Ninth child of Gottlieb Altwasser and Euphrosine Beier
Olga Altwasser was born in Minjatin, Volhynia, Russia on May 15, 1893. She married Adolph (Archie) Domes on February 21, 1912 in Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan.
February 21, 1912
Children of Olga Altwasser and Adolph (Archie) Domes
L-R: Elsie Domes, Euphrosine, Edward and Olga holding Arthur, age two.
Hard to figure why the large blooming house plant was hauled out to the middle of the yard, or why Euphrosine is standing there with a bible in her hand. The time according to the shadow was 12:30 noon and the date was October 31, Halloween. As usual I was hard to control. Euphrosine appears to be of ample proportions and for once has a big happy smile on her face. My recollection of her is that of quite a nervous lady.
Archie and Olga
Back Row L-R: Elsie, Edward, Herbert, Arthur, Irene.
Memories of Our Parents: Olga (Altwasser) and Archie Domes.by Art Domes, with quotes from Herb and Elsie Domes.
Archie (Adolph) Domes was born in the village of Dombrowka (Dabrowka), county of Rovno, in the province of Volhynia, Russia. The date was October 13, 1889. He was the oldest child of the family of Wilhelm and Julianna (Altwasser) Domes.
Archie came to Canada with his parents in May 1894, along with his brother Ferdinand and sister Melida on the ship Parisian. The ship landed at Montreal in May of that year and the family proceeded to Lemberg. Sask., and lived there until 1904, when they moved to Yellow Grass. By this time more brothers and sisters had been born: Maud, Otillie, Bill, Carl and Emma. Albert, Alma and Elsie were born at Yellow Grass, Sask.
We are told that Archie broke prairie for neighbors at Yellow Grass, using a walking plow and then a sulky plow. This was slow but steady work and provided some much-needed cash in spite of the terrible mosquitoes.
In 1908, at the age of eighteen, Archie decided to go homesteading at Verwood. His first shack was a round roofed affair about 10 X 12 feet. The walls were double shiplap with tarpaper in between. No doubt it was pretty cold in the wintertime. The old shack was kept around the home farm for over forty years, probably for sentimental reasons. The homestead was located two miles north of the site of the village of Verwood, which was not established until 1912. With the pre-emption, this gave him a half section of pretty good land. He had to live on the land for six months so he returned to Yellow Grass in the dead of winter. The trips of 95 miles must have been an endurance test. While he was still a bachelor, his sister Melida came out to keep house for him. The story goes that when he came home in the fall of 1909, he was surprised that his mother had two little girls in her arms rather than the one he expected. The twins were Alma and Elsie.
Olga Altwasser was born in Minjatyn
Olga Altwasser was born in Minjatin, Volhynia, Russia on May 15, 1893. Her father was Gottlieb Altwasser and her mother was Euphrosine Beier. She was the youngest of a family that included Michael, Adolph who died young, Florentine, August, Julia, Carl, Frederick and then Olga. Her brother August had come to Canada several years earlier and the family joined him in Yellow Grass in 1905. Apparently they just walked away from a nice farm with orchards to get away from that troubled part of Russia. In 1907 the Altwassers took up a homestead and pre-emption on the SE-5 and the SW-4-7-27 W2. This was less than a mile north of the present village of Verwood. They built a sod house and a barn and travelled to Willow Bunch for supplies. Life was lonely but she had close neighbors, the Ed Woods, who settled there in 1908 . She also got to know some of the French families at Willow Bunch. Her best friend was Fanny (Sutherland) Ross. One of the very interesting stories she had to tell was of the huge prairie fire that started east of Swift Current and swept the country south of Moose Jaw. This huge prairie fire came roaring out of the hills to the west and the story stands out in my memory. Any family that didn't have a good fireguard lost everything. Without cover the snakes tried hard to get into the sod shack.
The 1909 Prairie Fire
One afternoon in the late summer of 1909, everyone experienced an ominous feeling that something terrible was going to happen. The cattle had stopped grazing and looking off to the west they started lowing softly. As the day wore on the sun seemed to shine through a smoky haze and the worst fears were confirmed, a prairie fire loomed on the horizon.
With a frantic frenzy the cattle and horses were driven inside the fireguard that they had plowed. The fireguard protected the winter's supply of hay, the stable and corrals, the sod shack, and anything of value.
Just at dark the fire arrived, snapping and crackling and leaping high in the air, fed by the last summers dry but thick grass. Huddled in the sod shack, my mother and my grand parents breathlessly watched the wall of flame sweep by, hacking and coughing in the smoke laden air. As soon as they could they looked out anxiously to see if the flames had jumped the fire guard, but thankfully it had not and for the time being they were safe.
Just over the hill to the south was the boundary of the Bonneau Ranch. The fire had jumped the ranch fireguard and was threatening to destroy thousands of acres of winter grazing. Frantic cowboys were desperately trying to contain the blaze with little success. In desperation they would shoot a horse, split the carcass lengthwise with an axe and tie a lariat on each leg . With a mounted cowboy on each side, they would drag the fresh carcass down the line of flames and wipe it out. It worked where the grass was not too tall. They were only partly succesful and the losses were great.
Some homesteaders, who had been careless about their fire guards, lost everything that would burn, their winter feed supply being the most critical and of course any livestock caught in the path of the flames.
How did the fire start? Somebody near Swift Current, a settlement over 100 miles to the west, had been careless and the accidental fire headed east out of control. The flames were fanned by a hot dry wind and a heavy growth of grass that was instant fuel to the leaping, racing, flames. By the time it reached my grandparents homestead, the leading wall of flame was 75 miles long from north to south.
The next morning the day dawned clear and bright. The whole landscape looked like a black blanket had fallen over the land, brokenly only by the odd bleached buffalo skull. Small wisps of smoke still drifted downwind from the smoldering piles of horse and cattle dung. Dust devils chased each other across this black land and the soot fuelled the towering wind tunnels. For once there were no mosquitoes, but snakes and lizards, now without cover, crawled every where, desperately trying to avoid the hot sun and driving the housewives crazy as they slithered under the ill fitting doors and headed under the kitchen table or the bed.
In later years I was able to get my fill of fighting prairie fires. We lived just west of a long valley with cropland between us and the valley hills where the cattle grazed. The railroad followed the valley, but just about opposite our place the train started to make its steep climb out of the valley. The old coal burning steam locomotives had to work very hard dragging the long train of heavily laden grain cars up the steep incline. As a result they would spit red hot coals out of the smokestack and into the grass starting a prairie fire. The engineer on the slow moving train could usually look back and see what had happened. He would notify the next station agent who would call telephone central, who would put out a general ring and in a matter of minutes the neighbors and ourselves headed for the fire with buckets, barrels of water and wet gunny sacks. Always we would return, fire-blackened and weary, but we won - we had the telephone to help us get the jump on the fire.
The Bachelor and The Belle
Elsie recalls: "I was told that as a young man my dad and another fellow set out with horses to search for a place to homestead. So they must have gone all the way from Yellow Grass to where Verwood, Saskatchewan, is today. He made his homestead on the SW-9-7-27 W2, just north of where I grew up. He acquired the NW4 when my uncle August Altwasser sold off and moved back to the Yellow Grass area in 1918. My mother's family, the Altwassers, lived a mile and a half away. As a young lady she'd often take the horse and buggy to Willow Bunch to sell butter and buy groceries. Despite the fact that competition for a bride was keen (there were around 60 bachelors in the area) my father won out and they were married when she was still only eighteen years of age."
Art continues: On February 21, 1912, Archie married Olga Altwasser. It was a double wedding as his sister Melida married Paul Heebner on the same occasion in Yellow Grass. When Archie expanded his farm by purchasing the August Altwasser half section directly south of him, there was a big barn and a machine shed under construction on the place and they are still there today. He also bought a half section of prairie on the west side, which was owned by Carl West of Yellow Grass. Mr. West knew Archie and he sold the land with nothing down, as he trusted him. This gave him six quarters of good land which required a couple of hired men and lots of work in the house, especially at harvest time.
Archie's first car was a 1924 McLaughlin. It had a touring top and wooden spoke wheels. The tires were 32" X 4" as compared to today's radial tires. Pieces of the old car are still on the farm. The car wasn't much good and eventually the motor became the power unit for a custom grain grinder. The wheels and chassis became a 50-bushel grain wagon pulled behind a 1928 Nash. It didn't last long either.
In 1925 an excellent farm home was built on the home place, NW-4-7-27 W2. It was two and one half stories high and had modern plumbing and 32 volt electricity. It was a fine house to raise a family in, but a lot of work to look after, especially during the dust storms of the thirties. The drought and dust took their toll on Olga's health and well being. They lived on this farm for 62 years.
The first tractor was a 1927 John Deere "D" which was bought to supplement the horsepower on the place. There were lots of horses around until 1937 when a new John Deere "D" was bought and this was a pretty good tractor. Being in the middle of the dirty thirties most of the horses were sold. The horses were good big Belgians and we were told that most of them were going to Quebec. Feed was very scarce and horses didn't fare well on Russian thistle hay and quite a few died. Occasionally the government shipped in a bit of hay from the bottom of a Manitoba marsh, but it wasn't much good either.
The drought of the thirties was a very trying time for all. Farmers had to resort to every possible means to keep the family fed, clothed, housed and warm. A group of farmers from the neighborhood got together and did some strip mining for coal in the hills about a mile to the west. It was a low grade of lignite coal and didn't give much heat, but it kept us going for a couple of winters. Drought wasn't the only problem. In 1935 there was a good standing crop, but stem rust took it all. Prices for farm production were disgracefully low. One winter, wheat was bringing 29 cents per bushel. Farm families were very hard put not to give up in despair. Some did and moved up north with their meager belongings only to find they were no better off. In the spring of 1938 the government and loan companies made some Thatcher seed wheat available, and that was the beginning of the return to good crops. Those who didn't use Thatcher seed lost it all to rust and the crop was burned standing in the field.
Olga was delighted when a pull-type combine was purchased in 1940, as that meant the end of the big threshing crews who sometimes stayed a long time. In 1946 a self-propelled combine was another big improvement in harvesting methods, and meant that no outside help was needed to get the crop off.
Olga lived a full life and found great pleasure in having the many grandchildren come to visit her. She loved to neighbor and there were frequently large numbers of guests at our place on Sundays to partake of the hospitality and the generous amounts of good food. She always wanted the best for her family and often patiently pleaded with her children when they tried to be high school dropouts.
The family was raised in a large modern home and being a fastidious housekeeper, Olga often drove herself harder than was good for her health. One of her main interests that she and Archie shared were the fruit trees and the big garden. She certainly had a great green thumb and there was always a profusion of flowers blooming in the summer, especially the gladiolus, which were gorgeous.
By 1953, son Herb was taking an active part in running the farm and he subsequently purchased the N-1/2-4, SW-4, W-1/2-9 from his parents. Archie and Olga continued to stay on the farm until 1974 when they moved to a cottage at Pioneer Lodge in Assiniboia.
60th Wedding Anniversary 1972
Mr. and Mrs. Archie Domes
Page 10 - Assiniboia Times - Wed. , March 22
Mr. and Mrs. archie Domes of Verwood celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary February 20, 1972. They were guests of their sons and daughters at a dinner in the Verwood Hall. Sixty five other relatives signed the guest book, which was attended by grand-daughters Linda and Barbara Domes
The head table was centered with a three tiered cake, which was flanked by crystal candleabras with gold candles. A bouquet of red roses, gift of a niece and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Allan Juno of Regina., and a floral arrangement of yellow and white mums, also a gift of a niece and husband, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Fichtemann of Estevan completed the table arrangements. Other gifts of flowers were received from the nieces and nephews of Verwood as well as a basket of glads and mums from the community. Gifts of jewelry and crystal were received from relatives. Toast to the honored couple was proposed by Allan Juno. Art Domes was master of ceremonies. The meal was served by nieces Florence Smith, Lorraine Jordison, Florence Domes, Joan Domes and Evelyn Domes.
Mrs. Domes chose a blue dress for the occasion and she wore an orchid corsage, a gift from Mrs. W. Fichtemann of Estevan.
Out of town guests included Mrs. Tillie Rohloff, Mrs. Emma Kilback, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Arndt, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Domes, Mrs. Rose Altwasser, and Mr. and Mrs. Earl Beggs and Jeff, all of Weyburn; Mr. and Mrs. Albert Domes, Mr. and Mrs. Ernie Altwasser of Yellow Grass; Mr. and Mrs. Wes Heebner and Mark of Davidson, Mrs. Mildred Fichtemann and Miss Linda Domes of Estavan; Mr. and Mrs. Al Juno and Jean, Mrs. Tillie Witzke, Mr. and Mrs Herb Neuman, Wally, Faye and Sheri Altwasser of Regina; Mr. and Mrs Jack Huber of Lipton and Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Domes of Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.
Mr. and Mrs. Domes (nee Olga Altwasser) were married in Yellow Grass, February 20, 1912, and came to live on the homestead where Mr. Domes had lived since 1909. In the early years before there was a doctor and hospital in Verwood, Mrs. Domes gave freely of herself and time in nursing and helping sick neighbors and freinds. They still reside on the same farm, a mile from the site of the original homestead where they pursue their common hobby of gardening. That they have had much success in this hobby can be verified by their many freinds and the family , who, over the years have been the recipients of many baskets of fruit, and bouquets of glads and roses.
The couple have five children; Elsie, Mrs. Jack Huber of Lipton; Edward of Verwood, Arthur of Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, Irene, Mrs. Bryce Collings of Wolfville, Nova Scotia and Herbert of Verwood. All were in attendance with the exception of Mr. and Mrs. Bryce Collings and family. There are 19 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
On September 9, 1975 Olga died of kidney complications and is buried in Assiniboia.
In Loving Memory of
Ross Funeral Home in care of arrangements
Herb's Memories of His Mother.
Extracted from A Century of Domes History in Western Canada, page 156.
Mother was a very positive influence on her children. As a young girl she had hopes of someday becoming a milliner. As a young boy I often had to tag along when we went to the city to shop. It seemed we always ended up shopping for a new hat for mom. But usually the hats always ended up by having a bit of extra ornamentation added after we got home. I think the word extra describes mother pretty good. She expected a little extra from her children and also was prepared to do a little extra to see that it happened. Like Dad, she had limited schooling and wanted her children to have as much, or a little more than everybody else. And of course she expected extra good marks too. Another extra about mother was her interest in flowers and gardening. We always had extra house plants and in the summer there were extra special gladiolus in the garden. On Sundays we often had a few extra for supper and the suppers were usually extra special. One extra that she did without was a driver's license. But it didn't seem to prevent her from getting around. She would even take extra passengers along if they were extra brave.
My mother could do more things with a butcher knife than anyone else I knew. It would be used for gardening, chopping wood, pruning trees, digging holes, carpentry, butchering chickens, scraping paint and many other jobs. And then there was the time the combine motor caught fire in the yard and mother came to the rescue with the ash pan from the cook stove and had the fire out in a jiffy.
After Olga's death, Archie continued to live at Pioneer Lodge, a place he had always respected as a good home for retired persons. One thing he regretted very much was the loss of the opportunity to drive his car due to failing eyesight.
Archie died on December 2, 1980, due to a failing heart. He walked into the Regina General Hospital on his own and had a very clear mind until a couple of days before his death. He was 91 years of age and is buried in Assiniboia. He has surviving today, (1991) four children, eighteen grand children and twenty-five great grand children.
Archie was a man of good principles and set high standards for himself. He was a most successful farmer and left behind much to be proud of. He had little formal education, but he was a very knowledgeable man, mostly self-taught. He read a lot, handled figures well, had a great deal of dignity and held a very good philosophy about life.
Olga and Archie were true pioneers and did much to develop the prairie into a prosperous farming community.
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