Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays!

The staff at the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Years! We will be open over the Christmas season and all are invited to bring friends and family to see us:

December 24, 27, 29, 30, 31
and January 2nd and 3rd
from 10 am -4:30 pm

We also have a Christmas exhibit of toys and cards that might make some a little nostaligic:
And don't forget our gift shop for unique gifts from local authors, artisans and producers of the Peace Country.
(note: We can only take cash or cheque, thanks.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Million dollar bridge spans Peace River

by Beth Wilkins

Construction of the superstructure of the $900,000, or Million Dollar bridge as media were want to call it, began the latter part of May 1918, but not before the substructure was completed with some ice-related delays.
It was noticed during the high water in the spring of 1917 that the blunt ends of the deep water caissons offered such a resistance to the current that erosion was apt to result. It was decided to point the upstream end of piers 6, 7, and 8 of the 10 piers holding the bridge’s 11 steel spans in place. Other modifications were made to make the now 90-year-old steel structure sound.
The throughspan of the steel bridge provided a clearance of 65 feet above low water and 48 feet above extreme high water – high enough to allow river navigation by even the largest of sternwheelers, such as the D. A. Thomas, which required hinged stacks to allow its passage. The deckspan, on the other hand, offered only 19 feet clearance above high water.
Work, by up to 250 men, on the much-anticipated bridge was a 24-hour a day enterprise, accompanied by the inevitable noise associated with heavy construction.
For its first half century, the first bridge across the world-famous Mighty Peace River served several purposes – railway, vehicular, and pedestrian traffic. Its multi-purpose use caused some concerns and provided many interesting anecdotes, but served its users well. It does to this day, although vehicular and pedestrian traffic cross the river by way of the transportation bridge completed in 1968, which is just north of it.
The railway bridge is 1,736 feet long with 11 steel spans set on concrete piers and abutments. The structure had no guardrails or decking to enable horse teams and vehicles to cross safely until successful, vigorous lobbying by the Peace River Board of Trade encouraged the approval of the Government of Alberta for the additions.
It is said that the Million Dollar Bridge is the most important single item of construction to be brought to a successful conclusion in Western Canada during 1918. Its importance cannot be emphasized enough. At the time of its building, land suitable for soldier settlement was being sought. The transportation facility connects the markets of the world to the wonderfully rich Peace River Basin and as importantly, the Peace River Basin resources – agriculture, mining, lumber and oil to the rest of the world. During the Second World War, it provided a vital link to the West conveying men, equipment and goods.
(From: Peace River Museum Archives and Mackenzie Centre notes; Ribbons of Steel, by Ena Schneider; Sense of the Peace by Roberta Hursey; Peace River Remembers)

Council of the Town of Peace River invites you to an Open House at the historic NAR Station, Dec. 12, 3 p.m.-7 p.m. to help celebrate the 90th anniversary of the completion of the Million Dollar railway bridge spanning the Mighty Peace River.

Keep an eye out in the Record-Gazette for more historic articles from Museum writer, Beth Wilkins!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Peace River Museum announces...

...our very first Virtual Exhibit on the Virtual Museum of Canada's website, entitled: "Peace River, 1780-1914: From Athabasca to the Last Great West". Dallas Wood has worked very hard on this exhibit and we are proud to launch it. The exhibit tells the story of Peace River in it's very early days! Starting from Aboriginal Peoples of the area and moving through the explorers and fur traders and ends with the formation of the village of Peace River Crossing in 1914. We encourage all Peace Riverites to check it out at the Community Memories Website
and use the search bar to find our exhibit. (Just a note, the results are listed alphabetically, so you will have to skip ahead a few pages to the "P" section.) We also encourage you to check out many of the exhibits on this site. There are many fascinating contributions from Museums all over Canada.

The Peace River Museum and Archives would also like to put a callout to our community. This Remembrance Day, we have really been searching for information about out local veterans. We would like to encourage everyone in Peace River to bring in any stories and information you may have about your ancestors being involved in any military conflicts. The Museum will be compiling this information and make it available to those researching the military history of Peace River. We welcome any donations related to the veterans of the Peace River area and currently have an exhibit with some of the artifacts and stories that have been collected over the years at the Museum. We will be open from 12-4 pm on Remembrance Day and resume normal hours on Wednesday, Nov.12.
World War I soldier, James Mitchell (PRMA73.550.F.2)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Archives Week: What Archives Can Do For You!

Celebrating Alberta Archives Week: October 6-11

The Peace River Archives is a relatively new addition to the heritage work the Museum has been doing for the past 40 years. This year for Archives Week, we wanted to get the word out about the role of our Archives in the community.
PhotobucketA view of the interior of the Archives.

As an accredited member of the Archives Society of Alberta, we are committed to certain standards of care and preservation for the materials that we house. We monitor temperature and humidity and limit light exposure, all of which can contribute to the deterioration of records. We use archival standard storage materials to keep these records in the best condition possible.
However, we do not just keep the records around for the sake of doing so. We want these records to be accessible and available to researchers. Part of this process was to hire a full-time Archivist, which was made possible thanks to the support of the Town of Peace River.

As you can see, the Archives is a vital resource in Peace River and the research community at large. Other ways that the Archives can be involved in the community are to:

  • store your family's records with the utmost care and attention
  • aid in genealogical research
  • store the records of community clubs, business' and schools
  • act as a resource for care and preservation for your own archival items including photographs, negatives, maps, documents and even textiles!
  • provide access to microfilmed copies of the Peace River Standard, Record and Record-Gazette

Family Records & Genealogical Research:
Many people don't know that the Archives can be a central repository for your family's records. We exist to keep records alive and accessible, which includes private records as well as those of public institutions. Your family can bring in the records and talk to our Archivist, Wendy Dyck, about what types of records we keep and how we look after them. Many families have split up their records among siblings, cousins, etc. which can make it difficult to locate particular documents or photographs. The Archives can keep these records together so that any family member, especially generations down the road, can access the records and receive copies. The Peace River Archives has a high quality scanner and printer to reproduce these items for a nominal, cost-recovery based fee.

Club, Business and School Records
Public institutions often have 'dead' records that they may wish to have preserved but either space or human resources are an issue. Our Archives is an excellent solution as we are able to keep these records preserved and available. Each group in Peace River is a part of the identity of this town and as such, it is important that the records of these groups, schools, business' and the people in them are preserved.

How do I look after ....?
If you feel that you would like to hold on to your archival material, the Archives can also be a resource for how to best care for that material. You, as a community member, are always welcome to bring your items into the Archives where our Archivist can make recommendations for your particular collection, as well as refer you to other helpful resources.

The Standard, Record and Record-Gazette
The Museum was part of a micro-filming project with the Legislative Library for Alberta where virtually every issue from 1910-1983 was put on micro-film. The Record Gazette purchased a copy of these rolls and donated them to the Museum upon completion of the project. These are available for the public to either peruse or for specific research projects.

As you can see, there are many different ways that the Archives can interact with and be a part of the larger community of Peace River. If you have any thoughts or questions regarding the Archives, please don't hesitate to email us at or phone at 624-4261.

Happy Archives Week!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Final Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly

Jean Kelly Cameron was the second school teacher in Peace River, arriving in December of 1913. In "I Remember Peace River, Alberta and Adjacent Districts 1800s - 1913 Part I", Cameron recalls her journey to Peace River, her memories of school and how Peace River Crossing looked in 1913. The first installment of the Recollections was published in our first newsletter sent out to our Members. For more membership information, please visit: the Museum at 780-624-4261

Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly, Part VI (Final)

"When I met H.A. George's children the first things Bertie, a boy of nine, wished to know was if I could speak Cree. I told him no, and he said that was O.K., then they could be saucy to me in Cree and I would not know what they were saying. I gathered that when Miss Anderson had reproved some of them, they would answer, "Kip-a-ha-Kea-toon" which meant "Shut your mouth!" I remember once when little Alice George chimed in with a somewhat naughty version of a little Cree song I had heard, her mother turned on her with a shocked Wah! Wah! Kip-a-ha! This song, sung to the tune of heel-to-toe polka was:
Kispin kea sakahin, (If you love me)
Semack pe-O-che min (Quickly kiss me)
Kisipin kea Pakwa sin (If you hate me)
Semack ke waya wan (Quickly leave me)

Many of the old-timers were fluent in Cree, notably Mr. George and T.A. Brick, both of whose wives were Metis; but while few of us new-comers could handle the language we all used Cree words in our colloquial talk. For instance, we would say, "Are you coming to our Waskeagan (house) tonight?" or "Give this a wepaemow (look)." Billy Smith, a mail carrier who had a homestead somewhere out the Shaftesbury Trail was called "Apsis monnagen napec," meaning little (on account of his short stature) letter man. I am afraid Billy was a bad little man. He sang me a Cree song one day, knowing I did not understand it, and thinking I could not learn it. But when I repeated it word perfect, he gave me a look of shocked horror. When I said, "Wasn't that right?" he said with a sheepish grain, "Yeah, it's right, but don't ever let anyone hear you sing it!"

The suffix "Sis" was a diminutive, so that while the word napeo meant man, nape'sis meant a boy. Similarly, isquao (a local pronounciation of Squaw) meant woman, and isqua'esis (which the young men delightedly mispronounced "Squeeze us") indicated a girl.

The Crees belong to the Algonquin family, and it was easy to see the resemblance between their words and the words used in Longfellow's poem Hiawatha. Nokomis was the word for grandmother, though it was locally pronounced No-Kimis; wapoose meant rabbit, (wabasso) Mis-te-hay of missou meant large and see-pee was water. The Crees called the Peace River Mis-te-hay See-Pee or Missou Seepee, and the phonetic resemblance of the latter to Mississippi can readily be noted. Kisemente, the Cree words for God shows its derivation from Gitche Manito, while muchimento (devil) is a variation of Mitche Manitou.

Mr. George told me that the Cree have no special word for muddy, but instead used the same word as for Smoky. Thus Smoky River simply meant muddy river. He also said that Cheepi Seepee, the Cree name for Spirit River meant Ghost River, because in its mists they believed the spirits of the departed could be seen. Having no word for thank you they used the French word merci.

The word for money was soonias, and pay-ak soonias was one dollar. I recall an amusing anecdote about a native woman who brought in a pair of moccasins to the Revillon Freres trading post and demanded a pay-ak soonias from Jimmie McCashin, the accountant. Being overstocked with moccasins at the time her refused to take them; but she sat there doggedly all afternoon, at regular intervals flapping the moccasins on the desk and reiterating "Pay-ak soonias!"

In exasperation he finally took the moccasins and gave her a note to take to the clerk-cashier which read "Give this S.O.B. one dollar." The clerk was an innocent lad who racked his brain as to the meaning of the note, and finally decided that S.O.B. meant soda biscuits. So he gave her a dollar's worth, whereupon she departed highly satisfied.

In playing cards the king was oki-mow (big chief), the queen was merely the woman, isquao, while the Jack was mounted policeman, (smoggens.) Mustus meant an ox, and Buffalo Lake was Mustus Lake on old maps. Atim was the word for dog, but a horse must-atim literally cow-dog or cow-chaser.

The Cree word for daughter is Tannis, and I used to love to hear Allie Brick address his daughter Emma as Ne'Tannis, (my daughter). I still think Ne'Tannis is a lovely name for a girl. According to J.H. MacGregor, the name Cree is from the name the Crees called themselves, Kenistenoag, "Men of the Forest." The French pronounced this Kinistino or Kristinaux, and then shortened the latter into Cris or Kris, which was pronounced like Cree in English."

Thus completes Jean Cameron Kelly's recollections from "I Remember Part I". She continues with more recollections in "I Remember Part II" and it is available at the Peace River Museum library if you are interested. We hope you enjoyed this short series and any feedback would be greatly appreciated. We can be contacted at or 780-624-4261.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly

Jean Kelly Cameron was the second school teacher in Peace River, arriving in December of 1913. In "I Remember Peace River, Alberta and Adjacent Districts 1800s - 1913 Part I", Cameron recalls her journey to Peace River, her memories of school and how Peace River Crossing looked in 1913. The first installment of the Recollections was published in our first newsletter sent out to our Members. For more membership information, please visit: the Museum at 780-624-4261
Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly, Part V
"The Crossing was surrounded by five hills. The Grouard Hill on the east of town where Twelve-Foot Davis lies was so named because the road leading down its face into town was the end of the Grouard Trail from Grouard to Peace River. To the south east and separated from the Grouard Hill by the Heart River canyon is the Judah Hill, named after a settler, who, however, spelled his name Juda. To the north east and separated from the Grouard Hill by Pat's Creek is the Kaufman Hill, named after Colonel Kaufman a colorful character from Chicago, who built his house on the brow of the hill and lived there with his little dog, Guiseppe. The house was recently destroyed by fire.
Across the Peace on the north west is the George Hill, where H.A. George had his homestead, while directly west of the Town lies Mount Misery. On this hill a great many homesteads were filed when it became known that the advent of the railroad was at hand. Most of these were filed, not with any idea of making a farm out of the land, but in the hope that the land would appreciate in value. The attempts of the "homesteaders" to put in anything approximating a legal term of residence in wretched shacks, cabins and even tents were frought with so much misery that this was so named.
South of the Crossing the barracks of the old Royal North West Mounted Police occupied the site of the present R.C.M.P. barracks. The O.C. was a massive block of Icelandie granite whom we knew as Sergeant Anderson - his real name was said to be unpronounceable. When it was time to exercise the horses a number of constables used to canter through the village on horseback, each leading a second horse. The contrast of their scarlet coats against the surrounding snow made one of the most unforgettable pictures I had ever seen, and I never failed to get a thrill out of it, even when the background of the picture changed from white snow to green foliage. Along the south side of the Heart just before it reached the Peace bloomed a line of tents and shanties which in the light hearted mood of the day was nicknamed Rotton Row. Nothing of Rotton Row survives; but in line with its former site, though pre-dating it by many years, on the back of the Peace was a forlorn little enclosure in which surrounded by a weather-beaten picket fence, were a number of what looked like equally weather-beaten chicken coops. I was told that this was a cemetary where a number of native children were buried. The coop effects were to keep the rain off the graves so that the bodies would not decay so soon, since Mr. George said, there was an old belief among the native people that so long as the body remained intact, the soul of the departed would hover around their old homes. Today the chicken coops have vanished and the fence is neatly whitewashed. The graves are carefully tended to and the sign of the Cross is raised above them.
Besides the Heart River, another tributary of the Peace colloquially known as Pat's Creek, enters town from the northeast, from between the Kaufman Hill and Grouard Hill. On the township plots it is more formally designated Wesley Creek, and was named after Patrick Wesley, and Metis whose Half Breed script covered the present Anglican Church property. When he was afflicted by small pox he was cared for by a devoted and courageous woman, Mrs. Robert Holmes, wife of the Anglican minister. For this act of Christian charity she paid dearly, for one of her own children contracted the dread disease and died.
Poor Pat died too, but in his gratitude he made a grant of his lands to the Anglican Church, asking only that his bones be laid to rest in the shadow of the church which was to be built on the land he had given. Pat lies there to this day, God rest his soul."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly, Part IV

Jean Kelly Cameron was the second school teacher in Peace River, arriving in December of 1913. In "I Remember Peace River, Alberta and Adjacent Districts 1800s - 1913 Part I", Cameron recalls her journey to Peace River, her memories of school and how Peace River Crossing looked in 1913. The first installment of the Recollections was published in our first newsletter sent out to our Members. For more membership information, please visit: the Museum at 780-624-4261.
Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly, Part IV
"The schoolroom also served almost every week for evening parties and dances with myself at the piano quite often and whatever fiddler could be pressed into service. Besides this Mr. George had a phonograph and a large number of records of the popular music of the day.
I had ten pupils that first day, but by the end of June this had increased to about fifty, in all eight grades, and the ballroom was no longer adequate. Seventeen of my first pupils were: Bertie, Alice and Ethel George; Teddy White; Simon, Freddie and Alice Gullion; Emma Brick; Mary, Robert and Jimmie Hodgson; Mary, Henry and Paul Smith (from Fort Vermilion) and Mable and Willie George.
The members of the School Board at that time were H.A. George, chairman; W.J. Doherty, secretary, and Johnny Gaudet, treasurer. I was paid $850.00 a year which I thought princely compared with the $600.00 I had received on the prairies. Also, that first year I was made secretary of the school board with an honorarium of $25.00 for that year.
The old minutes book is still in existence, I believe, and it records a pathetically dogged struggle on the part of the school board, and especially Mr. George, to keep the school running. Practically every other meeting ended hopefully with the resolution: "It was resolved that the bank be again contacted regarding the possibility of obtaining another loan." This was usually for the purposed of paying the teacher's salary or buying fuel.
That first six-month term was the last time the ballroom was used as a school room, for as the fall term opened in a new school house - the first built in Peace River for that specific purpose. It was located on what we called "the first bench", just a little south of the where the railroad crosses the road up the Grouard Hill. It had a bell tower with a bell which I believe had originally been in some building in England, and which Mr. George procured.
This school now forms part of the Baptist Church, as when Timothy and Riley's grading outfit came in 1915 to grade the right of way for the railroad it was found to run right through the north east corner of the building, which had to be moved; and in 1916 tenders were called for the building of the old high school which until recently stood on the present site of the Travellers' Motel.
Down the river some distance were the homesteads of Willie George (a brother of H.A. George) and James Hodgson, and I had children from both these homes as pupils.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly, Part III

Jean Kelly Cameron was the second school teacher in Peace River, arriving in December of 1913. In "I Remember Peace River, Alberta and Adjacent Districts 1800s - 1913 Part I", Cameron recalls her journey to Peace River, her memories of school and how Peace River Crossing looked in 1913. The first installment of the Recollections was published in our first newsletter sent out to our Members. For more membership information, please visit:
call the Museum at 780-624-4261.
Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly, Part III

"...Past the Hudson's Bay Post we drove west until we came to the River, passing on the way the Hudson's Bay residence, presently the home of Mrs. Ann Cambridge, which then stood fairly close to the present CKYL building, and just across the road from it stood the whitewashed log building which was the house of the fabulous Captain John Gullion, a riverboat captain, widely known as the strongest man on the Peace River, and tales of his feats of strength were unbelievable. A little farther down the river we passed the little log Anglican church which was then the only Protestant church in the Crossing. The minister was the Reverend Robert Holmes. Captain Magar's handsome Siwash wife (a Dudeward from the British Columbia Coast) was the organist, and often a soloist.

Crossing the river on the ice we drove up the George Hill to Mr. George's homestead. Until recently, when it was purchased by the Department of Highways, it was the Percy Eyre place, and was owned by John Lang-Hodge prior to that. We were welcomed by Mrs. George, the former Louise Auger from Wabasca, and her four children. Three of them Bertie, Alice and Ethel, were pupils of mine, but Emma was a baby in the mossbag.

The next night being New Year's Eve, we all went to the dance, which was held in the dining room of the new log hotel. Mr. George had had his piano moved there for the occasion, and there was a fiddler, also a large crowd of people, both white and native, all of whom seemed to be having a wonderful time. There was a surplus of men so there were no wall-flowers. My foot being too painful to dance, I ended up at the piano accompaning the fiddler for the evening. [NOTE: Miss Kelly's foot had been burned on her way to Peace River by a foot warmer]

At the stroke of twelve, there were twelve revolver shots from outside, whereupon everyone kissed the ones nearest him or her. Mr. George had prepared me for this and also told me that on account of this custom, New Year was called "Kissing Day" by the natives. Some of the ladies I remember at that dance were Mrs. Allan MacKenzie, Mrs. Pierre Gauvreau, Mrs. Anderson (wife of the O.C. of the R.N.W.M.P.), Mrs. H.A. George, Mrs. Willie George, Mrs. Gullion, Mrs. M.R. Upton and Mrs. W.J. Doherty.

On New Year's Day we drove to the home of the M.L.A. for the constituency, Mr. T. Allan Brick, a son of the Reverend Gough Brick, an Anglican missionary who founded the Mission at Shaftesbury about twelve miles up the river. We had a wonderful New Year's dinner there. There was stuffed turkey with vegetables and cranberry sauce and a real English plum pudding. We spent the night there, and I learned the local meaning of the word "camp." It did not mean roughing it in the open or in a tent, it simply meant that you spent the night somewhere. So, we camped at Bricks' that night and the next day drove home and moved across the Peace to Mr. George's town house, a large story and a half house which was destroyed by fire in 1966.

There were four bedrooms upstairs, and the greater part of the downstairs was in one large room, originally used as a sort of ball-room when the factor gave a dance for his trappers in the spring at the conclusion of the fur buying business of the winter. This large room was also my schoolroom, where I taught by day, and at night rolled down my bedroom on the floor behind the stove and slept there. In a couple of weeks one of the upstairs rooms was furnished and set up for my bedroom.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly

Jean Kelly Cameron was the second school teacher in Peace River, arriving in December of 1913. In "I Remember Peace River, Alberta and Adjacent Districts 1800s - 1913 Part I", Cameron recalls her journey to Peace River, her memories of school and how Peace River Crossing looked in 1913. The first installment of the Recollections was published in our first newsletter sent out to our Members. For more membership information, please visit:
call the Museum at 780-624-4261.

"In the morning I was awakened by a tall Métis who brought me a cup of coffee...He reminded me of Pierre of the Plains. We were soon on the road and at the next stopping place I slept in a bed. A pretty young Métis gave up her own bed to me, with its new rabbit paw robe, a quilt with a filling made of pieces of rabbit paw skins, instead of wool, very cosy (sic) and warm. She told me her name was Pelage Stoney, and that she was sixteen and would soon be married. She asked me if I were married and when I told her no, she asked with great concern how old I was. When I told her twenty-five, a look of distress came over her face and she said commiseratingly, "Oh, that's too bad! But maybe you will find somebody at the Crossing."
The next day we started out on the last day of our trip, out of the unholy Grouard trail, which I later heard described as one of the worst roads in North America. We arrived about dusk December 30th, at the top of the Grouard Hill just east of the Crossing. We slid down the hill into the little community with Bell hanging desperately to the wheel and yelling all the way, "I can't do it! I can't hold it!"
Despite his fears he did it and held it, and the car came to a stop at the telegraph office. Our actual travelling time from Edmonton was twenty-six hours, which was considered good, since we had no lights and could travel only in daylight, of which we had about five and one half hours daily. Also, we were so overloaded that at ever little incline we had to get out and walk...
The telegraph office, the present residence of Mrs. Henry Miller, then stood in very much the same location as the one which was recently removed to become the Friendship Centre. A crowd was waiting to greet the arrivals, interest being equally divided between the car and the new teacher. After looking me over, Harry Coombs (later Captain Coombs, who died of war wounds received in World War I) collected a bet from somebody. He had bet that the new teacher would have blue eyes, as it was his theory that the blue-eyed people were the explorer and adventurer type, and he pointed out that the only white person in this pioneer community who had dark eyes was a young Englishman named George Matthews.
Just east of the telegraph office was the Revillon Freres trading post (later the United Church and presently the Elk’s Hall), whose manager was then William John Doherty. South across the road from these buildings was Johnny Gaudet's pool hall and stopping place, a store and a half log building which occupied approximately the site of the Motor Car Supply Building. As I recall it there were no other buildings as we proceeded west until we came to the Hudson’s Bay Post, the building which was recently wrecked to make way for the Campsall Block. The Hudson’s Bay factor at that time was Mr. Gamlin, the first of the two Gamlin brothers who successively served as factors here.
North across the street from the Hudson’s Bay Post a three story log building was under construction on the present Firestone location. This was H.A. George’s “New Peace Hotel.” There was nothing but woodland north of this on Main Street. Turning south, the Old Peace Hotel stood where the Eaton Building now stands, and on the south side of the present location of the Stedmans store was a rambling frame building which was the store of the third trading company in the Crossing, the Peace River Trading and Land Company, colloquially known as the “Diamond P” from the brand placed on their freight – a Capital P enclosed in a diamond shape. The manager of this company was then Phillip Godsell.
Behind the Diamond P was the Maple Leaf Restaurant, where Jim Lonsdale was the chef, and in this building was [where] the first telegraph set had been set up on a packing case. However, when I arrived it had been installed in the regular telegraph office, Pierre Gauvreau being the first operator.
Farther south and east, out on the point where the Heart [River] joins the Peace stood two old log buildings, which I heard referred to as the old Revillon warehouses; however, at a later date Jim Cornwall told me that they had been the warehouses built by his own company, Bredin and Cornwall. At the time of my arrival they were housing the first bank in Peace River, the Canadian Bank of Commerce; the manager was Allan MacKenzie, whose first customer had been Pierre Gauvreau.
South across the Heart from these buildings stood the tower of the Government Ferry. As well as I can remember, this was the extent of the business section at this time – there was nothing at all on the east side of Main Street that first day I came down the Grouard Hill.”

Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly: Part II

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace - Alex Mackenzie

The "Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace" is a feature written by Beth Wilkins, Curatorial Assistant and Researcher, in conjunction with the Museum's Treaty 8 Exhibit on display until the end of August. The articles have also been published on the Community Page of the Peace River Record-Gazette.

Alex McKenzie

PRMA 68.130

Alexander McKenzie was born November 1843, near Three Rivers, Quebec, to Alexander Mackenzie, Sr. and Mary Traversy, a Metis woman. It is said he is a descendant of explorer/fur trader Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

He was orphaned when only an infant and thus sent back to his father’s homeland, Scotland, to be nurtured and educated by his parental relatives.

Alex is among the first Peace River settlers, arriving in 1863, coming from Norway House to the Athabasca District on snowshoes. Peace River became his home for more than half a century.
He married Elizabeth (Eliza) Sawan, nee LePretre/LaFleur) at St. luke’s Anglican Church, Fort Vermilion, Sept. 30, 1876. Eliza died June 6, 1917.

Alex retired from the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1888 after 27 years. His successful, adventurous career, laden with hardships and hairsbreadth escapes, was admired even by his opposition for his cleverness and his attention to service. He was extremely popular with the natives, which made trading easier. Farming then became his main endeavour on River Lots 30 and 31 on the Shaftesbury Trail. His family continues to farm on those lots. The Province of Alberta, in 1993, lauded the family with the Alberta Century Farm and Ranch Award for having owned, operated and maintained the 285-acre farm for more than 100 years.

A well-known picture of McKenzie shows him wearing the typical coureur-de-bois outfit, formerly worn by all Hudson’s Bay Company employees and natives in the country – a blue blanket cloth mackinaw with cream blanket cloth cape and red trimmings, a turban cap to match and black pants with trimmings of Indian design.

Alexander McKenzie died Jan. 16, 1919 from the flu.

It was said that his death brought to an end the link between the Peace River Country of that day and the early days when the first of the Hudson’s Bay traders ventured into the unknown North to ply their trade with the natives of the country.

Sources: Peace River Record; Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre files; Peace River Record-Gazette; Caron Riley
Make sure to join us starting next week for Recollections from Jean Cameron Kelly, the second school teacher in Peace River and her journey north in 1913. The first installment was in our inaugural newsletter which is available to all members of the Museum. Information about Museum memberships is available here:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace - Louise Auger George

The "Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace" is a feature written by Beth Wilkins, Curatorial Assistant and Researcher, in conjunction with the Museum's Treaty 8 Exhibit on display until the end of August. The articles have also been published on the Community Page of the Peace River Record-Gazette.

Louise (Auger) George

Louise (Auger) George: Photo cutline: (l-r) Amy Eaton, Louise George (the first Mrs. H. A. George). The child is Alice George. From Peace River Remembers

Louise (Auger) George was born December 1883 at Wapiskow Mission—Claim No. 513. Scrip Certificate No. 1078A. Louise’s parents were: Father Michel Auger (Metis) and her mother Mary Anne Chekastaye (Metis)
She married Herbert Alfred (H.A.) George, September 1898 at Wapiskow Mission.

Louise was 15 – her husband 18. He was a Christian teacher at the Indian residential school for two years prior to his employ as an accountant with the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The couple and their two children, Max and Bert, moved to Peace River when H.A. became the manager of the Hudson’s Bay post -- among the first residents of the community. He is said to have told a friend that when he and his family left Wapiskow (Wabasca) with all their earthly possessions loaded on a light set of sleighs pulled by a team of cayuses”, he had the worldly sum of $400 in his pocket.

Later, the George’s had four more children, among them Louisa Irene George for whom Peace River’s first hospital was named.

The headstone bearing her name and year of death, 1915, and the names of two of the George children – Maxwell Sandfield, age 10, June 1910, and Louisa Irene, age two years, September 1910, now resides on the grounds of the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre.

The George children were the first known burials in the Anglican cemetery on the ledge overlooking what is now the Bishop’s Lodge.

Source: Peace River Remembers;; Record-Gazette

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace - Nancy Brick

The "Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace" is a feature written by Beth Wilkins, Curatorial Assistant and Researcher, in conjunction with the Museum's Treaty 8 Exhibit on display until the end of August. The articles have also been published on the Community Page of the Peace River Record-Gazette.

Nancy (Gray) Brick

The Brick Family (l-r) Standing - Emma and Allie; Seated: Nancy with, probably, Robert (PRMA - AR89.36.024)

Nancy Gray, a Métis woman, was the daughter of a Red River Hudson’s Bay employee. In 1895, she married Thomas Allen (Allie) Brick, first Peace River Member of Provincial Parliament (now Minister of the Legislative Assembly).

While Allie was establishing a commercially viable farm along the Shaftesbury Trail, and representing a constituency one third the size of the province of Alberta, a staunch supporter of his efforts became, herself, widely known in the Peace River district.

She acted as a hostess to many travellers who stopped at the Brick farm in their quest for land and trade.

Jean Cameron Kelley wrote in Peace River Remembers, about a wonderful New Year’s meal she and other guests enjoyed at the Brick’s home. “There was stuffed turkey with vegetables and cranberry sauce and a real English pudding” – a testament to Nancy’s culinary and hospitable flair.

The Bricks had nine children – three lived to adulthood – Earnest, Fred and Emma.
A heart attack during preparations for anesthetic prior to dental work was the cause of Nancy’s death in 1923, leaving Allie a widower.

Source: I Remember, Peace River and Adjacent Districts – 1914-1916 (Part 2); Electoral History of the Peace River Country of Alberta – 1905-1993

Monday, September 22, 2008

Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace - Pat Wesley

The "Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace" is a feature written by Beth Wilkins, Curatorial Assistant and Researcher, in conjunction with the Museum's Treaty 8 Exhibit on display until the end of August. The articles have also been published on the Community Page of the Peace River Record-Gazette.

Pat Wesley – Peace River Benefactor Lends Name to Creek

PRMA AR89.36.022

One of the Town of Peace River’s pioneers was a man, who lent his name to a creek running from an area northeast of town between Kaufman and Grouard hills and through it to meet with the Peace River behind the Third Mission Heritage Suites.

Although details of Pat Wesley’s life are obscure, it is plain to see the man, who was in the area from at least 1902, indeed, was an important person in the history of the town.

An Evelyn Seeley poem lauds Wesley for whom Pat’s Creek and the district of Wesley Creek in Northern Sunrise County are named.

Wesley was Métis. “He was one of the Métis who took scrip – that is the title to certain land,” writes Muriel Oslie in Peace River Remembers. According to Oslie, he moved onto his land and lived in a cabin near Pat’s Creek. He gave five acres to the Anglican Church, asking only that his body be laid to rest in the shadow of the church to be built on the land he had donated.

In 1910, Wesley contracted smallpox, the disease, which eventually killed him. He was buried, as requested, in what is now the rectory garden.

Three of the five acres Wesley donated were sold. The funds from the sale were used in 1916, for the erection of a house on ground near Wesley’s grave for the Incumbent of St. James Church, Rev. Harold Hesketh.

Current buildings on the property include: rectory, Synod office, St. James Cathedral, and Athabasca Hall.

Sources: Peace River Remembers; Archdiocese of Athabasca; I Remember 1; Record-Gazette; Northern Sunrise County Web site; Place Names of Alberta, Vol. IV; I Remember 2

Friday, September 19, 2008

Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace - The Flette Family

The "Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace" is a feature written by Beth Wilkins, Curatorial Assistant and Researcher, in conjunction with the Museum's Treaty 8 Exhibit on display until the end of August. The articles have also been published on the Community Page of the Peace River Record-Gazette.

The Flette Family

PRMA 79.1021.2 Nicholas Flette in his WWI uniform, seated. The other chap is unknown.

Nicholas Flette

Often called Sunny or Nick

Born: December 1896, in Fort Vermilion area, one of William and Charlotte (Smith) Flette’s sons
Died: December 1965, died of a heart attack

Served in First World War – said to have served in Siberia driving a dog team in the line of duty

September 15, 1928, Nicholas married Caroline Margaret Lawrence

Margaret Flette

Margaret Flette in one of her many hats

Born: March 17, 1904, in the Fort Vermilion area, third child of 15 and descendent of pioneers and missionaries – Sheridan and Julia Lawrence. Died: July 31, 2007, 103 years old

Received early education at home – went to a school on Lawrence family ranch, also attended by local children – won Governor General’s Medal for highest marks in grade school – travelled to Winnipeg for further education in 1924 – taught school in Fort Vermilion for two years – had varied careers thereafter.

Following Nick’s death in 1965, Margaret continued to live in their Peace River home, to which they had moved in the late 1950s, having sold their previous house to daughter Hester and husband, Fred Hutton.

Margaret had many talents, one of which was making delicious cinnamon buns – a treat at Chuck’s Place – a popular Peace River restaurant. Even after the closure of the restaurant, she continued, well into her 80s, to bake the treats. She was always busy – taking in boarders and roomers – being active in several organizations and her craft interests.

Margaret was also known for her hats and her walks along Main Street.

The Flettes

Nicholas and Margaret renewed their friendship while both were in Cloverbar, Alberta, near Edmonton. They had five children: Hester, Clifford, Lawrence, Allan and Shirley. Clifford died while serving in the Second World War.

After their marriage, the Flettes homesteaded at Cloverbar before succumbing to the lure of the Peace Country. They farmed in the Stewart District (Weberville Road) for more than 20 years.

Source: Fort Vermilion People In Our Vast Trading North; Margaret Flette’s obituary

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace - Duncan Tustawits

The "Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace" is a feature written by Beth Wilkins, Curatorial Assistant and Researcher, in conjunction with the Museum's Treaty 8 Exhibit on display until the end of August. The articles have also been published on the Community Page of the Peace River Record-Gazette.

Duncan Tustawits, Tastatoots, Testawich

PRMA 76.689.39 - Photograph taken 100 miles north of Peace River Crossing (no date available): Duncan Testawits on dog sled with Dr. Bayfield in foreground.

Duncan Tustawits, first Headman of the Duncan’s Band was one of the signatories of the second signing of Treaty 8, witnessed by North West Mounted Police Sgt. K.F. Anderson. Duncan signed on behalf of the Cree population of the Peace River Crossing district, July 1, 1899. He was a capable ambassador of his people, speaking Cree, Beaver, French, English and Chippewa.

The Duncan’s Band in 1899 had 46 members. By 1900, it had grown to 67 members. Today the Duncan’s Reserve population is 101

The 1918 flu epidemic took many lives, though no figures are known, including all but two sons and one daughter of the 18 children of he and his wife. Duncan also succumbed to influenza in 1918 at the approximate age of 70.

The well-respected band Headman farmed on River Lot 1 at the western end of the Shaftesbury Trail and was a familiar figure in the White Swan and Griffith Creek Districts. He was reputed to have been a good farmer and a supporter of education. To the latter end, his children attended school the Anglican Christ Church Mission on Shaftesbury Trail.

His farming enterprise included a large herd of horses, which is said to have supplied the equine needs of many area settlers.

The Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre invites readers to provide it with any more information or photographs you may have of Duncan Testawits and his family. The Museum may be reached at (780) 624-4261 and e-mail:

Source: Brick’s Hill, Berwyn and Beyond, a history of Berwyn and District; On the North Trail, the Treaty 8 Diary of O.C. Edwards

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace - The St. Germains

The "Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace" is a feature written by Beth Wilkins, Curatorial Assistant and Researcher, in conjunction with the Museum's Treaty 8 Exhibit on display until the end of August. The articles have also been published on the Community Page of the Peace River Record-Gazette.

Joseph Simon St.Germain and Charles St. Germain

PRMA 75.655.001 - (L) Joseph (Joe) and (r) Charles (Charlie). Date and place of photograph unknown.

Joseph [1874 – 1959] and Charles St. Germain [1874 – 1958], twin sons of Charles and Angelique (Lafournaise) St. Germain, settled with their family along Shaftesbury Trail on River Lot 39 in 1894.
Charles Sr. was among the last of the buffalo hunters whose expeditions took him into Montana and Minnesota. He was also reported to have been quite a rum-runner in his time.
The St. Germain family raised livestock, crops and a huge garden. The farm was a well-known Stopping Place for weary travellers.
The tradition of hosting a mocchigan – food, good fellowship, music and dancing – provided ample opportunities for Charles and his brother to learn to play musical instruments.
Joseph, known by some as “Little Smilin’ Joe” because of his easy-going manner and kind disposition, married Elizabeth Louise McKenzie, daughter of Alex McKenzie at the St. Augustine Mission Chapel in 1903.
In the winter months of 1907 to 1910, Joseph hauled freight for Revillion Freres, but eventually he and Elizabeth settled in West Peace on their land grant property.
The Joseph St. Germains had eight children. Only four lived to adulthood – Edmond, Thomas, Philomene Riley and Ruth Gardner
Joseph was a fine fiddler and played for many dances and parties in the Shaftesbury and Strong Creek districts.
Charles married Maria McAllister in 1895. They had 15 children of which nine lived to adulthood.
Charles, known for his log-building skills, built the church at Dunvegan, as well as the surrounding buildings. The family farmed in the area later known as St. Germain Lakes in the Chinook Valley area and Shaftesbury.
Source: I Remember, Peace River and Adjacent Districts – 1800s-1913 (Part 1); Peace River Remembers; Caron Riley

Monday, September 15, 2008

Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace - Angelique IsKwesis

For those of you who missed out on our wonderful articles published in the Record Gazette, they will be re-posted here for your enjoyment. We will be posting one every day this week:
The "Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace" is a feature written by Beth Wilkins, Curatorial Assistant and Researcher, in conjunction with the Museum's Treaty 8 Exhibit on display until the end of August. The articles have also been published on the Community Page of the Peace River Record-Gazette.

Angelique IsKwesis (Chickalee) – “A Real Friend”

PRMA 73.531.071

Chickalee was familiar to the people of Peace River. This short, determined Beaver Indian woman was often seen walking along Peace River streets wearing a long black dress, tied at the waist by a cord, a black hat and moccasins. She was in town on her way to purchase her meagre supplies from J.D. Levesque’s store. After her purchases and talking to J.D., who spoke Cree, one would see her sitting in front of his store smoking a pipe.

She was a mysterious soul, who suffered ridicule and harassment. With all of the disrespect shown her, she also commanded the friendship of others. “I forget how you say ‘real friend’ in Cree, but Chickalee did have a lot of them in the Peace River Country,” says columnist R.C. Colmer in an April 1984 newspaper article.

Angelique (Chickalee) was Number 28 to accept Treaty (8) with the Peace River Crossing Band in July 1899. There is speculation regarding the origin of the name Chickalee – some say it is a derivative of Pi-chickleese – good-natured – jolly, while others suggest it means “tiny one”.

Regardless, she was a woman of character.

She was married twice – first to Guillaume Bell in the mid-1800s – then, as his widow, married Jean Baptiste (Johnny) LePretre, July 5, 1914, at St. Augustine Mission, Shaftesbury Trail, about which there was a recollection of an auspicious occasion at which people from all over came by various means of transportation. There was even a gun salute and “much merry-making.”
Johnny died in 1923.

Chickalee, as far as is known bore only one child – Louise in 1893 – the first student to attend St. Augustine Mission School.

Angelique (Chickalee) IsKwesis Bell Le Pretre died at Hotel Dieu Hospital, Whitelaw, Dec. 23, 1958 – age 108. She rests in Peace River’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Sources: Peace River Remembers; Caron Riley; Record-Gazette

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Have you ever wondered what that fine looking fort-type building across the Heart River was?
Well, wonder no more thanks to the Museum's helpful and handsome new sign!

A special thanks must go out to the kind folks at Public Works who did such a top notch job on hanging our illustrious new signage.

"What's Your Story?"

We're proud to announce the winner of our 2nd Annual Historical Digital Photography Contest: Six-year-old Sasha Marceau!

Sasha is pictured here with our judges Jason Smirl (local photographer) and Beth Wilkins (Researcher and photographer) and with our contest producer Ken Staicesku (co-owner of family owned Foto Source).

The theme of this year's contest was "What's Your Story?" and challenged the young photographers to explore their family history and the history surrounding them in the Peace Region.

The winning photograph:

Who Sat There? by Sasha Marceau

The judges were impressed with Sasha's composition skills and the haunting human element of the lone chair sitting empty by the abandoned building near Mairie Reine.

Sasha is the winner of a $100 gift certificate for Foto Source in the Riverdrive Mall, Peace River.

The winning photo and those of the other talented entrants are on display now at the Peace River Museum. Check out these talented young photographers and their unique vision of our community's history.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Our Visit to Lac Cardinal!

This week some of our staff members went on a field trip to the Lac Cardinal Pioneer Village Museum (just outside of Grimshaw) to discover some of the adventures available in our own backyard.

Lac Cardinal's Pioneer Village Museum is truly one of the Peace Country's hidden treasures. It is a unique opportunity to wander down a Main Street and Farm of a typical small town in the 1920's - 1940's.

There really is no better way to experience the Peace Region's history than to walk through the Pioneer Village.

All of the buildings, businesses and homes are open for visitors to walk through and are brimming with interesting artifacts, antiques and curios from the past. The General Store is stocked with every odd and end that the enterprising pioneer would ever need.

Buildings like the bakery, Strong Creek Hall, MD Office, and Post Office are full of period detail. When you step inside charming Hassell School (above) you can almost see the students pledging their allegiance to Queen and country.

The former Worsley Catholic Church even has a working church bell with a wonderful sound.

This is the Old Cook Shack which functioned as cook's quarters and a kitchen and a mess hall for the threshing crews - all in this tiny little trailer!

There are plenty of opportunities to interact with artifacts, including this stereoscope (a retro Victorian 3D picture device).

Some historical gas prices (56 cents a gallon!).

This blacksmith's shop has a collection of hand crafted tools donated by a local blacksmith who created every one of his tools for each job that he performed.

The Museum is built and maintained by a passionate group of volunteers. We would like to thank our informative and entertaining guide, Selma (the Pioneer Village's Collection Manager) who is standing on the left with our Archivist, Wendy.

Admission to the Pioneer Village is free (Although donations are appreciated). Its location next to Queen Elizabeth Park makes it an ideal place to spend an afternoon of exploration during this coming long weekend.

The Museum is open 11 - 5 p.m until mid-September.

For more information, call the Pioneer Museum at 332-2030.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Membership Drive 2008

Our 2008 Membership Drive began this August and has already met with an enthusiastic response!

A membership to the Peace River Museum entitles the bearer to free admission throughout the year, invitations to opening receptions and special events, a subscription to the Museum's newsletter and the satisfaction of helping to ensure the preservation of Peace River's history for future generations.

Bessie (a porcelain cow creamer hailing from Scotland, c. 1911) models with the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre's 2008 Membership Card.
There are three different types of memberships for Bessie (and others) to choose from:

Individual Membership - $8
Family Membership (For 1-2 Adults and their children) - $15
Grand Family Membership (For 1-2 Adults and their grandchildren) - $15

Memberships can be purchased at the Museum with cheque or cash or at the Town Office with a debit card.

Membership are available year round and make a wonderful gift for the historically inclined individual or family.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Thank You to the Peace River Heritage Run

Photo by Beth Wilkins
A special thanks to the participants and volunteers of this year's Peace River Heritage Run who helped raise $1000 for the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre on their annual run which took place this July 15th.

Lynn Page-Scott at the Finish Line Photo by Beth Wilkins
More than 75 runners and walkers participated in a 5 km or 10 km run. There were two school as well as business relay teams. The first place runner in the 10 km event was Andrea Taylor, with a time of 43 minutes 40 second. Nathan Fyfe won the 5 km run in an impressive 18 minutes and 48 seconds.

Cara Gangnon in the lead Photo by Beth Wilkins
The Peace River Museum and Archives deeply appreciates the efforts and continued support of the Peace River Running Club. Year after year, their runners and volunteers have transformed the Heritage Run into a much anticipated event in Peace River and a joy for all participants.

We look forward to next year's run!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Superb Heritage Day at the Museum

Glorious summer weather, entertaining guides and adventurous walkers all helped to make the Museum's Heritage Day Celebrations a marked success.

An excellent turnout of curious ramblers were treated to fact and folklore provided by our fantastic guides: Beth, Laura and Adele. Each brought the river, hills and downtown of Peace River to life, much to the delight of our intrepid visitors.

A special congratulations to the lucky winner of our draw, Debora Reath, who was the recipient of an adventure backpack supplied by the staff of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.
After this week's positive results, the Museum is considering offering more guided walking tours throughout the year and possibly publishing brochures to conduct your own self-guided walking tours through Peace River. Let us know what you think at or in the comments field.
And a big thanks to all our Walkers and Talkers!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Heritage Days at the Museum!

Celebrate Heritage Days (Monday, August 4th, 2008) by taking a historic walking tour of Peace River and hear engaging stories and humourous folklore about our town. We are offering three different fact and fun filled tours:

"History of the River" - Learn the proud boat and navigation history of the Peace River including stories of the fur traders, explorers, and the glamorous steamer, the D.A Thomas.
Time: 10:30 a.m

"Downtown History" - Learn about the hustle and bustle of historic downtown Peace River and the pioneering businessmen and businesswomen whose legacies live on.
Time: 1:00 p.m

"Historic Hills of Peace River" - Learn the history behind Judah, Brick, Misery, George and Grouard Hills.
Time: 2:30 p.m

Also enter to win a sleek and slim backpack generously donated by the staff of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

All tours begin at the Peace River Museum and last between 45 minutes - 1 hour.

Please come prepared for the weather as the tours will go rain or shine (but hopefully shine!). The Museum will also be open during this time with regular hours.

Call the Museum (780-624-4261) for more information.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Greetings, Gentle Readers

Welcome to the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre's new blog!

Here we will be posting information about upcoming events, changes at the museum, new exhibits, tidbits from Peace River's history, openings, and an artifact of the week feature.

For information about the Peace River Museum & Archives, please check out our new and improved website.

Thanks and check back often!