A Pioneer’s Death

As Freezing Persons recollect the Snow-

First Chill – then  Stupor – then the letting go. 

 – Emily Dickenson 

The deep freeze in the prairie provinces this week reminded me of my great-grandfather, John Corrigan, who froze to death outside Moose Jaw around 1910.

He was building a house out on the prairie and had the structure finished when a cold snap struck.    John was due back in Moose Jaw that night and when he did not return, his family was terribly worried.  His wife, Emma, went to a neighbour for help.  They got a horse and cart and rode out to the house.  

They found him upstairs on a makeshift bed.  Strangely, the window was open.   My great-grandfather was lying under a blanket – frost crystals on his face.  He froze to death, leaving his wife with five children.   He was about 50 years old.  My great-grandmother had to take in boarders to make ends meet after his death. 

It was not unknown for bitter cold to kill whole families out homesteading at that time, I have been told.


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