Gertrude Fraser was one of the first matrons of the Quesnel Hospital,
worked with the Cariboo's famous Dr. Gerald R. Baker, and was the
politically savvy wife of Alexander, MLA, Cariboo. She was also
the daughter-in-law of John A. Fraser, MP. She passed away in February
2003 in her 91st year. A great matron of the Cariboo, grand lady,
and a charming friend has gone. Since this life story was compiled
prior to her death, all references except "In Memory",
"Timeline" and "A Note from the Author" refer
to Mrs. Fraser in the present tense.
Gertrude was born in 1911, the second child and only daughter of
Gertrude and A.E. Watt. She lived with her parents and brothers,
Hugh and Jim, in a small Saskatchewan community of about 500 people
called Bienfait. This town is near the American border. Her maternal
grandparents, mother's sister, and her family also lived there.
Industry in the town was based on mining and farming.
Gertrude's mother moved to Bienfait from Ontario with her parents.
Gertrude's father's family was from Pelee Island in Lake Erie. Dr.
High Watt, who worked in Barkerville during the gold rush in the
1800s, was her father's uncle. Gertrude's Uncle George, Aunt Edith's
husband, had a furniture store in Bienfait.
Gertrude's first memory involved living above her father's dry
goods store, before her brother Jim was born. The store sold groceries,
dry goods, bread, shoes, and dairy items. Local farmers supplied
the cheese, eggs and milk. Gertrude remembers that her mother wouldn't
buy her dairy from the family store, but from a woman who had cows
and delivered dairy products to the store.
Gertrude remembers that before her younger
brother Jim was born, "Mother had what she called the baby's box, and I liked to
look in there and ask her to show me the baby's clothes." Many
of us remember the first time we learned that a younger sibling
had joined the family. An early memory of Gertrude's was driving
to her parents' house with her aunt and uncle, who lived in the
homestead, after having spent a few days with them. She was about
four at the time. She remembers driving up to the house and seeing
her older brother, Hugh, standing outside. He said, "I got
a baby brother."
Gertrude learned to swim in the Souris River, with other Girl Guides.