Extra info about towermen and women.                         


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Albert Sager During the late 1960s (from about 1966 (?) 'til his death in 1976 Albert Sager was towerman at Big Sandy Tower. He was raised in the Moose Run (Torch River area) District and lived in various places until he bought a house in Love, Sk. where he lived until his death. He spent his winters trapping an area along the Mossy River which extended from just north of the Missipuskiow River north of the Grassy Lake tower sites (there were 4) to south-east of Big Sandy Lake. This trapline was purchased by Alvin Tatlow after Albert's death.  

Albert was towerman at Big Sandy for 10 years or so, from about 1966 to 1976. He passed away about a week after the end of the fire
season in 1976 which ended his career with the DNR. His
 pallbearers included several of the Conservation Officers that he had
worked with over the years. He had also been a Deputy Game Warden for
 many years.

Further to Albert Sager. I mentioned that some COs were pallbearers for him. Although I don't know their relationship, Doug Pegg was one and Ross Duncan was another. Ross was his immediate superior while Albert was at Big Sandy and probably the last DNR member to see him alive. They had supper together on Friday and Albert passed away early Sunday morning a week later.

  During their meal Ross asked Albert if he was looking forward to coming back again next season?

Albert said "No he didn't expect to be back".

"Why, are you planning on quitting the tower"? Ross asked.

"No,"Albert said,:"I'm not planning on guitting, I just don't think I'll be back".

And he wasn't!

  Ross told me this story while he and a collegue were taking us up to Albert's Mossy River trapper's cabin to find his broken down SkiDoo and to clean out the cabin of personal belongings. It was against company policy but Ross did it anyway. That is the stuff of which friendships are made!

  Officially they were checking wolf baits and we, my brother-in-law and I, were just along for the ride.

  There is more to the story and I would be glad to relate it if you are interested.

  The human element, although not flourishing in todays bureaucracies, does still exist!

  Marvin Torwalt

Burns Matheson

Burns Matheson - Senior Patrolman - 1931 / 36 - Field Officer - 1940 / 45

Burns Matheson was born in Berlin, New Hampshire, USA in 1902. His father enjoyed sailing and sailboat racing. In 1904 the elder Matheson perished in a sail boat race after which little Burns was taken to Prince Edward Island to live with his grandparents. In his late teens Burns ended up working for the La Pas Lumber Company near Carrot River, Saskatchewan where he stayed from 1920 to 1930.

Early in 1931 Burns Matheson took a job with the DNR as fire patrolman north of the Torch River working out of the Torch River Forestry Headquarters, more popularly known as Grassy Lake. After his arrival in Nipawin he hired Harold DeLance to take him and his provisions north to the Torch River district with his 2-ton truck. After crossing the Torch River on the short-lived bridge at Lloyd’s Crossing. The 25 mile trip from Nipawin to Bill Clarke’s place east north-east of the future site of the Torch River school took them all day due to the badly rutted and exceedingly muddy roads. They spent the night with the Clarke’s and the next morning Gerry Parker showed up with a horse-drawn buckboard to take Matheson the few miles west to his new temporary home with Kai Thorson. He and Kai were to assist the local homesteaders with their spring burning projects.

In September, 1931 Matheson filed on NE 28-53-15-W2 since he needed a place to live during the winter months. He stayed with a neighbor, Fred Carter, while he was building his cabin. He also built log barn for his horse which he had purchased from Bill Clarke when he, Matheson, had first arrived in the district.

   Since all patrolling was done on horseback he often would come upon wildlife unexpectedly in their natural habitat. He often heard the whistling of the bull elk and became quite adept at mimicking their call. In a history of the DNR compiled by that branch of the Saskatchewan government he tells of a close encounter he had with such an animal on one of his patrols.

It was early in September a year or two after his arrival at Torch River and while out on patrol he was amusing himself practicing his elk calls totally forgetting the fact that it was the elk mating season. He was forcibly reminded of this oversight when he heard the enraged whistling of a bull elk accompanied by a crashing in the bush near him. The end result was that Matheson spent a very uncomfortable hour up a tree hanging on for dear life while the enraged beast pawed and butted at the base. In his narrative he admitted to actually fearing for his life. He never made that mistake again. During the rut he never, ever called attention to himself in such a manner while in the bush.

In 1933 his boss, Gerry Parker, decided that an area that included the Narrow Hills should be turned into a provincial park due to its unique nature. Parker sent Burns Matheson on a fact finding mission to document its many unique features. Matheson did his job well and, using the documentation provided by him, Parker pushed for, and achieved, the creation of the Nipawin Provincial Forest which later became the Nipawin (Narrow Hills) Provincial Park. It was made official in January of 1934.

While at Grassy Lake he met and courted a local girl, Edith Anderson, whom he married on December 14th, 1933. His good friend, Gerry Parker, stood up for them as their witness. In 1936 the Matheson's made the move to Beaverhouse Tower when Burns was promoted and became Field Officer there. A much more important and far reaching event also occurred in 1933, the birth of their daughter and only child, Peggy Janee.

Upon Gerry Parker’s leaving Grassy Lake, and subsequently the DNR, Matheson replaced him as Field Officer at Grassy Lake. After his arrival at Grassy Lake he supervised the construction of some of the buildings at the new tower site which included an office, a shop and a small 2 room cabin which was later occupied by the resident towerman, all built of lumber. Before the shop building could be erected the old Grassy Lake Tower #2 had to be demolished. This was the first Grassy Lake Tower built by the DNR shortly after taking of administration of forests in Saskatchewan and was very near the site of the planned building. This was a structure built mainly of logs and was removed by the simple process of pulling two legs out from under it and letting it smash on the ground.

The log Field Officer’s quarters and a log barn for the horses that were required to move about the district had been built at an earlier time before the new steel tower had been built probably about the same time that the wooden tower had been built. Mac Howland was the radio operator while Matheson was Field Officer at Grassy Lake.

While stationed at Grassy Lake Matheson's daughter, Peggy, went to school at the Torch River School. Mrs. Ansgar Aschim was the teacher there at the time and took both her son and Peggy to and from school every day. In the winter Mrs. Aschim often took the children to school by dog sleigh. (Ansgar Aschim was a special patrolman working out of Lower Fishing Lake under Gerry Parker and at one point was involved in doing a clandestine beaver census in the northern part of the Grassy Lake district.)

In 1943 Matheson organized the very first Saskatchewan Forestry School which was held at the Grassy Lake Tower site. One of the star pupils of that school was Ansgar Aschim who was working out of the Grassy Lake site at the time. In 1945 the Mathesons was transferred to Hudson Bay (Junction) being replaced as Field Officer at Grassy Lake by Phil Reed. In 1947 Matheson became Regional Superintendant in Prince Albert and remained there until 1962. He then spent 2 years as Regional Superintendant in Regina, retiring in 1964, thus ending a 33 year career with the DNR. Burns Matheson succumbed to cancer on June 28th, 1980.

   Marvin Torwalt

 Ansgar Aschim

Ansgar Aschim - Patrolman under Burns Matheson - !942 - 1944

Ansgar Aschim was born in Brandon, South Dakota in 1904. When he was a young boy his family moved to a homestead in southern Saskatchewan, returning to South Dakota after just a few years. While attending Brandon High School he learned telegraphy working for a local railroad after school. This ability came in very handy later on in life.

After finishing high school he took military training and spent some time at Del Rio on the Mexican border.After his stint in the military he rejoined Karl and Stina, his parents, who had returned to their Southern Saskatchewan homestead in the interim. He did a variety of work while staying with his parents, getting married to Christina, a schoolteacher, in 1932. That same year they moved north, filing on a homestead of their own on Torch Lake near Candle Lake. They soon found that homesteading in the "Dirty '30s" was not a lucrative enterprise so Christina went back to teaching and Ansgar found part-time employment with the DNR. The Aschim's 2 children, Omar and Suzie, were born in 1936 and 1939 respectively while they were at Torch Lake,.

Ansgars seasonal summer employment with the DNR started in 1937 after a lightning strike at Round Hill, north of Candle Lake, started a forest fire. Owing to his skill with telegraphy he became radio operator and time keeper at that fire and was kept pretty busy moving from fire to fire operating a radio the rest of that summer. He became towerman at the old wooden Ridge Tower south of Candle Lake in 1938, moving to the Narrow Hills Tower in 1940. Most towers had a radio operator working at the site all summer in addition to the towerman. By virtue of his earlier training in telegraphy Ansgar could run his own radio as well as man the tower. He spent time at Lower Fishing Lake intermittantly from that time until his move to Grassy Lake Tower in 1942.

His family moved up to join him at Lower Fishing Lake in the fall of 1941 for the first time. They spent the winter in the converted DNR log boathouse at the lake while Ansgar was doing a fur census in the area around Bear Lake, concentrating on the rapidly disappearing beaver population. In the spring of 1942 the family moved to the cabin at the Narrow Hills Tower where Ansgar would man the tower through the fire season. In the late summer of 1942 the Aschim family were transferred to Grassy Lake.

Aschim and his family spent the first winter at Grassy Lake living in a hastily prepared apartment in the just completed shop building but for their second winter they had a separate building for their residence. Ansgar was a fairly proficient carpenter and, along with his other duties, did some maintenance and construction at the Grassy Lake Tower site. In 1944 he cast the concrete birdbath and poured the concrete sidewalks which are still very much in evidence at the site. He also took over some of the maintenance of the tower yard which included cutting the grass on the newly planted lawn with a scythe using a technique learned some years before from a Hungarian immigrant while on his Torch Lake homestead.

As was previously mentioned Ansgar’s wife, Christina, was a trained school teacher and she took over the Senior classroom at the Torch River School from the fall of 1942 to the spring of 1944. Miss Leverick taught the Junior class, grades 1 to 4 in 1942/’43 and Miss Dean taught the Junior class in 1943/44. Mrs. Aschim took her own son, Omar, and the Matheson’s daughter, Peggy, with her to school. They always picked up Arvid and Carl, the two older sons of Anders (Andy) and Ida Halland who lived just over ½ mile south of the Tower. The Hallands lived near the center of their homestead quarter and the boys always met Mrs. Aschim at the main road. During the winter she took the children by dog team and during the seasons of no snow their usual mode of transportation was on foot.

Immediately after his arrival in 1942 Ansgar went marking timber for the numerous sawmills in the district as well as the mills in Love (Siding). He worked with Burns Matheson and Guy Horncastle while doing this very important job to keep the sawmills producing lumber for the war effort. Along with his other duties marking timber kept him busy year 'round and he then became a full-time employee of the DNR for the first time.

In the fall of 1944 The Aschims were transferred to Hudson Bay Junction where Ansgar continued his work in Forestry and Christina began teaching in the Hudson Bay High School. During this time Ansgar and E.J. Marshall made a trip to Missoula, Montana to study their smoke Jumper program. On their return it was decided to assemble and base a crew of Smoke Jumpers at Prince Albert to be first responders at the many forest fires that broke out in the Saskatchewan north. (Smoke Jumpers would parachute into a fire zone with all required equipment to hopefully control a forest fire while it was still of a manageable size.)

In 1947 the Aschims transferred to Prince Albert where Ansgar went to work in Fire Control. He eventually became Assistant Fire Control Officer for Saskatchewan, a position from which he retired in 1969. He passed from this life in 1995  

- Marvin Torwalt

The following picture are from Omar Aschim's collection - thanks to Marvin Torwalt

  Ansgar's timber cruise gang, Ansgar with calipers             Ansgar's caboose at mill north of Grassy
  Ansgar at Ridge Tower                                                              Cub Tower winter 1941-42
  Cub Tower Cabin  winter 1941-42                        Omar Aschim, son of Ansgar on    
                                                                                         Gerry Parker's knee   1940