"To know the sacrifices of the past is to appreciate the
blessings of the present and to inspire great
deeds in the future."

~Robert M. Quinn
May 22, 2024




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The Life History of Martin Emmet Quinn
An Autobiography

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The Last Time I Ran Away

We had a little wagon that I used to gather up buffalo chips for fuel for the stove. Buffalo chips worked very well when they were dry, and there was nothing else to use. One day I thought it would be nice to go over to the neighbors. They were a German family that lived about three miles from our place. The lady used to put lard on the bread instead of butter. I thought that was pretty good, so I put baby Cly (Cliola) in the little wagon with me pulling and Gene pushing, and we set off for the neighbors. I thought we were doing all right until, looking back, I saw Dad coming with a long stick with a knot on the end. He caught up with us in a short distance. He put Gene in the wagon, and he pulled the wagon. Every time he caught up to me, he would poke me with that stick. When we got home, he told me to take off my pants. Then he got his big razor strap and placed me across his knees, bottom up. He then raised up the strap and let it fall by its own weight and said, "Will you ever run away from home again?" I said, "No, no." Dad said, "Do you promise?" I said, "Yes, yes." Then he said to go get my pants on.

The Day I Got A Jag On

In those days it was customary for the man who had his threshing finished to furnish a keg of beer. The men had finished ours, and Dad had the beer for them. When he had to leave for some reason, the men were sitting around the keg in a circle drinking the beer. Before long I showed up, and one of the men gave me a sip of his beer. I seemed to like it, so I went to the next, who gave me a sip and so on until my legs were giving me trouble. Mother, who was in the house, heard all the laughter. She came out in a hurry and grabbed me by the arm, not gently. The men got a lecture that they would remember for some time. Dad got some of the same. She was slow to anger and very gentle, but that time she was furious.

The Dutchman

There used to be an old dutchman who lived down in a coulee below us. He made moonshine and would put the mash in a trough for the pigs and chickens. They would eat it and get drunk. He would sit on his doorstep and laugh at their antics. The pigs would stagger around and squeal until they fell and could not stand anymore. Then they would wallow around in the dust. The chickens would go through the same performance. They could not stand up either. One day Dad was going by, and he had me on the horse with him. As he had to go on to a neighbor, he left me with Mr. Shultz, who had made up his mind to poison some gophers. When Dad came back he found me carrying the poison bucket. Needless to say, he did not leave me with Mr. Shultz again.

The Rattlesnake

When I was about five, we had company one day and all the adults were inside. They heard me banging on the doorstep with the coal shovel, which was a little iron shovel about thirteen inches long. We used it to put coal in the stove. The dog was barking and the rest of the children were making various noises. The folks came running out to see what was going on. They found me pounding on a snake. It was pretty groggy from the blows to the head with the little iron shovel. The snake was a large rattler and could have done a lot of damage to the kids.

The Move to Alberta

Dad sold his farm in Nebraska in 1900 and shipped their belongings to Red Deer, Alberta. At this time the area was part of the Northwest Territories. He filed on a homestead near Markerville. There he farmed for four or five years. My mother died in 1904. Dad then sold out and moved to Red Deer where he had a livery stable and hotel. Dad remarried in 1907 to Rose Koshman. He sold out there and shipped four head of horses and his household goods to the Crow's Nest Pass in 1908. He built a log house there and contracted to take out mining props for a time. Then he sold out again and went to work in the woods. After that he went to work in the coal mines as a carpenter. In 1910 I got a job as a miner's helper. My brother, Gene, got a job as a lamp boy. The miners went on strike in 1911 so we moved to Kootenay Lake and bought 20 acres of fruit land. We were there for two or three years, but it did not prove very fruitful. My sister, Alberta, had been staying with an English family and going to school during that time. Gene and I had been working out for some time. Dad and Rose and the new family of one girl and two boys moved to Spokane in 1913. Dad got a job with the Milwaukee Railroad where he worked until retirement. The rest of his life he had a little farm out in the Spokane Valley where they raised as much as five acres of strawberries and employed as many as a hundred pickers in the peak of the season.

Bonners Ferry

In the spring of 1913 my brother Gene was working in the woods at Libby, Montana. I had gone to Bonners Ferry looking for work. I found a job shoveling fill dirt onto wagons, but it took all my wages to pay for my board and room. The boss said if I wanted to go out on a farm he could get me a job. I said I would go and try it. I went on the train to Copeland, Idaho, to the McAnelly place. Mr. McAnelly was running a dairy, and I was a good milker. He said he would pay me 17 dollars a month, board and room and washing, with Sundays off except milking. I thought I would stay a few days and earn a few dollars then go to Libby where Gene was. The few days turned into five years. There were five in the family living at home. The family consisted of Mr. McAnelly and his wife, his daughter, Alice, his mother-in-law, Mrs. Day, and a 10 year old grandson, Frank.

I had been there a few days, and one night at supper I said that my grandfather was a McAnelly. Mrs. McAnelly nearly jumped out of her chair, as McAnelly was not a common name. She wanted to know what his first name was and where they lived. I said I did not know but could write to my father and find out. She could hardly wait until I got an answer. When it did come, I told her that the first name was Moses and that they lived in Iowa. Then she did jump out of her chair. She said my mother and her husband were first cousins, and from then on I was one of the family.

One day when Mr. McAnelly and I were on our way to his office, we passed through a room where Mrs. McAnelly and Alice were quilting. I was looking at Alice. When she saw I was looking at her, she dropped her eyes real quick. Her eyes were real big and blue, and it was then that I was smitten, I guess. After meals Alice had to wash the dishes and do all the cleaning up. One evening as I passed through the kitchen, I said to Alice, "If you will get me a dish towel, I will dry the dishes for you." She seemed willing and gave me a towel. After that it was a usual chore, and I helped her with anything else I could. Of course, this did not escape the eyes of her mother, and I found myself doing things for her too. That was all right with me, as I found buttons and patches put on my clothes, ironing and washing done for me. I thought I was one of the family, and that was all right with me. I thought a lot of Alice's mother. You might say I never had a mother, and she never had a son. Alice always said she was going to be an old maid. One evening after dishes were dried, we were leaving the kitchen, and Alice put her arms around me and gave me a kiss. That was some encouragement.

One day Alice's mother wanted to go up on the bench in the mountains. For some reason, Alice who usually took her with the team and buggy, was not home so Mrs. McAnelly told me to hitch up the team and buggy and take her, as it was some distance, and it would take all afternoon. On the way, the subject of Alice came up, and she said that she and her husband would not object to Alice and I getting married, and they would give us a farm they had across the river. They offered to help us in anyway they could to get started. That was in the fall of 1917. The dark clouds of war were on the horizon. I told Alice what her mother had said about what they could do for us. She brightened up a lot, so I asked her if she would let me buy her a ring. She said that she wanted a few days to think it over, but by then I had received a letter from Bonners Ferry asking that I have an exam for the army. I knew then I would be called for active duty, so I asked Alice again to let me buy her a ring, and that time she said, "Yes." We had to give up any plans of getting a farm or building a home or getting married, but I got her a ring, and in a few days I got a card from the draft board to report for active duty May 29. That gave me a week to settle up any business. The time seemed to fly and when the week was over, I found myself on the way to town with Mr. and Mrs. McAnelly and Alice to catch a troop train on the way to Camp Lewis in Tacoma, Washington, along with 13 carloads of cheering men. I think the whole county was there to see us off.

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Last Updated: September 30, 2023  
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