Schmuland family history

Schmuland family history

Most families have a story explaining their origins and the Schmulands are no exception. According to family tradition, the family and the surname come from Småland; a landskap, or province of Sweden. The details are unknown, but many years ago a group of Swedes left there because of political trouble. They came to northern Germany where they became known as "Smalands" or Schmulands. Or so the story goes.

Andrew Schmuland

What we know of our family is that Andreas (Andrew) Schmuland was born May 2 1848 and his wife Karolina Siewert was born October 6 1847. They lived in East Prussia (Ostpreussen) which is on the Baltic Sea, and is now split between Poland and Russia. It is said that Andreas fought in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, and received distinction for his service.

Shortly after the war he and his family, including his father, moved to the Zhitomir area of Volynhia (Wolhynien). There were a large number of Germans there: in 1871 there were 28,560. According to Adam Giesinger's book From Catherine to Khrushchev, "the immigrants came on their own, often in response to a special invitation, with attractive promises, by a Volynhian landowner who wanted knowledgeable peasants to develop his land."

But in Volynhia, "the Germans were living through difficult times in the 1880's and 1890's... for those living on rented land... rents were raised often to levels at which their economic survival as farmers became impossible." It appears that the Schmulands were living on rented land in Volynhia as Julius Schmuland told his daughter Ella that the "boss" would regularly come around to see how much grain you were growing, and take away all except enough to live on.

In any case, by 1885 Andrew had decided that he couldn't settle in Russia and hearing that Canada was the place of the future, he decided to emigrate. Karolina had a baby boy, Gustav, on March 1 1885 and as soon as she was fit to travel, they set off. Andrew left behind him his father who had a few acres of his own and who lived into his nineties, and some brothers who, as far as we know, never followed Andrew to the new world. Andrew also had a sister who married a man named Richter, and they lived in Pipestone, Minnesota.

After a six week sailing voyage, the Schmulands arrived in Quebec City. They lived in Lachute, Quebec for a couple of years where Andrew worked in a salt refinery. Then they moved west to Edenburg, Manitoba on the Mennonite's West Reserve, though the Schmulands themselves were Lutherans. There Andrew and his sons worked tending livestock, having a few acres for their own needs. Julius remembered that winters were very severe and storms would come up very suddenly. In fact, people tied ropes from their houses to their barns so that they could grope their way back in case of a storm. One of Andrew and Karolina's sons, Ludwig, caught a cold while herding cattle and died October 1 1889, at age 13. They also lost an infant girl while in Manitoba. In 1891 they came to Calgary which was the end of the railroad. They proceeded north towards Edmonton by means of a wagon and a team of oxen on the Edmonton-Calgary trail.

One of the most difficult parts of the journey was fording the Red Deer river. Partway across the river one of the wagon's wheels began to come apart. Rather than lose the entire wheel it was decided to repair it on the spot. So the wheel was fixed in waist-deep water amid chunks of floating ice and they were soon on their way again. They finally arrived in Edmonton, which at the time was a town of 600, but decided that the area was too bushy for farming. They made up their minds to return to some good looking land that they had seen further south, near the Trail. Gustav tells of being sick in Edmonton so that the family couldn't travel for a while. They stayed with some "half-breeds" on the south side of the river. When Gus was over his illness they went back south and on May 12 1891 entered their homestead in the Bears Hill district for the first time. It in located near Wetaskiwin, on the south-east quarter of Section 10 T45 R24 W4.

Click here to see a copy of Andrew Schmuland's naturalization document.

In the following report, Andrew gives an account of the progress of his homestead.

From a claim to Patent made and sworn by Andrew Smoland - May 26 1897.

Acres brokenAcres croppedCattleHorses
House 25 by 14 - $150.00
Fence 3 1/4 mile - $50.00
stable, granary, chicken house, pig pen, milkhouse, 3 wells

In order to get your homestead, after paying your ten dollar fee, you had to break 35 acres within three years. This is hard work with horse-powered equipment so that Andrew worked hard, from early morning until evening. So although a literate man (Andrew could read and write both High and Low German) and able to play the accordian, he didn't have time for such amusements. The most common form of entertainment in those days was visiting your neighbors, for example, the Schmulands would pay a visit to the Feldbergs who lived ten miles north-west of them.

When they first arrived all they had for meat were the rabbits that they could catch. later on Andrew got some pigs from Adam Kaiser, who introduced them to the area, and Karolina raised ducks.

They were hard times financially and most people didn't have money but stuck to trading. At first the Schmulands obtained most of their requirements from Ramsay's Trading Post, just two miles west of their land, on the Edmonton-Calgary trail. The mail came to the trading post once a week, before the Post Office opened in Wetaskiwin. The mail for the people living in Wetaskiwin was carried by a man called Witzke for five dollars a week. Later, John West opened a store in Wetaskiwin. If you brought your grain in you didn't get money but merchandise from the store. If you did need a couple of pennies for a stamp you had to show him the envelope, to prove it. Once Karolina butchered twenty ducks and took them to town only to discover that nobody wanted to buy them.

There was no church built in the Bears Hill district but a preacher would come down from Wetaskiwin to perform weddings and baptisms.

The Bears Hill school was constructed by voluntary labor about 1 mile north and 1 mile east of Andrew's farm, on the north-east corner of Section 12. The school was an 18 by 24 foot log building, and the cracks were chinked with sod. The first school term was in 1897 and there were Schmulands in attendance. These were probably Gustav and his brother Rudolph who both stayed only one winter. The first teacher was Miss Belle Durrand.

Towards the end of his life Andrew was very sick with dropsy, one of his grandchildren remembers him as always sick in bed. One day Karolina went to Wetaskiwin for some medicine for her husband and on the way home there was an accident, in which she died. According to his son Gustav, Andrew just gave up after the accident and he died about seven weeks later.

Andreas Schmuland Born: May 2 1848 Ostpreussen
Died: December 20 1911 Wetaskiwin
Karolina Siewert Born: October 6 1847 Ostpreussen
Died: October 31 1911 Wetaskiwin

JuliusBorn: December 25 1870 Ostpreussen
Died: May 9 1945 Wetaskiwin
Ludwig Born: 1876 Volyhnia
Died: October 1 1889 Edenburg, Manitoba
Ferdinand Born: 1883 Russia
Died: November 1 1931 Wetaskiwin
GustavBorn: March 1 1885 Zhitomir, Volyhnia
Died: September 2 1984 Wetaskiwin
RudolphBorn: January 8 1888 Manitoba
Died: September 23 1973 Wetaskiwin