On the August long weekend, approximately 150 members of the Cook family gathered at the original family homestead in the Hazel Dell area for a reunion that highlighted the presentation of a Century Family Award.
Family members travelled from as far as Birmingham, Alabama; Prince George, B.C.; Calgary, Lloydminster, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Yorkton to join relatives in the area to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the homestead being owned by the Cook family.
The weekend events began Friday evening with a bonfire get-together. Saturday started with a pancake breakfast at the family farm, followed by the planting of a “Memory Tree” planted to honour the memory of Jack Cook who is recently deceased.
A family hayride and tour of the homestead preceded a pig-and-corn roast. Following supper in the Hazel Dell Hall, family members, friends and neighbours were invited to watch Marcia and Charlie Griffith put on a trick horse riding display behind the hall. The crowd then moved indoors for an evening of music, games, and dancing that lasted until 3:30 a.m. There were various other forms of entertainment to be enjoyed that included a hayride, quad rides, motorcycle rides, pony rides, and a giant slip and slide.
The Cook family immigrated from Kinver, Straffordshire, England to Lethbridge, Alta. in the early 1900s. After repeated years of drought in southern Alberta, Walter Cook left Lethbridge to investigate purchasing land being offered in northeast Saskatchewan. Upon arrival, he discovered the grass to be “belly high on the horse,” and he applied to purchase the homestead on NW 28, 34, 7, W2. The location was two miles southeast of Hazel Dell. After wintering with the Nettleton family, Walter built a house on his quarter of land in 1912 and then began breaking the brushcovered land.
In 1917, Walter ’s brother, Albert, joined him from Lethbridge, and Walter established a new homestead a mile to the west. He wanted to be on a good road, and closer to Hazel Dell. Albert and his wife Pheobe lived on the original homestead and farmed with their son Tom, his wife Margaret and their eight children, until 1949, when they moved to Preeceville. The homestead was sold to their sons Tom and Walter. Walter had returned to Lethbridge, and Tom (and his wife Margaret) were living on the neighbouring quarter section. Tom and Margaret had a mixed farming operation that included purebred shorthorn cattle, custom feed grinding, a sawmill, and Tom was one of the ﬁrst custom sprayer operators in the district.
In 1957, Tom’s son Jack travelled to Lethbridge to buy his Uncle Walter’s share in this quarter of land, and then he bought Tom’s share. Tom and his youngest son, Bud, continued to farm this quarter growing grain and by raising cattle. Bud operated Cook’s Electrical Contracting.
Tom and Margaret moved to Preeceville in 1968 but Bud continued to farm the land, while he and Elaine raised their family in Preeceville. Bud was joined by his son Bart in 1986, when the farming operation became a ranch, and raised up to 350 head of beef cattle. Jack transferred ownership to his son Terry in 2003, and farming was continued by Bud and Bart, until Bud’s passing in 2010. Grain farming operations are currently being continued by Bart and his family.
“In February 2014 we received conﬁrmation that our farm was eligible for the Century Family Farm Award,” said Bart. “This is given to farms that have been in the family for 100 years or more. The reply we got back from Land Titles was that, Walter Cook had applied in 1911 to homestead the NW, 28,34,7, W2, in the Hazel Dell district. By 1915, Walter had fulfilled the homestead agreement by building a house, a livery, and breaking 15 acres of land. Walter was granted title to this quarter section of land on November 6, 1915.
“With Terry being the current owner of the original homestead, he received the Century Family Farm Award for this quarter of land. Terry received a commemorative wall plaque acknowledging the 100 years that this land has been in the Cook name. Terry also received a copy of the original title given to Walter by King George V. A gate sign was purchased and it will be erected at the current Cook yard site.
At the Century Family Farm presentation program in Saskatoon earlier this year, a history of the Cook family homestead was read by the master of ceremonies.
It read as follows:
“The Cook family has lived on, held title, and farmed this land since applying for the homestead in 1911. The owners have included Walter Cook, his brother Albert, Albert’s sons Tom and Walter, Tom’s son Jack, and Jack’s son Terry. The land is now being farmed by Terry’s cousin Bart Cook and his family. During the past 100 years the Cooks have been very active in the area as entrepreneurs, businessmen, community leaders and volunteers. This has been done while their families made a living at ranching, grain farming, trapping, logging, tradesmen, trucking, as dairymen, mink ranchers, and raising sled racing dogs.”
The ownership timeline recorded is as follows:
- 1911 – Walter Cook applied for the homestead on the NW 28, 34, 7, west of 2nd. The location is two miles southeast of Hazel Dell.
- 1915 – Walter fulﬁlled the homestead agreement by building a house and breaking 15 acres of land. He was granted title on November 6.
- 1917 – Walter’s brother, Albert, moved from Lethbridge to this quarter section and Walter moved one mile west.
- 1949 – Albert and Pheobe sold the land to their sons Tom and Walter, and they moved to Preeceville.
- 1957 – Jack travelled to Lethbridge to buy his Uncle Walter’s share, and then he purchased his father’s (Tom) share of this quarter section. The land was farmed by Tom until 1968 and then by Jack’s brother (Buddy) until 2003.
- 2003 – Jack sold the land to his son Terry and the land has been farmed by Bart since.