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."

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