Skip to main content

Flora Howes

Flora Howes
Flora Howes was born on February 26, 1860 in Watertown, New York. She was the third child of Dr. William and Elizabeth Hawley. Her father was a Baptist and was stern with Flora and her siblings. This stern discipline gave Flora the strong work ethic she displayed throughout her life.
 
Flora’s father wanted her to become a doctor like him. She apprenticed under him and learnt the trade, specializing in homeopathic methods. When Flora was 18, her uncle arranged for her to teach at the Spruce Corner School in Massachusetts. While teaching at Spruce Corner, Flora boarded in the home of Betsy Howes. She did not teach at Spruce Corner School for very long, and soon returned home. However, Flora had fallen in love with Betsy's 29-year-old son Micajah, who soon proposed. Since Flora's father would not give his consent, Flora waited until her 21st birthday to marry Micajah back in Spruce Corner. Her Uncle Willard performed the ceremony.
 
Flora and Micajah welcomed their first son, Horace, on April 17, 1882; a ten pound baby! The family continued to grow with the arrival of Thomas, Mildred, Nathan, and Roger. The Howes settled in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where Micajah and two of his brothers bought a small grocery store. However, the economy eventually took a downturn. At about this time, Micajah also developed severe arthritis. A doctor suggested the Howes head to Canada, to a drier climate.
 
The family immigrated to Millet by train in March 1900. The family endured many hardships when they arrived: crowded temporary housing, illness, and having to navigate mud trails and sloughs. In 1901, the family finally moved into the new log house on their homestead, southwest of Millet. Flora worked beside her husband to settle the land, which they called Willow Farm. In 1902, Micajah helped head an initiative to form the Hillside School District. The meeting to ratify the district took place in Flora and Micajah’s home, and Hillside School opened in the summer of 1903. Flora  often provided room and board to incoming teachers. In April, 1907, Flora and Micajah welcomed their youngest daughter, Beth, to the family.
 
Flora’s medical background made her an essential addition to the area. She helped out when residents were sick, or when a new baby was born. Flora also organised a local farm women’s club for the district ladies to get together and share stories. People would come to Willow Farm to visit and listen to Micajah tell stories of life in Massachusetts. , Flora, Mildred and Beth would make lady finger cookies for community summer picnics. Even more baking and cooking was required at threshing time, as there was lots of food to prepare for the threshers. As Flora grew older, neighbours would come and help with cooking; then she and Beth help them in return.
 
In the early years, the family attended church services at West Liberty School, held by a United Church minister who came out from Millet. Flora also taught Sunday school at West Liberty and later at Hillside School. In their home, Micajah always led in family devotions. Flora would read the Bible and Micajah would pray. Later, when his hearing became weak, he would do the reading as well.
 
Flora’s life was very rich. She loved books and often read to the family. Relatives back in the States sent them magazines or newspapers. She would take Beth for walks in the woods and around the sloughs, pointing out the wildflowers and birds. Flora also sewed dresses and coats for Beth, often out of larger garments. Later, she taught Beth how to sew. In 1914, she and Micajah took Beth on an extended trip to see family members in Ontario, Chicago, Massachusetts, and West Virginia. Before they left, Flora bought some special silk material to make into dresses for Beth to wear for the trip. The dresses did not get made in time, and she did not make them afterwards, either: she did not want Beth to wear nicer clothes than other children in their community.
 
On April 29, 1925, Micajah died of a heart attack. He was 76 years old. It was very hard on Flora, who was 65 at the time. Thomas was already making plans to move back with his wife and three daughters, and they arrived about June 1st to take over the farm. After a couple of years, Flora began to develop dementia. Mildred, who lived close by with her husband, took her into their home and cared for her until her death on December 12, 1935.