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The Narrow House of Special Area No. 2


This post is about a house that frequently appears on social media sites. It’s in an advanced state of decay which is part of the photographic appeal of this two storey home. I made the trek in 2023 to see and photograph this old house and a nearby school. Today’s blog features that home and the nearby school but most of all it features the family that lived there.

I often encounter a peculiar situation or happenstance in my research of old buildings and this house is no exception. It seems that when a house was owned by a notable family it remains standing when all or most of the other homes in the area have long since fallen down. I have no ready explanation as to why this is. All I can say is that this house stands out as a lone sentinel to the past and it was built by a family that everyone in this district likely knew. Come and join me now as we explore the history of this house and the Lund family from the Hanna area of Alberta. The walls of this house have a lot to talk about.

Getting Oriented

This house, and the nearby Annasheim School, are located in Special Area No. 2 which is in south central Alberta with the town of Hanna being the largest nearby community. “Special Areas” are parcels of land similar in size and purpose to counties. The Alberta Special Areas were a construct of the Dirty Thirties. These are the dry parts of south and east Alberta where the lakes are alkaline and the soil is often marginal for farming. During the Great Depression many municipalities as well as businesses and individuals in those areas went bankrupt. The population of the Special Areas dropped significantly during the thirties but there were still people who remained – likely because there was nowhere else to go – and they needed the services that the municipalities could no longer provide. Examples of these services included utilities for the residents of small towns and villages as well as teachers for the rural schools. This is why the province stepped in to designated the worst hit areas as Special Areas. They are administered by the Province of Alberta. The Special Areas of Alberta remain sparsely populated compared to the rest of the province except the far north.

The red pointer marks the approximate location of the Narrow House.

Eventually the 1930s ended and fortunately so did the drought that had such a devastating impact on the Special Areas. The forties did little to relieve the angst among the farming communities because even though the new decade did bring more desperately needed rain, it also brought WWII. Don’t worry, this is not a sad sorry, at least not for everyone in the family that lived in the Narrow House of Special Area No. 2.

Who Lived Here?

A valid question is “how do I know that the Lund family built this house”? I don’t know for certain but I do know who homesteaded on this quarter section of land and lived there until at least the mid-1930s. I was there to photograph it and my camera has a useful feature in that it records the coordinates of where I was when I hit the shutter button. With those coordinates for the Narrow House I was able to obtain the prairie legal description consisting of quarter section, section, township, range and meridian. I used the Provincial Archives of Alberta website which has links to a database to search for homestead records. Oddly, it only narrows down the search results to the people who homesteaded in a particular section of land. Homesteads were generally 160 acres, or a quarter section, so that means the website gave me four possible names. Their names were: William Banner, Reginald Crook, Harvey Flanders and Nicholas Lund.

That’s a good start. Often at this point I would go to the Provincial Archives building in Edmonton and search rolls of microfilm for the images of the original homestead documents. I knew that this house is in the SW quarter so the homestead records would tell me which of the four individuals homesteaded in that quarter section. This often takes an afternoon as those records are hard to find and often hard to read. Fortunately I didn’t have to do that because the local history book for this area contains a homestead map where they list the people who lived on the various quarter sections. It told me that the first person – the homesteader – was Nick Lund. The second person listed was his son Dan Lund and then the quarter section was sold (or rented) to Tom Pattinson (who was Nick Lund’s nephew from his wife’s Guthrie side). Sometimes there’s just one name on those old maps and sometimes several. This was sufficient information to start reading about the Lund family.

Nicholas (1874-1950) and Ada (1877-1966) Lund

Nicholas and Ada Lund arrived in Alberta, Canada in 1902 with their two children, Harold and Anna. A third child, a boy named Daniel “Dan”, was born while they briefly lived in the Olds area. Dan became the first Canadian in the family. In 1905 they returned to Kansas but not for long. In 1906 the Lund family moved back to Canada; this time they moved to Dowling Lake, near Hanna, Alberta. Their oldest son, Harold, stayed temporarily in Kansas to care for his grandfather and to finish school.

According to Dan Lund, the area near Dowling Lake had not yet been surveyed when they arrived so the Lund family couldn’t apply to homestead until 1907-1908 when surveying was completed. During this time they ran a herd of cattle northeast of Dowling Lake in the Chain Lakes area. The cattle would only drink from one lake, appropriately called Clear Lake. It was the deepest lake in the Chain Lakes area as the water was fresh from a spring so it was not as alkaline as the other lakes.

Their first home was a sod house which is quite typical for homesteaders. As soon as the land was proved-up they built a frame house. That second home was probably the Narrow House featured in this blog post but there could have been a small frame house before the Narrow House was built. Unfortunately the local history book has no photos of the house. Dan goes on to say that in 1911 his grandparents on his mother’s side of the family arrived in Canada with his brother Harold. They moved one and a half miles north of the Lund homestead.

The first school that Dan attended was in Endliang, Alberta. I don’t know how he managed to get there because it was over 16km from the homestead. Perhaps he stayed with his aunt, Grace Guthrie Pattinson who was also the teacher at that school. Fortunately in 1914, Annasheim school opened and it was a reasonable walking distance to the homestead (at least in good weather).

Dan married Lydia Burrows in 1925 and the Lund homestead became their home until 1934 when they moved north to Nevis, Alberta. His parents, Nick and Ada Lund moved to Craigmyle which is about 25km southwest. At this point the land was either sold or rented to Tom Pattinson who was Nick Lund’s nephew. I don’t know how long Tom Pattinson lived there.

Nick and Ada Lund – The Coal Mine

The Nick and Ada Lund family (Dan and Harold’s parents) were primarily involved in farming and ranching but in time they became owners of various businesses and even a coal mine. The mine operated only for a short time. In Alberta, unlike Saskatchewan, nearly all mineral rights are owned by the Crown (Alberta Government). Most land titles, including those in cities for residential homes, include the statement, “excepting thereout all mines and minerals.” That probably didn’t matter too much back in 1914 when people just needed a wagon load of coal to heat their homes.

A coal mine was started by Clyde Wooden the summer of 1914 on land owned by Nick Lund. Attention was first drawn to this spot by the appearance of coal in a small spring at this site. The entrance was at the foot of a steep high bank on the south east side of a seventeen acre slough where a tunnel was dug about 350 feet to a room where several tunnels branched out in search of a thicker seam of good coal. There were approximately fourteen inches of good coal with a thicker seam of poor coal on top. Coal was pushed out by hand in small low cars on rails. Among others who worked in this mine were Harold Lund and Gene Flanders. It operated during the Winter of 1914-15, but was abandoned in the summer of 1915.

Hanna North. Page 51

Anna Lund – Tragedy, Grief, War and Joy

Van Slyke Plows manufactured in Edmonton.

Anna Helen Lund was the middle child of the family. Anna Lund married Richard “Dick” Van Slyke at Dowling Lake, Alberta on March 26, 1918 (or 1917 as two sources give two different years for the marriage). They started their family immediately at a farm near Red Deer, Alberta.

Lethbridge Herald, August 8, 1910

The Van Slyke name was well known in certain agricultural circles. Anna’s father-in-law, Frank Van Slyke (1862-1936) was an inventor and he developed an implement called “Red Three Bottom Plow”. It was even displayed in the Alberta museum in Edmonton (I don’t know if it’s now in the new Royal Alberta Museum). The plow that Van Slyke invented is even featured on the Red Deer City crest according to an article in the Red Deer Express. The Van Slyke Plows were manufactured at Edmonton Iron Works Limited. See the links below for the two website articles where the Van Slyke Plows are mentioned.

Sadly in 1920, Dick Van Slyke was fatally injured by the kick of a horse. He died on November 30, 1920. Anna was a widow (with a child) after only two years of marriage. Anna Van Slyke had a difficult time after the death of her husband. There was little by way of a social safety net at that time so working while caring for a baby was all but impossible.

Hawtrey Goldfinch and Anna knew each other even before he went to fight in WWI. He worked for Anna’s father Nick Lund, before she married Dick Van Slyke. Hawtrey had wanted to marry Anna but, for reasons lost to history, she married Dick Van Slyke. In 1922, the widow Anna Lund Van Slyke, married Hawtrey Goldfinch. Anna had a boy, James “Jim” Van Slyke, from her first husband and another son, John “Jack” Goldfinch from her second husband. Perhaps her time of grief and trial was over? No it wasn’t.

Hawtrey Goldfinch was born in Kent, England on May 11, 1896. He came to Canada to as a young boy and lived in Alberta with his sister. I’m not certain why he came to Canada without his parents at such a tender age as his mother was definitely still alive in England. Some things just aren’t mentioned in local history books. He filed to homestead in 1914 when he reached 18 years of age.

Hawtrey Goldfinch enlisted with the Canadian Army shortly after the declaration of The Great War. On August 17, 1918 (less than three months before the war ended) he was injured by a gun shot wound to his back. Hawtrey’s mother, Sarah Goldfinch, still resided in England as she was listed as his next of kin on the military records. According to the local history book, Hawtrey Goldfinch returned to Alberta and was still able to prove-up his homestead after his discharge from the army. The injury from the war must have made farming life too difficult as he later left the farm for an office job with Veterans Land Administration. In April of 1944, Anna and Hawtrey Goldfinch moved to Peace River where Hawtrey became the Regional Supervisor for Soldier Settlement and Veterans Land Act Administration. Hawtrey was eventually promoted to Regional Director of Veterans Land Act of the Peace River area. In 1954 the offices were consolidated in Grande Prairie where Hawtrey Goldfinch would briefly work before he retired in July of 1956. According to a July 21, 1956 article in the Peace River Record Gazette, Goldfinch retired due to ill health.

In 1928 he began to work for the Soldier Settlement Board, and remained with them until 1956 when his health started to fail, then retired to Victoria where they both enjoyed gardening. Their son Jack was killed in World War II, while serving with the RCAF, and Jim also passed away at an early age as the result of rheumatic fever contracted during military service. Hawtrey Goldfinch died In Victoria, and Mrs. Goldfinch is now living In Peace River.

Ida Grosse and Tom Pattinson – Hanna North. Page 475

Anna Lund lived to see the death of two husbands and both of her sons. I located the official records of James “Jim” Van Slyke (1920-1955) who died in Peace River at the age of 35 of complications related to rheumatic fever contracted during his military service. Their other son, John “Jack” Goldfinch, was killed oversees in World War II when his aircraft crashed. Jack Goldfinch’s death is well documented at various sites created to honour our fallen soldiers.

I’ve put Anna Lund’s life events in point form below to highlight how tragic it must have been.

  • 1899 – Anna Helen Lund was born in the USA to Nick and Ada Lund.
  • 1917 or 1918 – Anna Lund married her first husband Richard “Dick” Van Slyke.
  • 1920 – Anna Lund’s first son James “Jim” Van Slyke was born.
  • 1920-11-30 – Anna Lund’s husband Dick Van Slyke was killed by fatal horse kick.
  • 1922 – Anna Lund married Hawtrey Goldfinch and soon thereafter they had a boy named John “Jack” Goldfinch.
  • 1944-10-09 – John “Jack” Henry Eaton Goldfinch was killed in the Air Force as a Bombadier in World War II.
  • 1955-01-24 – Jim Van Slyke died of complications due to the rheumatic fever contracted during military service. After the war he moved to the Peace River area of Alberta. In Peace River Jim met and married Flora “Betty” and they had four children (one died quite young).
  • 1971-03-31– Hawtrey Goldfinch died in retirement in Victoria and was cremated on April 2, 1971.
  • Anna Lund Goldfinch left Victoria, BC and moved back to Alberta to be with her Van Slyke daughter-in-law and grandchildren who still lived in Peace River at that time. She died on June 15, 1981, in the Peace River area of Alberta.

My main source of information about Hawtrey Goldfinch was the very brief description found in the local history book, much of which I’ve quoted above. There were numerous articles about him in the Peace River newspaper primarily pertaining to with his work with the veteran’s administration. I also found his WWI military records online as well as his provincial death registration. British Columbia has an excellent free public system where anyone can look up people who have died there. It provides details such as the next of kin and often the location of interment. It’s that information that placed Hawtrey in Victoria and that he died on March 31, 1971. His remains were cremated at the Royal Oak Crematorium in Victoria. Their son John (Jack) Goldfinch whose aircraft was shot down at night in Germany in WWII is buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery in Germany.

Anna Lund Goldfinch saw too much grief and death in her life. She spent the rest of her life in Peace River and Grande Prairie, Alberta, which is where her son Jim Van Slyke had lived his short post-war life. Anna and Hawtrey had moved around quite a bit and even lived in Arizona for a brief time. They moved back to Alberta to help her daughter-in-law raise her grandchildren. One of the remaining grandchildren, Fleur Van Slyke Whitley described Hawtrey & Anna as “phenomenal grandparents”. They lived for a time in a trailer on Betty Van Slyke’s yard, and Anna babysat the four young children every Saturday to give their mother a break. Anna Goldfinch died on June 15, 1981, in Peace River, Alberta. Despite all of the hardships and death that Anna Goldfinch experienced in her life, she eventually found joy with her grandchildren and she contributed her time and love in helping to raise them. Hawtrey and Anna were no doubt greatly appreciated by her daughter-in-law Betty Van Slyke.

Harold Lund – The Dowling Lake Store

Image from Hanna North page 464

Dan Lund’s brother, Harold, lived just north of the Nick Lund homestead with the narrow house. Harold Lund had various kinds of employment as well as owning several businesses in addition to farming.

Harold and his wife, Phoebe, did much better in their business ventures than in farming. For example, in 1930 a very destructive twister took the roof off their barn and lifted their garage right off the ground. The garage of course was completely destroyed. Inside of that garage was their Essex car which remained strangely untouched by the twister or the flying garage. Before Harold finished repairing the roof on the barn, the wind came up and took it off again. The second time that he repaired the roof he modified it so that it wouldn’t catch the wind as easily. However, while he was up there working on the third barn roof, the neighbour’s bull came around and knocked down the ladder that Harold used to get up there. Poor Harold was stranded on the barn roof until Phoebe returned home in the evening. I think that bull was trying to tell Harold something and so was Harold’s doctor. In 1931, Harold’s doctor advised him to quit farming. Harold listened to his doctor (and the bull) so he rented out the farm and bought a store in the village of Dowling Lake. They then lived in the back of the Dowling Lake Store.

Harold and Phoebe Lund rented part of their home to the school teacher, Jean (Benedict) Payne. She needed a place close to the school because there was no suitable teacherage available. Harold and Phoebe Lund didn’t live in the narrow house that I photographed. Jean Payne said that the Harold Lund house was actually the rear portion of the Dowling Lake Store. It had only three rooms; a kitchen with an entry porch, a living room and one bedroom. Mrs. Lund rented the living room to the teacher. She put a curtain across the doorway that led to their kitchen. When the curtain was open the family had a living room, when it was closed the teacher had a private bedroom. I can’t imagine having only three rooms and still taking in a boarder. Each of the three rooms were probably quite small by today’s standards. I don’t know how old the Lund’s two children, Frank and Betty, were at the time that they took in the boarder but regardless of age, where did they sleep? Jean Payne goes on say that the Lunds must have found it frustrating to have a boarder in their living room during the school year but they never let her feel that she was a source of any inconvenience.

Here’s an interesting quote that tells us the kind of people that Harold and Phoebe Lund were. Money was tight during the Dirty Thirties. That is likely why Harold and Phoebe rented out their living room to the school teacher for Wiese School. Despite the hard times and general lack of money, the Lunds generously donated a bottle of pop to each student at the annual school picnic. That may not seem like much today but it meant the world to those kids and must have cost a considerable sum of money to the Lunds.

In April 1944, Lunds sold the store to Mr. and Mrs. John Auer and moved back to their farm. Editor’s Note: As long as the Lunds had the store in Dowling, the students of the Wiese School were treated to a bottle of pop at the annual picnic by Mr. Lund. How we all enjoyed that pop since It was the only soft drink most of us got from picnic to picnic.

Frank Lund – Hanna North. Page 425

Something Humorous at the Dowling Lake Store

The teacher of Wiese School, Jean (Benedict) Payne recalls a humorous story about living in the back of the Dowling Lake Store as quoted below.

Boarding in a living room can present problems. One day I hurried home from school, in through the store where I found Mrs. Lund in charge, alone. I passed on through the kitchen and thence to the living room. Once there I decided to quickly change my dress, but as Mrs. Lund was the only one around, and she was in the store, I neglected to draw the curtain across the doorway. I had just taken off my school dress when I heard a young man in the store say, “Is Miss Benedict home?” Horrors! No way could I dash around the piano and draw the curtain over the door before he reached it. Alternative? Into the closet and close the door! There was a click and a sickening realization that the catch to the door was on the outside, with no latch inside. I stood motionless until I heard my visitor come into the living room, pause, then go back out to Mrs. Lund, where he told her that Miss Benedict was not in the living room. She was too busy to come in search. What now? I donned a dress – no problem there. Now I had three ways of escape: I could call Mrs. Lund and expose my stupidity, I could wait till the store closed and she came back to the kitchen, or I could duck under the drape that divided the closet and exit through their private bedroom into the kitchen. I chose the last, and hurried back to the shelter of the living room before my predicament was discovered. Never again would I lock myself in that closet!

Jean (Benedict) Payne – Hanna North. Page 381

Something Sad at the Dowling Lake Store

That same teacher who rented the living room at the back of the Dowling Lake store tells a poignant story about a German bachelor by the name of Joe Fisher. She described him as a cultured gentleman who was used to the finer things in life and played the piano. The loneliness of being a bachelor on a farm and the despair of ruined crops during the Dirty Thirties took their toll on Mr Fisher. He started hearing voices speaking to him and sometimes he would shoot his gun at these voices.

One day he appeared at the Dowling store. He was carrying his gun, which was unusual. He was fondling it, rubbing his hand along the barrel. That, too, was strange. He walked to the counter and started listing groceries and goods that he needed. Mrs. Lund, alone in the store, was frightened. He had his gun, was he dangerous? She would not refuse him groceries or in any way arouse his anger. Coffee, sugar, cheese, tobacco, matches, Mrs. Lund packed up his groceries for him, wondering all the while if that gun was loaded. Cautiously she moved the groceries toward him. Slowly, he pushed the gun across the counter towards her. He raised his eyes to hers and said: “Voices very bat today, Missus. I haf no money to pay, Missus. I git you my gun, she shoot goot.”

Jean (Benedict) Payne – Hanna North. Page 398

Joe Fisher was far from alone in finding the stress of the Dirty Thirties too much to bear. The federal government provided relief for these rural farmers with some basic staples of food (often cheese, codfish and an orange or apple) so farmers were not starving. However to watch their crops wither away or be eaten by grasshoppers while the bank debt grew beyond their ability to pay must have eroded the homesteader’s sense of dignity. Where once there was cautious optimism to carry them through hardships, the drought caused many to succumb to the dark void of pessimism and despair. Joe Fisher had no nefarious intentions towards other people. He apparently suffered from a psychological ailment that was compounded by economic and climatic situations. Joe was taken to an institution and remained there until he passed away during the fifties. As far as anyone knew, he had no relatives to mourn his loss. Rest in peace Joe Fisher.

Harold and Dan Lund – Good Times at Clear Lake

Brothers Harold and Dan Lund loved swimming at Clear Lake whenever they had some free time. Clear Lake was the deepest lake in the series of lakes that made up the Chain Lakes area. In fact Clear Lake was so popular that it’s mentioned 223 times in the local history book. Nearly all of the family histories mention it as the place to go on the weekend. The other lakes were much too alkaline to drink or swim in but not the spring fed and aptly named Clear Lake. It was so popular that in 1927 the locals contributed funds to build a change room and dance hall near the lake. Eventually they planted trees nearby as well. Dances were held nearly every Saturday and bands from as far away as Consort would come and play there. Margaret Welch Foss was only four years old when she accompanied her parents to the dance hall for the first time and she remembers it well. According to Mrs Foss, “As we were approaching the main gathering, with me holding hands with my parents, I couldn’t walk because the music went straight my feet and I danced every step I took that day. No one will ever realize how that band music made my day and being outdoors made the music even more beautiful. I couldn’t really guess as to the actual size of the band, but to me it was huge. I guess it really was to a four year old. Those picnics were always filled with fun and good fellowship”. I’m sure that many of the local bachelors met their future wives at those dances and picnics that were so popular.

All Good Things Must Come to an End (except this blog post)

To provide shade for the picnickers, the committee arranged to have trees planted. They grew quite well for a year or two, but in the early thirties the lake dried up and the alkali blowing off it smothered both trees and grass. One of the bath houses blew away, the hall was sold and removed, and the pier leading to the diving platform fell into ruins. Although there has been considerable water in Clear Lake in recent years, it has never regained its popularity as a summer resort, but many old timers like to remember it as the place where they saw their first boxing match and had their first airplane ride.

Hanna North. Page 432

The above quote says that “there has been considerable water in Clear Lake in recent years.” By “recent years” they mean sometime shortly before the local history book was published which was 1978. I looked at Clear Lake using Google Maps satellite view and Clear Lake now looks dry and alkaline (white like salt).

Google satellite view of “Clear Lake” not looking very clear.

” As years went on the hall was all paid for, and then in the hungry thirties the Lake went dry, the trees which had been planted died, and that was the end of all the good times there. The hall was finally auctioned off and sold to Carl Schultz, I think around 1939. The money was divided I believe between Craigmyle, Endiang and Hanna, all supporters of the project.”

George Grosse – Hanna North. Page 55

It’s difficult to imagine how devastating the loss of Clear Lake must have been to the area residents. It’s not just that they lost a great place to swim, dance and play ball at the picnics, although that was bad enough, but it served to underscore just how dry the Dirty Thirties really were. Clear Lake was the deepest lake in the Chain Lakes series of lakes. To see that particular lake, with good drinkable water, dry up and the trees they planted die off must have seemed like the end of an era for everything good and joyful in their lives. In hindsight it really was the end of an era even though that lake would once again fill with water, although not for long based on the above satellite photo. The good times at Clear Lake were over.

Annashelm School (1914-1962)

Note that Annashelm School was close to Nick Lund’s farm and was therefore important for his daughter Anna, son Dan and Dan’s children. Nick’s older son Harold lived further north and therefore their children attended Wiese School. I don’t have photos of that school.

Annasheim School early in 2023

The winter winds must have passed right through those uninsulated walls.

Annasheim School early in 2023

The very first meeting to organize a new school district was held in Nick Lund’s house on September 24, 1913. B.A . Kirkeby, D. N. Guthrie and N. H. Lund were nominated and elected as school trustees. Nick Lund’s hands were in just about everything in the the community. Even the name is said to have originated from his family as described in the following quote.

There is an interesting tale told about the naming of the school. Anna Lund, daughter of trustee Nick Lund, was home on a visit from Red Deer where she had been attending school. When her Danish Grandfather Lund who was also visiting the family at the time, heard how homesick she had been, he made the sympathetic remark that ‘There was no place like Annasheim … Anna’s home.’ The name Annashelm was submitted to the Department of Education with several others, and was selected and approved .

Tom Pattinson – Hanna North. Page 458

Annisheim School and The Spanish Flu

Miss Margaret (McVeigh) Kaster taught at the school for just the two months of May and June 1918 because prior to that she was just completing normal school. Miss Grace Guthrie was filling in as the teacher until Miss McVeigh could take over. Miss Margaret (McVeigh) Kaster was to be the school teacher until the summer holidays and then to teach for the full term beginning in September 1918 but that is not what happened. The school opened in September 1918 after the summer holidays ended as expected but on October 18, 1918, the RCMP came out from Hanna to close the school because of the Spanish flu epidemic. The school was officially closed until after the beginning of 1919. After the Spanish flu was under control, the school re-opened and was used continually until the end of its final school year in 1962.

Annasheim had the distinction of being the last one-room country school to be holding regular classes in any of
the nearby school divisions, and in all probability, was one of the last in Central Alberta. It had served as a community centre where dances, concerts, church services and meetings of all kinds were held, but after forty-eight consecutive years of operation, it closed at the end of June, 1962. Mrs. Joy Aaserud was the last teacher.

Tom Pattinson – Hanna North. Page 460
Annasheim School, as it looked in early 2023.

That bird stood on the south corner of the roof for the entire time that I was photographing this school. Was it watching to make certain that I didn’t try to walk though the snow and look inside the school? It need not have bothered to stand guard because I stayed on the road.

The bird guarding Annasheim School, 2023

The Narrow House

From this perspective the house looks like what a person would see as a prop at a movie set with only one side standing. It’s a good thing that this isn’t my only image of the house or readers may not believe it is real.

This image should leave no question as to why I call this the “Narrow House” I’m sure it looked wider when the roof was intact.

The Nick and Ada Lund house isn’t huge but it must have seemed large compared to the back of the Dowling Lake Store that Harold and Phoebe Lund lived in with a school teacher as a boarder.

That was the story of the Narrow House of Special Area No. 2. The photos taken in January 2023 show that there was very little snow on the ground. These are dry areas even when we are not experiencing a drought so farming here is never easy. The Lund family somehow made a living on this land and that in itself is quite an accomplishment. Not everyone in this story lived in the narrow house but most of them would have been inside it at some point. Even Hawtrey Goldfinch, for example, would have come here to visit his future in-laws before he married Anna Lund. These walls had quite a story to tell.


A special thank you goes to Fleur Van Slyke Whitley, daughter of Jim & Betty Van Slyke, and Rebecca Carr, for filling in the information I was missing about Ann Goldfinch.

If you would like to read more about life in the Special Areas of Alberta, I recommend a blog post I wrote about the Gray Homestead. You can find it by clicking right here:

If you visit the structures shown in this blog, or any other old and potentially abandoned structure, please respect the landowners” rights and obtain their permission to access and photograph their structures. Always exercise caution when visiting abandoned buildings as there are potential dangers such as crumbling structures, deep wells hidden by grass, and even spores of mould in the air.

A nearby barn that is trying hard not to fall over. This was not on the Lund property.


14 thoughts on “The Narrow House of Special Area No. 2

  1. A fine post, Glen, but I had a big laugh when I got to your sub-heading “All Good Things Must Come to an End (except this blog post)” With your agreement, I’ll add a link to it and your recent work, in our spring newsletter for our Peace Country Historical Society members.
    The sustained drought faced by the Lund family in the ’30s was a driver of many others who headed to the northwest part of the province. Hawtrey Goldfinch, who served post-WWII as Regional Director of the Veterans Land Act in our Peace River area, is an interesting thread in that family tale. Access to the Great War veterans’ records offers some amazing details of their service to the country.
    Cheers, Ron

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Ron. I agree that Hawtrey Goldfinch, and his family, really became the main story. With your resources do you have any way to find out what happened to Anna Goldfinch? I’m pretty certain she ended up in Grande Prairie. Please feel free to link it to the newsletter and thank you for doing that.


  2. Thanks again for another informative and entertaining blog post, Glen! “I was today years old when I found out” what a Special Area was! Hopefully someone reading this post will be able to trace Anna Lund Van Slyke Goldfinch for you. I enjoyed trying to sleuth to no avail (yet).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Rebecca. Somebody out there knows what happened to Anna Goldfinch.


  3. The area around Hanna is filled with old farm buildings. I worked in Oyen for a year and used to travel North through the back roads. Love the leaning barn Glen. Happy Friday. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t get down there to explore that part of the province very often but I can see that it’s got a lot of potential. Thanks for stopping by Allan.


  4. Very well researched post. I have a few observations. My grandmother and her brother came to Sask in about 1896/98 (separately) as part of the Salvation Army program which took children from poor houses and moved them around the world. There were a few organizations that did this. Some maintained good records and some didn’t. My great grandmothers came over much much later when my gramma was already married and a mother of several. So that’s one thought about your English lad who came over. Second as to Anna Lund — she may have remarried and so her last name changed and it is hard to trace. That’s what happened to my great grandmother. We know she was a housekeeper for someone local (Central Butte/Lawson area) but she died and no one (in the last 50 years) knows what her last name was. So we can’t seem to find her grave. Interestingly enough when she died Canada deported her third child (that had stayed in England and came out with her later) back to England where he died in an institution.
    The 30’s were so hard and these stories really highlight that. Those local history books that were the rage in the 70’s and 80’s are such a great source of information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know about that program, Bernie. That might explain why he was here without his parents, although the fact that his much older sister was also here may complicate that explanation. I have considered the possibility that Anna Lund remarried. She likely had little money so a pooling of resources would have helped her a lot. If she did remarry and change her name she’s likely lost to history. However she also had grandchildren. She could have come back to help her widowed daughter-in-law raise them; sort of a grandmother day care. That was the only family she had left and everyone wants to feel needed and useful. So many possibilities.


  5. I should qualify that a poor house was an institution in England that those who couldn’t afford anywhere else to go. Conditions were quite often terrible and there was a lot of slave labour. “please sir may I have some more” was all too true for children and their parents.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes indeed, so being a farm hand or a kitchen maid in Canada seemed like a better option, although there are some sad tales of things going badly here for these children.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My blog post about Helen’s barn has a couple of stories of children being used as farm labour, although they were orphaned here in Alberta rather than overseas.


      3. I was going to tell you that I have also written the story of my grandmother. The post is called A salvation army lass

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I looked for it but couldn’t find that post. Is it under Equipoise Life?


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