Hearst was a frontier town in every sense of the word. It was inaugurated as a town in 1922, nine years prior to our arrival. It had gravel roads , it seemed more often muddy than dry, wooden sidewalks, open ditches, no electricity, except a few Delco plants for institutions such as hospitals, schools etc., and boasted a few well built houses with basements and modern conveniences.
The population comprised of many nationalities, the majority French Canadian, and people from various European countries, some arriving individually, others in groups. There was no difficulty in building up a medical practice ---- our patients were waiting for us !
One group of people I wish to especially mention was a number of families from Czecho - Slovakia who arrived in Canada in the late 1920 ' s. Canada and the U.S. were publishing in Europe these lands of plenty where work was easy to obtain, land in abundance, where families could settle and own land with some assistance from the government. This was most tempting to families living in small countries where as the population increased the farms were rapidly becoming inadequate to support growing families.
Unfortunately many families arrived in this Land of promise just about the time of the severe depression. Instead of jobs being plentiful they were almost unobtainable.
The Slovak group to which I referred formed a colony named Bradlo about eight miles from Hearst. Each family received a parcel of land which they had to clear to build a dwelling, and as quickly as possible, sufficient to grow crops. Fortunately the land was very fertile. In the adds they had read in their home land concerning this land of promise nobody had mentioned the fact that this was virgin forest which required to be cleared with axe and saw. Some of the men brought their wives at once, others built log cabins before returning to their homeland to bring back their wives. Needless to say , the first sight of their new home was a shock but the women were as plucky and ambitious as their men, and made real homes in the wilderness. It was not long before they built a school and there was already a church near by . My father , a United Church minister, visited in the homes and was a comfort in times of need.
Most of the people in the settlement were our patients. We delivered their babies, some in the hospital, others in the homes , took care of them during illness, even sending hospital staff nurses to stay in the home when the patient was too sick to be moved to hospital. They were people of indomitable spirit, ambitious, hard working, taking their difficulties in their stride. They raised families, many with university degrees, making a valuable contribution to Canadian life.
We had a great admiration for these people, who were our friends as well as patients. I am delighted that the Bies family are doing the research to bring together the descendants of those brave souls who left their native land to begin life anew in a strange, rugged country. They are part of the rich heritage that is Canada and their contribution must be remembered.
Margaret Arkinstall, July 1996.
Friends of Bradlo - Newsletter Copyright by Rudy
Bies © 1997