George D. Toma’s parents Dumitru and Vasilca, emigrated with four children to Boian, Alberta in 1900, from Boian, Bucovina. George was born that same year on Dec. 16, on their homestead S.E. ‘/4, 10, 56, 14 W. of 4th below the hill where St. Mary’s church now stands.
His brothers were Vasile, Nicolai and John. His sister Pachita looked after the family and household after their mother died in childbirth in 1904. As a boy, George remembers snaring rabbits and shooting prairie chickens to add to the family larder. When he was 11 he started attending school at Boian once it opened. In those days the school was kept open during the summer months only as the winters were bitterly cold and the children had poor clothing. In his early teens he left school to help on the farm, walking bare-foot behind a two-furrow plough pulled by three horses.
His father remarried in 1909 to Domnica, a Romanian girl from Boian. In 1920 the Tomas sold their land and most of their personal effects and returned to Bukovina, because there were rumours of free land there. The rumours proved false, so they had to buy land after all. George went back with them, and his sister, too, who was married to Metro Mihalcheon, with their children. George’s step-mother died five or six years later and his father passed away in the early 1930’s when he was about seventy-four.
However, George stayed only one year in the old country. He returned to Alberta where he was born, because he saw little future for anyone to prosper in the old land.
The first four years after he got back, George worked as a farmhand for farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan. His wages ranged from a dollar a day to forty dollars a month. In 1925 he bought a threshing machine for about $2000.00 with his savings and money paid in advance by farmers for whom George had arranged to thresh their grain. That same year, with money earned from custom-threshing, George
bought the Gongas farm, a quarter section in the Soda Lake area.
In 1926 George summer-fallowed the land and broke more land using horses and chains to grub the trees. In all he had 120 acres in crop in 1927. He harvested his very own first crop of wheat.
Sarah Toma (née Semenuik) emigrated to Canada in 1911 when she was two years old. She came with her mother Domnica Semenuik, a widow with six children. The eldest, Peter, had already emigrated at age sixteen to Canada and was now working in his new homeland. After Domnica’s husband Nicolai died in 1910 from pneumonia, she decided to go to Canada with her five younger children, Mary – 14, Andre – 12, Louis – 7, Mihai – 5, and Sarah -2. Another son, George, had drowned swimming across the Prut River when he was a young boy.
The family settled on a homestead at Desjarlais just south of the North Saskatchewan River, about 10 miles north-east of Boian. They raised a few cattle and farmed a little land, growing wheat. Sarah’s mother also used to trade fish in exchange for other items such as wool. Then Sarah and her grandmother dyed the wool and Sarah would weave rugs for benches and special wall tapestries which her mother would sell.
Domnica’s mother, Ioana, had three husbands and was widowed twice before she left Romania in 1899. Her first husband was Cucheran and there were two children from this marriage, Pete and Domnica. She then married Basaraba and had two daughters, and when she decided to emigrate she took these two daughters with her. She married Nicolai Falka and moved to Boian, Alberta.
Sarah started school at Desjarlais when she was twelve, walking a distance of four miles to the school. At fourteen she left school and helped her grandmother, Mrs. Falka to weave rugs, to knit, make quilts and pillows which her mother sold. She also looked after her half-sister and brother, Vera and Dan Nickoriuk. Two girls Maria and Dochina died as infants.
Sarah and George were married Sept. 11, 1927 in the Boian church, when she was 18 and he was 27. Their sponsors were Pete and Ana Esak.
After the wedding, George and Sarah settled on the homestead where they farmed for next forty-nine years and raised eight children. They were very active and friendly, so that neighbours and relatives visited at their home often. They entertained frequently and were always included in community events.
Working together all the time, George and Sarah were involved in a number of different business activities. George farmed and in the fall he would custom- thresh for neighbouring farmers. He opened a stockyard at Hairy Hill and one at Warwick, 12 miles south. He remembers buying pigs, cows, and steers at $10 a head in those days. George would work five days a week buying livestock from farmers, then shipping carloads of animals by rail to Swift Canadian Meat Company in Edmonton. After five years, George sold this business to the Hairy Hill Co-op.
In 1936 George was elected councillor for the Municipal District of Eagle which included a fairly large area. As councillor he was responsible for road building, maintenance of roads, arranging old age pensions, welfare and widow allowances. He was reelected twice, staying in office for a period of nine years.
While continuing with mixed farming, in 1954 George began another business – house construction. Within three years he built and sold twenty-seven homes in Edmonton. All week he worked in the city, and spent the weekends on the farm.
In the meantime Sarah was busy on the farm raising the family of four boys and four girls. Everyone helped with the farm work and the chores – Delima, Shirley, Laurence, Georgina, Andy, Diane, Dale and Daryl. For a period of forty years Sarah packed school lunches for her children.
At this time (1984) four of their children have chosen farming as their careers. Farming in the Hairy Hill
area are Laurence and his wife Ann (née Tomyn), Andy and his wife Mary Lou (née Cleghorn), Daryl and his wife Pat (née Myer) who have taken over the home place. Georgina and her husband Willis Porozni farm at Willingdon.
Three other children currently reside in Edmonton; Delima (Steve) Iftody, Shirley and Pat Howe, and Dale. Dian Jonsson, the youngest daughter, lives in Vegreville.
George and Sarah retired from their farm in 1976 and moved to Vegreville to a brand new home. Both continue to be very active in their church and community. George still loves to work in the fields with his sons, helping to put in their crops in the spring and harvest them in the fall. An ardent hunter, he enjoys his life-long hobby hunting big game and birds. Sarah recalls feeding threshing crews during the 1930- 40 with ducks George had shot as they flew over the workers in the fields. She used the feathers for pillows.
Family gatherings for special holidays include over forty adults and children descended from these two Romanians whose history began in Bukovina.
Dimitrie Toma birth record.
Dimitrie was born on Oct.30, 1860. Father – Ioan, son Andrei Toma. Mother – Domnica. Godfather – George Ihnatiuc.
Vasilca Darda birth record.
Vasilca was born Jan.11, 1859. Father – Stefan, son of Vasile Darda. Mother – Domnica. Godmother – Catrina, wife of Vasile Carste.
Ioan Toma and Domnica Ihnatiuc marriage record. Oct.18, 1859.
Ioan, son of Andrei, Toader Toma married Domnica, daughter of Ivan, Tanase Ihnatiuc. Ioan was 32 and Domnica 23 years old.