Happy on the farm
When my aunt turned ninety-six a few years ago, I prepared a short bio of her life, including photos of the farm where she grew up, baptism`s, confirmations and a wonderful photo of four people working in a farm yard.
Handwriting on the photo says “maman a l’age de 20 ans” and “papa” to identify my great grandmother, Marie-Berthe Charette and my great grandfather, Jean Baptiste Hurtubise with her two sisters “tante Eva” and “tante Ida.”
They are all on their knees, looking at the photographer. Jean is staring towards Marie-Berthe, who was also called Martha, with an extremely happy look on his face.
The shot is the only happy photo I have of the couple. In every other shot, they look solemn or downright miserable.
Martha was born on October 3, 1889, so if the note about her age is correct, the photo would have have been taken in 1909 or 1910, five years prior to their marriage. There’s no indication where the photo was taken. It could have been his parents’ farm, her parents’ farm, or given that they are also in the shot, perhaps even the farm where his brother Gustave and her sister Ida moved after they were married.
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Both Charette farms were in Clarence Creek, where their families had lived since at least 1891. His family farm was located in Sarsfield, a town right next door near the current Ottawa, Ontario.
The first Hurtubese/Charette couple was already married by the time of the happy photo in my grandmother’s photo album. Later, it would be Jean-Baptiste and Martha’s turn, then his younger brother Francois and her younger sister Dora.
All three couples would eventually follow middle Charette son Ernest, who began farming in Alberta.
My cousin says his mother used to talk about a horse and buggy ride after their family lost a farm due to a train expropriation. My aunt spoke to him about remembering her mom’s tears. I don’t know whether that trip precipitated their move to Alberta or took place afterwards.
All I know for sure is that after this photo was taken, the couple had two little girls, Donna and Marguerite. Then, sometime after their second daughters’ birth in 1917 and the 1921 Canadian Census, they bought a farm with a three-bedroom wooden house on it in Bow River, Alberta.
After that, their life took a turn for the worse, and they lost everything. The dust bowl, the Depression, locusts…take your pick, they saw it all.
By 1941, the family was renting part of a house in Edmonton. He did odd jobs to get through the war years and beyond. They remained in Edmonton until her death in 1957 and his in 1959.
 Data from the 1911 Census of Canada, Enumeration District 21, Cumberland Township, Russell, Ontario, Sarsfield Village, Léonard Village, Bear Brook Village, page 7, line 48.
 Data from the 1921 Census of Canada, Enumeration District 2, Bow River, Alberta, section 7, township 22, range 21, Meridian 4, page 6, line 28.
About the Author
Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.