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For this exhibit,  the general theme of early prairie women and the specific theme of Dale’s diary provide conceptual focus. However, I was also searching for a unifying visual element for the artworks, which I found in vintage wallpaper samples. Dale often wrote about her plans for their always-future home, and it was apparent that planning for the layout, furnishings and decorating of their home provided her with comfort and hope.

Scan0014

Vintage wallpaper sample

Although they worked endlessly, building and improving their homesteads, the Randalls were never able to settle in one place, and would move on to a new homestead to try again or move into town temporarily to seek work. I was not able to piece together the complete timeline for their moves, and I did not always understand the reasons. However, homesteaders faced many challenges including those of climate, non-arable land. or economic conditions such as the Great Depression.

Dale writes about their various moves. At times they lived in log cabins and at other times in tents. At least one of their homesteads was very remote …where the nearest Bonafide settler is 24 miles away…

March 11, 1920 found us in High Prairie where we had been since the previous September.

March 14 – 15, 1920               Leaving town we … followed the edge of West Prairie River…across Iroquois Creek…past Snipe Lake… (the entry is not complete, but it appears that they moved into an old cabin and tents while they built their new house)

May 29, 1920. Our first meal in the new house looks nice…

August 20, 1920. Homestead abandoned.

October 14, 1920. Coldest night yet but it was almost too warm in our cabin.

January [12] 1921. When she (baby Leila) is 3 weeks old, we leave homestead and move to High Prairie.

April 25, 1923. Two and one half miles N.W. of High Prairie – we moved here April 9.

February 22 [1926]. At Martin Place, High Prairie

August 21, 1927. We live on the Cross Place … a tumbling log house

September 22, 1927. Decide to see if we can get Summer Crossing instead of our homestead.

Marlena Wyman - Our plan of a home

“Our plan of a home” by Marlena Wyman. 16″X12″. Monotype, oil stick and oil pastel on encaustic and paper. 2015

(Photo in artwork: Clementine Douglas in cabin door Asheville, NC [1920], North Carolina State Archives. The hand-drawn plan is Alda Dale Randall’s from page 55 of her diary)

Dale’s hopeful tone of stability in her diary entry belies the reality of their many moves. Page 55. Sunday May 9, 1920

I work for hours on our plan of a house & decide I can furnish it with just what I have if Guy will make the furniture for me – and he loves to, thank goodness! Thot [sic] of a “children’s corner” in Living Room & like the idea. Book shelves with desk below them & toy cupboard underneath. Seats just right for little ones. Here is my plan: 1 in = 5 ft.

Oh I can take my blue dress – the light silk & cotton I wore in Wyo and make curtains & with yellow under curtains of cheese cloth it will be lovely! Guess I’ll make a new pillow of my feathers – I’ve a nice little gunny sack here!

I can use my kitchen table for a library table nailing the black imitation leather on the top with brass headed tacks after Guy makes a dining table.

NOTE: Following the publication of this post, Karen Simonson The Very Good and Helpful Reference Archivist at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, located homestead records and Randall family stories from local history books. What we discovered was that they did manage to prove up one homestead at NE1/4 – Section 28 – Township 74 – Range 17 – West of the 5th Meridian. It was applied for by Guy Willis Randall on September 22, 1922 and was patented on September 4, 1928. On this quarter section, they built a 34’ X 24’ log house (in 1923), a barn, chicken house, 1 ¼ miles of fencing and a well. They also had 3 cattle and 5 horses, broke 4 acres and cropped 8 acres each consecutive year.

This corresponds to Dale’s April 25, 1923 entry where she places them: Two and one half miles N.W. of High Prairie – we moved here April 9.

However, it appears that they did not stay on that homestead either. Dale’s 1927 entries show that they moved two more times that year:

August 21, 1927. We live on the Cross Place … a tumbling log house

September 22, 1927. Decide to see if we can get Summer Crossing instead of our homestead.

There is further confusion with dates. The local history book, Trails we Blazed Together, indicates that in 1926 they sold the homestead after proving it up, and leased land from Guy’s trapping partner, Billy Cross, on the West River 3 miles south of High River. This land became known as “Randall’s Beach”.

The 1922 homestead file also notes that they had abandoned a previous homestead SW31-70-19-W5, which Guy had applied for in 1919. This would be the homestead at Sunset House near Snipe Lake that Dale notes as abandoned on August 20, 1920.

What the patenting of the 1922 homestead did offer them was a modest sum of money from its eventual sale and no doubt the satisfaction of having proven up one of their homesteads.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

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