“The road we had come over was scarcely a road… it was climb, climb, climb… and then down, down a steep hill, car in low, single track road absolutely a shelf on the side of the mountain miles long.”43
The Hawke Family
Walter Lawson Hawke was born 16 March 1885,1 in Medicine Hat, North West Territories (later Alberta) to parents John Lawson Hawke and Agnes Porter. 2
His father, John Lawson Hawke, had reportedly come to Medicine Hat in 1883.3 The Hawke family initially lived on a farm southwest of Foremost, Alberta, for which John Lawson was issued a homestead patent in September 1888.4 They later moved to a property south of Dunmore, which John Hawke purchased in July 1901. This latter property became the family farm with the youngest Hawke brother, John Andrew, applying for a homestead patent to the land in 1911. Following his death in May 1919 the property transferred to his two elder brothers (William and Walter).5
Walter initially followed in his family’s farming footsteps, and in February 1903, at age 16, he began homesteading a property just north of his father’s. He grazed cattle and horses, and successfully received a patent to the property on 13 December 1907, although he also continued to live on his family’s farm.6 Walter was living with his parents and three of his siblings at the time of the 1906 Northwest Provinces census.7
Meanwhile the eldest Hawke brother, William Richard, had left home in October 1903 to attend the Veterinary College in Toronto.8 Walter later decided to follow his brother in his choice of career, and he enrolled at the Ontario Veterinary College for the autumn term of 1908.9
Walter successfully passed the spring examinations in 1909,10 although there was some delay to his formal education as he didn’t begin his second year until the 1910/1911 term.11 In between, in May 1910, he is mentioned as going to practice, “in the veterinary line” that summer with his brother, possibly for some hands-on experience before concluding the Veterinary College program.12
A Career in Veterinary Medicine
Walter had returned to Medicine Hat by June 1911, when he and his brother are both listed as living on his family’s ranch,13 and from where Walter was appointed the rank of Veterinary Inspector on 27 June 1911.14
Neither William or Walter were veterinarians in the traditional sense, but were rather employed by the “Contagious Diseases Division” of the Department of Agriculture.15 They worked in the field and laboratory investigating and treating diseases in livestock, and both were in their early careers tasked specifically with investigating and treating outbreaks of a disease in horses called dourine.16 Also known as “covering sickness,” dourine is caused by a parasite, and even today there is no vaccine and it has a high mortality rate.
Walter was initially stationed in Saskatchewan, particularly out of Saskatoon,17 and was in charge of field work there for a dourine outbreak from December 1911 until July 1913. He published a paper documenting this work in March 1914.18
Sometime in 1912 Walter was transferred back to Alberta, where he joined his brother at a research laboratory in Medicine Hat.19 Once again, they was involved in testing, something of a thankless task that the pathologist in charge of the lab describes in 1915 as being, “extremely arduous, often taking us far into night or early morning hours.”20
Walter left Medicine Hat in June 1915 to take over supervision of the laboratory in Lethbridge (the former supervisor left on military leave) where, once again, his work included testing for dourine, “entailing an immense amount of careful, highly technical work.”21 William remained in Medicine Hat.
Sometime before his move to take over the Lethbridge lab, Walter married Melrose Mary Hargrave (I could find no primary source for their marriage, although it seems to have taken place in 1914,22 with one non-verified source stating 5 January 191423).
Mary Lillian Melrose Hargrave had been born c.1882, either sometime in June in Saskatchewan,24 or possibly on 5 July in either Ontario or Manitoba.25 Her parents, James and Alexandra Hargrave, settled on a section near Medicine Hat, and Melrose went on to train as a nurse in Regina, although she did not complete the course due to health problems.26
Walter and Melrose had a couple of family connections, even before their marriage. Melrose was a younger sister of John C.S. Hargrave, also a veterinary inspector, who was in charge of the Medicine Hat laboratory and, beginning in 1908, was the Inspector in charge of the province of Alberta.27 John C.S. Hargrave was also married to Walter’s aunt, Mary J McKee Porter, with that marriage taking place in August 1902 at the Hawke family home.28
Walter and Melrose spent a few years living in Lethbridge,29 where Walter continued to work as a veterinary inspector.30 Sometime in 1918 Walter left the Lethbridge laboratory and the couple moved to somewhere near Dunmore,31 although he continued to work sporadically as a veterinary inspector.32
Both of Walter’s parents had by then passed away – his father in August 1915, and his mother in January 191733 – and the youngest Hawke brother, John Andrew, also passed away unexpectedly on 1 May 1919.
The Hawke ranch passed on to the two remaining brothers, William and Walter, with Walter initially taking over. He would join the local United Farmers Association in November 1920 as a director for his district (William was then elected president),34 and purchase a Hereford bull from Chicago in December 1920.35
To the Mountains
As is later explained, Walter found that working with animals caused him to have asthma, and in 1921 Walter and Melrose moved to the mountains in hopes that this would improve his health.36 The two are listed on the 1921 census as living on Sub-Lots 38 and 114, Block 4596, on Westside Road near Invermere.37 This was Richard Stirling Grant-Thorold’s ranch “Craigellachie”, located up Dutch Creek, and which the Hawkes purchased and re-named “Justamere.”
I haven’t been able to find particularly extensive records about Walter and Melrose’s decades on Justamere Ranch. In typical valley fashion, they did mixed farming, growing grain, fruit, and vegetables,38 as well as raising cattle. They seemed to cooperate with their (relatively) near neighbours, Captain and Mrs McCarthy on K2 ranch to the north.39
Walter also became involved in the community, and in 1932 was elected president of the Windermere District Association of Stockbreeders.40 In 1935 he was elected a director for the Windermere District Farmers Institute,41 and was also involved in the United Church at Invermere.42
But Justamere was also relatively isolated. In 1933 Reverend William Stott described visiting the ranch:
The road we had come over was scarcely a road. Even on the level one had to proceed with unusual care. And there wasn’t much level. Starting from a three thousand foot elevation it was climb, climb, climb. Four gates to open down near the public road, then up past where there was an old sawmill and a tie camp… Up and still up. And then down, down a steep hill, car in low, single track road absolutely a shelf on the side of the mountain miles long. At the foot a little bridge crossing a lively stream. Then our sign [the rustic arch bearing the legend, “Just-a-mere Ranch”]. Then up again on more shelf road. At last a field of grain. Soon after a flock of turkeys, some of them carrying little bells. As we stopped at the garden gate, Walter and Melrose Hawke were there to meet us….
There was an old log house with rambling addition.
“We bring our guests in through the kitchen” cheerily announced Mrs. Hawke. Off the kitchen, separated by an open arch without pillar, the coziest, roomiest nook we had ever seen. A fireplace quite unique. Everywhere evidence of culture and ingenuity.
And through the window one caught one’s breath at an unsurpassed view of the Rockies fitted into the v-shaped opening in the nearer mountains. …
Just before the delightful supper was served, I stood outside gazing down the ravine landscape. Mr. Hawke came to join me. The inevitable city question came to my lips: “ Do you not feel cut off living out here ?” Quietly came the answer. “ No, not at all. We did for a year or two when we first came from the prairie, but now we like it.43
Walter and Melrose remained on Justamere Ranch until either 1938,44 1943,45 or perhaps 1945.46 The exact year of their departure remains unclear, but the couple retired to the Royal Oak community of Saanich, just north of Victoria. In November 1954 Walter wrote from his residence on Beaver Lake Rd to the Chief Commissioner of the Lands Division in Ottawa endeavoring to establish proof of his age in order to obtain his old age security pension (he hoped that his birthday was listed on his application for a homestead).47
Walter Lawson Hawke passed away on 28 March 1970 in Victoria, being survived by his wife and one sister (Mrs W.B. Finlay) in West Vancouver, as well as several nieces and nephews.48
Following Walter’s death, Melrose returned to Medicine Hat, where she died 12 January 1972.49 Both she and Walter share a grave marker in the Hargrave family plot a the Hillside Cemetery in Medicine Hat.50
The local commemoration to the Hawke family – Hawke Road – has seen some improvements since it wound its way up and up and down and down in the 1930s, although it still has more than its fair share of tight bends as it goes up towards the mountains. Following their departure to Victoria, Walter and Melrose sold Justamere and it became a base for big game hunting under the name “Royal Antler”.51
Richard Stirling Grant-Thorold
A wonderful read of the early days in the valley and its history.