Geir (Kristjánsson) &
Sesselja Rakel Sveinsdóttir

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Editors Note:

This lively account
of homesteading in the Vatnbyggð settlement, the main Icelandic settlement in the province of Saskatchewan, was narrated by Halldóra (Dora) Bjarnason, daughter of Icelandic immigrants Geir Christianson (Kristjánsson) & Sesselja Rakel Sveinsdóttir.

For more on information on the migration experience of this family, please see the Dr. Sigridur (Sigga) Christianson Houston story.



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Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
Christianson, Geir (Kristjánsson) & Sesselja Rakel Sveinsdóttir

"The Early Years continued...

There was no water except in the little creek half a mile away, with a deep pool of water in a little gully near where the east west road crosses today. Each day we walked to the creek for water. Dad made a frame—you have seen them in pictures from the underdeveloped countries—and from it Mama hung the two pails—with the frame the pails did not bump her legs. Babs and I, seven and nine years old, took turns carrying a syrup pail of water. We weren’t very big. Washing at the tent must have been pretty sketchy, yet we were always clean. I remember we used Royal Crown soap. Until winter we hauled water from the creek. Then we melted snow.

Dad built a little fireplace beside the creek for washing clothes. He and Mama carried a tub between them, containing the soap and dirty wash to the creek. Babs and I carried the boiler between us. Dad’s outside hand carried the washboard and Mama’s the wringer. Water was dipped from the creek and put in the tub. We picked willows along the creek to make the fire. The water contained “brunklukkur”—waterbugs or "brown clocks."

Hay was put up on a share basis with our neighbour John who had a team of horses, a mower. A rake, and I suppose a wagon and a hay rack. They used John’s horses on the mower and our oxen on the rake. They put up enough hay in 1905 for our oxen and cow and John’s horses and cow, and built some kind of shelter for them.

Bill and Dad soon set off on a trip to Wadena to get our lumber out of storage. Thirty miles was no small trip with oxen. They set out early, drove as far as they could the first day, stayed at some farm that night, and made an early start the next day—the round trip took three whole days. There were no roads, only what was called a “cow trail.”

Dad built a house of shiplap and siding. It was twelve feet by sixteen feet downstairs. They dug a basement under the main section of the house and lined it with stones gathered nearby. No cement was used (the stone cellar was used as long as the house stood). There was also a six-by-ten foot kitchen with a mud floor. We moved into the house in early September. Once in the house, we finally had a wall to which the coffee grinder could be screwed.


The house was built on the only hill on the farm. It was well-built, for Dad was a master carpenter. But in its exposed position, the wind could whistle through and the house would rock in a strong wind.

Hoseas Hoseasson witched for our well. He walked with the willow three-pronged twig and when it pointed down, on the side of the hill just below our house, he said to dig through the blue clay. Hoseas walked four miles west to Steingrimur Johnson’s and borrowed a small augur. The next day Bill Olson was working the augur below my brother Bill who was on the ladder, when Bill Olson called out, “For God sake get off the ladder!” It paid off, beautiful water and plentiful. The well was dug by Christmas, the best Christmas present we ever had. I am sure that there must still be people in Wynyard who remember that well. People came from Wynyard with five-gallon cream cans to get our water for drinking.

Soon after the railroad came to Wynyard in 1909, Dad added a large kitchen and another bedroom to the house. For the new kitchen he bought Mama a large range from Eaton’s. “The Old Homestead” with a large copper reservoir that held three pails of water.

Meanwhile, the farming was slow. In 1906 Dad broke thirty acres. They used two teams of oxen in tandem, my brother Bill leading the pair. They were proud of that, especially since Dad had gone to Winnipeg to work as a carpenter from March until mid-August. With the money sent home, Mama bought two more cows. Old Bessie had a heifer calf every year.

In the winter of 1906-1907, Dad and Bill got the contract to build a country school near Wadena. They came home on Christmas Day and brought each of us girls a sweet-scented soap, and the first real apples we’d ever seen.

Dad’s first crop of wheat taken off the first thirty acres in 1907 was a beautiful crop, but was touched with frost. It couldn’t be hauled to the new village of Quill Lake until the road was frozen between the lakes. They hauled the wheat there with oxen and the elevator man offered them the magnificent price of twenty-five cents a bushel. A farmer by the name of Jones near Quill Lake paid Dad thirty-five cents a bushel for the wheat and used it for feed.