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:
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"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

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