One of the most oldest and accomplished pioneer families of Central Alberta is the Hazlett family.
James ‘Paddy’ Hazlett was born in North Ireland in 1844. Although he had studied for the ministry, he became a farmer in Tyrone County. In 1874, he married Elizabeth Keys. They had nine children – four boys and five girls.
In December 1891, Elizabeth passed away, leaving Paddy as a single parent.
In 1895, he decided to emigrate to Canada with his children to start a new life. He took out a homestead in the Crossroads district, northwest of Red Deer. For the first years, they lived in a log house with a sod roof.
Because there was no school yet in this district, Paddy initially homeschooled his children, primarily by reading them Shakespeare.
However, in 1899, he helped create the Crossroads School District. He also did much of the stone mason work in laying the foundation for the schoolhouse. Not surprisingly, Paddy served on the school board for many years.
The oldest son, Josiah (Joe) served overseas in the Boer (South African) War.
James (Jim) and William (Bill) served in the First World War. At the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917, Jim got a field promotion to King’s Sergeant for his skill and bravery in helping to get the artillery guns to the crest of the Ridge.
After the First World War, several of the family helped their father farm.
However, Joe (Isabel) ranched in the Carbon area for several years. Tom (Matilda or Tilly) homesteaded for a while at Coronation, before returning to a farm at Crossroads.
After returning home from the War, Jim (May) acquired land in the Balmoral district on the east side of Red Deer.
Meanwhile, Paddy suffered a bad accident in 1916 when a wagon ran over him. He lived with his son Tom for a number of years after that. In November 1923, Paddy passed away from pneumonia, although he had been able to help with the harvest a short time before his passing.
Bill (Sybil) eventually took over the home farm at Crossroads.
In the early 1930s, Joe and Isabel as well as Tom and Tillie moved to farms in the Willowdale district southeast of Red Deer.
Many of the Hazletts became renowned as excellent farmers. Bill was noted for his herd of quality range cattle. In 1931, Jim was named the Alberta champion for the best standing crop with his field of Marquis wheat. The 10-acre plot threshed out at 73 bushels an acre.
Despite all of the hard work and long hours spent farming, the Hazletts continued to be active volunteers in the community and with various farm and other organizations.
For example, Bill served on the Crossroads School Board while Jim was a trustee at Balmoral. Both were members of the Legion. Jim was a director of the Red Deer Mutual Telephone Company. May was active with the Balmoral W.I.
Eventually, succeeding generations became farmers as well. Bill and Sybil’s son Geoffrey (Delaine) farmed both near Bentley and at Crossroads. Sally and her husband Ken Morton farmed at Joffre.
Jim and May’s sons, Frank (Velma) and Bill (Marjorie) built up a large dairy operation together, before Frank concentrated on grain and beef, beginning in 1962. Bill continued dairy for many years and at one point was one of the largest fluid milk shippers in the Red Deer area.
Jim and May’s daughter Betty farmed with her husband Harry Patching near Lethbridge, while June and her husband Mervin Brett farmed in Springvale, southeast of Red Deer.
The succeeding generations also remained active in the community and with a number of organizations. For example, Bill served on the Red Deer County council.
Space does not allow a complete listing of all of the organizations, projects and ventures with which the Hazletts have been active. Also, new generations have often taken over the family farms.
The family has been honoured with Hazlett Close in Highland Green and the new Hazlett Lake subdivision on the north side of Red Deer.
On Sunday, Aug. 19th at 11:30 am, the Hazlett family will be honoured with the prestigious Golden Furrow Award (Pioneer Farm Family of the Year) at the Sunnybrook Farm Museum in Red Deer. All are welcome to attend.