Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a time when we celebrate enduring love and commitment. An excellent example of two people remaining totally devoted to each other, despite many hardships and struggles, were Daniel and Rebecca Dobler.
Daniel Dobler was born in 1830 Germany, but emigrated to Canada when he was 18 years old.
He started a new life in Welland County, Ontario. In May 1852, he married Rebecca Sherk of Humberstone (Port Colburne), who was a year younger than him. They began farming in the area.
In 1883, although Daniel and Rebecca were in their mid-50s, they decided to migrate to the western Canadian frontier. They made their way across hundreds of miles of raw prairie, with Rebecca driving the wagon pulled by oxen and Daniel either riding on a pony or walking alongside.
The pet cat sat on the wagon seat next to Rebecca, while their dog walked with Daniel. Their chickens were stowed in a crate in the wagon box with the household goods. Three milk cows trailed behind.
As the Doblers made their way across country, one of the cows gave birth to a calf. The little one’s feet were too tender to handle the rough terrain. Rebecca consequently made a set of leather boots for the calf.
Once the Doblers arrived in Red Deer, they chose a wonderful homestead, immediately south of what is now Eastview Middle School. There was a lot of grass for pasture, but also a beautiful grove of spruce trees. Their homestead later became known as Spruce Bluff Farm.
The Doblers began the long, hard work of breaking the land. They built a log house that faced the noonday sun for extra warmth. Rebecca quickly earned the reputation as the best buttermaker in the district. Daniel was a talented gardener, as well as an excellent farmer. His vegetables showed very well at the annual fairs in Calgary, the nearest town to their farm.
The Doblers were very hospitable. Rebecca became well-known for the doughnuts and rice puddings she provided to visitors. It was said that many local bachelors always seemed to ‘lose’ their cattle near the Doblers’ farm and consequently stopped by while ‘searching’ for the allegedly lost beasts.
The Doblers were very religious. In May 1887, one of the first church services in the community was held in their home with the Reverend Leonard Gaetz officiating. Rebecca often commented that whatever their troubles, she knew that she and Daniel would be saved and go to heaven, although sometimes she worried a bit about Daniel.
Rebecca was not only strong, but also fearless. In the early spring of 1888, she brained a wolf with a club when it attacked one of her newborn calves in the barnyard.
Things got a little easier for the Doblers when the railroad was built in 1890-91, and the town of Red Deer sprang up two km west of their home.
By the late 1890s, however, their situation got a lot worse. Daniel suffered a series of small strokes and became quite confused. Rebecca developed heart problems and found it increasingly difficult to care for both her ailing husband and the farm.
There was no social welfare in those days. Neighbors helped out as best they could. Finally, arrangements were made for the Doblers to move back to Ontario where there was family to help take care of them.
One of the hardest parts of the move for the Doblers came when they learned that their pet dog and cat would have to be put down as they would not be able to take their pets back with them to Ontario.
Tragically, shortly after the Doblers arrived back in Port Colborne, Rebecca died on July 16th, 1901. Daniel passed away not long afterwards. They are buried next to each other in the Overholt Cemetery near Port Colborne.
They had no children.
Dobler Ave. in Red Deer is named in honour of this goodhearted and hardworking pioneer couple, who were prepared to start on new life together on the remote frontier, at an age when most people are planning their retirement.