Minnie (Fletcher) Cook
Life and Work
Minnie Cook loved to be with people. Her father, Arthur Fletcher was a councillor for the Municipal District of Westerdale and the family hosted a number of politicians and notables in their home.
Minnie Cook, like her father, was interested in politics and she attended every annual meeting of the County of Mountain View and its predecessor municipalities. She was a member of the Olds Hospital Auxiliary and later, the Sundre Hospital Auxiliary. For 59 years she was a member of the Eagle Valley Women's Institute, and as a member of the Sunshine Committee for 50 of those years she visited the sick, elderly and the newborns. In all these activities, she enjoyed the company of many people.
It was a common sight to see Minnie Cook with another lady hosting the registration table at the Women's Institute conferences where she could greet everyone who came. She liked nothing better than to present the service pins to the women who volunteered at the Sundre Hospital.
In her home, she welcomed all who came. The coffee pot was always ready and light snacks were served.
-By Carol Brown
Memories of Minnie Cook
Born: September 30, 1901
Died: February 23, 1994
Married: William (Bill or Will) Cook, October 22, 1952. William died in 1958.
Paternal Grandparents: Samuel Fletcher, died in 1916, is buried in Armstrong, B.C. Margaret Fletcher, died in 1895, is buried in Morley, Alberta. They had one son, Arthur.
Maternal Grandparents: Mr. and Mrs. Edwards came from England in the spring of 1894, settling in the Waterside district about 12 miles (19 kilometres) northwest of Olds, Alberta. With them came a family of several grown-up children, among whom was a daughter, Margaret Jane.
The Fletcher family came from England, settling for a time in Winnipeg. Upon meeting David McDougall of Morley, who had come to Winnipeg for supplies for that Indian outpost, the Fletchers joined him in a trek to Morley. There they engaged in cattle ranching. After a few years, their pastures (open range at that time) became dry and parched so they had to find better grazing for their livestock.
They followed the example of David McDougall who had moved, in 1890, his ranching operation to the Red Deer River at the confluence of the Bearberry Creek with the Red Deer, some 100-plus miles (161 kilometres) to the northeast of Morley. In company with two other families, the Niddries and Colemans, Samuel and Arthur Fletcher moved all their effects to the east side of the Red Deer River about 6 miles (10 kilometres) downstream from McDougall's base camp. This was in 1894. They chose areas in which to settle and squatted within a few miles of one another. The area, not yet surveyed, was about 30 miles (48 kilometres) northwest of Olds.
Arthur Fletcher married Margaret Jane Edwards on February 15, 1899 at the Edwards home in Waterside. Their first home was where Arthur had squatted in 1894, which later became SE ¼5-34-4-W5. Later they moved to the W ½25-33-5-5 where they spent the rest of their lives. There they raised a family of three children: Minnie Rose, Pearl, and Frank.
It appears that Mrs. Samuel Fletcher remained in Morley instead of accompanying her husband and son to the Red Deer River.
Minnie Fletcher was born in the home of her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, on September 30, 1901, and her first home was on her father's squatter's homestead. Within the next few years two more children were born: Pearl and Frank, the latter known locally to many as "Laddie."
By 1905, the surveying of the district had been completed. Arthur Fletcher, who held squatter's rights for the land on which he had settled, found that his meadows in the valley were divided by the surveys so he moved west, closer to the Red Deer River, and purchased the west half of 25-33-5-5. There he built a substantial storey-and-a-half frame house and developed his CX Ranch, the name taken from his livestock brand. The CX Ranch grew with the purchase of several sections of land nearby. It was in this house and on this ranch that Minnie grew up and spent most of the 91 years of her life.
Minnie's schooling probably began in 1909. Two factors were influential: first, a bridge had been constructed over the Red Deer River near Township Line 34 at a point known by various names, such as the Blackfoot Crossing, Niddrie's Crossing and Fletcher's Crossing; and a new school had been built near the west side of the river about a mile from the bridge. Minnie's parents were quite instrumental in establishing the Rockwood school district. It was here that the three Fletcher children received their education, driving by team and buggy or sleigh the distance of about 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometres).
The Eagle Valley school, nearly 4 miles (6 kilometres) to the east of the Fletcher home, had been built in 1905 but the greater distance to this school was not conducive for small children travelling such a distance by themselves.
The education at Rockwood school went well until the bridge washed out in the spring of 1915. Although the school remained in operation, the Fletcher children could no longer attend due to the impassible bridge, and, for Minnie at least, that was the end of formal education.
Work on the farm
Judging by the many stories Minnie has told during her later years, it can safely be said that she was her father's "right-hand man" on the farm. She learned to do all kinds of farm and ranch work. She could drive a team of horses, load feed such as hay and straw, operate all kinds of field equipment including the tractor, stook bundles, and all that was needed. As her father had a sizable cattle operation for the area, Minnie could assist in every way in handling them. Notably, she rode horseback many, many miles out to the pastures to check cattle and to attend to business or for pleasure. It is reported that she didn't learn to drive a car or truck until later in life.
In addition to the outdoor work, Minnie helped her mother extensively in the home with housework.
Minnie's father, Arthur Fletcher, served as councillor for the Municipal District of Westerdale for quite a number of years. This sparked an interest for Minnie in such matters and she is reputed to have attended every municipal annual meeting for the area for 50 years. Further research is needed to verify this fact, but it is certain she attended many annual meetings.
The Fletcher family was also interested in politics on the provincial and federal level. Guests in their home included a lawyer R. B. Bennett who later went on to become the prime minister of Canada. Also a guest was A. J. Smith, a lawyer of the firm Smith & Lougheed, Loughheed being the grandfather of past premier of Alberta, Peter Loughheed.
Minnie was also well acquainted with Hon. Duncan Marshall, Minister of Agriculture for Alberta in the early years. Mr. Marshall made a trip to Sundre in the mid-teens to establish the Sundre and Westward Ho women's institutes, as well as being instrumental in establishing the Olds School of Agriculture in 1913.
She could speak of Frank Oliver who was the first editor of The Olds Gazette, and who went on to provincial politics and later became MP for Alberta in Ottawa. Minnie dearly loved discussing politics with anyone who would join her in comparing opinions. She was a firm supporter of the Progressive Conservative party in Alberta.
Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher were involved in a variety of community affairs such as the Rockwood School board, the Sundre-James River Agricultural Society of the 1920s, the calf club of the 1930s sponsored by the Olds School of Agriculture, and the Old Timers Association of Olds. Minnie assisted her parents in their role with these organizations and frequently was directly involved herself.
One of the first organizations she was involved in was with the Women's Institute. With her mother and sister, Pearl, she joined the Derbytown/Eagle Valley/Lobley (D.E.L.) institute. When the bridge over the river washed out in 1915, it was impractical to go to these meetings but in 1935 she joined the newly formed Eagle Valley Women's Institute. She remained a faithful member until her death, having belonged to this institute for 59 years.
Another organization she was involved with extensively was the Sundre Hospital Auxiliary. During the WWII, a hospital district was formed in Olds to establish improved medical services for that area. Minnie joined the Olds Hospital Auxiliary to assist with the betterment of medical services. ln 1967, the Sundre Hospital Auxiliary was formed to establish a hospital in that town. For the first year, Minnie was an associate member but joined in 1968. She attended meetings regularly and often officiated in awarding service hour pins to the young girls who worked as volunteers in the Sundre hospital.
Minnie was also a member of the local Eagle Valley history book club which produced Wagon Trails Plowed Under.
Memories of Minnie Cook by Carol Brown
Minnie Fletcher enjoyed the Women's Institute. meetings as a teenager. D.E.L (Derbytown Eagle Valley Lobley) began June 4, 1915 at the home of Mrs. William (Hanna) Niddrie with Miss Annie Niddrie as president and Mrs. Arthur (Margaret) Fletcher as secretary treasurer. No doubt Minnie and her sister, Pearl attended that meeting. On October 20, 1917 it was decided since the bridge washed out making it a 20 mile (32.2 kilometre) round trip from Eagle Valley, that Lobley and Derbytown would continue with meetings there, mostly in the Rockwood School.
Minnie often told us she joined the W.I. as soon as she turned 16 years old, therefore; we can assume it was at this meeting. There was no actual roll call listed in the minutes until 1920. Both Minnie and Pearl paid the dues of 25 cents though they had managed to attend only two out of the six meetings listed. The first participation is noted when Minnie seconded a motion to give $10 worth of supplies to Mrs. Bruce (perhaps the teacher). It is not known how many meetings or what active part Minnie may have played in D.E.L. from 1922-1935 as the minutes book is not with the rest of the D.E.L. records at the Provincial Archives.
Eagle Valley, at some time, organized under UFWA and then changed to a Women's Institute on February 14, 1935. Mrs. A. Fletcher, her sister Mrs. F. Copson and Minnie joined on August 8, 1935. Minnie was appointed convenor for Canadianization in 1942. She was well read and very interested in politics locally and around the world. Her quizzes and contests stumped most of her fellow members even up into her late 80s.
She started donating batts for quilts as she didn't sew; prices started at 50 cents each to $5 each 40 years later. Minnie made a motion to get the Canadian Nature magazine for Eagle Hill No. 1 & 2 Schools. She presented a resolution at the 1955 convention entitled "Revision of Inheritance Act Giving Equal Rights to Women." In the February 1961 meeting she invited Mr. Yates, a lawyer, to her house to speak about "Being a Good Law biding Citizen". She often donated tea and coffee for events. A real highlight for Minnie was attending the combined AWI & FWIC Convention in Banff in 1973. Minnie was quite often the first to suggest to donate money to local causes. She made a motion to give $50 to Westward Ho Willing Workers Girl's Club in July 1969, then in November 1979 she made another motion to give $50 to Tiger Lillies Girl's Club. In 1983 she made a motion to donate $20 to buy 1 square-foot (0.3 metres) of soil for the Horizon School. Minnie was honoured by her own branch in 1982 when she was 80 years old with a Branch Life Membership Certificate and pin.
Minnie thoroughly enjoyed the 50th anniversary of the Eagle Valley W.I. at the local Eagle Valley schoolhouse including the presentation of her 50-year gold pin and cushion made with the Alberta Women's Institute tartan. She single-handedly remembered how to get hold of the more than 50 former members of Eagle Valley W.I. Having been Sunshine Convenor for 50 years, she knew everyone from new babies to the sick and elderly. Her list of friends was extensive. A common sight at many constituency conferences was Minnie and Martha Miller from Westward Ho W.I. hosting the registration table.
Minnie was a very valued member of Eagle Valley W.I. for 59 years. Her wisdom and wit were much appreciated by her fellow W.I. members. The last meeting she attended was the one she hosted at her own home in October 1993.
From the History Files of D.E.L. & Eagle Valley W.I.
- Contributors: Eagle Valley Women's Institute, Sundre Hospital Auxiliary, Mrs. Arthur Fletcher's diary, Ernie and Carol Fletcher, Mildred and Lynne Henry, Isabelle Bartholow, Laurel Bartholow, Pam Erickson, Carol Brown and local history books Wagon Trails Plowed Under, Olds - A History, Sundre Round-Up and Derbytown Echoes