Turnquist, Louise (Larsen)

(1872-1964)

     Louise Turnquist was born Louise Marie Larsen on August 2, 1872 in Fauske, Norway. Louise grew up in Norway and at seventeen married her husband, Carl Martin Anderson (he changed his name to Turnquist after moving to Canada). Carl was born August 21, 1859 in Motala, Sweden and came to Norway at the age of 15 after his mother died. While working in the copper mines near Fauske, Carl met Louise and they married on August 17, 1889. Carl immigrated to Canada in 1894, two years before Louise, hoping that he would be able to provide a better life for the family there. The Turnquist family emigrated to Canada along with hundreds of others who were bound for both the United States and Canada. When he arrived in Canada, Carl worked first in British Columbia in lumber camps and gold mines before moving on to the Wetaskiwin area in 1885. He worked on the railway and sometimes panned for gold in the North Saskatchewan River all the while looking for land on which to make the family’s home. He finally found a suitable quarter section of land, filing for a homestead on May 18, 1896, the same day that Louise arrived in Wetaskiwin.

     Louise arrived in Montreal on May 1, 1896 with their three children, Axel, Gustav, and Marie aged seven, five, and three respectively. Louise was later followed to Canada by three siblings, while four more remained in Norway. Her sister Helene’s family, including her husband August Asplin and son Oscar and Louise’s other sister Dina Larsen, arrived in 1912 (Helen’s other son, Albin had arrived two years earlier in 1910). Andrew Sanas Larsen (Louise’s brother) arrived in the early 1900s.

     Louise, Carl and their children spent their first year in Canada together on the Boman Farm which was located on the banks of Crooked Lake (Coal Lake), about one mile northwest of the homestead Carl had filed on. One year later they moved onto their homestead situated about two miles north of Gwynne on the NW-Section 36-Township 46-Range 23-W4M. Their first home was a log house where they spent the first winter with only half a completed floor inside. The family walked much more than they rode in a wagon as they owned only one ox and one horse which were needed to work the homestead.
This meant that Carl had to walk to Wetaskiwin where he found work as a carpenter and was paid seventy five cents a day less board.

     Louise lost two children during their infancy but gave birth to and raised eleven others. There were nine boys: Axel, Gustav, Oscar, Fred, Carl, George, Hugo, Alfred and Martin. Oscar and Martin both died during infancy. The four girls were Marie, Annie, Freda, and Lillian. The family expanded greatly as most of the children grew up and married. By 2004 Louise and Carl’s extended family rose to thirty eight grandchildren, one hundred and one great-grandchildren, one hundred and fifty five great great-grandchildren, sixty eight great-great-great-grandchildren, and one great-great-great-great-grandchild.

     Louise worked hard with her husband to make a good life for the family. Often she would gather eggs, make a few pounds of butter and then walk from the homestead into Wetaskiwin – a walk that covered ten miles one way. In town she traded the eggs and butter for groceries and then walked back home that same day.

     In the early 1900s there was no doctor in the Gwynne district and Louise soon became midwife for the area. As it often happens, many babies decided to make their first appearance in the middle of the night. If she was gone in the morning when the family woke up, they knew that Louise had gone to help bring another life into the world. Sometimes Louise had a nursing baby of her own which she would have to leave at home with the other children. She always made sure that the children were equipped with anything they might need however, and would leave a bottle, milk, and a soother made of bread and sugar wrapped in a cloth dipped in milk for whoever was to play mother that day.

     Louise also acted as nurse, often caring for people in the surrounding area as well as her own flock when someone became ill. During the flu epidemic of 1919, Louise took charge of twelve people who were ill, members of her family and a neighbouring family, while still managing to complete both her family’s and the neighbour’s chores. Louise’s granddaughter Doreen Deckert remembers that Louise never got sick, “she was really a hardy person, and she was little,” and very kind. However, Louise was not only a midwife and nurse to those living in the Gwynne district; she also was often called upon to perform the duties of an undertaker when someone passed away. In doing so, she was the one that prepared the body and dressed it for burial.

     The Turnquist household was known to be a place of welcome and shelter for travelers and visitors alike. No one was ever turned away without food and shelter before they continued on with their journey. Sometimes the small house was covered wall to wall by the sleeping people on the floor. Gypsies that passed through the area were also given food. The one exception to this came on the day of her daughter Marie’s wedding. The gypsies Louise saw coming in the distance were not a welcome sight as the food for the celebration had already been spread out on the tables. They tried to cover all the food but were not successful. Instead, someone put a sign that read “SMALL POX” which was convincing enough to make the Gypsies walk on by the Turnquist home without stopping.

     When she traveled from Norway, Louise brought both her spinning wheel and her hand powered sewing machine. Louise carded and spun her own wool which she used to make all the necessary mittens and stockings for her large family. She also made all of the family’s clothing. She belonged to the Ladies Aid and always “had a stack of socks and mitts for the Ladies Aid sale. She was always knitting when she wasn’t doing something else” (Doreen Deckert). Louise was also an accomplished cook, making lefse and lutefisk at Christmas and other special times of the year. Her granddaughter Joyce remembers Louise as “a great cook. You wonder when she’d have time to cook, but she did.” She had a large kitchen with two pantries, one with a dumbwaiter, on either end.

     Her grandchildren also remember other things about Louise. They recall her being quite resourceful in making sure that the family never went hungry. She wasted nothing, not even throwing out leftover tea which was used instead to water the many houseplants she kept throughout her home. Her grandchildren say she was a religious woman with a strong faith and she attended Sunday church services whenever she could.

     Louise never moved from the homestead even after her husband Carl died in 1937 at the age of 78. The log house was eventually replaced by a larger more modern home where Louise decided to stay. She lived with her son Hugo who had taken over the farm and never married. Louise’s friend Mrs. Olson moved in with them sometime after Carl’s death. It was not until the early 1960’s after she broke her hip that Louise was moved to a care facility in St. Albert where she passed away on November 18, 1964 at the age of 92.

     During her life in Canada, Louise touched and impacted the lives of many people in the Gwynne and Wetaskiwin area. She assisted both in bringing lives into the world as a midwife and acting as a nurse, caring for them when they were ill. She kept her own family and many others warm during the winter with her hand knitted socks and mittens that she carefully made all year long. She was a devoted mother and fondly remembered grandmother who tried her best to make her corner of the world a better place.

Compiled in 2010

Category: Wetaskiwin