2. The Fahler district was a heavily timbered area until the great fire of 1902, which burned most of forested area. Later it became one of the most important alfalfa-growing centres of the north. (Ashes contain potassium, a mineral vital to alfalfa growth). Today there is an alfalfa palletizing plant in the area.
3. One of the first settlers of the McLennan district was Louis Baniereau. He was a barber by trade and had a shop at Grouard before. He was also the first silver fox farmer in the Peace Country, having raised them while in Grouard.
4. Not until 1930 did the first dirt road link the Peace River district with Edmonton. Previous travelers had used trails hacked through the bush. The opening was marked by a race from Fort St. John to Edmonton by car. The road went via Lesser Slave Lake, and was a twisting, squirming route that turned into an impassable bog of gumbo after frequent cloudbursts. This was giving the road local fame as being the worst in North America.
5. In 1912, oil was found seeping out of gravel beds along the Pouce River. Gas was also seen bubbling up between the boulders. Such scenes also were occurring near Hudson’s Hope at the same time. In June 1921 the first gas well was sunk near Pouce Coupe. However, on December 27 the new gas lines to the boiler, forge and cookhouse broke under pressure because there was no way of controlling the gas flow. The cookhouse exploded, causing serious injury to the men.
6. Measurement of the Peace Country began in 1905 with the surveying of land in what is now the town of Peace River. The work of plotting out townships began in 1910 and was almost completed by 1913. Eleven surveyors were employed on the project and they mapped over 2 million acres for settlement.
7. The only arena north of Edmonton was the Memorial Arena at Peace River. The local Kinsmen Club raised funds for the building. The total cost was $65,000 and it was completed late in 1945.
8. The 7th annual fair at North Pine in 1936 saw over 150 exhibits on display. There were first, second and third prizes for each entry. Entry fee was $.25 for stock classes and $.10 for all others. Mr. R. V. Curiston was the best all around exhibitor in 1934 and G. H. Burton won the award in 1935.
9. The famous Edson Trail, over which hundreds of settlers entered the Peace Country, was in active use for only five years.
10. Inflation has been around for a long time. In 1950 water went up from $.25 to $1.00 a barrel. In winter it was kept from freezing by a heater inside the tanks.
11. The Peace River Area, like most pioneer areas, had its rich, influential people interested in its development. During the years 1913 to 1916, Lord Rhonda, the Welsh coal and munitions magnate, spent $250,000 on surveys and exploration of the Peace coal and petroleum resources. He put the steamer D.A. Thomas on the Peace River at a cost of $119,000, even filling it with tanks to carry the crude oil he hoped to find. He drilled unsuccessfully for oil in 1915 near Fort Vermilion. Later he received a charter for his proposed Pacific Peace-Athabasca Railroad, which was to follow the Nass and Skeena River eastward through to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
12. Dawson Creek was the first community in B.C. to receive natural gas service. The service was begun in December of 1950. Within 12 months more than 800 customers were hooked up. The natural gas came from the gas fields on the Alberta side of present-day East Pouce. This marked the first export permit for transportation of gas across provincial boundaries.
13. The Peace River itself has a history of its own. It is the only river in North America that flows east through the Rocky Mountain, a rather unnatural course for a river to follow.
14. T.A. Brick made the first shipment of wheat from the town of Peace River in 1906. He shipped 1,000 bushels of Red Fife to the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vermilion for milling. The price was $1.75 per bushel.
15. Probably the earliest garden in the Peace Country was that planted by Alexander Mackenzie at Fort Fork, just south of the junction of the Smokey & Peace rivers. Many of the vegetables re-seeded themselves and yielded crops as late as six years after the fort was deserted.
16. The first church in Peace River was St. James Anglican, built in 1910. All cost, except for the organ, was an anonymous donation from someone in Great Britain.
17. The first school there [Peace River] was a log house, which was opened as a school in 1912. Nineteen pupils were registered.
18. The first curling-skating rinks in Peace River were opened in the fall of 1923. Both were open-air rinks.
19. The first headquarters of the Northwest Mounted Police in the Peace was at Athabasca Landing.
20. Shortly before 1850, a famine struck the Peace River district. Many families were forced to move to Slave Lake where they used fish for food. There is no record of how long the famine lasted. A few years later, a great flood covered all the plains around Slave Lake.
21. The town of Fahler was named after Father Fahler who was known as the best non-native Cree speaker in the Peace River Country.
22. A McLennan man, Tom Chisholm, was said to have been the first millionaire in Dawson City. He owned several saloons and a hotel. Later he lost all his money in some way and returned to McLennan, where he is buried.
23. David Thompson surveyed the ancient Cree War Trail to Peace River from Grouard in 1802. It was called The Kinistineau War Trail by the Indians as reported in Alexander Mackenzie’s journal and was still a clearly marked trail as late as 1915. The Hudson’s Bay Company built a road — an ox-cart trail — along the old Indian war trail in about 1887.
24. In 1917 Blain Pierce discovered oil and natural gas while on his rounds of his trap-lines. This gave him the distinction of being the first man to discover an oil & natural gas field in B.C.
25. During its history the Hudson Bay Company had its share of skirmishes and disagreements with the settlers. One dispute involved a Peace Country pioneer and concerned some land on which the Company was established. The pioneer delivered an ultimatum to the Company; the text of the letter being:
“I hereby warn you to come and get your personal property. If any of you and yours are not off my property in 24 hours, you’d better keep away from me because I’ll not be troubled or trod on by anyone except Her Majesty the Queen.”
Dated April 12, 1873 and signed D.T. Williams [known at the time as Nigger Dan]
26. On March 12, 1958 the long awaited rail connection to the west coast was officially opened. The Pacific Great Eastern, as it was then called, rolled into Chetwynd and on to Fort St. John to link the Peace River District with the markets of the west coast. The scheme took 40 years from the inception of the idea, through the planning to the final completion.
27. The meat packing industry had its beginning in the Peace area in the early 1800’s. The meat, mainly buffalo, red deer and moose, was dried in Indian fashion and shipped east to the larger centres there. In 1830 a total of 37,268 pounds of pemmican was shipped from Fort Dunvegan alone.
28. Domestic animals were used in the Peace Country as early as 1809, when horses arrived at Dunvegan. Cattle were plentiful there in 1840. Both were used chiefly as beasts of burden. However records show that cattle were also milked and butter made, some of which was exported.
29. Grande Prairie got its first newspaper on March 25, 1913. The editor, William C. Pratt, put out Volume I, Number 1 of a four-page weekly to make him the first editor and publisher of the first paper in the Peace. Pat Kelly, an early settler, was the first subscriber. The “Herald” as it was called, soon became known as the best in the west.
30. John Finlay, after whom the Finlay River was named, built the oldest fur-trade post built in what is now the province of B.C. The post was built at the mouth of Tea Creek, six miles west of present-day Fort St. John. Constructed in 1797-1798 it was called Rocky Mountain Fort. Later in 1806 Simon Fraser built one at Hudson Hope calling it Rocky Mountain Portage House.
31. In the days before whiskey was legally available, a twenty-six-ounce bottle — watered down to 50% — was bootlegged for twenty-five and even thirty dollars.
32. The town of Peace River got its first movie theatre in 1914 but lost it the next year to fire. John Wright opened its first restaurant in 1909. The Imperial Bank of Commerce opened there in March 26, 1913. The first stampede and rodeo was held on September 27-28, 1932.
33. Freighting teams (horses) could pull an average load of 4,000 pounds. The going rate for hauling was $.10 per pound.
34. The first government liquor store in the Peace was established at Pouce Coupe — then one of the most civilized and sociable places in B.C.
35. On October 26, 1955 the Whitecourt to Valleyview cut-off was officially opened as an all weather road. Now known as Highway 43, it is a major link between Edmonton and the Peace River Area.
36. The first steamer to navigate the Peace Country rivers was the “Graham”. Captain J.M. Smith built her in 1883. The boilers for her and all others were brought from Edmonton by road and then down the rivers to the construction site. She was 135 ft. by 24 ft. with a capacity of 90 tons. The first man to take a steamer down the treacherous “Grand Rapids” of the Athabasca, was Colonel Jim Cornwall. He ran the “Midnight Sun” through the rapids to mercury in 1914. Earlier rivermen had portaged that section of the river. The section of the Athabasca from Fort mercury to Fort Chipewyan, was the first river to be navigated by steamers. All freight destined down the Mackenzie came in via the Methye Portage, which terminates at mercury, so steamers were developed to carry the freight to its destination. This section of river was also the last to have steamers. There is still much shipping, though diesel tugs and barges are now used.
37. Peace Rivers Town’s first newspaper was the “Record”, established in 1914. It was founded by Charles Fredricks who later moved to the Grande Prairie Herald.
38. The first motor vehicle to travel the full length of the Alaska Highway was a half-ton weapon carrier. Nine months after the hi-way was started, Corporal Otto Gronke and Private Bob Rowe drove the new route.
39. Weentigo is a Cree word for a person who has been reduced by starvation or insanity to eating human flesh. Once this occurred the person was expelled from the tribe.
40. The first train arrived in Dawson Creek on January 15, 1931. The welcoming ceremony took place on the east side of the present depot. Mrs. Fanny Chase and Frank DeWetter drove the golden spike. Two hours after the ceremony, the spike disappeared and hasn’t been seen since.
41. At the turn of the century, Peace River town was known as Peace River Landing as a mark of its early role in the transportation of the area.
42. The Hudson Bay Company and Revillon Freres were in opposition with each other, yet they usually had posts just across the river from each other or right beside each other.
43. In 1926 Herman Trelle, a farmer at Lake Saskatoon, won the world wheat crown with his northern hard spring, milling wheat at the Chicago world’s fair. He won the crown three more times thereafter and was declared supreme grand wheat champion. The publicity which resulted brought many settlers into the Peace Area.
44. Dawson Creek’s first fire department was organized in 1938, with Mr. Duncan Sanderson as Chief. It was his responsibility to enlist 12 to 15 volunteers to assist him. Their only equipment was a 40-gallon water extinguisher, mounted on a hand-drawn cart.
45. Father Grouard is credited with the naming of the Grande Prairie area. When he came upon it he referred to it as la grande prairie — French for the large prairie. The name was used by the local people and gradually appeared on government records.
46. A seventeen-year-old a Scottish lad is believed to have been the first white man to build in the Grande Prairie area. Tom Kerr built a Hudson Bay Post at Cutbank Lake in 1885. Two years later he was superintendent of the road-building project from Grouard to Peace River Landing. He also was the father of the first white children in the north country.
47. The Beaverlodge townsite was once situated where the experimental station now is. A post office was established in Mr. R.C. Lossing’s home in 1910. Originally the community was known as Redlow.
48. Mrs. P. Gauthier (nee Tremblay) and Mrs. P. Therrien drove the golden spike when the railroad reached Pouce Coupe in the winter of 1930. In September of the same year Pouce Coupe citizens had begun discussions about incorporation into a village.