by Marion Parker (ca. 1970)
Although I am a comparative newcomer myself…15 years…I arrived here in time to see and make the acquaintance of some of the old timers. I shall never cease to be grateful for this. They were in a class by themselves. The history of the Peace River country would not be complete, especially as regards Moberly Lake, without mention of such persons as Ed Benson, Jim Fahey, the Culhams, Harry Garbitt, and Olaf Paulson.
Mr. Benson enjoys the doubtful distinction of being the first person to be buried in the All People’s Cemetery attached to the Church of the Nazarene here. At the time of writing, he has been joined by only two others, John Einerson, and Mrs. Eric (Lena) Logan.
Mr. Benson died before I had been here long, and I never got to know him very well. He is known to be the first white man to settle in what is now Grande Prairie. He is mentioned, with some venom, in Mr. Bezanson’s book, “Sodbusters Invade the Peace”. He lived alone in what we now call Benson’s Point, and died several years ago.
The Faheys came to Moberly Lake from Spirit River. Mr. Fahey went into partnership with the late Slim Garbitt in a general store business. After Slim’s untimely death, he [Fahey] ran it himself for a while, then took as a partner Ralph Parker, who was a fur buyer for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Mr. Parker later bought out the business, and built a new combined store and dwelling, now called Parker’s Trading Post. The former old Hudson’s Bay store, which had been used by the partners, is now a private dwelling, occupied by Mr. and Mrs. David Wezner and family.
Mr. Olaf Paulson came here from La Glace, Alberta, where he had been occupied in farming. He opened up a general store, which he ran for a number of years, finally selling out to Andrew Graham, who had it only a short time. It is now a home, and Mr. Paulson built himself a new home directly across the road, which he later sold to James Murray. Mr. Paulson originally came from Sweden, and although we believe him to be living somewhere in British Columbia, we do not know exactly where.
Wilfred and Mary Culham were here very early in the history of Moberly Lake. At the time they came, there may have been only Mr. Benson and Mr. Garbitt of the white race already here. At any rate, Mr. Benson was not overjoyed at the idea of more white people coming in, so he took it upon himself to hook a team of horses to the only available cabin, and pull it down in a heap. The Culhams survived this disaster with true pioneer spirit, as well as their involvement in the flood on the Murray River at East Pine, in which they lost their entire outfit except the horses. The Culhams originally came from Toronto, went to Hollywood after their marriage, where Wilf was a night watchman at one of the studios. I have heard Mary tell about seeing Gloria Swanson make her well publicized return to Hollywood from Europe, with Prince Mdivani [?] in tow. Their next move was to Bella Bella, B.C., where Mary worked as a nurse and Wilf worked in a sawmill. A serious accident at the mill left him with only one eye, so they made the long difficult journey to Moberly Lake to start a mink ranch. Mrs. Culham taught for a few years in the Moberly Lake School, living in Mrs. Tuck’s cabin. A few years ago they sold their place here to Mr. Sig Paul, and went to Kamloops. I always felt that they did not really want to leave, when the chips were down and all the papers signed. Be that as it may, they both died within a year and everyone in this community lost two good friends. The Culhams, who were blessed in many ways, had also a marvelous sense of humour. They always talked Pig Latin to each other, in the company of the native people who talked Cree, which was fair, don’t you think?
Harry Garbitt came here from Winnipeg when he was quite young. He had been born in Scotland in 1875. Mr. Garbitt is mentioned in Philip Godsell’s books, books by Brad Angier, and also in Bowes’ “Peace River Chronicles”. He lived a varied and colorful life. He operated a trading post for a short while at Sturgeon Lake for Revillon Freres; spent some time in the packhorse business with Twelve-Foot Davis and numbered Louis Riel among his friends. With a few Cree Indians to assist him, Harry cut the first trail from Fort St. John to Fort Nelson, for Col. Moodie of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. His knowledge of the Cree language made him an able assistant to various fur traders and in the 1910’s he settled permanently at Moberly Lake where he operated a trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Harry Garbitt was a person to whom conversation was the spice of life. He loved arguing for its own sake, and could argue equally well with Bishop or bullwhacker. Several children survive him — Pat Garbitt and Mrs. Ralph (Maryanne) Cameron of Moberly Lake, and Mrs. Frank (Gertie) Olito, of Carmacks, Yukon. His son Theophile (Slim) predeceased him by several years. They rest side by side in the local Catholic cemetery. Harry was married to Martha Desjarlais, who died last year. She was one of the five local pioneers to receive medals on the occasion of British Columbia’s centennial.
The community is presently served by two stores — Ken’s Place, and Parker’s trading Post. The post office in the Trading Post has graduated from weekly to daily deliveries. The school, now confined to four grades, has had a succession of teachers. Perhaps most famous of all were the Sutherlands, Wesley and Eleanor, who taught here for six years, until about 1961. At that time, they taught eight grades. These well known Peace River pioneers now dwell in Dawson Creek.