From its very beginning Ed was associated with the Dawson Co-op Union, until it became one of the largest in Western Canada. He was the secretary of the Board of Directors in 1923 and then was the manager until his retirement for health reasons in 1944. He was not only an astute and competent businessman but also an advisor to hundreds of farmers and townspeople who supported the Co-op movement — and many who did not.
Mr. Hauger was born in Norway on November 20, 1877. From the age of sixteen he worked in various stores until 1904 when he emigrated to the United States. There, in the Dakotas and in Minnesota, he got experience in many types of work — logging, farming, and railway construction — but mostly in stores. During this time he became convinced that the only way to the solution of economic troubles of the ordinary man was through Co-operatives, which he had observed as a young lad in his native land.
In 1913 the fame of the Peace River country brought him and his brother by train to the Grouard area. After a spell of rafting on the Smoky River, they finally reached Grande Prairie. Pouce Coupe’s rich prairie lured the adventurers further. Equipped with a small axe, a .22 rifle, a blanket each, and a pail, they walked, waded, and slogged their way over the trail that passed for a road. Rabbits and wild birds provided food. It was a hard trip!
Ed Hauger liked the Rolla prairie land, with its rich, deep loam, and there he chose quarter sections for himself and his brother Pete. Then back to the Land Registry office in Grande Prairie, only to find that those quarters had already been filed on. His second choice was a half-section just east of the present city of Dawson Creek, but the tiny hamlet of that name was two and a half miles away at that time.
In March 1914, the Hauger brothers came to the homestead by team and sleigh, before the frost left the road in its usual state of spring mud. A tent was the first house, while the brothers got out logs for a cabin. This cabin, now covered with siding, is attached to the back of the substantial white two-storey farmhouse just north of the N.A.R. tracks on the eastern outskirts of the city. The brothers “batched” for two years, until Ed returned to Dakota where he met and married Cora Olson. The new Mrs. Hauger was the stuff of which pioneers are made. In 1919 when the couple came back to make their permanent home, she began her career as a farm wife and homemaker, raising a family of five children. In four years she was the “farmer” as well, for Ed took the job of managing the new Co-op in the “Old Town”. In the early twenties she bought Pete’s quarter–the north one–and became a farmer in her own right. Peter bought the homestead of Hans Tveter, a few miles east. In a “family co-operative” Pete farmed, while Ed carried on the business nearest his heart — building up the Co-op. Mrs. Hauger took on the jobs of bookkeeper and unofficial secretary.
It was not easy. Store hours in those days were whenever a customer in need happened to arrive. Saturday was the big shopping day. The premises closed only when everybody had the huge homesteader’s orders put up even if that was long after midnight! Ed lived in a little building behind the store, but arranged to come home on Wednesday afternoons. If lucky, he also got home early on Sunday morning. On other occasions he met the family on Sunday afternoons at church, and walked home with them, walking back again before opening time on Monday morning. His daughters well remember those five-mile walks to church and Sunday School.
It was a great day when Ed acquired a bicycle to use in summer, and still greater when, in the late twenties, a car allowed him to come home every night, and often at noon or in the middle of the day.
In the fall of 1930, Ed had the unique experience of being the manager of the only moving store in the North. The railroad was approaching the new townsite. When it became apparent that it would not be extended to the “Old Town” the Co-op building was set on rollers, and started its two and-a-half week journey to the main corner at the intersection of 10th street and 102 Ave. It was “business as usual” all the way, which included the socializing for which the Co-op used to be famous — for it was a friendly place then. The farmers tied their horses to the nearest post, leisurely took their time bartering eggs and butter for staple groceries, and talked politics, and farm practices, while their wives caught up on social news and vital statistics. Nobody got “motion-sickness” for it is recorded with pride by the McQueens who carried out the moving that not a single can fell off a shelf.
On the northeast boundary of the new town lay a quarter of raw land [SW 1/4 of Section 23] owned by Leonard Knee. He had received it as a Soldier Grant after the First World War but had never farmed it. Ed bought it in the late thirties or early forties, before anyone had suspected that the little farm-supply village which had stabilized at about six hundred souls would soon become more than six thousand –with many more in camps and barracks. This quarter section with its pleasant elevation overlooking the broad valley of the Dawson Creek became the site of crowded rows of portable army buildings while the Alaska Highway was being built. They as suddenly disappeared when the building was over. When the oil and gas boom followed close upon the war, sites for new homes were desperately needed. The area was subdivided by Alice Hauger to become what is still called The Hauger Subdivision, as we shall explain later.
The two Hauger sons met tragic deaths by accident, but Mrs. Hauger and the girls –Alice, Charlotte and Bertha — along with their uncle, Pete Hauger, continued the farm operations. The big farm and its comfortable home were noticeably well kept. In 1944 Ed’s health forced his retirement from the Co-op managership when he had built it up to
be the prototype of successful Co-ops in B.C.
One facet of his long view of the value of local Co-operative movement paid off then. Co-op employees were encouraged to train themselves in good merchandising practices — and to remain with the business. Fred Newby, still active in public life in the city and district [in 1970], was one of these. He stepped into the Manager’s office with no deterioration in what some outsiders called a one-man operation. The uniquely friendly and efficient management of what had become a huge local enterprise continued uninterrupted.
The Hauger daughters reflected the family’s belief in education. The eldest, Alice, became the first Dawson Creek high school graduate to secure a University degree. By this time another Co-operative enterprise, the Lake View Credit Union, was expanding. Alice became involved in that rather than in teaching which had been her original intention. Bertha married into a prominent and progressive farm family, the Hadlands, long associated with the illustration agricultural farm near Baldonnel. Charlotte spent several years in South America.
After Ed Hauger’s death in 1951, the pleasant hilltop area passed into the competent hands of the four women. The soldier-grant quarter, which we have mentioned, was purchased from the estate by Miss Alice Hauger, a forward-looking young woman with the inherited business acumen of both her mother and father. Recognizing the growing needs of the booming town, she subdivided the quarter, thus expanding the town limits. Her names for streets and drives commemorate old-timers and family members. One, Elwood Drive, is popularly believed to be named for Elwood Spinney, but Alice (Hauger) Carlson has recently [ca. 1970] advised us that like hundreds of others she did not know that E.J. Spinney’s real name was Elwood. She contrived the name from her father’s initials, and added “wood” which described the little wooded ravine which makes “Elwood Drive” a crescent. Another street is named “Lyman” after the deceased son and brother.
Few know of the generous monetary and land contributions to institutions in the city, notably the First United Church. The Haugers carried on with a notable lack of ostentation or publicity. It is difficult to assess the total contribution of Evan Larson Hauger’s life in the community of Dawson Creek and the surrounding area for hundreds of miles in every direction. The value of Ed Hauger’s advice, counsel and encouragement to the thousands whom he served so patiently and so kindly cannot be estimated much less evaluated.