Thursday, December 6, 2012

Faith Cook Saunders 1888 to 1974

Faith Cook Saunders
Although I included Faith, my maternal great grandmother, when I discussed her husband, Herbert Charles Saunders, and her mother, Emma Green Cook, I feel she merits her own posting. Although I do remember Herbert, I remember Faith well, as I knew her all my growing up years. She died in my last year of high school. My grandmother Alice was very close to her, and cared for her in her last years, as Faith cared for her own mother. My mother “idolized” her. My great grandparents lived in the same house on East 23rd Avenue from 1935 onwards, and later my grandparents lived there. Apparently, the house was “old”, likely turn of the century, when Herbert and Faith purchased it. I was thrilled to come across a realtor’s “open house” video of it on Youtube. The house has been completely renovated, but many of the original architectural features have been retained, such as the front door with its stained glass, the stair railing, the pillars in the front parlor, the bathtub, the veranda, and so on. Here is the link to the video, which was taken in the spring when the Japanese cherry trees along the street were in bloom:

Faith as a child
Faith as a teenager
Faith Cook, the seventh of nine children, was born on November 10, 1888 in Helpringham, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England--the same town in which her mother was born. She was baptised in Timberland, Lincolnshire, her father’s birthplace, on December 7, 1888. Her father, William Cook, had already left for Canada by the time she was born, and then the very next year she, her mother, and her siblings emigrated here. The family story is that on the ship coming over, Faith developed an infection in one of her arms, and the ship’s doctor wanted to amputate. Faith’s mother Emma refused to consent, stating, “I didn’t call her ‘Faith’ for no reason”. The arm healed completely. (Please see my postings on Emma Green Cook for a more detailed discussion of the family’s early years in Canada). From having lived in Ontario at first, the family homesteaded in Moosamin, Saskatchewan in the Orangeville district. She attended the Orangeville School No. 88 N.W.T., and there is a picture of her class in 1902, which also includes her sister Mary, in the book Moosamin Century One: Town and Country at the following link: It seems to have been one of the one room schools so prevalent on the Canadian prairies. The story goes that she met her husband, Herbert Charles Saunders, who was in the Royal North West Mounted Police at the time, when he escorted her drunken father home one night.

Faith and Herbert married in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at Saint Matthew  Anglican Church, on March 24, 1910, three days after Herbert’s contract with the Royal North West Mounted Police elapsed. Her brother Edward and her sister Mary were witnesses. Their first child, Clara Evelyn Hope Saunders, was born there on April 8, 1911, and the family moved to Vancouver soon thereafter in the same year. They were living in Faith’s mother’s boarding house on Venables Street, along with some of her siblings. Herbert worked as a clerk in a shipping office for a time. It appears that they briefly moved back to Winnipeg, where their daughter Alice May Saunders was born on November 16, 1912, and then came back to B.C. During Herbert’s years overseas in World War One, Faith and her daughters again lived in Winnipeg, where her mother and other family members were living.

Alice and Clara Saunders
Faith and baby Bert (?)

Upon Herbert’s return from the war, they settled in Vancouver permanently, where Herbert worked as a lather, and where they had two more children, Herbert Edward “Bert”, and Verna Doreen. Faith’s mother Emma lived with the family from 1927 to her death in 1930. Faith was a midwife, and delivered at least one of her daughter Alice's children. The story is that one of my uncles was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and that Faith was able to deliver him safely. She died on March 29, 1974 of “acute indigestion and general debility” at the age of eighty-five. She was buried in Ocean View Burial Park in Burnaby, B.C., where her mother Emma and her sister Mary Eliza are also buried.

Faith, like her mother, was a kind of “matriarch” of the family. She was known for her sense of humour. My mother reports that Faith could send her into gales of laughter with a look, often at inappropriate times, such as at a violin concert in which the musician was less than adept. Faith was called “Ma” by everyone, and referred to as “G.G.”, i.e. “Gravel Gertie”, in cards between her and my mother as a private joke between them. (Gravel Gertie was a minor character in the Dick Tracy comic strip). She apparently was very strong-willed, and once she made a decision, including about people, she stuck with it—forever. It used to be said that she was a “typical Scorpio”. She was also known for her psychic ability, as was her daughter Alice, and her sister Lily’s son, Stan Arnold, who was a “famous psychic” in Salmon Arm, B.C. Faith, in her later years, said one day, “Someone’s got a lot of painting to do”. The next day my grandmother received a call from one of my uncles saying that his company had received the contract to paint the Western Whitehouse. I’m told that when she was younger, she swore by an tonic called, “Lydia Pinkham’s”, as did many women of the era. It was an early herbal remedy for women’s complaints, and contained such ingredients as pleurisy root, life root, fenugreek, unicorn root and black cohosh. It also turned out to be forty proof.   I remember her as a loving, caring great grandmother, and I will always remember sitting with her, my grandmother and mother in her kitchen drinking tea. Her tea was always so strong that you could “stand a spoon in it”.


Barry Clarke said...

I found this most interesting, as Faith was my Grandmother and I used to love visiting with her and "dad Saunders".
My mother was Clara Evelyn Clarke, faith and Bert''s first daughter.

Sherry said...

Hi Barry. Thanks for your comment. I look forward to touching base with you further.