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Stories from Marie Shunsby (Woaller)

by: Johanna Janssen

Marie Woaller came to Sesekinika Village in 1908, when she was 8 years old. She and her Mother, Petrina Woaller, arrived on the train.

Mrs. Woaller and Marie had emigrated from Norway to the U.S.A.  two years before , to settle in Chicago, where their older daughter and sister lived.  She was marriede but very tragically died with the birth of her first child.

Mrs. Waoller did not really want to stay in Chicago with all the sad memories of her daughter's death.

Her son had gone to Northern Ontario, together with Olaf Olsen.  When the Canadian Government  opened up homesteads in the north, they took out a homestead and wrote to Chicago, inviting Mrs. Woaller and young Marie, to come and settle in Sesekinika.

The Trans Canada Railway was being built in that time and Northern Ontario opened up for settlers.

Mrs. Woaller packed her suitcase,  and with her little 8 year old daughter, Marie, travelled to Northern Ontario on the new railroad.

Marie remembers their arrival at the Sesekinika train station.  I am quoting Marie here: "When the train came to a stop, I saw my brother and Ollie standing there waiting for us.  I got very exited.  As soon as the train stopped, I jumped right out and sank t my armpits in the snowbank."  It was the end of April, 1908.

Marie told me that they went in a rowboat across the lake to where the future homestead was situated, on the north end of the lake.  Marie's brother and Olaf had built a small, one room cabin, on the homestead, close to the lake.  They also had cleared a few acres for a hayfield.

The cabin was pretty primative with an earth floor.  They farmed a bit and traded with the Indians.  Their supplies had to come from Englehart on the train.  There were no roads.  After a few years they moved to the village.  The brother moved to the U.S., where he died in the collapse of a bridge.  Olaf Olsen lived in Sesekinika for the rest of his life.

When they lived in the village, they still did some work on the homestead.  In the summer, they would make that into a little outing; row across, stay in the little cabin, cut some trees, etc.  A certain amount of work was required by the Canadian Government.  After so many years of this, the land was yours and you got the deed to the  homestead.

We, the Janssens, bought  this land in 1970.  Marie Shunsby (Woaller) walked around with me.  She pointed out where the one-room cabin stood.  It sure was small.  The foudations are still there.  Also the broken remains of a woodstove.  Poking around in it once, I  found an old, black, crooked bottle.  It looks like a medicine bottle.  I took it home, cleaned it and put it up on my kitchen cupboard, where it still is.

Marie also pointed out where the clearing was, that her brother  and Ollie Olsen made. Of course, it had all grown in, mostly with tag-alders.  Marie still called it "The Farm".

Two years ago we had it cleared again.  Quite a bit more than the original clearing, but it is the same area.  We are now trying to grow some grass on it and maybe in the future there will be some horses.

Life in Sesekinika in the early 1900's was tough.  Medical care, as we know it now, did not exist.  When you were sick, you doctored a bit yourself.  When you were very sick, you got the doctor from Englehart to come out on the train to see you.  That is: if you had the money!

Money was scarce in those days.  You only called the Doctor when you were at your wit's end.

When Marie was a young girl, she became very ill.  Her legs got badly swollen and she was running a fever.

After trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that, while Marie kept on  getting worse,  Mrs. Woaller sent a message to the doctor in Englehart and he came up on the train and got off at the Sesekinika station.

He examined Marie and  diagnosed her as having a kidney infection.  A very serious condition, especially in thse days, before the discovery of antibiotics.  There was realkly nothing to be donefor it, but patient nursing and hoping for the best.

The doctor gave Marie's Mother some instructions for the care of her daughter, she paid him, and he took the train back to Englehart.

Marie was bedridden for months.  Her Mother looked after her and it took a long, long time before she saw some improvement in her daughter's condition.

A yera later the same doctor from Englehart was called to Sesekinika again for a different patient.  While in the village he was asked: "Doc, have you been to see Marie Woaller yet?"

The doctor answered: "Oh, is she still alive?"

Those were the days, the good old days!!

St. Augustine, Florida

February 8, 1995


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