Wednesday, February 24, 2010

PRADS African Night a Success!

The Peace River African Descendents Society (PRADS), which was started in 2009, held a dinner and cultural experience on Saturday, February 20th. Laura Gloor, of the Museum had been invited to talk about black pioneers in the area. The information from her wonderful presentation has been reproduced here in two parts!

Part 1: Dan Williams:(Source: Delayed Frontier by David Leonard, p. 124, 138-146)

Dan Williams was a prospector in the late 1800s and remained in the Peace Country after the gold rush dwindled. He was known, in the parlance of the times, as "Nigger" Dan and took up residence in Fort St. John, BC circa 1870s. His reputation was varied depending on who you spoke with. It ranged from a travelling author saying he was a "pioneer, cook, trapper, vagrant, idler or squatter..." to being known for his generosity to government surveyors. He continued prospecting with partners, but also traded across the river from the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) at Fort St. John.

He was also well known for his gardening skills. In a Dominion Land Surveyor's journal that first mentioned him as well as the botanist, John Macoun, speak of his flourishing garden of vegetables and grains.
In 1873, the Hudson's Bay Company told Dan Williams that the land on which he resided was theirs and he would have to move. Dan refused and even posted a sign dividing his property to read:

A Loyal British subject
Who objects to be trodden upon
By any man except
Her Gracious Magesty Queen Victoria

The dispute grew until 1879, when Dan Williams injured horses belonging to the HBC that had wandered onto his land. He was also reported to have issued death threats against HBC employees. The two employees he had threatened, captured him and tied him up but he escaped and fled to his cabin. When they approached, he fired gun shots at them and they retreated. Dan was eventually apprehended and brought to trial at Fort Saskatchewan on July 1880. The charges involved the shots fired at the HBC horses and employees.
No Hudson's Bay Company employees were allowed on the jury due to bias. Dan did not have a lawyer, but rather his companion in prospecting and a man, "Banjo Mike" McDavidson. In his final argument, McDavidson was reported to have said regarding Dan's intent to injure the Company's employees: "...Dan Williams at a distance of one hundred yards can take the eye out of a jack-rabbit at every pop. Gentlemen, if Dan Williams had the slightest intention of hariming Mr. McKinlay, he [McKinlay] would not have been here today to tell you the amusing little story whereby he gives you credit for some sense of humor without paying much compliment for intelligence."
It was thought the jury had sympathy for Dan Williams as a David against the Goliath of the HBC and he was acquitted of all charges. Dan returned to his life in the Peace Country.
It was reported he died in the middle of February 1887 in a cabin by the Finlay River.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Dan Kelly!
For now, here are some photos of the African Night taken by Natalya Verosovaya:
The first part of the evening was delicious dinner, afterwards, Laura Gloor gave her presentation.

After the dinner and presentation by the Museum, there was a drum circle.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Noted Author and Historian David Leonard coming to Peace River Museum

 We are very excited to be hosting David Leonard (photo courtesy of, who has a extensive knowledge of settlement and surveying in the Peace Country.

event begins at 1pm on Saturday, February 27th at thePeace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre (10302 99th Street).

David will be speaking specifically about surveying in the Peace River area in conjunction with our current exhibit from the Land Surveyor's Association, "Making Their Mark: The land surveyor's role in the peaceful and orderly development of Alberta"

David Leonard has authored books such as, "The Last Great West: The Agricultural Settlement of Peace River Country to 1914", "Delayed Frontier: The Peace River Country to 1909" and "The Lure of the Peace River Country, 1872-1919" (with Victoria L. Lemieux). He will be bringing a selection of his books, which will be available for purchase during the event and are also in the Museum's Gift Shop on a regular basis.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We're online!

In September 2009, the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre received a grant from the Archives Society of Alberta to help our Archives advance to a new phase. Canadian archives have a standard for describing their records known as RAD (Rules of Archival Description). As we continually striving to increase our level of service as a research facility, the move towards RAD is an important one. It gives us the ability to share our records with the rest of the country!

And as of February 1, 2010 six sets of records from our Archives are officially online with the Archives Society of Alberta's database and can be viewed at: Archives Network of Alberta!
The database contains descriptions of these six records and the Archives will continue to update new descriptions as they are completed. Let us know your impressions!
The Archives Network of Alberta is eventually uploaded to CAIN (Canadian Archival Information Network) which gives us a national presence! We are very excited to have started this new process in making our records available online.