Today is Valentine’s Day, a time when we celebrate enduring love and commitment.
Generally speaking, people pay most attention to young couples, full of love and optimism about their futures.
However, equally meaningful are stories about older people who remain totally devoted to each other, despite many hardships and struggles.
An example of this can be found in the story of Daniel and Rebecca Dobler, two pioneers who started a new life in Red Deer at a time when most others were thinking of retirement.
Daniel was a young German immigrant who originally settled in southern Ontario.
In 1852, he married Rebecca Sherk. For 30 years, they ran a farm together near Port Colburne.
It is unclear what prompted them to make a major change in their lives. However, in 1883, the couple decided to migrate to Alberta even though they were in their mid-50s.
They made their way across the frontier 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 continued their arduous trip, 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 small log house. Rebecca quickly earned the reputation as an outstanding buttermaker. Daniel was a talented gardener, as well as an excellent farmer.
The Doblers were very hospitable.
Rebecca became well-known for the doughnuts and rice puddings she provided to visitors. Many local bachelors always seemed to ‘lose’ their cattle near the Doblers’ farm and consequently stopped by for a visit and treats, while ‘searching’ for their animals.
The Doblers were very religious. In May 1887, one of the first church services in the community was held in their home with the Reverand 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 kilometres west of their home.
However, in the following years, 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.
While neighbors helped out as best they could, finally the Doblers had to move back to Ontario where hopefully there would be family to take care of them.
One of the hardest parts of the move for the Doblers came when they learned that their now-elderly pet dog and cat would have to be put down as they would not be able to take their pets with them.
Rebecca passed on July 16th, 1901. Daniel passed away not long afterwards. They are buried next to each other in a little cemetery near Port Colbourne.
They had no children.
Fortunately, Dobler Avenue in Red Deer is named in honour of this wonderful pioneer couple, thereby helping to perpetuate their memory.