by Dorthea Calverley
Dawson Creek never had a fur-trade post, much less a fort. The two nearest outlets for local trappers were Fort St. John and, later, Lake Saskatoon, on the shore of the lake of that name near present-day Grande Prairie. It is recorded that Pouce Coupe’s band traded at Dunvegan in the 1980’s.
When Hector Tremblay settled at the mouth of the Dawson Creek at its confluence with the Pouce Coupe River, he used to take furs in trade and “pack them out”.
Few fur-buyers have a longer record than Wesley O. Harper who began his merchandising career in “The Old Town”, now remembered as “Old Dawson Creek”, first as a clerk and then as a proprietor. When the railroad failed to reach the site, the Harper building was moved to the present site of Dawson Creek and grew to a large department store on site across the 10th street directly east of Dawson Co-op No. 1. When business outgrew the premises during World War II, the new building, now
“The Bay” looked not at all like a fur-trade post, but “W.O.” continued to buy furs from the local trappers.
When the store was sold to The Bay, one might suppose that the fur-buying would follow the old tradition, but not so. W.O. continued to carry on the business as a private enterprise. As late as 1973 this advertisement appeared in the Peace River Block News, marking more than forty years of connection with the oldest industry in the Peace.
W.O. Harper Ltd.
Another fur buyer who was well-known as far as Fort Nelson and beyond was the later Mr. Jim Allen, who established Jim’s Trading Post at the southern end of the Alaska Highway. He not only bought their furs, but gave the Indian craftspeople an outlet for their work. His widow “carried on” until 1975 in the latter enterprise.