FLAX KING

In 1870, at the age of 17, William decided to immigrate, with this help of his brother-in-law, to Pennsylvania. Upon his arrival, intolerable working conditions at the iron foundry had him seek work as a gardener. He rented and cultivated a small piece of land. Once a week he sold produce to the market and gained a reputation for excellent produce.

He returned to Ireland 9 times and on one of his trips home he fell in love and married Mary Jane. They eventually came to Canada where they rented a dairy farm in Ontario. They returned back to Ireland to care for William’s sick parents. While there, an old neighbor encouraged William and his young family to come back to Canada and settle in the Underhill area.

In the 1900’s after many years of hardship and never giving up, some years only harvesting enough to pay the rent for their land, the family built this beautiful home.

The home was passed down to their son Walter whom in 1940 married and started to raise a family of his own. Walter and his wife were married for 63 years and spent much of their life on this land.

Walter enjoyed farm life, and from an early age was quite active with the livestock and grain operations. As a young man his focus was fully on farming. With the help of his Dad and brother, they began expanding the farm in the 1930’s.

The brothers were innovative in farm mechanization, replacing grain stooks and threshing machines with self-propelled combines and caterpillars. When Walter was 23, he attended the U of M, taking an agriculture course which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Walter and his brother continued to improve their farming operations. In 1947, they added the Hartney Airport and surrounding land to their farm.

A very successful crop for them was flax and in the late 1940s the brothers and their Dad were named the Flax Kings of Manitoba. One aspect that greatly affected their farming operation was the addition of lights to the tractors and combines. This allowed for late night seeding and combining, and 24 hour work days became a way of life for them.

Walter continued farming after his brother left for Alberta, and would do so successfully for another four decades. Even at 86 Walter was still managing to put in a full days work. Multiple hip and knee surgeries had severely limited his mobility, leaving him dependent on crutches to walk. He managed with sheer determination, to get in and out of the combine every day. He also loved the freedom his pick-up gave him and would drive around the countryside supervising seeding and harvesting activities, his heart forever with the farm.

Those who got to know Walter soon became aware of his love for farming. He was hardworking and expected the same of those working alongside him. He was always looking for ways to improve the farm and increase crop yields. Walter was very sharp and seldom came out on the short end of any business deal.

Walter took great pleasure in his beautiful yard and trees. The yard where his daughter now lives is a sight. I have never seen such a yard, loved and cared for.

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