August 20th 1973
The earliest I can recall is of 1924 when I settled in the Pine River country. Before the Hart Highway was built there was only a wagon road from Dawson Creek to East Pine that wound through the bush and around sloughs and over creeks. There was very little agriculture carried on after you left the Dawson Creek valley. Mark Devereaux had a stopping house at the Kiskatinaw crossing. He grew enough feed for horses that stopped there. The Fellers and some others were farming south of Arras. Further west in the Progress area Livingston, Rosenau, the Partridge brothers and Bentleys had a few acres cleared and in crop — mostly green-feed — for their own live stock. The wagon road followed the valley west to Stewart flats, later called Groundbirch, where Bentrude, the Groener brothers and Fred Hasler had land and were just growing feed for their live stock.
In 1930 after the railway came to Dawson Creek, this area filled up with new settlers and farming got under way in a large way.
From there to east Pine, about 15 miles further west; there were no settlers. The Palmers and Jake Smith were settled on the river flats where the Murray River (East Pine River) joins the Pine River. They had a stopping house and store, and Jake Smith did blacksmith work using coal he got out of the bank of the Murray River a few miles south.
They were from Idaho. East Pine was the end of the wagon road. To go to Lone Prairie, the Murray River had to be forded and the trail went over the “Table” mountain now called Wartenbe and down into the Lone Prairie valley. There was quite a settlement there of the Wartenbes, Durney, Wetherills and a few others that I have forgotten.
To go from Palmers up the Pine River, the Murray River had to be forded and then the Pine River had to be forded, with saddle horses and packhorses.
If the rivers were high the horses would have to swim, which would get the riders wet to their chests. The trail followed up the north side of the river for 4 or 5 miles and then climbed out of the valley to the Sun Dance Lakes area.
Sundance Lake was an Indian campground. There were several wooden teepees, made by splitting Jack Pine poles and setting them up in the shape of a teepee with all the small ends at the top and the split side out. A fire could be built in the centre as in a real teepee, for cooking, warmth and light. I have never heard that the Indians held conferences there. At one time a white man had a small trading post on the south side of the West Sundance Lake; the remains were still there in 1925 when I first saw them.
From Sundance Lakes the trail followed the high ground for several miles, then dropped down to the river valley at Frank Treadwell’s place where the Sukunka River from the south joins the Pine River.
From here you have to climb out of the valley because of canyon, the trail went north to Moberly Lake, but you turned off it four miles along to go west up the Pine River.
Joe Bissett Flats was about 10 miles from Treadwell’s where the wild horses ranged along the flats and the side hills, and where I first settled and built a cabin and corrals and drift fences to catch the horses.
Next up the river were the Goodrichs, George and Martin and his wife and four boys. A daughter was born in December 1924 there. Ivor and George Johnson had a cabin near Hasler Creek. They, like the Goodrich’s, were trappers and the only farming they did was to grow vegetable gardens.
Next and last up the river were Phil and Mrs. Esswein. Phil was also a trapper. He did have some horses and he grew feed to winter them. He was also a big game guide.
Mrs. Esswein was in attendance when Mrs. Goodrich had a baby, around December 2nd 1924. I played a part in the birth of the first white child to be born in the Pine River valley. About November 20th Martin Goodrich walked down to my place on Bissett flats and asked me to catch up a couple of saddle horses. He wanted me to go up the river and get Mrs. Esswein and bring her down to Goodrich’s as Mrs. Goodrich was going to have a baby.
There were about 6 or 8 inches of snow on the ground and it was pretty cold. It was about 25 miles from my place to Esswein’s and I made three trips up and back from November 20th to December 8th 1924.
During those early days I had no problems as there was just myself and a few head of horses to look after. One of my homemade stools is in the museum at Hudson Hope from those days. I used to put up wild hay for my horses. Mowers and rakes and wagons were brought up the river on the ice in winter. In 1927 a few of us cut a wagon road from the Pine River to Sundance Lake. It was used by the people at Jack Fish Lake and then it was pushed on to Moberly Lake.
It was about this time that basket ferries were put across the Murray and Pine Rivers. A few years later a ferry was in operation to cross the Pine River. When the Hart Highway was finished a high level bridge was built across the Pine River.