Mr. Clay came into the Rolla district with his parents in the year 1912 to file on a homestead that his father, Tom Clay had filed for him by proxy in 1911. Bill and Rosalie were married in 1919 and made their home in the Rolla district till 1931. By the year 1930 they had four children and Bill felt that he must have more land, and as all available land in Rolla was taken, he decided to go further north. At this time he did not have a saddle horse, so he borrowed one from Wes Yaeger and then Wes decided to go with him as a guide and companion. Before the trip was over Bill was able to make a trade for the saddle and this horse, Bird, was very important to him throughout his pioneer days. This trip with Wes took them through many muskeg and swamps, up the Pouce River and to the Braden Crossing where the river joined the Peace River. From Braden’s Crossing they followed the Peace River to Streeper’s landing and crossed the river on Streeper’s home made scow. As this brought them into Alberta and they wanted land in British Columbia, they followed the border till they found the land Bill felt would make a good homestead and a new life for his family. At that time this district had not been thrown open for homesteads, but the pioneers just staked the land and had it all surveyed at a later date. This was in 1930 and Bill set about immediately to clear a spot for a house and barn. He travelled back and forth from Rolla all of that year and into the year 1931 before he had a home built suitable for his family to move into.
When Bill moved into the district there was already a group of Ukrainian pioneers living just northeast of the Peace River hill. As they all had families with school age children, a school was the first aim of all the pioneers. It was after the school was built that the district was called Clayhurst with the idea that it might be changed at a later date. As we know this was never to come about. Many names were submitted later to the Government and the official name was to be Clayhurst. Bill served on the school board as one of the first trustees.
In 1935 Bill purchased a sawmill from Mr. Jesse Johnson, who lived in the Cherry Point district. This made life and building much easier for himself and many of the new pioneers that were steadily coming into the district. In 1938 he loaned the lumber and money to Mr. Jack Murray to build a store and stock it. It was at this same mill site that Bill was injured and later died in an Edmonton hospital. At the time of the accident the ferry was just being put into operation at the Clayhurst landing. Mr. Streeper took Bill across the ferry to the new hospital in Dawson Creek, B.C. They were the first vehicle to have crossed on the new ferry and to this day the ferry is still one of the important features in the district. Bill, with the help of Mr. H. E. Craig, played a big role in convincing the government that a ferry was badly needed for the welfare of the district.
Throughout his life in the district he was known to always be working for the betterment of the district and trying to make life better for his family and easier for the new settlers that were just beginning to start on homesteads. He also was much in demand when there was a dance or a house party, as he was quite an accomplished musician, playing both the violin and guitar.
This is just one of the unfortunate mishaps and hardships that were endured by an early pioneer like Bill. One day he went in search for white birch with a neighbor to a little island named Birch Island in the Peace River. Of course this trip, like most travel, was done in the winter. While going up the river, Bill’s team broke through a thin piece of ice and he was forced to cut the tongue from the sleigh to free the horses. They [the horses] were both drowned and this was a real blow as Bill had just purchased one of the horses a few weeks before. In those days horses were expensive as well as being hard to get.
The death of Wm. Clay is still well remembered and he is sadly missed even today. He had put so much into the district and was never able to enjoy the improvements that he worked so hard to get. After the death of Wm. Clay, his family continued to live in the district and carried on where their father left off. Mrs. Rosalie Clay moved into Dawson Creek, B.C., in the early 1950’s where she stills resides. Two of their sons, Kenny and Tommy, have made their homes in the Bear Canyon district, while one daughter lives in the Cherry Point district. Two of the girls have married and make their home in Powell River, B.C. and the other girl in the Whitehorse area. The youngest boy, Allen, lives in the Dawson Creek area.
Mr. Wm. Clay and his family will always be remembered as one of the outstanding Pioneer Families of the Clayhurst district.