William Alexander Redd Home
RAYMOND, ALBERTA, CANADA
Barbara Redd MacPhee – 2007
William A. Redd came to Canada in the fall of 1904 where he purchased a beet lot in the town of Raymond, Northwest Territories. He also bought farmlands nearby. In the spring his oldest son, William, came to break their land and plant grain.
On July First, the William Redd family arrived from their home in New Harmony, Utah. William Alexander, Verena Bryner Redd and nine children. During year following, the Redd home was built on that muddy beet lot in the prairie town called Raymond.
William’s two brothers came from Southern Utah to help with the construction. It was a ten-room home with six bedrooms upstairs, and bedroom, kitchen, dining room, parlor, large central hallway and front foyer on the first floor. There was a huge wrap-around front veranda across the north, and on part of the east side. There was also, a large porch, and upstairs veranda above it, at the back of the house.
In my childhood I remember great fun, playing we were on a ship, the veranda railing was the rail of the ship. We would “fish” over the side, and haul things up and down. Always with great care as our parents warned that the railing was weak, and might give way. There was a big wooden barrel in the corner which we were cautioned not to touch, as it held some of our Grandma Redd’s things.
Cork flooring covered the upstairs hallway and the room we called the boys’ bedroom. This silenced the noise of footsteps pounding up and down that long hall. There was a square cut into that floor, and one wondered if it was the site of a secret hiding place!
There were chimney openings in some of the rooms where heater stoves could be used. After the furnace functioned, these were covered with round, spring loaded metal plates with scenery enameled on them. I remember, on several occasions, cleaning up the soot when an especially violent gust of wind blew off the upstairs hall chimney cover.
At the front of the house, downstairs, was our “parlor.” Here were the piano, bookcases, some easy chairs and a large oblong library table. Aunt Lura Redd, our artist aunt, had painted the top transom of the library window with three long legged, long necked cranes, wings outstretched, and sailing along in front of what appeared to be a tiled wall. A fake stained-glass window effect she had learned at one of her art classes.
Under the floor in one corner of the dining-room, was a water cistern. Through a system of eaves and drainpipes, rainwater from the roof was channeled into this cistern.
One could open a trap door in the floor of the dining room, then another trap door below the first. If you held tight to the edge and leaned out you could see in the mysterious, dark water below, a square of light with your reflection in it. A bucket on the end of a rope was used to draw rainwater for washing hair and woolens.
This was a great convenience, as water in Raymond was so full of minerals that wool sweaters and blankets would shrink to almost half size, if washed in it; and if one washed hair in that hard water, it would be impossible to draw a comb through. Many neighbors came to Redd’s for this wonderful soft water.
I quote from the autobiography of Vilo Redd, a daughter of William A. Redd:
“Our new home was finally completed and we moved in…. (It) was made of cement blocks left from the large home that (Apostle) John W. Taylor had started …He never built past the foundation, but had brick enough to complete the huge house, and father was able to buy some of them. (These cement blocks were manufactured in Ramond.)
“Our new home…included a basement and a furnace, the first one we had ever had. However, we did not get much use out of it as the basement promptly filled with water. A pump was installed to pump it out.
“This was only a temporary relief, and it filled right up again. Over the years following, it was full of water and the furnace rusted out. Many things were tried to make the basement watertight, but all failed. (There is a story, often retold, of some young men who decided to come through the basement window to steal party treats the girls had prepared. The first young man through the basement window found himself in five feet of cold, stagnant water.)
“Once a ten inch layer of new cement was put on the floor, and walls to the ground level, reinforced with steel bars to keep the cement from buckling and cracking, to no avail.
“Without a furnace, for years we slept in the unheated bedroom area on the second floor. The subzero winter weather made this very uncomfortable. Sad irons were heated on top of the stove and wrapped in pieces of blanket, and put in the bed to take the chill off before we went to bed. Some of us used large rocks, heated in the oven. With a family of twelve, there were not enough of the irons to go around….
“After years of trial and error, it was discovered that a nearby spring fed the water to our basement, and a drain was placed entirely around the house, which led through a slight hill to the west to lower ground. A furnace was finally installed that made the house much more comfortable….
“Father planted a row of Manitoba Maple trees around the west and north corner of the lot, to form a windbreak. The wind would blow the snow up to these trees and there it would stop a few feet to the east of the trees, forming an almost vertical edge to the drift. We dug into this drift each winter to make a snow cave. One year, Kay (her youngest brother) and his friends dug a regular “catacombs” in the drift, with rooms and tunnels over the whole lawn and extending past the trees (in the snow) to over the sidewalk area.
“This snow would freeze hard and people would walk on the top of it. There was no thought of snow removal in those days. One night a Chinook wind softened the snow, and surprised people walking on the top of the drift, suddenly disappeared into the catacombs.”
Though the furnace became functional, I still remember the coal dust which drifted up through the heat radiators (vents) when coal was dumped into the basement coal bin. This laid a coat of coal dust on all of our furniture. We shut the basement door, and the radiators, but still the black stuff filtered up. When wood and coal in hot air furnaces were used for heating, housekeeping was a constant chore.
Each spring one could wet a finger and write in the film which coated painted walls above the radiators, even on ceilings. Three or four times a year all painted surfaces were washed down, in the backbreaking ritual we called “housecleaning.”
More details of the house. Hardwood, double sliding doors separated the parlor and the dining room. A swinging door opened between the kitchen and dining room.
Over the bedroom doors were window transoms which could be opened with a lever to allow air circulation when the door was shut, and to let in light from the hallway.
The stairway was two flights, with wonderful banisters for sliding down.
A wash house was connected to the back porch by a wooden sidewalk. This wash house became a storage area when a water system made indoor wash days practical.
With a water system in town, an addition was made to the back of the house. This enlarged the kitchen, and provided a storage pantry which opened off the dining room. A full bathroom was also completed, though most other homes had outside toilets for years after that.
In the house yard, my grandmother, Verena Redd, made sure there were lawns with flower beds and trees, around the house. There was a large vegetable garden area on the east, clothes-drying lines and an orchard area on the south with an outhouse, long maintained, for the men at the barnyards and for emergency use when the town water system failed.
Toward the back of the lot, among the trees, were the series of septic tanks which processed the sewer wastes from the house, and which had to be pumped out from time to time, a most distasteful chore.
In those wonderful big trees close to the house we had tree houses, hammocks, a high, high swing and a sand pile big enough for the neighborhood. And, wonder of wonders, there was an area where grew four and even six leafed clovers. We knew a four leaf clover brought luck, but we didn’t know what a six leaf one meant.
To protect from the clay gumbo mud, there were sidewalks created from ashes removed from the wood and coal stoves. Later, cinder sidewalks were created of cinders from the sugar factory. These were later replaced with cement sidewalks.
This house yard was divided from the barnyard by a tall wooden fence with a wide, wood-rail access gate for the coal wagon etc. Also, there was a small walk-through gate for individuals.
In the barnyard were:
A large ice house where ice cut from Factory Lake was packed in layers of sawdust, so ice was available year round. It was also a cool place to relax, on a hot day
A two storey granary with three large storage rooms on the ground floor, and storage loft above with trap doors which opened to each storage room below. I still remember our trauma when our friend, Margaret, stepped backward and fell through a trap door to the hard floor below, the breath knocked out of her so she looked quite dead.
Because of these trap doors, the loft was off limits for us, but would sneak up the ladder to this loft as we loved to play house there. Too, We loved to read the piles of “Womens’ Exponent Magazine,” stored in a huge wooden crate, shipped with the train car load of household furnishings brought by our grandparents from Utah.
Our large barn was half for hay storage, where there was a loft just high enough that we dared jump from it into the piled hay below. That was after we had checked to be sure no hay fork was hiding in the hay.
The other half of the barn consisted of stalls for the cows and horses. Also, there was a small stable attached which housed new mothers with calf or colt. What a thrill to peek through its grilled top door to see the latest baby and mother.
An irrigation ditch ran across the back of both yards and through the barn enclosure, so animals had drinks, and the large vegetable garden, apple trees, lawns and flower gardens in the house yard could be flood irrigated.
There was also a very large root cellar for winter storage of the garden produce.
Trees were planted on the west and north of each yard to give shelter from the cold winds of Western Canada. These windbreaks protected from wind and frost fruit trees and berry bushes within the house yard. High barbed wire fencing stopped straying cattle for many years, until my mother decided we were no longer a pioneer community and had us pull down that fence and put up a low rail fence.
Grandfather William died of pneumonia in 1911, just six years after their arrival from New Harmony in Southern Utah. Our grandmother, Verena Bryner Redd, was left with ten children. Their ages ranged from four to twenty, except William who was twenty-six.
Grandma Verena languished abed for some time. Then she had a special spiritual experience which brought peace to her soul, and acceptance of her dear husband’s death. She got up from her bed, took charge of family responsibilities, finished rearing her wonderful family of ten, and died in 1934, twenty three years after the death of her husband.
Because theirs was a large house, and because Grandma Redd was a generous and welcoming hostess, the Redd home was the usual place for showers, parties, dinners and just fun gatherings of the young people. Besides, they had a piano, and sing-songs were a big part of entertainment then.
As the Redd home was across the street from the church, out-of-town visitors for church conferences and meetings often slept at Redd’s, and many others came for dinner following the meetings. It was a home of friendship and hospitality. Though widowed, Verena continued the tradition.
Will, the oldest son, came home from university to help his mother after his father’s death. Like his father, Will was a favored leader among the young folks. There was the saying that you always had fun when you went to Redd’s.
With her husband gone, Grandma Redd took in boarders. With six bedrooms in the upstairs, extra rooms were provided by having three or four children share a bedroom. During the winter months, adult from around the South came to Raymond to attend the Knight Academy, and students boarded at Redd’s. The Knight Academy was built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to provide post elementary schooling an adult education as government schools at that time only provided elementary school in the West. Also, for many years, the girls who worked at the Bank of Montreal boarded at Redd’s.
Later, William moved his family into the big home with his mother and some of her grown children, so I grew up in the “cement house.” However, my grandmother and aunts soon moved away, leaving just our family in the old home.