Bertha Sager was born in Dunganon, County Hastings, Ontario and was the youngest of five children. In 1902 she married the son of a neighbouring family, Albert Turncliff, living in Dunganon two years after their marriage. The couple then migrated west to Wakopa, Manitoba, where their two eldest children, Millie and Duri, were born.

At that time, the Great Northern Railway was being built through Manitoba, and with it, new towns were springing up. One such town was Bannerman, where the Turncliffs lived until they moved to Moose Jaw in 1913. The soon returned to Manitoba and homesteaded at Lonely Lake, where Albert and his sons had to cut through the thick growth of poplar trees so that the family could pitch a tent on their first night in the bush. When the Turncliffs had cleared enough land to raise some crops, the harsh winters made harvesting impossible. By 1921 the Turncliff children numbered eight and the family moved to Dolphin, Manitoba, where the ninth child, Stanley, was born.

In 1924 the Turncliffs heard about the wonderful grain farming opportunities further west, and ever-hopeful, they packed up their possessions in two covered wagons. The chickens were placed in boxes on the sides of the wagons, the cows were tied to the back of the wagons for the journey from Dolphin to Swift Current, Saskatchewan. The trip took one month, and reflecting on her always-positive outlook, Bertha remembered it as “a nice trip”.

Arriving in Swift Current in the fall of 1924, Bertha and Albert worked for a nephew’s farming operation. Four years later, the family had grown to 10 children and the Turncliffs had once again purchased their own farm. In 1928 Albert died, leaving Bertha to run the farm and provide for the children on her own. Bertha supported the household by taking in mending, as well as cooking and baking for a fee. She also found steady work as a midwife and benefitted from the $25 per month Mother’s Allowance. Resourceful and financially astute, Bertha sold the farm in 1929, moved into town, and built a house where she and her family lived for the next 13 years.

By 1947 the Turncliff children were grown and most were married. Attracted by the prospect of living in a warmer climate, Bertha sold her property in Swift Current and came to live in Mission. She soon purchased a house on Cade Barr Hill, which she occupied for many years with her brother Sam Sager. She became a member of Mission’s Senior Citizens Club, and contributed her memories and experiences to the fabric of the community. Bertha Turncliff’s life exemplified the large movements of Canada’s populations from east to west across the continent in the early days of the 20th century, as pioneering families looked for financial stability and a better life.


Source: Fraser Valley Record, January 13, 1954