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June 1999


After returning from our trip to Pennsylvania, I started reading my accumulated email. Much to my surprise on the Alsace-Lorraine message board there was a inquiry for the family name Hirthler. Hirthler is June's grandfather's name. It turned out to be Betsy Hirthler, a cousin of June's that she was unaware of. There has been a lot of email traffic since.


On this day we started on a 3-4 week vacation to Calgary, AB - Edson, AB - Vancouver, BC - Corvalis, OR - Florence, OR - Salt Lake City, UT - Denver, CO.

The first stops are to find June's Grandmother's grave in Calgary. Then to Edson, about 50 miles west of Edmonton to find the friends that raised the Forbes children (June's mother and brothers and sisters), when their mother died.

Through the great help of Robert Westbury of Calgary we were successful in finding the Emily James Forbes grave. I contacted Robert when he made an inquiry to the Armstrong County message board, my home county, about his family. I answered his questions then, upon noticing he was from Calgary I proceeded to ask if he could help us find the Emily James Forbes grave. Robert turned out to be a member of the Calgary Genealogy Society. He checked the cemetery censuses they had taken about 10 years ago and there was no Emily James Forbes. I told him there was no gravestone until about 5 years ago, and since the census was of the gravestones, that was not a surprise. He then contacted the city department that maintains the cemetery and found they have a burial site catalog, and Emily James Forbes was listed.

During the morning that we went to the cemetery, it was raining pretty bad. As I was watching the television news, they were showing views into the city from a tower on Cemetery Hill. It turns out that Emily James Forbes grave site was only a couple hundred yards from where that camera was mounted.

The family that raised the Forbes children was called Swainson. June remembers her mother sending packages of clothes and things to Mrs. Swainson. I assumed the name was spelled Swainsen and did a telephone number survey of all the Swainsens in Alberta. There were only two and they were both in the town of Westakiwin, just a few miles south of Edmonton. Since it was not far out of our way, we went to Westakiwin to look them up. We went to one of the houses and June visited with this old man, Pete Swainsen, that had just come out of the hospital. He told her that he could not be part of the family we were looking for, since he ran away from home at age 14 from the Northwest Territories. The other Swainsen in town was his son.

We traveled on to Edson in a terrible rainstorm.

June's cousin Jimmy tells a story of being left in Edson for a summer with the Browns (Mrs. Brown was a Swainson.) during the 1950s and working in the sawmill about 10 miles west of town. Upon arriving at the campground we inquired about the Brown families in town.  They made a couple calls, but there was no response. In the morning we went to the visitor center in town. We inquired and the host was very helpful. She told us to visit Tom and June Mitchel on the Bickerdyke Road. She said we can't miss their house because it was old Bickerdyke train station. When we told our story, June Mitchel immediately knew who we wanted to see, and started calling the family. We quickly got instructions on how to find their home.

Much of the family was visiting the Browns when we arrived at their mobil home. They were congregating there to go to a softball game later in the day. (Edson is the softball capital of Canada.) The youngest daughter, Debby, had gone home to get a cookie tin of photographs that belonged to their mother. Some of the first photos to come out were uncle Emmet and aunt Alice. Then there was aunt Berta. Followed by June's mother, Edie, and one of June's sister, Lois. There was no doubt this was the right Brown family. We still don't know if there is a family connection.

Later in the day we went to visit the oldest living daughter, Evelyn. Most of the others were there also. We traded many stories, including one about their mother's brother that ran away from home at age 14. (What a coincidence. Could there be 2 Swainson/Swainsens that both run away from home from the same general area at age 14?)

We were back on the road the next day for Vancouver. On the second day, I did not feel good after breakfast, but it was not enough to keep me from driving. It cleared up before lunch. After lunch it got bad again, but we continued on to Vancouver. After setting up the trailer, I was not able to eat dinner. In the morning, after a bad night of dry heaves, we went to a local clinic. The doctor thought it was intestinal flu and told me to rest and drink plenty of clear liquids. He also gave me some Gravol (Dramamine) to settle my stomach.

That night the heaves got worse and now was a brown liquid. In the morning my body was covered with hives (apparently I'm allergic to Gravol.). Again we went back to the clinic. After almost throwing up on the doctor on my way to the sink, he said I needed to go to the emergency room. They ran a few tests and concluded it was acute pancreatitis. I was admitted, but since there was no room I had to spent the night in the noisy emergency room. The next day a bed opened in a 4 bed ward. I spent 4 nights there. Nothing by mouth. The only liquid and food was from the bottle hanging overhead. The nights were terrible. I addition to many trips to the bathroom to get rid of the liquid, an East Indian, who admittedly belonged in the hospice section, was calling God all night.

On the road to Vancouver I had noticed two trailer tires were showing steel. The man in the next bed, Wayne Dyke, had been an over the road driver. He called and got me a good price for two new tires. During our discussions we discovered that it was very likely that he had gone with June's uncle John Forbes from the Casiar asbestos mill to another mill further north to help close it down.

I rested one day at the trailer. My intent was to hook up the trailer the next day and head straight home, after getting two new tires. During the evening I called cousin Pauline Simpson, a Jacob Held decendant, in Coquitlan only a couple miles away. We chatted for a long time. She was very interested staying in touch with the family.

Wayne Dyke got out the day after me. He told me he would take me to the tire store, which he did. The store was right next to the main highway to Seattle, so once the new tires were on we headed home. The first couple days we took it easy. It took six days to get home.

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Copyright 1999 by Fred H. Held