Skip to the main content

The Immigration Story of the Tonn family (German Immigrants)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

Category: 
Country of Origin: 
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2019.46.1

Story Text: 

A Family Story: Ertman (Ed) and Anna Friederike Emilie (Anna) Tonn (nee Yirchott)
Abstract: Ertman, a bachelor and explorer, emigrated from Eastern Europe to Canada in the fall of 1888 and Anna came with her parents from Germany to America in about 1892. They started their life together in North Dakota U.S.A. and then immigrated to Canada: first to Lemberg (Northwest Territories) and then to Humboldt Saskatchewan where they farmed for 14 years. Then, in 1920 moved to a land purchase near Preeceville/Buchanan Saskatchewan. They left behind their eldest son Arthur and Ed's parents.
The story starts with their marriage in October 1897 within a German community called Grisvold ( or Griswold) near Litchville within La Moure County of North Dakota. They farmed and when homestead land in Canada was made available for farming immigrants they moved northward in 1902/03 and started anew at Lemberg near the city of Regina (Northwest Territories). There, In January of 1905 the 4th and first Canadian born child, Wilhelmina ("Minnie") arrived. Ed's brother, his family and the boy’s parents also lived nearby.
Ed found work in Western Canada and later hearing of land grants in a new community for German immigrants they decided to move to the "Humboldt" area where a village was being established: circa 1904-1905. Ed, his Dad( Andreas) and brother (Wilhelm or Bill) bought homestead rights near Waldsea Lake ( 1906/07) and after a few years he had accumulated over 300 acres of land. In a newspaper clipping of unknown origin ( about 1911), Ed commented that ("he would not sell the farm and cattle for $30,000" ).
Drought, crop failures and family matters caused aggravation and so in the fall 1920 he met with land agents of the Scandinavian Land Company and they took him to raw or un-broke bush land within the Municipality of Buchanan, near the town of Preeceville. He agreed to a purchase of 640 acres and soon the move was on as winter was fast approaching. By then the family had grown-up some, and Ellen, the baby, was just over a year old: Bill the oldest was 18 and soon he would marry. At first, he came with four of their children (Eddie, Selma, Fred and Carl) to a village called Tiny. Their, they met and recovered a breaking plow, wagon, discer, horses and a cow. All were moved to the nearest neighbor where they stayed the night. In the morning, they moved their belongings to their new place and a tent was setup and the stock tethered. The children stayed while Ed went back to Humboldt to collect the rest of the family: Anna, Bill, Hilda, Tillie and baby Ellen.
The family went by train to Buchanan: a town that was about 5 miles away and from there the machinery was hauled and the cattle (60 head of Herefords) were chased to the farm. It was a difficult task as there were many sloughs and poor roads. That winter most of the cattle had to be sold because of a feed shortage: some to Art Tunbridge, a neighbor nearby. In 2011 or so Art's son found an animal ear tag on top of a manure pile with “Ertman Tonn Humboldt” inscribed, which he gave to Ellen’s son who lives close by: what are the odds?
So, getting settled and preparing for the winter was their main concern. A dwelling had to be built and shelter for the animals prepared. With the long cold winter many loads of wood had to be cut and split for the stoves which were their only source of heat. As soon as spring came and frost was out of the ground the task of breaking the new land began. A large Rumley engine (tractor) and two 24 inch plows were used to break the land. Throughout the summer no more than 50-60 acres were made ready for planting. Then in 1922, the brick house and barn were built from 3 three train car-loads of material consisting of brick, cement and lumber for about $1500.
When the fall crops were ready to harvest everybody contributed to the effort of bringing in the sheaves. The ladies had to cook for 15-20 men and cream cans of coffee, sandwiches, cake and donuts were sent out for morning and afternoon lunches, besides the 3 big meals. The grain which was thrashed was hauled to town by wagon or sleigh in winter. At times a grain car load lot was uploaded into a box car on the tracks and was all shoveled by hand and shipped to Winnipeg Manitoba. One could get 2-3 cents per bushel more than at the elevators: a lot of money at that time. At one time, about 90 bushels of oats along with a 5 gallon can of cream was used to buy a barrel of fuel for $9 for the Rumley engine.
The ladies were busy in the spring with new chicks and turkeys. A large garden was always planted to supply vegetables for the table and canning. Meat was canned, cured and smoked as there were no freezers. Many of the supplies for the winter were bought from an agent for the Neal Brother Company of Winnipeg and shipped by train. Apples were bought in large barrels, raisins, prunes and other dried fruit in large coffee tins of 10-20 pounds. Everyone had plenty to eat.
Along with the work, there was time for company on Sunday's and Christmas was always very special. The country schools (nearby Waler School and also Norway School) always had Christmas concerts which lasted about 2 hours with treats for everyone.
Pancake suppers and card parties were held with neighbors and dancing was done in the homes if someone could play an instrument. The family had a piano and Tillie and Ellen could play. The ladies had their monthly Farm Club meetings and the local church also had Ladies Aid gatherings to provide a break from the "never ending work".
In summary, the oldest son, Arthur died in 1918 from a car accident and subsequent complications. As well, Ed's parents' (Andreas and Louise) who immigrated with the family passed away in 1915 and 1920, respectively. Anna's parents remained in the U.S.A. and are buried in the Colma Cemetery, Berrien County, Michigan. In 1929, Ed had a stroke and he passed away in 1933 at the age of 68: his youngest son, Carl, farmed the land and then sold it which, to this day, is still within the Tonn family.
Ertman (09/16/1865 - 01/26/1933) and Anna’s (07/01/1881 - 09/15/1957) life was challenging with many moves and adjustments to new land and laws. Resettlement, hard work and a determination to be successful were their mantra. Their married life together for spanned 36 years (1997-1933): not long by today's standards. Anna lived for 76 years, raised 10 children and survived a stroke. She was cared for by her daughter, Hilda, till her passing in 1957 at Yorkton, Saskatchewan.
There are 21 Grandchildren and approximately 43 Great-grandchildren and 50 or more Great-great grandchildren (as of 2012). At the moment Tonn offspring are located primarily in Western Canada (Manitoba to BC).
The following is a list of their children and grandchildren: born from 1898-1919 - 21 years in which 10 children were born. Listed below are their names and the names of their children:
*Arthur Ertman (Art): and then *William Michael (Bill): son Mylo, and *Zelma Hattie (Selma): Marlene, Jean, Lois , and Wilhelmina Friederike (Minnie): Doreen, Adeline, Audrey, and Edward Albert (Ed): Lorin, Keith, Allan, and Hilda Susanna (Hilda): and Frederick Albert (Fred): Shirley, Myrna, Bradley, and Karl Henry ( Carl): Janet, Sharon, Carol, and Mathilda Frances (Tillie): Brenda, Gayle and lastly Eleanora Elizabeth( Ellen): Daryll, Neill, Owen.
I ( Daryll Myhr) was able to formulate a short story of their lives and am grateful to have been a part of this work. Credit is given to my cousins (Jean, Brenda, Sandra) who gave me pictures and help in finding records and stories about the family.