Hattie Shurr: Homesteading Artist

Great-grandma Hattie Shurr was an artist and also one tough woman. She’s the one who wouldn’t go back to “civilization” when the family first arrived with three children under the age of four. They found a rusted stove and the pile of lumber that Great-grandpa John had left on the homestead site earlier in the spring of 1870. He was all for turning around going back, but she resisted. So, they stayed and made a home for their family.

Raising a family that eventually included nine kids and doing all the work that was required to survive on a prairie homestead didn’t leave a lot of time for painting landscapes. But, we think when they retired around 1900 she started turning out sketches and paintings and sharing them with family, friends, and neighbors. This is a bookmark she gave to a neighbor who lived “up the Creek” from the homestead. It’s unique because there’s a picture on both the front and back.

She only did landscapes. At least we don’t have any portraits that we know she did. None of her art is signed or dated. We only know that it’s her work because of the family traditions. That’s why I’m speculating that she did most of the pictures after they retired and moved off the Farm.

In addition, her landscapes all have a civilized and settled look that probably did not come from any area around the Farm. Most look more like upstate New York where she grew up. Makes you wonder what she really thought about the life of a homesteader out in the wide prairie. Maybe she missed the scenes from her childhood?

Almost all of her pictures have trees in them. That would fit with nostalgia for the wooded country back in “civilized” New York. Most of the watercolors and pastel drawings are more light colored and open. The oil paintings tend to be more dark and have an almost foreboding aspect. Maybe not all of her memories of back east are happy ones?

Pastel “crayons” from the early 1900s.

According to our family tradition, this is Great-grandma Hattie’s box of pastels. It’s remarkable that they’ve survived all the generations of curious kids! By the time I got the box it was a “keepsake” so it’s been easier to protect them by simply hiding them from the last couple of generations.

This post again has the benefit of Margaret’s photography and I’m grateful. As I explained last week, I will continue to share the links to this blog on Facebook (in spite of my reservations about their algorithms). If you’d rather have an email notice, you can sign up for one by clicking the “follow” icon in the Word Press post, if you can find it! It shows in the lower right only when you scroll up toward the top. The appearance of the icon seems to be different depending on the age and/or setting on your computer.

About Lone Tree Farm on Kanaranzi Creek

Recovering academic, earth scientist in phased retirement, farm manager by default, son, husband, father, grandfather.
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