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Our History - Lester Lohr and Spruceyvale Home

StettlerLocal.com June 17, 2022 @ 9:40am

In 1953 the family farm of Mr. Lester V. Lohr was named “Master Farm Family“ for the East-Central district by the Alberta Department of Agriculture. The program recognized those families nominated by their neighbours. Those nominees were then judged by a committee that considered 87 different factors. The Master Farm Family program emphasized the advantages of farming as a vocation.


Located 11 miles outside Erskine, the Lohr family’s home was known as Spruceyvale Homes. It was so named because Lester had started transplanting spruce trees from the Red Deer River to his property in 1912, and by 1953, he had moved between twelve to fifteen hundred spruce trees to the family farm.


Lester's father, George, brought his family, including 12-year-old Lester, to Canada from South Dakota in 1900. The family initially took up squatters' rights in what would later become the Erskine District, beating surveyors by 3 or 4 years. In 1906, Lester took a 5-day journey to Red Deer with a saddle horse, crossing the river and waiting two additional days upon arrival before turning 18, so he could file his homestead claim near his father's land.


Although he had gone to great lengths to file his claim, Lester did not go directly into farming; he instead worked in lumber camps in the Crow's Nest Pass with crews that laid the first sewer lines in Lacombe. Lester also worked on the construction crew that built the original Content Bridge, even travelling as far as Field BC, where he worked on constructing the spiral tunnel.


Lester attended Manitoba Agriculture School in 1910 and graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Science. He worked for a year as an agriculture representative in Manitoba before finally returning to his home in Alberta. Three years later, he married Beula North. North was a neighbour in the district, and her family had also come from South Dakota. Beula had been a teacher for some time but was eager to take on her new role as Lester's wife.


In 1936, George Lohr retired from his farm. He sold his land to Lester, who added it to his farm. In 1953, the family farm was roughly 17 quarters of land, which produced wheat, oats, and barley and was on track to produce rye grain in 1953. In addition to above-average crop production on the family’s 1,200 acres of cultivated land, the remaining 1,480 acres were virgin prairie grassland and wood lots. After joining a newly-formed pig club in the district in the early 40s, Lester Lohr began raising Yorkshire hogs. The Lohrs also had 72 head of cattle, primarily purebred shorthorn cattle, 225 Barred Rock chickens, and roughly 20 Percheron horses, raising 2-4 colts a year.


Articles on the Master Farm Family in 1953 described the drive to the Lohr home as an ‘impressive’ experience. The tops of the fence posts were all painted white, indicating pride in the property. The service entrance to the property was marked with three white and blue wagon wheels, indicating the three homes on the property. The first home was that of Mr. & Mrs. Lohr, and the second was for Lester’s son Lloyd, his wife Dorothy, and their two daughters. The third house was a recently finished home for Mr. & Mrs. Ray Smith. Ray was the permanent employee at the farm. A large sign announcing the Spruceyvale Home also listed the types of animals on the property. Another entrance to the property had visitors driving under some of the spruce trees that gave the property its name.


A wall made of local stone partially encircled the senior Lohrs’ home. Mrs. Lohr was an avid gardener and maintained a small garden next to the house for daily use, with a second vegetable garden closer to the fields used for canning. The family would also maintain a large orchard with crab apple and plum trees, gooseberries, strawberries, and raspberries. An irrigation system serviced the orchard to help maintain it during dry seasons.


Mr. & Mrs. Lohr’s home was planned for efficiency. Mrs. Lohr was cooked on a coal and wood stove, feeling it was a better appliance than electric options, however, she did have some electric appliances such as a fridge and sewing machine. Lester managed the crop records, while Lloyd was responsible for the livestock records. Despite the split of management duties, Lester made sure to say that the whole family worked for one farm and took from that what they needed.


Lester’s hobby was a model train he kept in their basement, complete with a background he had painted by a local artist. He was a member of the municipal council, Stettler Board of Trade and the Erskine Cemetery Board. He held the position of Director of the District Rural Electrification Board, was a committee member of the convalescence home and held various roles during his 16 years on the Laketon School Board. Mrs. Lohr was a member of the Whitsel-Ewing Ladies Club, Laketon School board and the Erskine Red Cross Auxiliary president.


In 1972 Lester Lohr would also be the Farmer of the Month in the November issue of UFA’s publication, the United Farmer. The article described Lester as “....an articulate, interesting man. An active farmer, a leader in his community and a good neighbour.”






Carson Ellis,

Our Town Stettler

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