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On his previous visit to Herschel Island, Isaac had purchased a small sod hut from a native man in exchange for 25 skins. The Stringers lived here for one month. Sadie described their first Herschel Island home which was devoid of ordinary comforts -
"It was primitive enough, with wild grasses sprouting from the roof, but it offered us protection against the gales and sudden blizzards that, even in the brief two months of summer, spring up without warning in this forlorn land."
The Stringers returned to Fort McPherson for the winter and Sadie gave birth to her first child, Rowena Victoria. She recalled the baby's birth -
"My husband, who had had some medical training, was my only attendant. I was tough and healthy and didn't worry and the little girl's birth seemed a happy omen."
Their living quarters were made comfortable by the addition of their personal belongings. These included an eight-day clock, a rag carpet, a large writing desk, a sewing machine, and a small portable organ. Sadie had arranged for these possessions to be transported from Ontario by rail, boat, ox cart, and steamer.
"We slept in bunks covered with deerskin; we dressed in clothes made of caribou hide and trimmed with wolverine fur; we lived on caribou, moose, mountain sheep, seal, duck, goose and the occasional dry groceries that I bought once a year on a shopping trip to Fort McPherson."
Sadie was creative in her approach to housekeeping. In their first home, the sod hut, she made curtains from the Swiss muslin of her wedding dress. Cooking and baking in her converted whaling warehouse home meant using an oven made from biscuit tins, a rolling pin from a whiskey bottle, and a cookie cutter from the lid of a cocoa tin. She became very adept at roasting such delicacies as moose nose, caribou tongue, and beaver tail in the oven. She found that bread baked in large quantities and frozen while still hot kept indefinitely and tasted like fresh baked bread when thawed. Meat was stored in frozen blocks that were chopped apart with an axe. The water supply was 2 miles away from their home and was stacked in frozen chunks by the back door.
At the time of the Stringers' first winter there, Herschel Island boasted a population of over 100 Inuvialuit and about 50 whalers. Sadie taught 30 Inuvialuit adults and children at a day school and held evening classes for the whalers. The most popular subject among the latter was shorthand. Four of her students quit whaling and obtained clerical jobs upon their return south.
During their third year on the Island, Sadie gave birth to Frederick Herschel, their first son. Once again, only Isaac attended the birth.
© Old Log Church Museum 2002