Tag Archives: homestead

Percy Criddle’s Medicine Chest

Reid Dickie

Criddle Vane family 1895

Criddle/Vane Family at Manitoba homestead 1895 l to r: Cecil V, Elise V, Evelyn C, Norman C (seated), Edwy V, Julia C, Talbot C, Alice C, Alma C, Percy C, Maida C, Harry V, Beatrice C, Stuart C

Born in England in the midst of the Victorian era, Percy Criddle brought his extended family to Canada in 1882 settling on a patch of sandy land south of present-day Shilo, MB. Apparently (and there are many apparentlys in Percy’s story) Percy studied some medicine during his university days in Heidelberg, Germany and brought his medical books with him to Canada. He treated the various maladies of his family, which eventually totaled sixteen people, and, because doctors were scarce on the newly-awakening prairie, Percy provided medical attention to ailing members of the local community as well.

From a pea lodged in a child’s nose to haemorrhaging after birth, Percy offered his panaceas to all who sought his medical advice. Scurvy, measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, colds, grippe (we call it flu), rheumatic fever, kidney stones, quinsy (complication of tonsillitis) and toothache were among the conditions Percy treated using a remarkably short list of medicines.

Percy Criddle was extremely lucky to have a friend like J. A. Tulk. He visited Percy in Canada several times, traveling from London and always bearing gifts for his old friend. On one trip Tulk brought Percy a complete medicine chest with labelled medications and a host of medical devices from scales to surgery equipment.

Brandon was the nearest place to purchase medications and Apothecaries Hall on Rosser Avenue, run by the city’s first doctor, Alexander Fleming, offered up-to-date potions. It’s likely Percy was a patron, perhaps an unwilling one, of Fleming’s drugstore.

In her book Criddle-De-Diddle-Ensis, largely based on Percy’s detailed diaries, Alma Criddle offers a list of the medicines her grandfather used regularly.  Described by the original names as Percy knew them, I researched all of Percy’s medicines and found some intriguing mixtures! At least five of them contained opium in some form; several were poisons in higher doses. Let’s look inside Percy Criddle’s medicine chest.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and I do not play one on TV. This information is for entertainment purposes only. I am in no way recommending these treatments, just reporting what medical resources were available to pioneers 130 years ago.

Ipecac – used from 18th to early 20th century, a poison from ipecac root but in small doses induces vomiting, also an expectorant and an ingredient in Dover’s Powders.

Fer what ails yaDover’s Powders – discovered by Dr. Thomas Dover in 18th century, used to treat colds and fever, consisted of ipecac and opium.

Quinine – white powder obtained from an indigenous Peruvian tree and used by Europeans starting in the 17th century to reduce fever, pain and inflammation and to treat malaria.

Rochelle salts – potassium sodium tartrate first used in 1675 in La Rochelle, France for laxative effect.

Mustard plasters – composed of crushed mustard seed mixed with flour and water spread on a warmed cloth and applied to chest, back and/or abdomen to stimulate the immune system, relieve pain, act as an anti-inflammatory, treat common colds, runny noses, rheumatism and respiratory problems.

Poultices – long used as method of treating inflammation of skin,Drawing Salve cuts and pain, medicinal ingredients spread on cloth which is applied to body where needed, commercial poultices are available today, sometimes called drawing salves.

Castor oil – an ancient remedy derived from the oil of the castor bean, used in production of hundreds of modern products, its medical use as a powerful laxative, treats headaches, muscles aches and sinus problems.

Ginger – traditional folk medicine that spans cultures, known in Percy’s time as Jamaica ginger, helped relieve gastric conditions from preventing gas to treating constipation, colic and bowel inflammation.

Catechu – derived from the boiled acacia wood, traditional medicine for sore throats and an astringent.

Chlorate of Potash – potassium chlorate, poisonous compound Chlorate of Potashwidely used in industrial products, like matches, explosives and fireworks, treatment for muscle spasms, sore throat and possibly as a disinfectant.

Tincture of iron – in moderate doses, it acts as a tonic and astringent upon the alimentary canal, increasing the appetite, promoting digestion, speeding recovery and relieving constipation.

Hypno-Bromide – potassium bromide plus other ingredients used to induce sleepHypno...! among many other applications, hypnotics came in a variety of combinations, here’s one from Worchester, Mass. listing ingredients and uses.

Colocynth – aka bitter apple, bitter cucumber, desert gourd, egusi, or vine of Sodom, used since 3800 BC a herb from which ripe fruit is used to treat constipation, liver and gallbladder ailments, has anti-inflammatory properties.

Bromide of Ammonia – ammonium bromide, a homeopathic treatment for corpulency (obesity), timidity, malaise, fatigue, nervous restlessness, pains in legs and lack of self-confidence.

Sal Volatile – ammonium carbonate or smelling salts, ammonia Sal Volatilestimulates the mucous membranes and causes an inhalation reflex bringing one into consciousness, used if about to faint and by high performance athletes like power lifters and hockey players as a stimulant to better play.

Rhubarb – long a staple of Chinese medicine as a gastric balancer, powdered rhubarb root, by one report, used as “anticholesterolemic (reduces blood cholesterol), antiseptic, antispasmodic (suppresses muscles spasms), antitumor (fights malignancy), aperient (mild laxative), astringent (constricts tissue), cholagogue (promotes bile discharge), demulcent (produces a soothing film), diuretic, laxative, purgative (strong laxative), stomachic (aids stomach digestion) and tonic.

Bottle labelSteedman’s Soothing Powders – used after 1882,  relieved symptoms of teething in children like gum inflammation, fevers, convulsions and diarrhoea, formula a mystery until 1909 when scientists discovered it contained calomel (mercury) which was not removed until 1940, original formula included opium.

Chloradyne – 19th century invention as treatment for cholera, diarrhea, insomnia, neuralgia, migraines, its principal ingredients were a mixture of laudanum (an alcoholic solution of opium), tincture of cannabis, and chloroform, readily lived up to its claims as a sedative and analgesic.

Laudanum – tincture of opium, its principal use was as a painkiller and cough suppressant but prescribed for almost every malady, content varied but often included, along with the opium, “mercury, hashish, cayenne pepper, ether, chloroform, belladonna, whiskey, wine and brandy.”

Tincture of Calumba – root of calumba, an African plant, used for indigestion and intestinal ailments including worms, helps with morning sickness due to pregnancy, snakebites, hernia and abscesses.

Fizzgigs – Percy’s own panacea, a medicine he created although from what and for what purpose nothing is known.

Dr. Thomas’ Eclectric (Electric) Oil – the tonic favoured by prairie doctors in the late 1800s and early 1900s contained spirits, oilDr. Thomas' Eclectic Oil of tar, turpentine, camphor and fish oil, treated toothache, backache, earache, lameness, coughs, hoarseness, colds, sore throat, burns, scalds and could cure deafness in 2 days. Despite its claims and popularity, Percy did not trust or use this medicine, perhaps because it was not based on British science but on New World invention.

So how effective were Percy and his bag of gris-gris? Very helpful in spite of the extreme ingredients in some treatments, if you go by the lives of his children. Percy, Alice and Elise had fourteen children: the first, Mabel, died in her first year, the last, Alma, died of cancer at age 23. The rest of Percy’s offspring, Criddles and Vanes, mostly lived long productive lives. These are his children’s death ages: Norman 57, Julia 64, Isabel 83, Edwy 84, Talbot 85, Beatrice 86, Cecil 87, Minnie 87, Stuart 93, Evelyn 95, Maida 98 and Harry 100. Percy died at 73, Alice 68, Elise 62.

Join me for a video tour of the Criddle/Vane homestead.

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Along the Road with Reid

Reid Dickie

I’ve traveled in three different directions from Winnipeg in the past week. First I headed northwest of Winnipeg toward Dauphin, one of my instinctual homes, a  familiar haunt. Along Hwy #5 east of Riding Mountain National Park the clear view stretched for miles. I passed through two towns I’d never visited before, Laurier and Makinak, both on the northeastern edge of RMNP. In Makinak, in addition to a couple of old no-name churches, I found this storefront with living quarters above and to the side and a picket fence balcony, rather New Orleans style.

My trips included a days loop through several communities that I had never visited north of Dauphin. On a mission of heritage recon, my cousin Vonda and I set out, first to Gilbert Plains to get a peek at an old building that housed an interesting method of supplying beef to families before electricity. Then north to the Negrych Pioneer Homestead, one of the best preserved and complete Ukrainian homesteads in North America. The site includes this rare handmade clay bake-oven or peech.  The oven is located in an extremely rare Canadian example of a traditional long-shingle Eastern-European style roof. Vonda commented on it looking very Hobbitt, very medieval. The gable end covering forms a protective porch over the entrance. Well-tended and obviously loved, we were a bit ahead of the July/August season and realized it would be much enriched by a tour guide. I’ll return with video camera in hand for that!

Northward we went to Garland (pop. under two dozen) in search of a designated heritage site,  Andrew Kowalewich General Store from 1913. Alas, it was gone, torn down about ten years back by a subsequent generation. This is what it looked like.

Frank, at Garland’s current general store, showed us the artifacts he and his brother had collected in the area. Arrowheads, pounders, scrappers, fire spinners, dozens of curiosities from the past. We found Garland Airport – a real jet next to the street – and here you can see lovely flight attendant Vonda welcoming you aboard AC flight 620 from Garland to Rome non-stop.

After a picnic lunch in quiet Garland, we backtracked a bit and went to Winnipegosis. Onward to Sifton looking for Holy Resurrection Church with its squat onion domes and vertical massing. Alas, also gone, eaten by fire in September 2010. Here is what it looked like.

We finished off our day trip by revisiting the giant sinkhole near Keld that occurred at this time last year. I created a short video update on the site. Despite two of the sites I went seeking being gone, the trip was a success for the accidental discoveries like the two old churches in Garland that I’ll be featuring soon along with all the sites mentioned here.

Along Hwy #10 Vonda pointed out this old bridge with concrete balusters that was probably where the original Hwy #10 crossed Garland Creek. There is a tree growing out of the centre of the bridge. Vonda knows of other heritage gems north of Dauphin so we’ll be embarking on another heritage recon mission soon. Stay posted to this blog. Thanks for that, by the way, that staying-posted thing. Much appreciated.

The next morning I took this shot of a healthy and keenly green hemp crop that stretched for acres behind my Dauphin hotel, the Super 8.

In Ladywood I saw this retired store right along Hwy #12 that is now a family home. The flexing and rolling grey clouds, beggingly bright blue patches of sky and silky mists of rain were the perfect palette for its yellow roadside declaration of independence.

Next week is shaping up to be somewhat more relaxing with a day trip or two to quell the wanderlust. Have you ever been hit by lightning? What was it like?

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Filed under Accommodations, Blog Life, Churches, Day Tripping, Fires, Manitoba Heritage, Spirit

Criddle Vane Homestead

Reid Dickie 

I have just uploaded my 100th video to YouTube, appropriately it is about one of the most unusual and historically significant families to homestead on the Manitoba prairie. In 1882 London merchant Percy Criddle packed up his wife Alice and their four children, and his mistress Elise Vane and their five children, and transported them all across the ocean to a homestead southeast of Brandon. Exceptional and eccentric describes this family. Music, art, sports, astronomy, entomology – the family had wide and varied interests and pursued them all in what is now called Criddle Vane Provincial Park. This picture shows Percy, Alice, Elise and 11 of the brood which eventually totalled 13 children.

At the park, a short easy well-documented walking trail shows you the significant remains of the homestead. I wrote about the Criddle Vane family and homestead in my 2006 book Manitoba Heritage Success Stories, available at libraries all over Manitoba. Though slightly obscure, the homestead is easily accessible, offers lots of information on the site while providing a fascinating glimpse into the lives of these pioneers. Below is a picture of Norman Criddle standing in front of his entomology lab, the first one in western Canada.

Step back in time to pioneer days now and join the Criddle Vane adventures via my video report.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Heritage Buildings, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Parks, Prairie People

Satterthwaite Homestead on the Burrows Trail

On Manitoba Highway #5 along the east side of Riding Mountain National Park a few kms south of McCreary a little roadside stop has given respite to weary travelers for over 125 years. Known as the Satterthwaite Homestead, the site contains several historic relics from the region’s early settlement.

 If Highway #5 had flashbacks, it could easily recall being the Burrows Trail, which moved thousands of pioneers into the area around Dauphin. Before that, natives used the trail for its ease, as did untold herds of bison and other wildlife. The physical origin of the trail began when the last Ice Age ended. As one of the beaches of old Lake Agassiz – cold, deep and filled with glacial meltwater – the Arden Ridge, as it is known, stayed clear of overgrowth and become a convenient path, the only high ground between two lowlands.

Jane and Thomas Satterthwaite’s house sat right on the Burrows Trail. Built in 1895 from logs with a sod roof, it became a stopping house along the Trail. Whenever a traveling preacher came through, the house became a church. The Satterthwaite’s even built a large wood frame Eaton’s Catalogue house straddling the trail.

What’s left of the original log house, built about 1885 using half-lap dovetail construction, rots away into the prairie in one corner of this site. An approximation of it has been built on the site. A section of the original Burrow Trail with ruts cut by Red River carts and wagons is fenced off and protected. A mature garden of local flora with signage and an information sign about the Burrows and other trails through the area give the stop extra interest. It is obscure and the signage is overgrown but it’s a fine leg stretching place and a fascinating glimpse into pioneer life. Watch my short video report about Satterthwaite’s homestead.


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Filed under Accommodations, Day Tripping, Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers