The Fehr - Hamm Cemetery Story
Bill and Margaret (Hamm) Fehr’s parents came from the Gretna, Manitoba district to homestead near Hague in the early 1900’s. They were Bergthalers whose custom was to settle in villages (Darps), which had their own churches and cemeteries. Many burials were also made on farm yards, school yards or amongst a grove of trees in the middle of a quarter section. This kind of cemetery was started by Bill’s parents, the Peter Fehrs, about three miles north of Hague and just east of the highway to Rosthern. The exact legal location is NW 21-41-3, West of 3rd.
In the course of time Bill Fehr married Margaret Hamm, took over his father’s farm, raised a family of seven children, including two aboriginal foster children, and did well. The Fehrs are now retirees living right in Hague, taking a great interest in restoring and preserving their ancestral past. For example, they were one of many couples making the covered wagon anniversary trek from Moose Jaw to Saskatoon about ten years ago.
In the meantime, the Fehr-Hamm cemetery fell into disuse, became overgrown with weeds, and was badly neglected. However, several years ago Bill decided to restore it. Immediate family members were contacted for donations, but only about half of the needed $1,500.00 was raised. Not waiting any longer, Bill went ahead to clear the weeds, erect a fence, and obtain cost estimates from various cemetery memorial firms. Now came the problem of determining the names of the deceased, as no written records were kept in those days. Fortunately, Margaret Fehr’s cousin, Mrs. Ann Neudorf, had an excellent memory, so soon all the graves were indentified, although not their exact location within the cemetery.
There are 25 graves, 17 of them infants and children, most of them passing away between 1904 and 1927. Hence most graves were just tiny mounds of earth, or small hollows. Several large adult graves have markers.
Bill decided to have nearly all of the names engraved on a large marble headstone, about three by four feet in size. Beside it stands a much smaller plaque with three names. Most dead are clearly identified as to who their parents or spouses were.
Access to the cemetery was also important. Bill’s plan was to build a narrow one lane trail from the present owner’s yard, straddling the boundary of the two properties, one of which holds the cemetery. This involved much discussion, but both owners consented to forego a narrow strip of land, about 500 metres long. Now it was possible for elderly and infirm relatives to be conveyed right up to the cemetery gate by car to view the plots and headstones, and for Bill to drive up to it to give it an annual clean-up.
One burial with a tragic history is that of Bill Fehr’s mother, Elizabeth, nee Pauls (1891 - 1917). The inscription reads, "Wife of Peter I. Fehr. Died by a tragic fire. Left behind seven small children." One day just before leaving for town in August 1917, Mr. Fehr asked his wife to check how much gas there was in the tank of the old Model T, situated under the front seat. She unscrewed the lid and held a kerosene lantern over the tank to get a better look right into it. With that, the gas fumes ignited and a tremendous explosion followed. The car was destroyed and Mrs. Fehr very badly burned. She was quickly taken to the doctor in Hague who rushed her to Saskatoon as fast as cars could go in those days. After 44 hours of intense suffering without the benefit of pain killing drugs, she passed away.
It is surmised that the infant and child deaths in the Fehr - Hamm clan happened during or after child birth, and by contagious diseases for which there were no vaccines. Such was the nature of life (and death) of pioneer families in Hague during their early homestead years in Hague.
John P. Nickel
April 5, 1995.