This building was built from hewed logs chinked with moss and had rip-sawed slabs for floor and roof. They used a huge oil-drum heater in winter. In 1936 they built a new building and it was also of hewed logs but a lot more comfortable. There still had been no sawmills in this area before this time, although timber was plentiful. When they bought the store, the land was not included, as it was Government owned. However, they applied later and the land became their homestead.
The neighbors were good, although only about four were close — the Johnsons, Wilkie Smith, Fred Mansberry and the Browns. The Eswiens and the rest were scattered up the Pine Valley twenty-five miles or so and to Jackfish Lake and Moberly Lake areas. There were also many native families and trappers throughout the area. Of course trapping was the main source of earning a living. Many had good gardens. There was an abundance of wild game and wild fruit — raspberries, blue berries, Saskatoons and strawberries.
The wagon trails had many stumps and mud holes along the way and were hard on horses, vehicles and drivers alike. The residents tried their best to improve on this, but any road clearing was volunteer labor so each did his bit only as necessity required. Until a ferry came over at East Pine and a road was built for the oil site at Commotion Creek in 1940, it was rough going for all concerned. Mail came once a week to East Pine from Dawson Creek, where Mr. Nicholson picked it up to bring it in.
The Pine and Murray Rivers had to be crossed separately in suspended baskets on cables. For a quarter of a mile between, baskets, mail and freight had to be toted. Once across it was loaded on sleighs and wagons for the rest of the journey.
This distance of about twenty miles was a two-day trip and mail-day was the highlight of the week. Supplies and heavy freight were hauled from Dawson Creek by team over the ice in winter or when the river was low enough to ford in summer.
They didn’t ask for medical help often and once in 1937 called a doctor who had to be met at East Pine with a saddle horse, and returned the same way the next day, but as the patient survived, all were thankful. What a change for patients and Doctors in 1973!
The four Nicholson children — Jean, Wilbur, Joyce and Bobby — took all their education, including High School, by correspondence until a school opened in the 1950’s in Little Prairie and then on to High School in Dawson Creek.
Mrs. Nicholson told us quite a few experiences of the past. She told of Twidwell telling her a story of meeting a grizzly bear, but as he had been carrying his gun on horseback the barrel was bent, so he’d had to wait till the bear was a few feet from him before shooting — and he’d killed the bear. They also had seen a timber wolf in the pasture with their cattle the morning we called.
She also told of the graveyard near their home where there were several unmarked graves. She also, as many other old-timers do, told the story of a man accused of stealing tobacco and other articles from graves and aggravating the Indians till they held a War Dance at Sundance Lake, after which the lake was named.
She knew of the trapper buried behind her house after he drowned in the Sukunka while with Martin Goodrich. She didn’t know his name but I’m told it was Oscar Byers.
She showed me a few articles made of clay from along the Pine and Sukunka. Some very fine pieces of pottery have been made here.
Little Prairie was the name given to the clearing where plenty of grass grew and water was plentiful for feeding the horses of people traveling from Moberly to the Saulteaux encampment on the Sukunka.
When the road to the Oil-site by-passed Nicholson’s place, they sold the store. Mr. Phanner and W.A. Campbell took over the store and post office in 1948. They built a new building on the highway.
Finally the Nicholsons sold their homestead to the P.G.E. — the station is built in approximately the same location as the Nicholson home was. As they had earlier purchased the land Mr. Twidwell owned they moved to Twidwell Bend after his death. Mrs. Nicholson still lives there with her sons Wilbur and Ellis. Jean, Joyce and Bobby live not far away with their families. The Nicholsons are still a definite link with the past and present way of life in the area.