We Made Hartney

We Made Hartney

Pioneer and Farmer

Farmer Moses Calverley



An archival photograph of the kind of “soddie” that many Manitoba pioneers, including Moses Calverley, built in the first year of life in their new home.

MOSES CALVERLEY LEFT HAGERSVILLE, Ontario, and came by train to Brandon and then set out on foot to search for his own virgin land. So it was in mid-summer of 1882 he staked out his claim to the homestead, SW 36-5-23. Then again he set out to traverse the 22 miles to Old Deloraine where the Claims Office was located. On his arrival there he also took out a “pre-empt” on the southeast quarter of the same section. While at Deloraine he met Cuthbert Robinson who was setting out to claim a homestead in the same area. The two became life-long friends as Mr. Robinson claimed the section south of 36.

Moses journeyed back to his homestead with Mr. and Mrs. Robinson and their two children, Essie and Hilliard, by means of their covered wagon. The two men decided their first need would be shelter and planned to build sod shanties. Moses purchased a team of oxen and a plough. He was mindful of the requirements set forth by the government regarding both homestead and pre-emption, so chose a location squarely in the centre of the section. Carefully he turned the sod, cutting it into oblongs, and using them as building blocks began to build. Soon Moses was the proud owner of a sod shanty.

He did not have to wait long for his first visitors. A band of Aboriginals, on their fall migration to their winter quarters, came to see for themselves the curious structure. Moses made them welcome, serving them home-made bannock and hot tea. They indicated by gestures and a few words their appreciation of this hospitality. Before they left the little sod shanty they had even given it a name, “Eneiba,” their name for the little bushes still growing out of the sod building blocks.

Among the settlers it was the subject of debate as to when would be the best time to plant the wheat. Some were of the opinion that the tender shoots of new grain would never survive the late spring frost. The more adventurous, Moses included among them, favoured early sowing to escape the equally hazardous early fall frosts.

Will and Sam White, neighbours to the east, had a blacksmith shop, and Moses soon became a regular customer, especially after the arrival of Miss Annie White who came to keep house for her brothers. After a year’s courtship, Moses felt emboldened to propose to Annie and in August, 1885, on a beautiful summer morning the young couple set for Brandon to be wed.

July 8, 1886 a baby girl was born to the Calverleys, named Ada. This was the year of drought and prairie fires. Moses ploughed a fire-guard around their building and with Annie working by his side to fight the flames they were able to save their tiny home.

Moses decided that the small frame shanty he had built prior to his marriage was no longer adequate so he began to plan a complete set of new buildings. He chose stone which was hauled from Chain Lakes. Stone masons, Jack and Tom McGarvey were engaged with Alf Mott mixing the mortar. Oliver and Bob Turnbull were the carpenters. The barn was built during the summer of 1897 and upon its completion the neighbours were invited to join in a picnic followed by a performance of the brass band from Hartney under the direction of Dr. Fred Woodhull. In the spring of 1898 the erection of a stone house was begun and by fall a three-story 11-room home with bathroom (minus running water and bath tub) was ready for occupancy.

Adapted from A Century of Living, page 237.


Moses Calverley’s big stone house, built in 1897-09, and a landmark in the Hartney area for many years.

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