LEAH RICHARDSON FLEXHAUG
by Doran Wayne Flexhaug
Leah was born in Benjamin, Utah, on October 5, 1887, the fourth child of David and Eliza Richardson. Leah's parents were married in Benjamin, Utah on the 20th of August, 1890. They lived in Benjamin where David worked in the mines for several years. The first six children were born there, Sarah, Luella, David, Leah, Lorena, and Ella. With a growing family, David and Eliza decided to move their family to Canada and arrived in Raymond, Alberta, on the 10th of May, 1903. David worked at the Knight Sugar Co. and they added three more daughters to their family, Verda, Laura, and Jane. Leah had many fond memories of growing up in Raymond with her brother and sisters. She attended school in a building on main street which still stands today (2003) and is currently owned by the Buddhist Church. Leah was known as somewhat of a tomboy and liked to play rough and tumble games, even though she was small in stature. These were good years and the family worked hard, raising a large garden and the girls hired out as baby-sitters and house cleaners to earn a few extra cents to help with food for the family.
Leah, and the other children who were home at the time, tell of an interesting experience they had while living in Raymond. One of the girls had received an assignment to prepare a talk from the scriptures for their Sunday School class. Their mother was quite distraught because they didn't have any scriptures in the house. While they were discussing this problem there was a knock at the door and a man was there who said he was selling Bibles and the Book of Mormon. The girl's mother explained that they didn't have any money and although they would really like to have the scriptures, they couldn't afford them. The man said, "Well, I would just like to leave these scriptures with you and I will come back at the end of the month, at which time you can either pay me for them or return them to me." He never returned and no one in the neighborhood had ever seen any one going from door to door selling the scriptures. It has remained a mystery for the family, and the Bible and Book of Mormon are still held by family members today.
Leah moved to Pendant d'Oreille with her family and it was there she met her husband to be. Leah and Melvin Flexhaug were married, 15th of November, 1915. After their marriage they moved to Melvin's homestead near Pendant d'Oreilla, taking all their belongings in a small buggy. Life that winter was very difficult as the shack they lived in was a 2x4 frame building with only boards on the outside. The winds were cold and the snow drifts high, and they had to sleep with their clothes on to keep warm at night. Their small heater (Puffing Billy), was red half way up the chimney during the cold nights as they had to keep it going continually, they had hauled some coal for fuel. In the fall they had dug this out of the hillside near the Milk River, but when they ran short, 'buffalo chips' became the main source of fuel. At times, the apple boxes nailed to the walls for cupboards were completely bare. The only food they had was the jack rabbits they could shoot and a few potatoes. Water was also scarce and snow had to be melted or water hauled in a 'stone boat' from the river or a neighbors' well. Melvin was able to find the odd job and earned enough to buy sugar, flour, salt, and basic essentials. The nearest store was in Seven Persons, a four day round trip each time. Leah increased her cooking skills by thinking of different ways to cook jack rabbits and potatoes so that the meals were palatable. They survived the first winter, and spring brought new hope for better times.
The size of crop Melvin planted was not enough to support then and the yield was not much more than enough seed for the following year. Melvin continued to work on the larger farms and ranches in the area and Leah found what work she could, cooking for haying and threshing crews. To get hay for their cattle for the winter they made use of the slough grass that grew readily wherever there was run off moisture. In dry years there was not much hay. The second year on the homestead, Melvin planted twenty acres of flax, and the good moisture in the ground from the heavy snow the previous year brought the crops on beautifully. As the flax was just starting to flower, the wind blowing through it made it look like big waves on the ocean. Hopes were high for a bumper crop but their good fortune was not to be. When Melvin went out to do chores one morning he looked out at the flax field, and he saw several hundred head of antelope having a feast. The crop was completely ruined and this made another difficult summer and winter for them. After several crop failures Melvin and Leah decided to sell the homestead and set their hand at something else, but again misfortune came their way. The man who purchased their land went into bankruptcy before he paid the agreed amount.
After a few years working on various farms in the Raymond area, Melvin was hired by Lambert L. Pack. Leah and Melvin moved into a small, yet comfortable, home on the Pack farm. And during the time they lived there, life was relatively good for them. They grew a small garden, had a few chickens, a cow to milk and meat from butchering pigs and cattle. They were still not completely happy however, because after ten years of marriage they had still not been blessed with children. Their prayers were finally answered, and on December 23, 1925, Lillian Doris was born. This brought new joy into their home.
Then, another tragedy occurred, Leah's sister Luella passed away leaving a family of three boys and five girls. It was then that Hazel, Luella's fifth child, came to live with Leah and Melvin on the Pack farm. After a few years, they were able to purchase their first car, a Model T Ford, which was later traded for a Model A Ford. Six years after Doris was born, Leah was pregnant again. The house on the farm was now becoming too small and Melvin thought Leah should be closer to the doctor, so a home was purchased in Raymond. Shortly after the move, Doran Wayne was born, 2 December, 1931. The house in Raymond had three small rooms, a kitchen, a living room, and one bedroom. The kitchen had a coal stove, a small cupboard, a table and a wash stand. Since there was no running water in the house, a bucket of water stood on the stand with a dipper for drinking and a basin to wash in beside it. Water was carried from a tap about ten yards outside the house. A small coal heater stood in the living room, with a cot and a couple of chairs. A stairway in the living room went up to an unfinished attic, which they finished later. There was just enough room in the bedroom for two double beds and a small dresser. The toilet was about thirty yards out back of the house!
Times were not easy in the home in Raymond during the depression years of the 30's, but Leah and Melvin were able to make their small family comfortable. Melvin continued to work on the Pack farm, getting up at 5 a.m. each morning to drive to the farm with Mr. Pack, who also lived in Raymond, and they would return home around six or seven in the evening. Leah kept busy, tending the children, and working in a garden she shared with her mother, who only lived a block away. She also took in washing on occasion to earn extra money and became an expert in canning produce from the garden, and wild berries she would pick. The depression years saw many people come through town looking for work or just a bite to eat. On many occasions Leah and Melvin took in strangers too feed and let them stay for a nights' rest, even though the three rooms were hardly large enough for the family. It was times like this they would always make do, for the hard times on the homestead were never forgotten.
When Mr. Pack's sons became old enough to do the work, Melvin finally left his job on the farm. He found seasonal work at the Sugar Factory and then after a few years he worked on a year round basis. The years he worked as a seasonal worker were difficult times, as Melvin could only find odd jobs during the off season. Leah's health was not very good during this period, requiring surgery twice in a very short time, once for appendix and then gallstones. She was very ill with both operations and they proved to be very expensive. Melvin's health was not very good at this time either, and they had a difficult time staying out of debt. Doris became ill with a cancerous anemia during her teenage years, and passed away on January 16, 1945. This was a sad and difficult time for the family. Hazel had left school at an early age and went to live with her sister in British Columbia. After a few years she returned to Raymond to live with Leah and Melvin, where she met and married Robert Douglas. They raised a family of two boys and four girls.
By 1950 Melvin was working full time at the Sugar Factory .... Doran had completed high school and had been called on a mission for the Mormon Church to Norway. Leah took a job as a cook at the Raymond Hospital to help meet the added expense of his mission. She walked a mile and a half to her work both summer and winter. It was a hard time financially for the family, but Leah and Melvin had good health and steady work. Doran returned home from his mission, married Mona Perrett from Mountain View, Alberta, and eventually they became the parents of six sons. Leah and Melvin enjoyed this period of their lives, they owned their own home and their pensions brought in enough money for them to live on. They celebrated their Golden Wedding on November 15, 1965, with Hazel, Doran, their spouses, and the grand children they loved. Leah was stricken with cancer a few years later and after periods of illness, followed by short periods of remission, she passed away on July 27th, 1968, at the age of 70 years. She lived a full rewarding life although some times were difficult.
Melvin had a lonely time without Leah, and knew that if he joined the church and was faithful he would be reunited with Leah as well as Doris. On January 18, 1969 he was baptized a member of the L. D. S. Church by his son Doran, endowed January 27, 1970 and sealed to Leah, Doris and Doran, July 2, 1970. Melvin passed away November 9, 1973 at the age of 81 years, and was looking forward to being reunited with Leah.
Doran and Mona reside in Mountain View, Alberta.
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