We got on the train and finally arrived at Montreal. When it came time to entrain for the Far West, my sister Gertie was missing. In Montreal we had stayed at one of our uncles and my cousin had come to the train with us. My mother mentioned that she thought that she could hear a dog howling and turning around asked, “Where’s Gertie?” She had somehow become separated and the train was about to go. Everyone started to look for her and finally my cousin from Montreal found her. A middle-aged man holding Gertie by the hand was trying to find on which train she belonged. On seeing my cousin he told her, “You’re a fine lady”, and turned Gertie over to her. Gertie had been found just in time as the train soon left for the West.
When we got to Spirit River we had to use the Spirit River Trail. A Mr. O. Hudson took us to Tremblay’s stopping place, situated north of the village of Pouce Coupe today. At one of the stopping-places on the trail (MacLean’s) we met Reverend Kerr and his wife. Mrs. Kerr was a nurse in the early days of the Dawson Creek area. When bedtime came we had to sleep in the bunkhouse. Our bed was a few feet away from the ground and made out of poles. When we went to bed Reverend Kerr came to tuck us in. The outside covering on the bed was a horsehide. Finally after traveling about 3 days we arrived at Tremblays. Mrs. Tremblay greeted us in French and said to the Oblate priest who was there (he also was French-speaking) “Tiens, la voilà votre famille de Canadiens” (Here is your French-Canadian family from Québec.) The Oblate priest’s name was Father Croisé. He was from France. He smoked “roll-your-own” cigarettes and read “westerns”. He had a long bushy beard and wore a large cross on his cassock. The Tremblay house was made of small poplar poles or logs with an adjoining bunkhouse where the older boys slept. The boys were Israel, Hector, Bob and Rodolphe. The two girls, Lydia and Lilla, were younger. They all could speak French. We had dinner and in the afternoon Mr. Orrie Hudson took us to my uncle Oscar’s place situated 1-1/2 miles north and 1 mile east of the present city of Dawson Creek. When we got to the door he looked up and said, “B’en, je ne vous attendais pas avant Vendredi. Je voulais faire un “Pate-en-pate.” This was Wednesday afternoon, the week before Palm Sunday of 1917. To translate the previous French phrase – “Well, I didn’t expect you before Friday. I wanted to make beef and dumplings.” He had a fine quarter of beef lying in the snow near the shack. My father did not come till the following Friday. He and Israel drove up. Dad had brought a cook-stove with him. We had finally arrived in the Far West and we are here still in 1976.
There were no roads in the early days. One struck across country to get to “Pouce”. Bridges were all made of poles. When it rained roads were very muddy. One tried to keep to the open spaces as the ruts in the roads dried up quickly there after a rain.
Addendum by Dorthea Calverley
The Rolla-Pouce Coupe-Dawson Creek area was known as the Buffalo Plains, the present Dawson Creek area being also known as the Beaver Plains. The exceptionally good grass and peavine made excellent winter forage. How long the buffalo survived here in numbers after the disastrous kill-off in the 1830’s is not known, and Dr. Dawson makes no note of them in his journal in the 1880’s. Tradition says that the Indians wintered their horses here after the buffalo were gone. Their pack trails would likely follow the routes from pasture to pasture that the buffalo had found easiest. Other game tends to follow set trails also. Thus the old buffalo trails might have been reinforced and deepened.
Once a trail is made, it tends to resist the growth of vegetation in the packed earth. The writer well remembers the ancient trails on the prairies, in groups of three or more, decades after the buffalo were gone. They could be distinguished from wagon trails because the ruts were not a uniform distance apart as wheels run. Before these grassless foot-deep paths were ploughed up, one such group enabled the writer’s family to realize that they were driving in a circle while lost in a prairie blizzard. The recurring “Bump-bump”, of the sleigh runners identified the direction at that point, for they were known to run in an east-west course. Turning the horses to travel with the tracks and remembering that the wind was usually from the west in such storms enabled the lost travelers to find their buildings.
This is just a comment on the permanence of buffalo trails. Cattle make similar trails in the pastures.
The Marions had come the country to stay, to make a home and build an estate. Their farm buildings still stand square and true, on the original homestead — a fine example of skilled pioneer log building, often “snapped” by tourists. The family would like to give the site and the buildings as an “historic site”, but at the end of 1976 no organization has been willing to keep them up. It is a pity if they should be left to go to ruin.
[Editor’s note, 1998] The Marion barn and house were moved from the homestead to the Walter Wright Pioneer Village in 1992. The house has been restored and is in excellent condition but the main logs in the barn are probably beyond repair.