Sandham, James: Ontario Brothers Fail to Find their Fortunes in the West

Ontario Brothers Fail to Find their Fortunes in the West

by Jim Sandham

Based on information in “The James Mills and Margaret Jane Houghton Family of Stratford, Ontario”, researched and written by Joan Mills (2008), which cites Robert James Fuller, Frank Fuller and Ken Mills.

Herbert Barclay (H.B.) Fuller was born in 1880 near Stratford, Ontario, first child of a family of twelve. In 1905, at the age of 25, he went west for the summer to work as a foreman on a farm near the Saskatchewan-Alberta border along the #1 Highway. H.B. returned home to Stratford in the fall of 1905 with stories and dreams of making his fortune in the newly formed provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. He convinced his next younger brother Harry of the opportunities and together they formed a company and received a contract with the Canadian Pacific Railway. They hired a crew and set out to make their fortune. Their job was to improve some of the railway grades in southwest Saskatchewan and to build a dugout to supply water for the railway. The latter job was not very profitable as the ground was hard and rocky.

Building Railway

Herbert & Annie 1908

For several years, things went well and the Fuller brothers went west for the summer months and then back to Ontario for the winter. In 1908 H.B. married Annie Mills, a Stratford woman, and the couple settled in Kipp, AB, so that the brothers could continue their work for the CPR. They contracted in Lethbridge to reduce the grade on the west side of the river nearby. As a headquarters for their company as well as the home for H.B.’s growing family, they purchased four lots in Kipp, dug a cistern and moved a house and stable onto the site.

Fuller Home in Kipp AB

Store at Kipp AB

In 1915 the brothers further expanded their business by buying the local general store and post office. Shortly afterward, things began to go downhill . Harry was killed in France while serving with the Railroad Corps and was buried there. In 1923, Annie, too, died, from pneumonia, leaving their five children without a mother. The subsequent years were a financial struggle for H.B. and his family, with the store eventually failing during the depression, when many farmers could no longer pay their accounts. H.B., with the help of his oldest son, Frank, continued to live in his modest house almost until his death in 1968. No evidence of his life’s work other than photos remains today, the house and store having been bull-dozed for the main highway built over the site.

Harry Roger Fuller Monument in France