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.