Ionita Mihai (Mustatia) Badea

Name: Ionita Mihai (Mustatia) Badea

1854, Muntenia, Romania

April 1930, Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan, Canada
Burial Place:
St Peter & Paul Orthodox Cemetary, Flintoft, Saskatchewan

Ionita Mihai (Mustatia) Badea was born to Lucan, Badea in Muntenia Romania in 1854. While early information is limited, it is known that he married Safta Maraloii at Mihalceni, Ploesti, Romania in 1879. Ionita was a farmer who lived on a small tenant farm in Coza Voda, Romania.

The history of the Tonita family in Canada began in 1907 when Ionita emigrated with his family. Times were hard in Romania. For many of the peasant farmers of the day, life meant toiling over a tiny plot of land of which much of the produce had to be turned over to the landlord to pay the rent. What little remained was divided between seed for the coming year and food for the family. Life was certainly hard and pleasures were few. Thus when Ionita’s friend, Ion Stefan, told him about the “free land” in Canada, he could hardly walk away from such an opportunity.

On February 27th, 1907 he sold what few possessions he had and left his homeland behind. They say that it was particularly wet that year and mud was everywhere. Loaded down with all their worldly possessions, Ionita and Safta boarded the train at Constanta destined for Hamburg, Germany. Here the officials stopped those who were sick. The youngest child, Vasile, had the measles, so his sister Voica and her husband, Shurban Radu and their baby, Matilda, along with Vasile & Voica's sister, Dumitra (Daney) stayed behind. A month later when Vasile was well, they too set out for Canada and eventually rejoined the family. On April 13th, 1907, Ionita, his wife Safta and seven of their children boarded the S. S. Patricia in Hamburg, Germany bound for Canada. Three other Romanian families joined them in their journey: the Adamache’s, Mehiau’s and Stefan’s. The voyage lasted two weeks and was particularly hard on the group. Many of the people were sick; some died and were buried at sea. Finally, the ship docked in New York on April 29, 1907.

Arriving in Montreal several days later, Ionita and Safta had their first encounter with the government officials. Unable to speak English, Ionita and his children were at the mercy of the immigration department. Hence when they were asked to give their names some confusion occurred. Legend has it that they were asked to state their name, giving the last name first. Ionita stated his name as he always had and Tonita was recorded as the surname. A further misunderstanding occurred when the “I” was misinterpreted as a “T”. Mustatia was recorded as the first name, though this too was inaccurate. Grandpa was affectionately known for the big, bushy mustache he sported, thus he inherited the nickname “Mustatia”. His real name, however, was Badea as revealed on the ships manifest, which listed all members of the family. Nevertheless, when the family filed homesteading papers on February 4, 1909, great-grandfather signed the documents as Ionita M. Mustatia. Upon arriving in Canada; however, Ionita’s children decided to adopt the name Tonita to avoid further confusion.

From Montreal, the tiny band of Romanians traveled to Regina by train. Here they bought wagons and horses and headed for Dysart where a number of other Romanians had settled. But all the good land had already been taken so they returned to Regina. There they met a man who advised them that if they headed south, they would come across a body of water known as the Twelve Mile Lake. At the time, it seemed like a stroke of good luck, for they reasoned that if they couldn’t farm the land, they could always fish. Little did they know that this body of water was an alkali lake that was uninhabitable by fish. However, based on the advice they had received, they loaded up their wagons, bought a plow, a discer, and other supplies and began the journey south towards Twelve Mile Lake. By this time, they were joined by three other families, which enlarged the group to seven. These included the Moldovans, Radus and Shurban Radu families along with several young men who had also decided to come to Canada from Romania. Upon arriving at their new destination, they soon realized that fishing was not an option, but were surprised by the abundance of wildlife in the area. Consequently, they were able to supplement their larder with wild game instead of fish. The lake country also contained more bush, which provided a good source of fuel for fire, and poles for fence posts.

As some of the first settlers in the area, the Romanians arrived prior to the land being surveyed. They had been told in Regina to cut a load of poles when they arrived, and where each family dumped their load is where they would be granted a homestead when the survey was complete. Being used to the communal farming villages of the old country, the seven families built their houses next to one another, not realizing that the dwellings had to be on the homestead itself. They called this little village Sat, which means “settlement” in Romanian. When the survey was finally completed, each family was required to relocate their homes to the homestead. Fortunately, all received their land next to one another.
Mustatia’s first home was large by the standard of the day. Made out of mud-bricks, the house was covered with poles and sod for a roof. It was 45 feet long and 16 feet wide and was divided into three rooms: a kitchen/living area, and two bedrooms. A pot-bellied stove heated it and its two-foot thick walls provided excellent insulation that kept it relatively warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The walls were covered with a plaster made of straw, mud and water. The plaster filled in any cracks and helped to windproof the structure.

At first, the men obtained a permit to break twenty acres and seed it to oats. They bought a reaper in Moose Jaw, and were able to cut the oats and rake it into piles for winter-feed. After the crop had been sown, Mustatia decided to buy a cow, so he hitched the wagon and drove to Dysart where he obtained a red Guernsey cow and calf from a friend. He also purchased a few hens so they would have eggs for the winter. The trip took Mustatia over two weeks, but it ensured that there would be fresh milk, cream, eggs and cheese for the winter.

Foundation of Mustata homestead
on Twelve mile Lake

During the fall of 1907, the young men went to Dysart and Regina to work on threshing crews where they earned $1.50/day. Mustatia earned $25.00 that first summer, and with that money he was able to buy supplies for the winter. He purchased 200 pounds of sugar, ten sacs of floor, salt, and other staples. He also bought enough material for Safta to make shirts for the men and dresses for the women.

That first winter was extremely rough on the settlement. Miles from the nearest town, their closest neighbours were the NWMP at Wood Mountain, some fifteen miles southwest of Sat. It is said that the NWMP stopped by the village about once a month to check on the immigrants, to make sure no one was sick and to ensure they had enough to eat. Their care was a huge aid to Mustatia and his family for the NWMP also took the time to explain the laws, familiarize them with the climate and help them with their English. It was a lonely winter as they waited for their homesteads and remembered family and friends in the old country.

In 1908, a terrible prairie fire swept through the area, worse than anything they had ever seen before. It came from the west, and they could smell it long before they saw anything. In the evening twilight, they could make out a red glow against the western sky, but they saw no flames. The police had advised them to plow fireguards around their homes, and these were quickly cleaned up and widened. Every available container was filled with water; gunnysacks were soaked to fight the flames, and the women and children were sent down to the lake to wait. As the flames raced forward, they were successfully diverted around the village and eventually died out at the lake.

In 1909, the land was finally surveyed, and each family was granted a homestead of their own. On April 1st, Mustatia built a new sod house and moved his family onto the homestead on the southwest quarter of section 25, in Township 6, Range 3 of the 3rd Meridian. On his application for a homestead, he was required to sign a declaration stating, “I am a citizen of Roumania (sic), but I declare that it is my intention to become a British subject under the laws of Canada”, and he signed his name with an “X” as he could neither read nor write. That same year, the older boys in the family were also granted homesteads, and only the five younger children remained at home. Grandpa also built a sod stable and granary, dug a well and began to make improvements to the land. According to his homestead papers, in 1910 Mustatia broke 15 acres of land. The following year, he broke 25 acres and seeded 40.

As the little Romanian settlement along Twelve Mile Lake began to flourish, the settlers now turned their attention to advancing their spiritual needs. In 1911, they sent a delegation to Regina to see if they could obtain financial support to build a church. A fellow by the name of Nick Zoara offered to buy the lumber if they would haul it from Moose Jaw. Mr. Zoara also donated some money to purchases icons and the iconostasis. Much of the iconostasis was painted in Jerusalem, though some of the icons were also imported from Mr. Athos, an orthodox monastery in Romania. Parinti (father) Dionese Necifur came from Romania to supervise construction of the church and he served as pastor until 1928. Strong religious beliefs were deeply rooted in the Romanian culture, and it was a blessing once the church was built. St. Peter and Paul’s Romanian Orthodox Church served as the centre of community life, and much socializing occurred here. The graveyard attached to the church houses many of our ancestors to this day, and serves as the final resting place for Mustatia and Safta. The church served as a symbol of strength for these early immigrants as well as a tie to the old country.

In 1912, Lynthorpe School was build and the children attended classes during the summer months. The school was closed each fall after the first storms because it was too far for most children to walk in the cold. The children found it difficult to learn English because few of the adults in the district could speak the language. For many years, Romanian continued to be spoken exclusively at home and in the community.

1912 was also the year that Mustatia and Safta’s eldest daughter decided to make the trek to Canada. Maria had remained behind with her husband Neon Calimente when the family first emigrated. Yet she missed her family terribly. Thus the Calimente’s sold everything and prepared for the journey overseas. According to legend, Maria, Neon and their son Marin took the train to the coast, but as they prepared to board the ship, Neon became frightened and disappeared with all their money. Thinking he was already on the ship, Maria and Marin also boarded. However, when the ship pulled out to sea, Neon was nowhere to be found. Maria had no choice but to carry on to Montreal. To make matters worse, Marin became very ill during the crossing and died at sea. Thus when Maria arrived in Montreal, she was penniless and alone.

Customs officers informed her that she could not go west by herself without any money. She sent a wire to Moose Jaw, hoping that her family would be able to help. Safta scraped together enough money from her family and friends and walked to Moose Jaw to post the letter. However, the day before the letter arrived, Maria was deported, never to be seen by her family in Canada again. She returned to her husband in Romania.

By 1915, almost the entire district between Wood Mountain and Lakenheath, the settlement that grew up close to the church, was populated by Romanian settlers.

On August 28, 1927, Safta died of cancer. She had been sick for months and the family sent her to Montreal for treatment, where a new miracle cure was being tested. This doctor would place a poultice of bluestone on the infected area. The bluestone was supposed to eat its way into the flesh, killing the cancerous cells. After the poultice was removed, the person was to have no fresh air until the wound was healed. However, someone opened a window, Safta’s sores became infected and she died. Her body was returned to Lakenheath where she was buried at St. Peter and Paul’s Romanian Orthodox Church.

Mustatia died in April 1930 at the home of his daughter Florea and was laid to rest beside his wife. The first generation of Tonita’s had passed to another life, but not before they had made their mark on the landscape of southern Saskatchewan. These early pioneers had broken the land, helped to found a church, build a school and create a community. They had fathered a line that would eventually stretch from sea to sea in Canada and spread across the globe. A century later, the descendants of Safta and Ionita Mustatia (Badea) would number over a thousand.

Name of Spouse Safta Maraloii
Date of Marriage 1879
Place of Marriage: (City/Prov or State) Mihalceni, Ploesti, Romania
Date: Divorced/Separated/Widowed (please circle one)

Children of Marriage / Union:
Name: Maria Tonita
Birth Date: Mar 10, 1881
Place of Birth: Ciorasti, Rimnicu Sarat, Romania

Name: George Tonita
Birth Date: Apr 23, 1883
Place of Birth: Ciorasti, Rimnicu Sarat, Romania

Name: Voica Tonita
Birth Date: Aug 15, 1885
Place of Birth: Dobrigia, Romania

Name: Radu Tonita
Birth Date: Nov 20, 1887
Place of Birth: Coza Voda, Romania

Name: Neagu Tonita
Birth Date: Dec 18, 1889
Place of Birth: Coza Voda, Romania

Name: Manda Tonita
Birth Date: Unknown
Place of Birth: Coza Voda, Romania

Name: Tudor Tonita
Birth Date: Aug 6, 1894
Place of Birth: Coza Voda, Romania

Name: Florea Tonita
Birth Date: Apr 23, 1897
Place of Birth: Coza Voda, Romania

Name: Dumitra (Daney) Tonita
Birth Date: Oct 25, 1899
Place of Birth: Coza Voda, Romania

Name: MihaicaTonita
Birth Date: Apr 15, 1901
Place of Birth: Unknown

Name: VasileTonita
Birth Date: Apr 23, 1905
Place of Birth: Ducuzal, Romania

Ionita Mihai (Mustatia) Badea Statistics
Ionita Mihai (Mustatia) Badea Spousal Statistics