As early as 1873 the railroad surveyor, Charles Horetzky, had referred to the Peace as the future garden of the West. All it needed was people to bring it to life. In his reports, as one argument for bringing the CPR north, he eloquently praised the wild flowers and abundant fruit growing in the shelter of the Rockies. With the Peace River as a natural channel for transporting the products of the region to markets further east, he saw a great future for the area. Horetzky’s companion on his survey was John Macoun, botanist father of James. The older Macoun was every bit as enthusiastic about the Peace as a potential area for agriculture as his son was doubtful of its future. John Macoun felt that the area was virtually identical to Edmonton in terms of climate and considerably drier and warmer than the area around Slave Lake.
George Dawson crossed the Pouce Coupe Prairie in August of 1879, noting the deep and fertile soils exposed in the valleys and ravines. Even the valley of the Mud River (Kiskatinaw) drew favourable comments from him as being generally open and fertile with wild grasses reaching his horse’s belly. Like John Macoun had done earlier, Dawson found the climate very similar to that of Edmonton.
A young Englishman, H. Somers Somerset, was in the area in 1893 to hunt and happened to be here at a particularly cold and rainy time and was very disappointed in the country. He complained about map notes showing “fine soil” and “open rolling country” where he found only muskeg and swamps. In accounts of his journey, he warned prospective settlers about the perils of the Peace.
But the positive reports outweighed the negative ones in the end and the settlers came. A Senate committee in 1907 recommended the area for settlement and, in the same year, A.M. Bezanson published his booklet, Peace River Trails, promoting the region.
By 1921 there were about 1000 people established on the Pouce Coupe Prairie, just nine years after it was opened for homesteading.