Cornelius F. Toews

   Corney Toews was born in 1907 in Caucasia (near the Black Sea in southwestern Russia) to Mennonite parents. After living through the Russian revolution and its violent aftermath, he and his family moved when immigration became possible in 1924. Their trek took them through Germany and England, across the Atlantic, and then across Canada from Montreal to Three Hills in southern Alberta.

   He started working as a common laborer, although in Russia he had papers as a teacher. The first job he had was feeding pigs and cattle. There he learned English. Later he worked at a grain elevator and on the railway where after two years his father left to buy a farm in Saskatchewan. After four years the farm went bankrupt. Then in the Beaverlodge area he took out a homestead and trapped for several years up in the mountains. He married his first wife Anna, with whom he had six children. During the Depression years, he made a living hunting and trapping and working out on the homestead.

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   About 1963, he established himself as a guide and outfitter. He had enough memorable experiences hunting and guiding to fill a book of memoirs, which he dictated to his daughter, while sailing across the Atlantic in the mid '70s. (This book is included in this database). In 1967, he gained notoriety for shooting an extremely rare white moose (not an albino), which he donated to the Pioneer Museum in Grande Prairie.

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   At the age of 65, Corney took up the art of making stone commessi (intarsias). He had no formal training and worked by inspiration, doing his best so that he'd be happy with each picture. His first project was the building of a fireplace in his living room and adorning it with a series of artistic images in rock. The project, which took three winters to complete, is both a mosaic and a "scrapbook wall" of memories. Later with his second wife Ruby, he spent his winters in Yuma, Arizona where he did most of his work; completing about 100 pictures. Cornelius Frank Toews passed away in 1995.       You can read a fascinating biography of his life written by his eldest daughter, Laura Hagen in 1996: Cornelius Frank Toews.

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