By: Olga (Fleck) Stretton daughter of Katherine Maron and Jacob Fleck

From: the Michael Maron and Karolina (Croissant) Family History by Joyce Martin and Joan Sam (Muhlbier) - Published 1984.

Katherine Maron was born 13 February 1886 in Friedrichsfeld, Russia and died 2 July 1965 in Edmonton, Alberta.  Katherine was the 3 rd child of Michael Maron and Karolina Croissant.  She married Jacob Fleck  in 1904.

Our father, Jacob Fleck, (1886-1965) married to Katherine Maron (1886-1954) was the youngest son of Johan Fleck (1849-1918) and Margaret Zimmermann (1856-1908). Johan Fleck had four sons, Frank, John, Joseph, and Jacob. The two daughters were Bella and Margaret. Bella, married to Gotlieb Schilling was to remain in Russia and was later sent into Siberia. Margaret married to Robert Knautz, died of the flu in Rostow, Russia, as the family was fleeing' from Russia in 1918. At the time of our family's departure, they lived in Friedrichsfeld. The Russian name for Friedrichsfeld was Solodorafka.

Our grandfather was a farmer and the lives of his family probably followed the pattern of most of the Russian German families. Although their methods of agriculture and industry were quite advanced for their time, their schools and finer things of life left much to be desired in comparison to the very modern conditions which most of their descendants experience today, they were content and happy in their life.

In order to prevent pillage, home sites were not only enclosed by a high fence of sorts but also a ditch somewhat like a moat was dug around most of this fenced area. The various farm buildings, barns, hogsty, sheepfold, sheds, henhouse, storage shed, well sealed and locked summer house, and the family home were all located within this home site.

All farmers lived in villages and commuted to their plots of land daily. Horses, cows, and sheep were kept communally and herded by hired help. My mother's father who had a large farm and flour mill was considered a wealthy man. He owned land totalling about 300 dessiatines, or about 750 acres. My father very likely had a much smaller acreage as did the majority of the farmers. Whenever extra help was required, Russians were usually hired. At harvest time women and men, Russians and Germans worked side by side.

Plows and small seeders pulled by horses were in use. During the last years, some wealthy farmer, who had imported a threshing machine threshed their crops. All grain was put into canvas sacks holding about 120 bushels each. Some of the grain was stored temporarily in securely locked granaries made of clay. The granaries were often guarded at night by a hired man. Grain purchasers soon arrived with camels to haul the grain to Sabilno, the closest point on the railroad, a distance of about 30 miles. The grain reserved for seed was stored in the sealed shed.

The house as well as other buildings were made of clay bricks or blocks. The walls plastered with coats of clay mixture, inside and out, were smooth and whitewashed.

Our parents home consisted of three rooms. A front room (fruntestube-dialect) and a back room (hintestube) with the kitchen in the centre. All children slept in the back room on wooden beds constructed by a carpenter who also built the clothes cupboards. Planks that served as springs were covered with mattresses stuffed with straw or corn husks. Women took great pride in maintaining their crocheted bedspreads and square pillows trimmed with lace. Dishes and utensils were placed on shelves in the kitchen. A stove, table, and chairs were usually the only furniture in this room. In the front room there was a bed for the parents and a cradle for the baby. The room also served as an entertainment centre for guests since it contained chairs and a sofa as well.

The front room as well as the back room had papered walls. Mirrors were placed in both rooms. A brick stove placed in a small room at the back of the house provided heat through vents in fireplaces for both front and back rooms. The fireplace in the front room had a mural painted on it. Close by was the summer house used for cooking and washing and sometimes as a sleeping place for hired help. Hired men usually slept in the hayloft in the barn.

The food they were able to supply was adequate, for the families stayed healthy and strong. Most common were the dishes made out of flour. The staple foods of flour, lard, milk and eggs appeared in various forms and endless shapes. The garden placed at the back of the home site provided them with a variety of vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, and varieties of melons. In order to provide a more plentiful supply for the months ahead, an extra garden was grown in the field. A delicious syrup was made from melons. Some of these vegetables were kept in straw to prevent them from freezing. Poultry, pork, mutton, and beef were obtained from their own livestock. However, during the warmer weather a meat seller make his rounds. Each house had it's own smokehouse. This was fixed in the attic around the chimney. A damper could be opened to allow the smoke from the cooking fire to be directed to cure the meat in storage. Smoked sausage was a staple food throughout the year.

Practically all Russian Germans were religious people. The Baptists in Friedrichsfeld did not have a church as such but held their services in the school which held a permanent place in the centre of the village and played a most important part in the social life of the community. The Flecks being a musical family were well represented in the choir. Father's father, conducted the choir and composed hymns. The book of which was subsequently destroyed in a house fire in 1927.

Schools in these settlements were conducted in German, although Russian was optional. My mother could read and write a limited amount of Russian, but our father never achieved more than a little of the spoken language as German was really all that was necessary. Subjects taught consisted mainly of reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and the Bible.

The German people lived peacefully and in reasonable prosperity for that time in history. However, over a period of years adverse circumstances such as economic instability and the repeal of the military law which had exempted the Germans from service helped to bring about the great exodus to the Americas.

Our Mother's brother, Jacob Maron, was serving a four year term in the Russian army. Shortly before the expiration of his term, he had access to a secret Russian document which was translated to German and given to him by a very close friend. In it was the shattering prediction of a World War in 1913. Bolshevism was on the rise and becoming a visible threat to German settlements. News of greater opportunities and a better life in America had been in their minds for some years. Because of these events, our family decided to move to the New World.

Already in 1909, our grandfather, his son John and wife Frieda, our parents and and their children, John and Lydia, Uncle Frank and family had planned to depart together for Goodrich, North Dakota, where Uncle Joseph had already settled, unfortunately, our parents and children could not leave because of some eye difficulties our father had. When father's family arrived in North Dakota they discovered the land, on which Uncle Joe had settled, was not very productive. They were interested in the news of new fertile land for homesteading in Saskatchewan, in the area where Fox Valley is now located. Grandfather purchased a wagon, two horses, one cow, some machinery and whatever supplies he could manage to haul, and tracked across the prairie to Maple Creek. When he, Frank, John and their families arrived at Maple Creek, he acquired homesteads of 160 acres and a pre-emption of 160 acres for himself and each of his sons, Frank, John and our-father, Jacob.

On May 7, 1910, our family, now including another daughter Elizabeth, mother's brother, Jacob Maron and his family, Peter and Paulina Rennick, and the families of Joe Kary and Henry Kary sailed from Liverpool, England, on the S.S. Siberian, arriving in New York, May 20, 1910. They arrived at Goodrich by train and stayed with friends and relatives. Of the five families only our parents headed for Saskatchewan in the fall of 1910 to where our grandfather and uncles already resided. The other families, within the next two years, chose Alberta for their new home.

Our first home was a sod house. My brother George and I were brought into the world in this very small home. Grandfather's plow and horses were used to cultivate the prairie sod. In a couple of years each had the means to purchase a team of horses, a plow, and a wagon of their own. My brother John remembers the 16 in. sulke plow with a seat dad purchased from the Cockshut Plow Company. The fertile land had plenty of moisture, producing crops yielding a large number of bushels to the acre. Within a couple of years the prices of grain tripled. Dad prospered. In 1914 or 1915, he built his first wooden house, which consisted of two rooms, a large kitchen and a large front room where the family slept. Often the floors or our house at night bedded and sheltered farmers from the Northwest as they were heading to or returning from Maple Creek on business and shopping. My parents always welcomed these people and mother willingly prepared meals with food they often provided themselves.

During the first year or two it was difficult for my parents to maintain a balanced diet. The meat supply was mainly rabbits, wild ducks, geese, and poultry. A variety of vegetables and melons were grown. Flour, dried prunes, raisins, sugar, lard and salt were purchased in Maple Creek. However, feeling assured of a brighter future, they could tolerate the hardships they had to endure.

As the years went by the few head of cattle dad had purchased multiplied. Crops and prices were good. New machinery was purchased. The first car dad bought was a Maxwell in 1914 or 1915. In 1917, he built a large red barn and in 1918 a new house. We were very proud of our large house consisting of 4 spacious bedrooms each with a clothes closet upstairs, and a bedroom, living room, dining-room, kitchen and pantry on the main floor. A pump in the kitchen provided us with plenty of rainwater from the large cistern in the basement. In 1919, we also acquired the luxury of a telephone. That year dad purchased a new Model T, a car we were to drive for many years.

We were blessed with a few more good years before the dry years caused so much misery in the mid-twenties. Even though very little grain was produced, dad managed to keep a herd of cattle. In order to increase his income, dad and John bought horses from ranchers near Maple Creek at $40.00 a head. The horses were broke and sold near Regina and in Manitoba for $200.00 or more each.

An epidemic of Diphtheria in 1922 brought about many deaths in the community including my four year old sister named Margaret. A year later on the date of her burial, June 10, another girl was born and of course she was named Margaret. In 1923, an exciting event occurred. My Aunt Margaret Knautz's son, Adolf, arrived from Germany. What a dapper young city slicker he was. He soon learned to adjust to the Canadian way of life on the prairies. My grandfather, Johan Fleck, and Frank's wife Pauline died in 1918. Frank and his family, except for his oldest son Christian, moved to California. Uncle Joe Fleck who had moved to Fox Valley some years earlier followed Uncle Frank. Uncle John Fleck moved to Yorkton, Sask. in 1924. Only Frank's son, Christian, and dad remained. The summers were dry. The cistern was dry. If grain sprouted to a height. of several inches, a chinook usually burned the stalks in a matter of 3 or 4 days. What was left was devoured by grasshoppers. The tumble weeds and Russian thistles flourished tearing away fences as hot winds blew them across the fields. Drifting soil covered the roadsides. Farmers deserted their homes and farms looking for greener pastures elsewhere. It was difficult for my parents to abandon the land that had been so fertile and the large home and barn they had laboured so hard to acquire. However, in the fall of 1926, my parents decided to move to the area of Veteran, Alberta, near my mother's family.

Brother John was sent ahead by railroad with two freight cars, one half of one car was paid by Chris Fleck, who with his family was also moving to that area. The cars were loaded with calves, milk cows, poultry, machinery and furniture. The farm which my father later purchased was occupied by the previous owner until late fall of 1926. Consequently, John had to dispose of our livestock, machinery, and furniture to various relatives who had met John at Coronation for this very reason.

Meantime, in Fox Valley, the remainder of our possessions were loaded in wagons and header boxes. The cattle were all herded into the yard. Mother, the small children, Emily, Carrie, Lloyd, Margaret, and Rose, with Jean at the wheel of the car, were ready to depart in the old Model T for my grandparents' home near Hemaruka, Alberta. In those days, for an 18 year old girl to undertake the responsibility of this drive was courageous. Henry Kary of Hemaruka, had previously motored to Fox Valley to transport Julia, Christian Fleck's wife, and their four children to his home. With a feeling of emptiness, sadness, and regrets we took our farewell and headed away to a new home.

Dad, Chris, sister Elizabeth, cousin Adolf Knautz, and mother's cousin Henry Croissant, drove the wagons, while brother George and I rode horseback to guide the stock. Dad sought out prosperous looking farms which might accommodate ourselves, the cattle, and the horses for the night.

To our amazement, our first three nights were spent with people who had slept on our floor in our small house in the earlier years. We were treated with great hospitality-,..

Across prairies, over ferries, hills and valleys we travelled for two weeks, a distance of about 200 miles. We lived at grandfather Michael Maron's tired, but elated to have achieved this difficult and memorable journey.

Our family was dispersed among relatives until our own house was vacated in the late fall of 1926. How relieved our relatives must have been to get rid of us and our belongings.

In the first year, although we found the house had not met expectations, we settled in quite comfortably. We had many relatives to visit, made new friends, attended the Baptist Church and Northland School, which was only one mile from home, and thus put in the Alberta winter.

In the summer of 1928 as dad was renovating the house, a fire broke out in the chimney upstairs totally destroying the wooden structure and it's contents. Fortunately, no one was Injured. Dad was then forced to build another house. This time he hired carpenters to build a large bungalow.

During the ensuing years crops were reasonably good and dad farmed many hundreds of acres, but hail frequently devastated our crops. However, dad always made sure of a good hail insurance policy.

In 1932, dad had the opportunity to purchase a farm with fertile soil at Watts, near Hanna, Alberta. Again they moved but still cultivated the farm at Veteran. John who had been farming at Coronation also moved to the Watts area in 1936, then to jobs in Calgary and city life in 1941. Father moved back to Veteran in 1939 where he started purchasing registered herford cattle. Much of dad's success in herford ranching was due to the dedication and hard work of his son Kenneth. The only one of dad's sons to remain on the farm was George who, with his wife May, made farming his life work at Watts until an early retirement.

In 1952, dad finally decided to retire from farming. On November 3rd and 4th of that year he had a 2 day auction sale. Subsequent to the auction our parents went on to purchase a new home in Edmonton.

Our precious 68 year old mother was laid to rest after a bout with cancer in 1954. The next year dad married Louise Roth who is still living in Calgary. Our last dear parent succumbed to cancer in July, 1965 at the age of 79.

The remarkable fact is that all 12 children ranging from 53 to 79 years of age are at this date alive. This year in July, 1984, we had a family reunion at sister Lydia's home in Tsawwassen, B.C.

The Saga of this Jacob Fleck family from Russia to Canada - from sod house to bungalow is one of the interesting stories of early settlers who helped to lay the foundation of this great country we know as Canada.

The Jacob Fleck family history as told herein is accurate to the best of my knowledge, although the facts as related are often second hand through brothers, sisters and other relatives.

I would like to thank all those who helped in compiling this information, and I sincerely hope that the Fleck story will live in the hearts of family members for years to come.

Perhaps one day these brief but valuable family anecdotes will someday be part of a larger and more thorough study of our accessory and colourful past in memory of Jacob and Katherine Fleck.

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