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By Grace Harrad Dennis

My father, Charles Harrad, was a carriage builder before coming to Canada. He apprenticed for five years and became very successful at his trade. When cars came on the market in large numbers, he thought it better to sell out. He sent my mother’s nephew, Sam Middleton, who had been raised with us following his parent’s death, to Canada in 1905 to look for a ranch. Sam found one – then called the Starlight Ranch – about six miles east of Pincher Creek, near Brocket. My father came out on his own to look things over and then went back to bring his family out. The family landed in Canada in April of 1907.

WHAT A TRIP . . . it took more than three weeks by boat and train, and everyone was seasick. We finally arrived about one-quarter mile from the Brocket railway station in a snowstorm, a very bad snowstorm. We all had to walk back to the station, not knowing where we were going or much about such storms. There was no one there to meet us because Sam was late due to the weather. Nor was anyone else around. Father banged on the door . . . the station agent came to the door in his night shirt and wondered what we wanted. Father told him we had just got off the train and wanted to come in out of the storm. Sam finally arrived about 8:30 a.m. in a wagon.

One look at the wagon and Mother wondered if this was what he had to ride in. Soon we were settled in the wagon . . . we kids thought it was funny but Mother did not. We had to go over a creek which still had ice on it and the wagon would go up and down. Mother didn’t like it and started to cry “Let’s go back.” We arrived at the Starlight Ranch to find the couple who were just staying until we came, still in bed playing with a dog. This was not a very pleasant beginning. Mother desperately wanted a cup of tea, and there was no milk. We kids went outside that first day to explore and found the exterior of the house was plastered with mud and manure. That did it . . . this only added to my Mother’s discomfort and unhappiness at being in such a place compared to the comfortable house she had in England.

It was more than a week later before our furniture arrived from England, and in the meantime we children had to sleep on the floor. The day that Father and Sam went to get the furniture, Mother and Elsie, neither of whom knew too much about keeping a stove going, managed to set the chimney on fire. The younger kids started to cry but the family finally got the fire out.

Father had brought three horses and a carriage from England. The carriage was a long one with a seat on both sides and a door at the back. We were quite put out for when we would go to Pincher Station in the carriage, the children would make fun of us and say “Here comes the English family in the SOAP BOX.” We did not like that at all. One of the horses Father used in the cart to go to Pincher Station did not like going away from home but coming home, Father had to hold him back, and he went like you know what . . . The horses we brought from England never did amount to anything; I guess they didn’t like the change.

A sandstone quarry often known as “Harrad’s Quarry” was located on the Starlight Ranch. In operation for several years prior to the outbreak of the First World War, it was from here that the building blocks for the Lebel Store, old Union Bank and two or three pioneer residences in Pincher Creek were quarried. The site was located just south or upstream from the C.P.R. Trestle spanning the Pincher Creek and the massive stones weighing as much as nine tons were transported west as far as Pincher City via the C.P.R. line.

An 8-tonne piece of that stone, and one of the railcars that brought the stone to Pincher City is on the grounds of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village.

We had real hard times for years, working hard but never seeming to get anywhere. My Mother and Father eventually retired in 1924 and went to live on Bridge Avenue in Pincher Creek, where they were well known for his large “Strawberry Red” rhubarb patch. My mother, Mrs. Harrad, who had been active in the Pincher Creek United Church, passed away the morning of Friday, November 3rd, 1933 and my father, Mr. Harrad on Thursday, July 27th, 1939. Mother’s nephew Sam went on to become a Minister, and was an Archdeacon when he passed away in his eightieth year. For years he was connected with the Indian School of the Kainai First Nation Reserve at Stand Off.

Charles Harrad, son of William Harrad, coal haggler, was born in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England on May 5th, 1861. At the age of sixteen he apprenticed to a carriage builder for five years. At the end of this period, he went into business for himself, and eventually became very successful. In 1884, he married Eliza Middleton who was born in Swadincote, Derbyshire in May, 1864. Five daughters and one son were born in England. Two other children, Charles and May, died in infancy.

The adult children included Elizabeth Elsie who was the eldest. The afternoon of Thursday, March 18th, 1909 she was united in marriage with Lawrence John Boag who hailed from Pincher City. The ceremony was performed at St. John’s Anglican Church in Pincher Creek. They had three children Lawrence, Henry and Ernest. The next child was Bertha who was born in August, 1894 followed by Olive in May, 1896. She was wed in 1959 to Duncan Cameron (1889 – 1972). Olive passed away in 1969. The Harrads’ son Percy’s birth dated to May 17th, 1898. Raised on the Starlight Ranch, Percy spent the last five years of his life residing in Lethbridge. He married the former Elsie Clark in the early 1920s and had five daughters: Hazel born circa 1922, Marion 1923, Edna 1924, Alice 1926, and Ruth in 1933. Percy died suddenly in pneumonia on Sunday, May 13th, 1934, only a few days short of his thirty-sixth birthday. Daughter Grace was born in September 1901. She married into the C. Dennis Family. The youngest daughter Hilda arrived in August 1904. All of Charles and Eliza Harrad’s children were born in England. Several of them attended the Brocket School.

Charles Harrad’s younger brother, Arthur who was born in November, 1870 and his family came to Brocket five years later. Arthur was the Postmaster at Brocket for a number of years. He and his wife Mathilda, whose birth dated to August 1869, had five children: Vera born in January 1897, Grace in May 1899, Reginald in May 1903, Albert in February 1906 and Alfred in October 1910. The only child born in Alberta was the youngest, Alfred. The family later moved to Fernie, B.C.

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