Located about three to four hundred miles northwest of Edmonton was the loading area of Grande Prairie with its centre at Saskatoon Lake. It was served by the Hudson’s Bay Co., Revillon Freres, and Fletcher Bredin, who had their provisions freighted in during the winter months due to impassable road conditions in the spring and summer.
About 1910 the settlers began coming in so it was necessary to have a road into the area. Henry Roberts and Harry Adair were two of the settlers chosen to select a route to the most appropriate point on the railway. Edson, a divisional point on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was the place chosen as a starting point. Road crews were placed at different points along this route under a foreman who had ten or twelve men under his supervision. They cut the trees and chopped the brush and put in bridges and corduroy when it was necessary.
Stopping places were put in where water could be found for the oxen and horses which travelled this route. At many points extra relay horses were kept to replace any horses that played out while hauling the mail which was hauled over this trail. Some of the stopping places were: Roses, about ten miles northwest of Edson; the Frenchman at the twenty mile place; the Athabasca at the river of that name; The Baptiste; Hundred Mile and House River. At Sturgeon Lake the stopping point was at the Hudson’s Bay post. Then there was Scotty’s at the west side of the Lake; Harper’s and the Hay Camp. Further on was Goodwin’s at the Big Smoky; Lou Kelliko, William Kelliko; the Tarpaper Shack; Peschong and the Cameron’s. The latter three were at the Kleskun Hills, then on to Bear Creek where Benson and also George Bredin had stopping places. Bear Creek is now called Grande Prairie City.
There were many different means of transportation over this Edson Trail. Some walked while others walked and trailed a hand sleigh. Others drove a yoke of oxen or a team of horses and one person was known to have driven a cow and a mule.
On the way out for provisions “those who had stock” would cache a bale of hay at different points to feed the stock on the way back. Quite often the rabbits ate the hay. Many on the way out would take a sleigh with a wagon loaded on it to compete with the Chinook Winds which would melt the snow overnight. On the way back from purchasing their supplies the majority of people had much in common. They were financially embarrassed or had an over supply of unwelcome company. In the summer time this difficulty could be partly overcome by placing ones underwear over an anthill, while others got relief by using a hot flat iron.
The trail was mapped out through many different types of country. Some good farming land, some extremely hilly, some heavier timber as well as a great deal of Muskeg. The larger streams such as the Big Smoky and the Athabasca Rivers were crossed by means of a ferry — a flat-bottomed boat fastened by cables on both sides of the river. The force of the stream drove the ferry with its load to the other side of the stream.
The Edson Trail is now entirely out of use and is grown up with brush but it served a wonderful purpose.