Long House a reminder of Irricana’s history
Monday, Jul 18, 2016 06:00 am
In 1914, a North Dakota farmer named George Long bought land from the Canadian Pacific Railway and built a home and farmstead with his wife Salome on a cozy corner outside of Irricana.
Today, the house stands preserved as a heritage site at the Pioneer Acres Museum “one mile over and two miles up” as Esther Crawford – the daughter of Long and Salome and last resident of the Long House – would say, according to museum member Sid Gough.
Gough is in charge of the affairs of the Long House at Pioneer Acres with his wife Audrey. He said his first memory of moving to Irricana 26 years ago was a tap at his door and Crawford’s smiling face when he opened it.
“She said, ‘Welcome to the neighbourhood. Everyone calls me Aunt Esther,’” he said, recalling the nearly-three decades-old conversation. “‘I’m your neighbour from one mile over and two miles up.’”
The Long House was built in the architectural style scattered across the Illinois and Indiana countryside of the early 20th century, according to Adelia Wade, the daughter of Esther and Jack Crawford. Wade still resides on the farm where her grandfather first tilled the soil a century ago.
The five bedroom, one bathroom house had running hot and cold water – a feat for the time, according to Gough. The house also had its own source of artificial light through the use of carbide gas.
Wade said carbon pellets were dropped into a pressure tank of water to create a gas that crept up the pipes to light the lamps throughout the house.
“They weren’t worth much as far as light,” Wade said. “Grandfather decided it was dangerous because it was an open flame and as acid generated batteries came on the market he switched to that.”
Christmas was always a special time at the Long House, Wade said, as the whole family would gather at Grandma’s for the festive season.
The two existing family diaries she has from her father and grandfather consisted of entries such as, “Went to Mel’s for dinner” or “So-and-so came for dinner.” These entries, though brief, showed the importance of these gatherings, according to Wade.
One way or another, Wade said almost every resident of Irricana at the time had his or her own memories of their own family gathering at the Long House.
“We weren’t necessarily a close-knit community,” she said. “But we had to be in some ways, because of the distance.”
In 1992, Crawford moved out of the Long House at the age of 85. In 1993, the house was prepped and ready to make the one-mile over, two miles down trek to Pioneer Acres.
Pneumatic jacks lifted the house equally off of its foundation with unnerving precision, Wade said.
Requiring power lines to be lifted as the house traveled down the road, Wade recalled a moment where the house started to tip. Everyone held their breath, she said, before it popped back in place and continued its chug down the narrow road.
“It was a fascinating kind of thing to watch,” Wade said.
People from the community waited along the route to watch and take pictures as the house drove by, she said.
Since then, the Long House has been a historic stop for residents, tourists and school classes annually, Audrey said.
The furnace grate that was once Wade’s warm spot she stood over as a child on cold winter mornings growing up in the Long House has continued to fascinate hundreds of school children who pass through the hallways on field trips, she said.
“They were on their hands and knees looking down to see what was underneath there,” Audrey said. “People will come back every year just to go through.”
For more information about Pioneer Acres Museum and the Long House, visit pioneeracres.ab.ca