He went back ‘outside’, then returned in 1905 accompanied by Steele Johnson. They staked the coal and went out and registered it. A lawsuit developed between them and an eastern company who had also staked these coal seams. The eastern company claimed that Mr. Gething and Mr. Johnson could not have made the trip in the time they said they had. Called in as evidence was Frank Beatton’s diary and visitor’s book. Beatton was the Hudson Bay Company’s manager at old Fort St. John. They were able to prove by these records that they had come in by way of Grouard and staked the coal at the stated time. They won the case.
Mr. Gething returned every year after that to do assessment work on these claims. It wasn’t until about 1920 that they tried to bring the coal mines into production. At that time he brought his family to the Hope and remained permanently.
The coal was taken to Peace River Crossing and tried as steam coal. It was found to be of very high quality.
An attempt was made through the old Board of Trade here to try and get certain parts of the river dredged to accommodate very large steam driven stern wheelers to ship this coal down to Peace River Crossing. They hit an impasse. The government said they could not do this until the amount of coal being shipped warranted the cost of dredging. The company which Mr. Gething had formed said, “We can’t ship any amount until the river is dredged.” Same old government story, “The chicken and the egg.”
The largest of the steam driven stern wheelers put on the river by the Hudson Bay Co. to try and haul coal down out of the canyon was the D.A. Thomas. This boat grounded in the canyon and was there all winter. That brought coal production to a halt, other than for a little that was used in Hudson’s Hope for heating purposes.
Then, with the outbreak of World War II, three coal mines started up — The Peace River Coal Mines, The King Gething Coal Mine, and the Packwood Coal Mine (later renamed the Reschke Coal Mine). These mines supplied Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and up the Alaska Highway for several years and it appeared that coal was coming into production for keeps. Then with the war’s ending and the striking of natural gas the coalmines gradually lost their sales. Cost of transportation out of here was so high that they could not compete with these lower cost fuels. Once again the coal rests, awaiting a market. The quality of the three above named mines is 12,900 BTUs to 14,480 BTUs per pound gross and some of the other seams in the Peace River district around the canyon go as high a s 15,080 BTUs. Now coal is being given the once-over again here. Perhaps coal is our future as Henry Stege visualized it would be, so many years ago.