On the weekend of Aug. 9-11, the Snow Lake area witnessed a Gathering of the Clans. Not in the tradition of the Scots, with all their piping, and drumming, and men in skirts, but a homecoming or reunion of sorts for the Stoltz and Paton families … and by extension, the Roberts and Carriere clans as well.
Planning for the event took place throughout the year, with nothing more than an idea hatched between Cathy Stabback and Barb Carriere. What followed was a promise to talk again and flesh out a mass meeting … and so they did.
In the summer of 2018, following the Celebration of Life for a long-term Snow Laker, Stabback and Carriere broached the subject of the gathering. “You said, ‘Cathy, we should have a reunion’,” Stabback said in a sit-down discussion with both ladies during the event. “I said OK … we can. Should it be Stoltz and Paton and you said ‘OK’ and we went from there.” Carriere added, “And from there, Cathy Stabback did everything.” Nevertheless, the two women met and picked a date and met once further to firm up details. Others, such as Joyce Fulmore and Cathy’s sister Merle, pitched in to help organize.
The Stoltz and Paton families have roots in Herb Lake, which was once a booming little community of 600 to 700 people on the east shore of Wekusko. It is now a ghost town. Carl and Johanna Stoltz were Cathy Stabback’s grandparents. Carl was a well-known prospector from the region. He and Johanna left Sweden for Big River, Saskatchewan in 1914 and came to work in a sawmill in Herb Lake in 1924. Their son Eric met and married Mary Roberts in Herb Lake and they raised their family of Merle, Cathy, Rick, Gail, Ron, and Jo-Anne in the communities of Herb Lake, Herb Lake Landing, Snow Creek and finally in Snow Lake.
The Paton family also had strong roots in Herb Lake. Barb Carriere’s mother Del Carriere grew up in the former gold mining community. Barb’s grandfather was a fur trader up and down the “Bay Line.” Barb’s father Al Paton came to Herb Lake as a miner at the Laguna Mine, he met her mother there and as Barb says, “The rest is history.” Al and Del Paton had seven children: Millie, Billy, Connie, Margaret, Jackie, Barb and Bucky. She says that they moved to Snow Lake when she was seven, into a home on Willow Crescent that was once the jail. Her father always joked that he should have left the bars on the windows. “We’d never had running water or electricity before moving to Snow Lake,” said Carriere. “You should have seen us… all these little girls flushing the toilet and turning the lights off and on.”
The families and their various extensions intertwine not only through the history of Snow Lake, but also the town’s fabric. The fact that there were 65 people who showed up for the reunion bore witness to this. Family members even extend into the local political arena: Mayor Peter Roberts through his aunt Mary Stoltz (nee Roberts) and Coun. Kyle McLaughlin through his grandmother Millie McLaughlin (nee Paton).
I asked family members what if anything they could recall about their elders and Merle Cheyne (nee Stoltz) recalled her grandfather Carl’s thick Swedish accent and constant use of the word “yup” instead of “yes.” Merle also recalled a humorous story about her grandfather and father purchasing a case of 24 beer and Carl stating that it had cost “Sweventeen-sweventy-five.” Barb Carriere’s memories are more of her mother. “My mom was such a lovely woman,” she said softly. “She worked hard all her life … she believed in God. She taught us so many things. We had a good life with her.”
As for the weekend and the celebration itself, it took place at Herb Lake Landing and began with a massive fish fry on the Friday night. People gathered in Dave and Dawn Roberts’s large garage and swapped histories over pickerel, corn fritters, bannock, and a host of salads. There was a scavenger hunt planned for later in the evening and then a walkabout for those unfamiliar with the area, as well as those wanting to refamiliarize. The following day started with a pancake breakfast and a day of games, before culminating with a barbecue and time around the campfire singing and reminiscing. The Sunday also began with a pancake breakfast, prior to attendees saying their goodbyes and vowing to make it an annual undertaking.
Cathy Stabback shrewdly noted prior to the event getting underway, “We are going to get to know one another this weekend. All the older people know each other, but some of the younger ones have never met; we are going to change that…” And so they did.