Mary (Dymack) Freeman




Life and Work

Mary's mother was a widow with six children when her father, John Dymack, met and married her. John was born in Poland and her mother was born in Germany. They immigrated to the United States and eventually after much travel, settled in Iowa.

After their marriage two more children were born - Bertha was born in 1870 and Mae Anastasia (Mary) on February 2, 1873.

The family later moved to Thompson, North Dakota where Mary met Fred Freeman. They were married in 1890 and had eight children, Madeline born 1891, Sarah born 1893, Clarence born 1896, Charles born 1899, Mary born 1901, Caroline born 1904, Bertha born 1906 and Josephine born in 1909.

Mary's parents moved to Alberta and settled on a homestead about six miles east of Gwynne. They, in turn, convinced Fred and Mary to move from Thompson, North Dakota to Alberta, telling of the wonderful opportunities available in the new land.

Fred Freeman returned with his father-in-law and proceeded to purchase six quarter sections. He then returned to Thompson, packed up their belongings and moved by train to Wetaskiwin in 1900. Not having heard too much about their new home, Mary was quite anxious to see it. After one look at the two room shack with a sod roof, she was ready to walk back to the States, she said: " The chicken coop in Thompson was better than this!"

The house was situated above a small lake. Along the steep banks Mary and Fred made two dugouts, one for vegetable storage and the other one for keeping dairy products. They had fresh vegetables all year round. Mary would skim the cream off the top of the milk kept in the dairy dugout and churn it into butter. This delicious butter, which was always in demand, she would sell at the store. With the money she made from selling her butter and eggs, Mary was always able to purchase other necessities and, in 1906 a wood siding house was built.

Mary was a very energetic lady who not only worked in the house but also cultivated a beautiful flower and vegetable garden. In one area she had a very productive bed of mushrooms. When they first arrived in Wetaskiwin they did not have time to build up a good herd of cattle, or a good flock of chickens or turkeys, so Mary would take out her sixteen gauge shotgun, go out hunting and bring home a supply of wild fowl and rabbits. After dressing her catch she would make a delicious meal that would whet the appetite of anyone. Along with preparing the meals Mary made many preserves of fruit, jams, pickles and vegetables. Mary was a beautiful seamstress. She made all her curtains which had three or four inches of tatted lace on them.

Snow was brought in and placed in the reservoir on the back of the stove for doing dishes, cleaning, bathing and washing clothes. This reservoir was always kept full. On wash day the white clothes were scrubbed on a washboard and then placed in the big boiler on the copper boiler on the stove, rinsed and hung out to dry. The "snow-white" linens were always perfectly starched and ironed.

For thirty-two years, Fred was secretary- treasurer for the Roseland School, built in 1902. The district people would come to their home to pay their taxes and Mary was always there serving coffee and goodies.

After their new house was built, they boarded school teachers. An elderly lady from Wetaskiwin would come and board with Mary and Fred from April till fall of each year. Her room was built over the front porch and was not warm enough in the winter for occupancy.

During this time Mary taught Sunday school. She was also trained as a practical nurse and often by herself, or assisting Dr. Robertson, brought many babies into this world. Her assistance was also needed during the great flu epidemic in 1918 - 1919.

Mary was involved with the United Farmers Women's Association and spent many terms as president. Mary, along with other mothers and girls in the Gwynne area formed the Gwynne Sunshine Club (a sewing club). They made many pieces of clothing, quilts and knitted items. Some of these items were given to those in need, but most were shipped to headquarters in Edmonton.

Due to a few crop failures and the purchasing of some expensive cattle during the depression, Mary and Fred had to turn their farm over to the bank and move to Battle Lake. Their son, Charlie built them a nice little house, which was across the road and up the hill from him.

When Fred passed away with cancer in 1940, Mary went to live with her daughters, Mary and Sarah. Mary passed away suddenly in July 1957 at the age of 84. Fred and Mary are at rest in the Roseland cemetery, Gwynne Alberta.


"I remember my grandmother as a "beautiful" person. That is the best word I have to describe her. She was thrifty, resourceful and always there when needed. She was a wonderful cook and could make meals tasty and fit for royalty."

"Grandma was a beautiful seamstress and I remember all her curtains were hand made and had three or four inches of tatted lace on all of them. I also remember her "snow white" linens, starched and ironed perfectly. Sometimes she would fold a tea cloth in quarters and would iron in pleats from the center like a fan, maybe five or six pleats. When the cloth was opened there was a square center formed by the pleats."

"When I was eight years of age I became ill and I couldn't go to school so I stayed at Grandma and Grandpa's. I remember the big pantry behind the wall in the kitchen. All the shelves were full of quarts of fruit, meats, jams, pickles and vegetables. There were cookie jars full of different kinds of cookies and boxes with cakes. I remember the big barrels of salt meat, pickles, and sauerkraut that stood at the bottom of the stairs in the cellar. These were covered with cloths, boards and stones which had to be cleaned often. The boards and stones were used to hold the food down in the liquid."

"I remember going out to the "out house " and having to bring an arm full of wood for the wood box. Grandpa always had a huge pile of chopped wood between the two buildings. I also remember bringing in snow for the reservoir which was situated on the back of the stove. We had to keep filling it with snow in order that it would eventually be full enough for wash day. The steam and the humidity from the water boiling in the copper boiler was sometimes almost unbearable. Wash days were a day of hard labor!"

"I have fond memories of baking days when there would be huge loaves of bread, maybe nine or ten loaves, cinnamon buns and sometimes coffeecake. What an aroma! When I think of them today I can almost smell those delicious smells and how good everything tasted."

While living in the thatched-roof house, it was often said "When it rained for a day outside, it rained for three days inside", with every pot and pan used to catch the drips.

- Granddaughter, Cathy Edwards


Sources: Research and Writing: Janis Ruitenbeck and Cathy Edwards Contributors: Cathy Edwards Curator: Janis Ruitenbeck