Hi. I’m Dave Reesor. My Mennonite ancestors, Peter Risser and Anna Hershey, left Switzerland in 1739 and emigrated to the American colonies. They were escaping religious persecution, but they were also looking for a new life in a New World.
With their family and neighbours they cleared forest, established farms and a community, and a self-reliant way of life. The Risser Farm and the Risser Mennonite church are still there about four miles east of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Pioneers built that... not the government.
In 1804 one of Peter’s grandsons, Christian, loaded up a Conestoga wagon and headed for new territory in Canada. A clerical error at the border changed the name from Risser to Reesor. Christian Reesor too was looking for a new opportunity, not a handout. He and his family and the neighbors worked hard and again, established prosperous farms and a strong, self-reliant community. That community is now the city of Markham, Ontario.
Then in 1902, my grandfather heeded the call to: “Go west young man,” so he rode the Canadian Pacific Railway to Maple Creek, Northwest Territories. He ended up homesteading just north of the Montana border, a few miles west of where Sitting Bull had fled into Canada after The Battle of the Little Big Horn.
On that dry, remote prairie he and my grandmother and neighbors established farms. They also built an irrigation system. That irrigation system helped bring the family through the depression. They didn’t have a lot of money but there were gardens for food and hay for the livestock and a little cash from selling milk. When the government sent the family a relief check, my grandfather sent it back to Ottawa with a note saying: “There are other families that need this more than we do”.
I don’t long for “The Good Old Days”. In many ways we are better off than we were 75 or 100 years ago. In some ways we are better educated. We travel widely. We have access to the world’s food and entertainment. We have better health and we live longer.
But we’re losing that sense of self-reliance that our ancestors lived by. We need to get it back. I’m convinced that we can get it back.
Could someone forward this video to Warren Buffett? Warren, if you actually think the government can find good places to spend your money more efficiently than you can, just write them a check.
This is Dave Reesor. Let's Do It Ourselves.
Reesor homestead - Consul, Saskatchewan - circa 1905
Reesor family gathering - Consul, Saskatchewan - circa 1963