Lots of history to see in Botha this weekend

What an exciting day at our little village this coming Saturday, Aug. 16, so come and see.

What an exciting day at our little village this coming Saturday, Aug. 16, so come and see. The Erichson/Drewes Open House is being held starting at 1:30 p.m., you must come and see. They have a lot of items plus photos for us all to see, from the last 120 years they have been in Alberta which includes the 110 years of farming their families have went through since they first came to Alberta and settled in the Botha area. It will be very educational and it’s something a person sure does not want to miss out on. This event is being held from 1:30-4:30 that afternoon, and they would love to see everyone come out and help them celebrate this special occasion.

Matt and Dorris Morris will be celebrating their anniversary on this coming Friday, August 15. Congratulations to both of you, and hopefully you both have a great day.

Bingo happens again Tuesday Aug. 19, so make sure you come out to the seniors’ centre at 7:15 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., so make sure you come out for one great evening.

While you are in Botha Saturday, why not stop by the Arena and take a look at the duplicate of the Underwood Brothers invention of the first flying machine. It, too, would be an item that would be interesting to view, while you are in the Botha area. Botha celebrated their centennial only a few years ago, (in an early August weekend) and this to was also a big hit at that time.

One of the earliest Canadian aircraft was the Underwood aircraft, which was built and tested three miles east of Botha on the Underwood farm in 1907 and 1908. The news spread like grass fire though the country at that time.

The Underwood sons names were John (Jr), George and Elmer, who inherited their father John H. Underwood’s (Senior) inventive ability. The boys’ experiments started May 14, 1909 with tests of a rectangle tailless kite eight inches across. A few days later, they tested a similar type, but with a 20 inch span. The kites both had flying wings. Each kite had a fin or jib, which went from front to back in the center of the kites which gave it stability. It weighed 450 pounds without man or engine and had a lifting surface of 900 square feet.

The outer circle of the wings were made of laminated strips of fir. The two front control surfaces could be operated singly or together and they could be designed as the first known ailerons. From the center post wire spokes went out to the laminated rim after the style of a bicycle wheel. Turnbuckles were on each spoke and accurate adjustments could be made. All lifting and control surfaces were covered with a lightweight canvas held in place by many length of cord.

The boys had to study books on the theory of flight (released before flying became a reality). Nothing at this time was known about aerodynamics or the lifting effect on a wing caused by a vacuum on the upper surface. The fin was about 10 feet high on the first kites, which they found out were too large so they had to shorten it down to 4 feet instead.

In the middle of June 1907, the main work on the machine was competed and the Stettler Exhibition invited them to show their project off at the Fair Grounds, which they gladly accepted. They had to haul this to town on a wooden stone boat pulled by horses, as it never had any wheels. This machine drew lots of attention and was described in the Toronto Globe, a Manitoba paper and the Stettler Independent. The Stettler Independent called it the Stettler’s Aeroplane and Edmonton papers called it the Alberta Airship.

Because of no engine on these yet, they had to test them like a kite. This was done lying out 700 feet of quarter inch rope along the ground fastening the ground end to the nose of the machine. The first test to see if it would go up was done on August 10, 1907 and results were encouraging. The stability of the wing was remarkable and the high degree of lift it exerted in a 20-mile breeze was amazing. Five sacks of wheat were placed on the cockpit platform and it lifted with ease and the wheat weighed about 350 pounds.

After the rope was shortened, young John (Jr) at the age of 22, took his place on the platform. This time the platform lifted about 10 feet up and John was able to stay up for 15 minutes, swaying smoothly before it brought him safely to the ground again. It was probably the first time in Canada a man was lifted in the air by a kite.

The following spring they were able to purchase a 7 HP motor cycle engine, which failed them. So without an engine, they could not get the machine to fly any further, so they continued using it the way they did. Unfortunately, one day a boisterous wind came up and the boys became careless in handling the apparatus. The rope had previously broken and they were using barbed wire in lieu of the rope, it became tangled and the kite fell to the ground rolling over several times and was badly smashed. After this, the boys got frustrated and gave up hope. If they had had another thousand dollars, which they didn’t, they might have been in the front racks of the world’s aerial pioneers.

Through the hard work of Bob Erickson and his helpers, they were able to make a duplicate of the Underwood Flying Machine, which is located by the arena.

So make sure you come out this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and help the Erichson/Drewes families celebrate their 115 years of being in the Botha Area. They have a lot of great items planned and it will be a very educational and fun day for everyone to see. You won’t want to miss out.



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