Walking My 2nd Great Grandmother Home, Mary Elizabeth Smith Gibbs

Blue Heron sketch by Wendy Harty July 2021

The Great Blue Heron is a large wading bird, common in the wetlands of North America. In folklore the stories are about self-reliance and self-determination. The symbolism signifies determination because we are bound to wade through marshes and ponds through life’s journey, but we must never give up. When it builds a nest, it teams up with the female and works cooperatively with her to establish a solid foundation for their young ones. In their hunting they are very patience, a virtue of stillness before they catch a fish. Still and quiet in its ways, the great blue heron is the symbol for the Town of Barrhead, Alberta. This will be Mary Elizabeth Smith Gibb’s final resting place, and I like to think of her watching these beautiful birds for her last 27 years, a widow, until she died at the age of 90. The area is a quiet land of rolling hills well covered with poplar, birch, pine and spruce trees while willow and tamarack fill the valleys. It was between two rivers, The Athabasca and Pembina. It is a land of lakes, sand dunes, marshes, bogs and forests. In 1824 the trail from Fort Edmonton to Fort Assiniboine was widened to accommodate pack trains of horses, some over a hundred head. In 1898, the trail was used by some heading to the Klondike seeking gold. By the time Mary Elizabeth came to Barrhead it had train service, an eight bed hospital, a curling rink in 1938. She may have taken in a movie at the new theatre in 39. Besides the great blue heron, deer, moose, coyote, black bear, grizzly, mountain lion and wolves roamed. The beautiful displays of Aurora borealis Mary Elizabeth would enjoy on dark nights. Below is the Gibb’s family continuing story.

Beside the Stillwater Creek, that runs into the Stillwater River which joins the Yellowstone near Columbus, Montana Hiram Gibbs aged 67 was laid to his final rest on earth after he died June 9, 1913. Mary Elizabeth and Hiram had wed in Port Hope, Michigan. Mary was 17, Hiram was 21. They had 46 wedding anniversaries and raised eight children, two died in infancy. The couple’s fourth child was my great grandfather. George Arthur Gibbs divorced from Lydia Ruth May Wise, who came home and lived with Mary Elizabeth his widowed mother, at Broadview, Montana. His occupation listed was rancher.

George Arthur Declared his Intention to become a US citizen, farmer, ruddy complexion, 5′ 11″, 180 pounds, brown hair, blue eyes. He was born June 13, 1875 at Port Hope, Michigan. He now resides at Broadview, Montana, immigrated from Flagstone, B.C. Canada on the Rexford and Fernie Branch of the Great North Railroad. My last foreign residence was Innisfree, Alberta (the homestead). He renounced King George V, of whom he was a naturalized subject, Arriving through the port of Gateway, October 25, 1909. He was not an anarchist, a believer in polygamy and in good faith he wanted to become a citizen of the USA and permanently reside therein. SO HELP ME GOD Signed George Arthur Gibbs November 30, 1912.

George Arthur pulled a five pound rainbow trout from the Yellowstone River where it entered the Stillwater. The cutthroat and the rainbows came up river to spawn. It would make a lovely supper for his new family. They were ranching in the valley where the risks were understood when the grizzly, lynx and the grey wolf competed for his cattle. The bald eagle soared overhead, waiting his turn for the spawning trout.

The town of Broadview where they received their mail had the post office in 1908 just 4 years before the Gibbs family returned to Montana from Gilpin near Viking, or Innisfee, Alberta. Broadview, Montana with a population of less than 200, wouldn’t be incorporated until 1917, when George and Rebecca, Eugene and Otis and new daughter named after her mother, Frances Lucille born at Columbus, Montana would be on the move again. But I get ahead of my story.

Rebecca Frances Snyder was twelve years younger than George. She hadn’t had much “luck” with picking men. When she saw George, she liked what she saw!

George Arthur Gibbs 1875-1963 my great grandfather. George was 35 when Lydia divorced him

Rebecca had been born in Illinois, and married at age 19, in 1906 to William F Joedeman, 15 years her senior. Her first husband, William had been a servant and sheepherder to a rich man with her brother George, in Montana. When Rebecca and William married they kept travelling always looking for greener pastures. In New Mexico a daughter Dorothy Cyrilla was born in 1907 and died by 1909. The twins William Henry and Eugene Kenneth were born Feb 27, 1910 at Lake Valley, New Mexico. Only Eugene would survive. In 1910, William and Rebecca were living at Pirtleville, Arizona, down on the Mexican border. William Joedeman must have died and Rebecca made her way back to Columbus, Montana with the small boy. Here is where her mother and father had arrived in 1910 where he was a teamster. She remarried J. Vance Jones and he died in 1913 but not before they had conceived a child. Rebecca was 26, with the little Eugene and a new baby, Otis Vance Jones born December 13, 1913. What would this young mother do? She married for the third time to my Great Grandfather.

The war to end all wars was declared on July 28, 1914. American public opinion sentiment for neutrality was particularly strong among Irish Americans, and German Americans, as well as church leaders and women. People learned of the atrocities in Belgium. Germans had to march through Belgium to get to the French army. Belgium was neutral, but the people were subjected to murder, arson, looting and women raped. Nuns were ordered to strip under the pretext that they were spies or men in disguise. It turned uglier on August 25, 1914 when the Germans deliberately burned a library, civilian homes set on fire and citizens shot where they stood, others displaced and food and equipment looted and taken to Germany. There was worldwide condemnation.

The slogan, “The Rape of Belgium” was used in the USA as a propaganda device to build popular support for American intervention in the European War.

Rebecca wed my great grandfather, George Arthur when he was 39, on November 2, 1914 at Stillwater County, Montana. He took her back to the ranch near Broadview. Her mother-in-law was very upset with news from the war. Mary Elizabeth was a professing Brethren. Her daughter, Nettie Estella and the Rev. Hughes were missionaries for the church. Obedience to Christ is the center of Brethren life. They historically practiced non-resistance. Mary Elizabeth renounced the Christian’s use of violence in combating evil.

Frances Lucille Gibbs was born to George Arthur and Rebecca on May 17, 1916 in Columbus, Montana. George had to register for the draft which he filled out in 1917, for all men ages 18-44. Unmarried men with no dependents were drafted, between the ages of 21-30. On April 6, 1917, under President Wilson the US joined its allies, Britain, France and Russia, to fight in World War I. Emotions ran high in Montana. The state enacted the harshest anti free speech laws of any state. In nearby Lewistown a mob pursued a German man demanding he kiss the American flag, threatened another with lynching when he refused to buy bonds. Mary Elizabeth would cheer on Miss Jeanette Rankin, the first female member of Congress, when she said, “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war!” There were 50 others that voted the same way on April 2, 1917.

Whether the outbreak of the war had anything to do with their decision, George and Rebecca took the children and moved to the old homestead that his father Hiram and Mary Elizabeth Gibbs had entered in 1904 and proved up in 1907. They came in 1917. The census taker came in 1921 and George was 45, Rebecca 34, Eugene 11, Otis 8, Frances 5 and a new baby born Hiram Garner Gibbs born May 10, 1921 at Viking, Alberta. It was only fitting that the boy born on the homestead should be named after his grandfather. On the census, Rebecca’s boys which were George’s step children used the name of Gibbs not Joedeman and Jones.

Mary Elizabeth Smith Gibbs had many Smith relatives back in Michigan and Canada who enlisted. Her oldest brother John Smith had married Hiram’s sister, Rachel Gibbs. Their son George A., Mary Elizabeth’s nephew, died November 21, 1916 during the war in the Psychopathic Hospital, cause of death mania depression psychosis and exhaustion. Mary Elizabeth’s brother Charles Wesley “Charlie” Smith, had a daughter, named Melissa who married James Gillies and moved back to Ontario. Their son Frank Wesley Gillies enlisted for 3 years 6 months in the 91st C.H. Regt. (the Queen’s Own) at Toronto. Then he joined the fighting during WWI on Feb 14, 1916. He trained with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. By trade he was a mechanic. After the war he was in the Westminster Hospital and died there September 12, 1924 from general paralysis of the insane.

Charles Wesley “Charlie” Smith with his grandson Frank Wesley Gillies wearing his Canadian World War I uniform to show his grandparents before his overseas trip.

I can only imagine Mary Elizabeth looking forward from letters from home at Port Hope, Michigan only to get this news. Two brothers died George and Lendley in 1889 after the Hiram Gibbs family had left Port Hope, Charles her brother died in 1918, heart failure and dropsy (edema) age 75. Levi another brother died from the Spanish influenza also age 75, 1919. Sister Sarah Jane died in 1920 heart disease, John Nicholas died in 1922 87 of senility and heart disease, followed by James William Jr. in 1923, named after their father James William Smith from Ireland. All her siblings had died; she was 7 of 9 and would outlive them all.

James William Smith Jr. 1837-1923

Nellie Mary, the oldest daughter and Abraham Applegate had moved to Columbus, Montana. Two of their children enlisted in WWI and were in training in New Mexico when Arthur Charles Applegate got the 1918 influenza and died on October 11, 1918 with bronchial pneumonia. A week later, Devere Richard Applegate his brother, was a private first class and departed Oct 19, 1918 on the war ship named Walmer Castle. He was with the base hospital #94. The war was soon over in 1919 and Devere came home to Columbus and married It is with this family that I have a DNA match, Nellie, Devere, Leona Applegate’s son, Kenneth Cole, 111 cM and 7 segments. When Nellie’s husband died in 1917 she took the youngest, Beryl Bliss and Cora Almeda to her family near Barrhead. After the war Harrison McKinley Applegate arrived in 1926. Once again Mary Elizabeth had four of her children and family surrounding her: Nellie, George Arthur, Lendley and Rachel Lillian.

During this war time, George Arthur’s first wife Lydia was cooking and cleaning houses in the Kalispell area of Montana. Residing in the Glacier Park at Montana she married George J. Blanchett, at Shelby, Toole County, Montana. They were married by a Methodist minister on April 22, 1915. She was 32 and he was 40. This marriage didn’t last long. Ruth and George’s oldest daughter, my grandmother, Olive Vivian would elope with Gordon Waddell working as a freighter at Glacier. They were married at Cut Bank, where she lied about her age on the marriage certificate being only 16. Lydia Ruth May Wise Gibbs Blanchett then married Raymond F. Himple her third husband at Youngstown, Alberta in 1919. His homestead was entered in 1913 at the NE Section 15-township 26-Range 9 at Big Stone, Alberta near Youngstown. Mary Manervia was living with her father, George and new wife Rebecca, with step children Eugene, Otis, and Frances on the Viking homestead from March 1918 until April 1919. She came to live with Lydia and Ray Himple where the Plaindealer, newspaper reported a fatality as a sad occurrence as Mary Minervia came to her death by self imposed gun shot wound, Sep 22, 1919. Deceased was 18. Her mother Lydia Wise Gibbs Blanchett Himple at age 39, would be treated and undergo operations for tumors at the Holy Cross Hospital in Calgary. She died in this hospital on Wednesday night, May 23, 1923 and is buried beside her daughter, Mary in the Youngstown Cemetery.

Lendley Gibbs the youngest son of Mary Elizabeth and Hiram married to Jessie Rice had divorced. Jessie Rice died in 1916 and she left his children, Thella and May with her widowed mother Lydia and brother Charles Rice. This was on the next homestead to where George Arthur and Rebecca first lived, 49-11-W4. near Viking when they moved from Montana. The girls were ages 14 and 11. Lendley had remarried Ethel Gillanders back in Missoula, Montana on April 29, 1914, and also moved back to Alberta. They were living on Section 17 -Township 62, Range 6 W 5th Meridian living north and west of the Athabasca River at Holmes Crossing Mary Elizabeth at age 70 lived with them. She listed her religion as Methodist. They lived in a single story wooden built house. A man by the name of Reginald Henry Wallis lived in the same section 17-62-6 homesteaded there in 1910. George Arthur would come to live near his brother Lendley and mother in a place called Camp Creek, near Barrhead. Reginald Henry Wallis would marry George Arthur’s wife Frances in 1928. George Arthur left the Viking homestead and filed on a new quarter SE 25-61 W5 on November 23, 1929, close to his brother Lendley between Ft. Assiniboine and Barrhead, Alberta, at Camp Creek. George Arthur would marry Ruth Crystal Smith in 1930. Ruth grew up on a homestead near Medicine Hat and was motherless when she was 14. George Arthur Gibbs and Ruth Smith had a son named Fred Robert on June 5, 1929 and Arthur Willis Feb 21, 1932 at Camp Creek. This baby boy was named with his father’s middle name, Arthur and Willis was Ruth’s father’s name. Ruth Crystal died March 9, 1939 at age 38 leaving George to raise Fred and Arthur, 10 and 7. The oldest stepson is listed on findagrave as Sgt. Eugene K. Joedeman would marry and live in Nevada ranching. Otis VanceJones, the step son of George Arthur Gibbs enlisted at the age of 32. Admission date April 1945 to the infantry, Discharge date Jun 1945. He was discharged from the hospital after being wounded in the thigh by a bullet, a battle casualty. He was treated with penicillin therapy. I don’t believe he married and was died December 30, 1978. Daughter Francis Lucille married Percy Wroe in 1934. Son, Hiram Garner died Oct 10, 1987 at Prince George, B.C. Son, Fred Robert died Sept 27, 1964 at High Prairie.

Arthur Willis came and spent some time with his 1/2 sister Olive Gibbs Waddell at the Coutts homestead. My father John Waddell was eleven years older than Arthur but they enjoyed each other’s company and my dad had to call him uncle.

These were war years again from 1939-1945.

George Arthur took his mother Mary through the Port at Sweetgrass, August 11th, 1928 to see her son Charles in California. Charles Hiram would die one year after his mother working for the Idaho highway department when his death certificate states he was ran over by a truck, had head injuries and died instantly. It says he was a WWI vet.

Mary Elizabeth Smith had some of her family near her for her final last years. She died living a long life of 90 years on November 24, 1940 at Fort Assiniboine. The oldest, Nellie Mary Gibbs Applegate died at Ft. Assiniboine April 1950. Rachel the baby of the family had remarried after divorcing Edward Dove, to Claude Cox in 1914 at Wyoming. She died in 1950 in Edmonton and her obituary lists George Arthur living at Coutts. Lendley was at Ft. Assiniboine, James was a rancher at Idaho and Nettie Hughes of Lincoln, Nebraska was running a girl’s rooming house. Lendley died in 1954 aged 72 and was buried at Ft. Assiniboine. Nettie Estella died in 1956, aged 77. The oldest James Abraham died at age 83 in Idaho, 1955. George Arthur my great grandfather died at aged 87 at Cardston, Alberta March 18, 1963, and was buried at Coutts. Just as his mother had, he outlived all his siblings.

I’ve been listening to a podcast by Jody Carrington. She says we are all here just to walk each other home safely! It’s been quite a journey walking Mary Elizabeth Smith Gibbs home to her final resting place when she died on November 24, 1940 at Fort Assiniboine, Alberta, Canada.

This my 2nd great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Smith was born in Perth, Mornington County, Ontario on July 7, 1850. Her parents, James Smith and Mary Ann Wilson left there when she was four to move to Port Hope, Michigan. Here, once again the country was just opening up to settlers. Mary Elizabeth was four when they moved and saw the chimney and sawmill built. She married my 2nd great grandfather on May 8, 1867 at Port Hope. They had ten children in 19 years, two died as infants but she saw the other eight to adulthood, married and with families of their own. She was quite the matriarch. Hiram and Mary Elizabeth kept the family safe during the two disastrous fires of Michigan that wiped out the town of Port Hope, not once but twice in the years 1871 and 1881. The family moved west where a last daughter, Rachel was born in South Dakota, then on to the orchards in the Flathead Valley near Kalispell, Montana. At age 58 she moved again to Gilpin, Alberta in 1904, homesteading with Hiram, proving up on their own 160 acres. Somehow, the family survived the winter of 1906-07 when the snow killed so many cattle herds. They stayed until 1912 and another move saw her back in Montana, near Broadview. Then her husband of 46 years, died in 1913, leaving her a widow. Think of the war years, having lived through the World War and the beginnings of WWII. Mary Elizabeth went back and lived the homestead life, with her youngest son Lendley and his second wife. George, Nettie, and Rachel were close by. She was buried in the Hillcrest Cemetery, beside the Grizzly Trail, where once the gold seekers trekked to find Klondike Gold. I am sure a Blue Heron, walks the marshy shoreline, makes a nest across the Athabasca River and downriver from Fort Assiniboine at Holmes Crossing, where she lived out her remaining years. 1850-1940. What a dash!

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