Sunday, 10 May 2015

Merle Cassell Boulton (1925-1959)

Mother's Day seems like the appropriate day to publish this blog post about Randy's Mom, Merle Lyla Cassell Boulton.  She was born on June 16, 1925 on her paternal grandparents' farm in the Burnbank district, north of Elkhorn.  Merle was the eldest child of Russell Cassell and the former Agnes Coburn.  
 The above picture of Merle with her father Russell was likely taken in Napanee, Ontario where they lived for a year or so when she was little.  They almost look to be camping in this photo.  The three of them returned to farming in Manitoba, joining Russell's parents at their new farm at Two Creeks, north of Virden. Apparently she had a serious case of scarlet fever at one time and was fortunate to pull through. A brother Douglas was born in 1928 and then 6 more sisters joined the family.  The family moved around the rural area until settling in Elkhorn in 1938.
Merle is the girl standing at the back on the left, beside her parents Russell and Agnes.  In front are four of her younger sisters, Ena, Marie, Betty and Isobel.

Some of the Cassell Girls left to right - Ena, Merle, Agnes (their Mother), Doreen and Betty
Merle graduated from Elkhorn High School but may have also attended schools at Burnbank, Kirkella and West Two Creeks. She loved curling and was an avid gardener and cook.  According to her sister Allie in the Elkhorn History Book written in 1982, Merle often won ribbons for her beautiful baking at the local fairs.
Her sister Ena told me that Merle was a quiet person, quietly funny in her own way.  She had a very even temperament and a slow fuse. Randy has the same personality and whether by example or by genetics, so do our two sons.  
Aunt Ena remembers visiting at the Boulton farm once when Merle lost her wedding ring when they were hanging up the laundry at the back of the house.  They frantically searched on their hands and knees for it but never did find it. I wonder if it is still there?
Merle was a tall slim woman, apparently built like her Grandma Agnes Snider Cassell.  She had long lovely fingers and fingernails, recalls Aunt Ena, and those hands were strong enough to open jars and sealers without help from the menfolk!   Like her mother Agnes, Merle attended Normal School and became a teacher.  Her first school was at Kinloss in 1944.   Ena says she made a wonderful teacher with her kindness and patience.  The Boulton farm was situated one mile west of Kinloss School and the rest, as they say, was history.

On October 6, 1945 Merle married Edwin Benjamin Boulton, eldest son of Thomas Boulton and the former Elsie Bushby. She was 20 years old and he was 25.  The wedding took place in Virden at St. Mary's Anglican Church.  Eddie's cousin Ida and her husband Max White were their attendants.

Wedding guests in this photo left to right - Max White, Elsie Boulton, Merle and Eddie, Ida (Bigney) White, Viney Reeves (Merle's cousin), Russell and Agnes Cassell, Gertie Turner (Merle's Aunt, sister to Russell), Edna (sister to Eddie) and Ewen Pearn.
Supper's On!  Merle (standing on the far left) and her brother-in-law Frank are holding the pumpkin pies, Ida and Max White have the meat and potatoes.  Sister-in-law Jean is behind Edwin, whipping up the cream.
Merle was active in the community being a member of the Kinloss Ladies Club and she served for a number of years as Secretary Treasurer of the Kinloss School Board.  Farm account books, gardening, preserving, cooking, laundry, chickens, sewing, cleaning, and raising children would have been how she spent her days. Aunt Allie marvels at how she could cook for so many people like on Sunday suppers when more and more would roll in and she could feed them all.  Cousin Wendy remembers the blue and purple plaid skirt with pleats and straps that she made for her.   

In the space of 11 years, three sons were born: Richard Edwin, Russell James, and Randall Thomas.

On December 14, 1959 at the age of 34, Merle passed away in Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg following an infection.  
Today I will have a cup of tea from one of her "Blossom Time" cup and saucers (a wedding gift from the Elkhorn Church Ladies) and wish her a Happy Mother's Day.

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