More than 100 descendants of Alexander and Amelia Rarog got together at the Glendon RCMP Hall on June 30 to celebrate their heritage. This history was taken from the history Book “So Soon Forgotten” and written by Edward Rarog. It was revised for the Reunion.
On this day we bring together four generations of relatives to celebrate and remember the people who came before us. For the grandchildren/cousins of my generation we can remember the amazing times spent at Baba’s playing with her green plastic strawberry containers and playing dimey. But for our children they haven’t had the pleasure. So today we can visit and swap the greatest family heirloom of all…stories of our past. Thank you to Sandra Phillips and the rest of the committee for pulling this together so that the younger people in the Rarog Family tree can learn about their past. How will our children know who they are if they do not know where they came from
This is celebration is about Alexander and Amelia Rarog, so that we may remember them and pass on the knowledge of these people to our descendants. For a few people in the room, we are talking about their father and mother. For the rest of us it is our grandma, grandpa, Dziadzio or Babcia or a series of “greats.”
Alexander and Amelia raised a family of four boys and five girls although three children died at in infancy. The surviving nine children were: Agnes, Francis, Florence, Elizabeth, Irene, Edward, Johnnie, Joseph and Henry. Today we have Elizabeth, Irene and Henry and unfortunately uncle Joe was not able to make it.
Alexander was born in Yaroslaw Galicia Poland on March 18, 1892. He left home at the age of 14 leaving his two younger sisters Mary and Katie and his mom and dad Annie and Jon and worked in Germany and France. Upon his return, the border guards refused to grant him entry because his place of birth at the time was in Austria as the borders had shifted. The always calm and thoughtful Alexander pointed out that even if he had been born in a stable he didn’t believe he could be an ox and therefore since his birth place was currently in Austria…he was still Polish. This undoubtedly was convincing enough to allow him to return to Poland. In 1910 he left Europe for America, never to return again. He was a castaway on a cattle ship and arrived in Chicago. His first job was with the International Harvester Company where he worked for one dollar and 25 cents per day. After corresponding with an uncle who lived in Edmonton, Alexander decided to go to Canada for a visit. While in Edmonton he was persuaded to write to Poland and arrange for his parents and sisters to come to Canada. He returned to Chicago briefly to get his affairs in order and then moved to Edmonton.
In Edmonton, Alexander drove a team of mules and a dump wagon for the construction of the High Level Bridge. Once his family arrived he continued to work in the Edmonton area. He worked on the construction of the first school at the University of Alberta grounds. Alexander’s parents were not happy with city life so he rented a farm near Lamont where they lived until 1913. Because they enjoyed the farm life, the Rarogs decided to go in search of a homestead. They set out by wagon pulled by an ox and a horse with one cow, a dog and a cat trailing behind. They travelled to the St. Paul area and settled on a homestead in the Flat Lake area just three miles east and ¾ of a mile north of the present Flat Lake Hall. The Rarogs were one of the first families to settle in the area. They purchased the homestead for $1. Also to note, Alexander’s sister (Mary) obtained a homestead and she was one of the first women allowed to register a homestead in a woman’s name. “She was the rich one!”
Now, the homestead meant lots of work. The family had to clear the land for a home. Logs were carried in on their backs one at a time, hewn and set into place until a two room house was finished. This two room log house served the family for 20 years before two more rooms were added. Once the homestead was established, Alexander left to work at various jobs in the area. As the story goes, while Alexander was clearing land with an axe and a spade he would find partridge eggs and fry them on his spade in the hot summer sun. He hauled freight by wagon between Cold Lake, St Paul and Vegreville. A single trip each way would last a week. Alexander also worked on municipal projects such as the construction of the Chicken Lake Creek Road and the Flat Lake Church.
Alexander was always interested in promoting and developing good community relationships. He was involved with the church, the school board, the hospital board and various organizations. He assembled the first church committee named Mount Carmel Parish in 1918 and served as Chairman for 17 years. In the early 1920s he was instrumental in organizing the Chicken Lake School District and he assisted in the construction of the school in 1922. He spent 16 years as Chairman of the school board. In 1950 he was elected director on the Elk Point Hospital Board and served as Director for 12 years until his retirement in 1962. Alexander suffered with ulcers for many years but
Under the Naturalization Acts of 1914 and 1920, Alexander became a naturalized British subject in November 1920. The following year his father John passed away in 1921. It is about this time that Alexander met Emelia Victoria Stefaniczan. Emelia was born in November 24, 1909 in Bruce, Alberta to Joe and Nellie Stefaniczan. Baba always had two birthdays and it was because she believed her birthday was Dec 6 until be obtained her birth certificate in the 1970s. Emelia was the second oldest of eight children and when her father died suddenly in 1922 she found it impossible to continue her formal education. Her mother married Joe Jendruck shortly after and Emelia left home and went to work on a farm doing housework and chores. Emelia’s brothers John, Tony, Joe and Sam and sisters Annie, Magdalene and Alice were separated and some placed in foster homes. Emelia also had two half brothers…Walter and Stanley and a half sister Josephine. Later in life, Emelia and Alexander looked after Emelia’s mother until she passed away in 1970.
In 1923, Emelia travelled by wagon with her uncle Tony Stefaniczan to spend some time on his farm south of Flat Lake church. She remembers the fear she experienced while crossing the North Saskatchewan River at Brousseau. She met Alex working on Tony’s farm and they were married on Feb 16, 1925 in St. Vincent, Alberta. Life on the farm was difficult and work in the fields and travel was done by horses. Alexander was considered quite a horseman and had great teams of horses. Their first daughter Albinia died at birth in 1926. Agnes was born in 1927 followed by another daughter Helen who died of scarlet fever in 1928. Frances was born in 1930 followed by Annie Angel who died in 1931 at the age of three months. John, the eldest son was born in 1932 followed by Florence in 1934, Elizabeth in 1936, Joseph in 1938, Edward in 1939 and Irene in 1941. In 1942, the Rarogs obtained their first car…a Willis Knight for three hundred dollars. The family used to haul water from Chicken Lake and Elizabeth remembers the horses getting stuck in the mud and having to run to a neighbor to get a team to pull them out. Alexander was also known as the barber and many people dropped by the house to have their hair cut.
The busy homestead in Flatlake received power in 1944. The family got a freezer and a few appliances every year which revolutionized the life in the house. It wasn’t until 1950 when they purchased a model AR John Deere tractor to make life on the farm easier.
Alexander and Emelia moved to St. Paul in 1963 to live a more leisurely life while Johnnie stayed back and farmed. Grandpa and Grandma began having regular visits from kids, grandkids and friends.
On May 28, 1973, Alex passed away at the age of 81 just shy of their 50th wedding anniversary. Two years later, Emelia married a family friend Theodore Sudnik who had also lost his wife. They married on January 11, 1975. Emelia and Ted opened their house and their cupboards for many visits from many grandchildren. Everyone knows that Baba could whip up a meal from cottage cheese, leftover chicken and an onion and some cabbage from her plentiful garden. As we gre up we were invited to wash our hearts with Grandpa Ted and I remember I always had to dilute the homemade wine in order to swallow it.
Grandpa Ted died on September 21, 1995 and Baba lived in her house for a few years before moving to Sunnyside Manor in 1997 at the age of 89
Emelia died on June 6, 2004 at the age of 94 years. She had outlived her entire family plus two husbands, 6 daughters, 2 sons. At the time of her death she had 33 grandchildren, 60 great grandchildren and 1 great, great grandson.
And now we can continue to plant our own roots because a tree without roots will fall over.