That same year Bill Richards wrote his brother, James, asking him to come west and look things over, which he did in 1903. James Richards purchased George Hatt’s interest in the mill at that time, and in 1904 brought his wife, Agnes, and their four children, Audley, Edgar, Hazel and Gladys, West. After their arrival three more children were born to their family; Jim at Morley in 1909, and Agnes and Bill in Calgary in 1911 and 1913, respectively. The two other Richards brothers, Ab and Dave, also came West a little later. 

After buying out George Hatt in 1904, Richards Brothers moved the mill to the north side of the Stoney Indian Reserve near the east end. As their contract with the Indians to supply logs was not panning out, they purchased 12 of Section 23-26-7-5 (north of the Reserve) from the CPR. 

They were about to move the mill to the new timber berth when the Indians decided they wanted them to stay, and so instead in 1905 they moved the mill one mile west of the old site onto a small lake. This new site was the original location of Reverend George McDougall’s first Fort when he moved to Morley. The mounds of the old Fort can still be seen, and the house which the Richards built also still stands there. 

In 1906 the Richards Brothers, James, Dave and Bill, homesteaded some land in the Queenstown area, and in May, 1907, were caught in a severe blizzard at Gleichen while moving two carloads of equipment and horses to the homesteads. The horses were unloaded at Gleichen during the storm which lasted for three days and took a large toll of livestock in the area. At this time the Richards Brothers’ families were living in Calgary as there was no schooling in the Morley area then. 

In 1910 James and Bill Richards formed a company with George Wayman, owner of the City Planing Mills, Calgary, and carried on lumbering, a sash and door business, and contracting. In 1913 they expanded their operation. This was a disastrous move for the company as it came just before the slump of 1914 when

everything came to a standstill. With their lumber business at a low ebb, in 1914 Richards Brothers took on a haying contract at Hussar and put up 500 tons of hay for P. Burns at $2.00 a ton. Machinery for haying was purchased from the Cockshutt Plow Co. and International Harvester Co. Before they could collect their money for the contract they had to buy a baler, bale the hay, and ship it out 12 miles in the spring of 1915. In 1914 when Richards undertook the haying contract, general economic conditions were terrible. For example, while they were taking their wagons and equipment through Calgary on the way to Hussar, hundreds of men out of work tried to jump on the wagons with the hope of getting a job with the outfit. In fact, so many men climbed aboard that they had to be pushed off so the horses could still pull the wagons. Eventually they were all pushed off, except for one man who was so persistent that finally Richards allowed him to stay. This man helped them hay the rest of the summer for only his board and room. 

During 1913 and 1914 Richards Brothers plowed fireguards for the CPR from Radnor (east of Morley) to Seebe. On May 16, 1914, James Richards staked a mining claim in the Clearwater area of the Forest Reserve. John Hunter of Morley and Tom Noble went with him on this venture. The claim, however, was never developed. 

The Company liquidated due to the Depression, and in 1915 James Richards took a contract breaking and farming a quarter section of land west of Langdon owned by his brother Ab. The fall of 1915 he supplied Foulton Brothers of Indus with six teams and bundle racks for their threshing outfit. James’ sons, Audley and Edgar, worked as helpers on this crew, as well as on a crew for Foultons in 1916. During the summers they worked the mill at Morley. 

In 1917 the Richards Brothers contracted to build a barn for Robert (Scotty) White of Indus (later of the Cochrane District). Audley and Ed also worked on this project, and in the summer the brothers again moved back to Morley to work the mill. 

After the Richards Brothers Company liquidated, only James Richards and his family remained in the Morley district, where James continued to run the mill. His wife, Agnes, had passed away in 1914 leaving a family of very young children. During their school years, the children went to various schools in Calgary. Some also attended school on the Reserve and at other times they had a governess right at the mill. Audley recalls a time when he went to school at Victoria School in Calgary, located near the present Calgary Stampede grounds, and that they used to go down to the race track to watch the famous pacing horse, Dan Patch, work out. In 1908, Audley also recalled seeing a type of stampede in Calgary. It was more or less a big roundup of horses and cattle, with a lot of cowboys there riding and roping. 

Many stories could be told of life at the mill. One is recalled when James Richards employed a Chinese cook. This cook would set his fresh baked pies on the window sill of the kitchen to cool. Young Jim and Bill Richards and their friend, Joe Fox, would watch for the cook to go to the spring for water, then would sneak up and steal the cook’s pies off the ledge and run off into the maze of lumber piles to eat their spoil. The cook would return to find some of his fresh pies missing, and would then stand on the kitchen step and look and look, but never caught them. 

In 1918 Audley, the eldest of James Richards’ sons, went to work for Mr. Desjardine of Gleichen when Desjardine moved 500 head of cattle up to Morley. Desjardine had leased the north side of the Stoney Reserve and built a full set of corrals on the north side of the Bow River west of Morley, a location which is still known locally as the “Desjardine Corrals.” The location has also become well known in the film industry as scenes from several movies have been filmed there, including those from “Little Big Man.” Desjardine moved his horses and cattle back to Gleichen in 1919 and Audley, after helping put in the crop in the spring of 1920, quit and came back to Morley just before the mill burned down. 

The mill completely burned down in 1920 shortly after it was started up in the spring. The mill was built to run from steam, had three steam boilers, and was valued at about $20,000. As there was no insurance on it and little was saved, the mill was never rebuilt. 

The summer after the mill burned, Audley and Ed went to work haying for their uncle, Bill Richards, at Irricana. They also did a mile of road grading for him to enable him to work off his land taxes, and in the fall the two brothers 

also helped other farmers in the district threshing. In 1921 Audley and Ed went in on a haying contract which T. J. Noble and Donald Cameron of the McCorkell Place obtained for putting up hay on the Ricks Ranch, southeast of Morley. 

For several winters after the mill burned down, James Richards and sons supplied pilings to Alberta Wood Preservers in Calgary. They took the pilings out of their timber berth during the winter, stockpiled them at the mill site, and in the summer hauled them to Morley where they were put on cars for shipping to Calgary. All of the timber was hauled by horses. In 1924 James and his sons, Audley, Ed and Jim, hauled poles for Calgary Power for the No. 3 Line from Ozada to Chinequay. Audley also had a job stretching wire with a team from Morley to Calgary. Richards had a teepee of their own at this time and used it for camping in while working on their contracts. 

The years following the mill’s burning saw James’ girls, Agnes, Gladys and Hazel all eventually take up permanent residence in Calgary. Hazel married Oscar Beaudry and they had three children, Joan, Victor and Louise. She resided in Calgary until her death in 1957. Gladys worked in Calgary as a legal secretary until her death in 1948. Agnes still resides in Calgary where she has her own dressmaking business. James Richards lived mainly in the Morley and Calgary areas until his death in 1956 at the age of 83. 

In 1930 Ed Richards purchased some land originally belonging to Andrew Sibbald (now a part of the Stah Wapta Ranches) and the four young bachelor brothers resided there much of the time until the late 1930s. James also stayed with the boys until he purchased a section of land directly south of Ed’s and moved there in the early 1930s. He later sold this section to his son, Bill, after Bill returned from the Second World War. Also during the early 1930s Audley, Jim and Bill homesteaded quarters northwest of the Morley Indian Reserve. Jim and his family still live on his homestead where they carry on ranching. 

While the brothers were batching at Ed’s, they raised a number of horses, and broke and sold horses. They also worked out for various local ranchers including Dave McDougall, Jim Boyce (an outfitter in Banff), Tom Noble, Laurie Johnson, and others. Audley, Jim and Bill also made improvements on their homesteads during this period. 

During these years of bachelorhood, the young Richards brothers were dubbed “The Playboys of Poverty Bend” by their local neighbours. The first break-up of the group occurred in 1937 when Jim married Tillie Zuccolo. They met in 1931 when Tillie was teaching the Tom Lauder children. Tom Lauder and his family were working for Laycocks then, and Tillie lived with them and taught the Lauder children from September of 1931 through to January of 1933. The romance did not truly blossom however, until Tillie was teaching Laurie and Jean Johnson’s girls in 1936. 

After Jim and Tillie married they lived on Jim’s homestead. They moved a log cabin which Tillie owned up to the homestead. The cabin had been located on Guy Gibson’s Soldier grant down by the Ghost River. For the next five years they worked in the mountains for Fred Brewster during the summers, and lived on their homestead in the winters. While they worked in the mountains (mainly out of Jasper), Jim acted as a big game guide and Tillie cooked. 

During the 1930s Jim Richards competed in Saddle Bronc Riding at various local rodeos such as Morley, Dog Pound, Sundre and Calgary, He was in the North American Saddle Bronc Riding finals five out of the six years he rode in Calgary, although he was never lucky enough to win the event. Jim recalls that in those days travelling to rodeos did not have all the luxurious conveniences of swift trucks and fancy campers. In 1937 he and Tillie, along with Laurie and Jean Johnson, packed a couple of horses and all rode to Sundre for the rodeo. They camped at Sundre during the rodeo and then packed up and rode home when the show was over. Jim recalls that he won the Saddle Bronc event at Sundre that year and that the total trip took several days. 

Jim and Tillie settled down permanently to ranching in 1943 when their daughter, Wendy, was born. A son, Doug, was born in 1946. Wendy married Walter Vaughan of the Dog Pound area. They now own the Vaughan place east of Bottrel, but having pioneer blood in their veins, they rented the farm out in 1974 and moved to the Bonanza area of the Peace River country to prove up on their homestead land in that area. Doug married Jill Harries of Calgary and they reside in Jim’s place, where they are building a new log house. The lumber being used for their house was planed at Brooks’ sawmill and the planer which Brooks have is the one the Richards brothers had in their mill. Like Jim, Doug has become a bronc rider. He won the Saddle Bronc Riding title in the F.C.A. Rodeo circuit in 1971, and also has a small string of good bucking horses. Also, like his Dad, Doug married a school teacher. 

In 1938 Ed Richards married Marjorie Eckel. They had one son, Kenneth. Ed and Marjorie ranched on Ed’s place until the mid-fifties when they sold out to what is now Stah Wapta Ranches. They then moved to Calgary where Ed worked for Firestone Tire Co. until his retirement. They now reside in Creston, British Columbia, 

Audley married Esther Ernst in 1945. They have a daughter, Jackie, now married and living in Calgary, and a son, David. When they were first married they resided in Audley’s homestead. They then worked for Brewster’s for a number of years and resided part of the time at 

Black Rock where Brewster’s winter their horses. During the 1950s Audley went to work for Calgary Power at Seebe and remained with them until his retirement. He still resides at the Horseshoe Dam below Seebe and works for the Parks Department in the summertime. Esther cooked for Brewster’s on their Trail Rides out of Banff for many years as well. David Richards is presently building a log house on his Dad’s old homestead. 

In 1946 Bill Richards returned from the Second World War and brought with him his war bride, Mariette, from Belgium. Mariette, a war widow, had a small daughter, Suzy, who joined them here several years later. For a time Bill and Mariette resided on their homestead next to Audley’s and Jim’s. This was at first a harrowing experience for a new bride from Belgium who, at the time, could speak very little English. One of Mariette’s biggest fears was bears, and Wendy recalls a time when she stayed with Mariette for a few days to keep her company while Bill was away: 

“At the time, I was about 3 or 4 years old and bears were the least of my worries. I remember going outside (unseen by Mariette) to the little house” up the trail. I was sitting there minding my own business when I heard Mariette calling my name (at the time I didn’t understand much else she said). Finally, I answered and she came and gave me a good scolding. To get her point across I can remember her pointing into the woods behind the little house and stressing the word “Bears”, to which I remember replying that I hadn’t seen any bears, and generally acted most unconcerned.”

Bill and Mariette sold their homestead quarter to Jim in 1952 after they moved to Bill’s Dad’s place. In 1959 they sold this place to Two Rivers Ranches and moved to Calgary for several years. When they were still at the ranch, Bill worked at different times for Poole Construction on various projects. In the mid-1960s Bill and Mariette built a new home in Cochrane and moved back to the district. After he left the ranch Bill worked for the Department of Highways until his death in 1972. Suzy married John Poynter in 1958 and lives in the Beaupré district with their three children, Rosemarie, Gary and Jerry. Mariette sold her home in Cochrane and moved back to Calgary in 1974. 

The Richards could tell enough stories of happenings and events of their everyday lives through the years to fill a book. The following are only a few of those stories which bear facts of historical interest to the community or have a dash of entertainment value, as told by various members of the Richards family. 

Audley recalls some of the early neighbours they had at the mill and a couple of events in his own life: 

“During the early days at the mill, the nearest white neighbour was three miles away. David McDougall’s family ran a store two miles east of Morley and George McDougall ranched one-half mile further east yet. John McCorkell ranched east of George McDougall, and the Graham place was the Bow View Ranch. John Niddrie was the school teacher at the Indian Orphanage, but later moved to an old schoolhouse one mile from the mill. He had a few students there for about a year. Niddrie also had a quarter of land near the Graham Ranch, and his brand was bar F5. 

Other neighbours in the area were Frank Fletcher, L. Q. Coleman, and Mr. Potts (Sandy Jamieson’s Grandad). T. J. Noble rented the Andrew Sibbald place and later homesteaded a quarter just east of it. 

The Kidd Brothers, Fred and Stewart, ran the store at Morley and ranched on the SL (Leeson and Scott Place) located southeast of Morley, The brothers later moved to Nordegg with the Indian Affairs Dept. Mr. Fleetham was the Indian Agent and Stocking was the Clerk. Christianson was the Blacksmith. He later set up a shop in Cochrane. John McKenzie was the Indian Stockman at that time and later moved to Exshaw. 

Mr. Ings was the minister at the Indian Church. Mr. L. Q. Coleman supplied a piece of land on the main road on his place for the Methodists to build a church for the white settlers. At the time when the Richards family was living at the mill, a minister came from Canmore every two weeks to preach a sermon and would stop overnight at different places. 

Mr. L. Q. Coleman had a second place on the Red Deer River and when Archie Howard came to work for Coleman, Archie homesteaded that place and ran a bunch of horses there for a number of years.” 

Audley also recalls: 

“In 1929 I helped Gunsolly round up a bunch of horses from behind the Devil’s Head Mountain. These were the last of the large number of horses which the Bar C had run. They were taken down to Gunsolly’s place on Horse Creek for breaking and were then trailed to Edmonton where they were loaded on rail cars and shipped to Spirit River. After being unloaded at Spirit River they were sold to local farmers and homesteaders in that area. Raymond Shortclothes also helped with breaking and shipping these horses. 

“One time, when I was still quite young, one of our neighbours went to town (Calgary) and asked me to pick him up off the train at Morley. This neighbour had a habit of “taking on a little too much” when on his town excursions, but the conductors got to know him and would let him off at Morley. Anyway, the day I went to pick him up, the train had already passed through when I got there and the neighbour was nowhere to be found. However, some Indians were there and they told me he had gone to Jake Swampy’s place not far from the station, so I went over, and sure enough, the neighbour was there, but in no condition to ride home. Another old Indian, Peter

Wesley was there. He was probably about 70-80 years at the time and had been a scout for McDougall’s when they came to the Morley district. He couldn’t speak English, but using Jake Swampy for an interpreter, started telling me stories of the days when they used to fight other tribes and to demonstrate, took off his shirt to show the torture wounds and arrow scars he bore. After a few of these stories, I began to get worried, as the neighbour was unaware of the situation going on around him, and it was growing dark outside. Needless to say, I was most happy to leave when I finally aroused the neighbour and we got underway. The old Indian, Peter Wesley, was reputed to be one of the best “Bow and Arrow” Indians of his day. 

Another bit of interesting general information on the Richards boys is that during the 1930s and 1940s they accumulated a large number of horses. They estimate that at one time they had in the neighbourhood of 400 head. These horses roamed the free-range north of the Morley Reservation and west to the mountains on what was then Forest Reserve. When the Forest Reserve was first leased out for cattle grazing, the Richards had to reduce the size of their herd. As horses were then virtually worth nothing, Jim, Audley and Bill went into the mink business and began shooting these wild horses to feed the mink. They stayed in this business several years during the late 1940s and used up a large number of their horses for mink feed. None of them enjoyed this, and when the horses were thinned out and mink prices went down, they went out of the mink business. 

Tillie Richards recalls that times were not always easy back in the late 1930s and early 1940s when she and Jim were first married. Guy Gibson had given her a mare and colt for a wedding present, and in 1944 she sold the old mare with the four colts that she had by then. She had to add $2.00 to the money received for the mare and colts to buy the separator which cost $39.40. 

It might be noted that over the past few years while Jim’s son, Doug, has been building up his herd of bucking horses, Jim has been heard to complain about “all those damn horses eating off the grass for my cows.” However, it was noticed, while Jim was thumbing through his old files, that in the late 1930s when he was reporting to the Alberta Government on the numbers of livestock which his homestead was supporting, the figures over a five year period read something like this: 1st year — 2 cows and 6 horses; 2nd year – 4 cows and 8 horses; 3rd year – 4 cows and 10 horses; 4th year – 4 cows and 12 horses; 5th year – 4 cows and 20 horses. And so, it seems that perhaps the ratio of cows to horses is actually somewhat higher now than it was back then! 

I (Wendy) would like to add a few items about our family as seen from my own point of view, and during my time. I recall well the early days at home when Uncle Bill and Uncle Audley were living on their homesteads next to Dad’s. The recollection I most remember is that they always rode in on horseback, and Uncle Audley, particularly, often corralled horses at our place. I recall Dad and Uncle Audley bringing in numbers of horses, especially in the spring, and pulling their manes and tails. The horsehair was then stuffed into gunny sacks and weighed and sold by the pound. I also remember that it was not taken too kindly if someone pulled the tails of another party’s horses. 

My brother Doug never went to school, and I only went to school in grade 12. We took all the rest of our school by correspondence. Some of the local kids wondered how we could stand doing school that way, but we thought it was O.K. as we were able to work hard some days and take days off if we wanted to go somewhere or do other things. Also, we usually had our work done at least a month ahead of kids in school and enjoyed long summer holidays to do as we wished. Our close neighbours were the Dawson’s and the next closest were the Wasson’s (about 8 miles by horseback). We would often ride to each other’s places to visit and play and as we were all in the same age group, we had a lot of good times together. One of our favourite sports was to go out on the “Point”, a flat area on the south side of the Ghost River where the land was quite flat and reasonably smooth for a couple of miles. Here we would line up our ponies and have horse races, which I’m sure would not have been totally approved of by our respective parents had they known of them at the time. I remember that my old white mare, Josephine, would often win some of these races. As a point of interest, she is now owned by Hugh Wearmouth and is over 30 years old. 

When we were quite young, Doug and I joined the local 4-H Beef Club which we enjoyed very much. We were in the club for seven years and during that time showed some of the calves from Dad’s herd to club championships. As the 4-H Club was the centre of our social life with other people, we gained a lot of good knowledge and entertainment from it, which has benefited both of us to this day. 

In summarizing, our family life was always happy and usually had a lot of funny moments. The thing that clearly sticks out to me now is that we nearly always did things together. Mum and Dad, particularly since the roads and communications have improved to their place, are quite active in community affairs. Dad has been the Councilor in the I.D. area for a number of years and is also on the Board of Directors for the Rockyview Hospital in Calgary, and Mum is on the Planning Board for the area. 

One other thing the Richards boys will always be remembered for in the community is when they participated at local house parties and dances. Dad and Uncle Audley both called square dances, but the highlight of every evening was when someone would bring in the old washtub which Dad would use for a Tom-tom. He would sing the Indian chicken dance chant and beat the tub, and Uncle Audley and Uncle Bill would do the chicken dance. Depending on the time of night and the “spirit” of the occasion, these chicken dances could sometimes transport the audience back in time, to where they would almost believe they were at a real Indian pow wow.

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