When I was first there, early in 1914, it took me more than two weeks to get there from Victoria. Going by train to Athabasca Landing I went from there by steamboat to Mirror Landing, then by wagon to Saulteau. After waiting three days a steamboat arrived which took me to Grouard at the west end of Lesser Slave Lake. Several French Canadians took this trip guided by Father Giroux of the R.C. Church. They took up homesteads in the High Prairie district of Alberta. From Grouard I traveled by horse-drawn wagon to Peace River Crossing, three days journey. After waiting there a few days I got by steamboat to Fort St. John — a four-day trip — as the boat only traveled in daylight. Scenery on the Peace River was very pleasing to the eye with the trees in full leaf. On this trip a bear was shot as it was swimming the river. It was brought on board where the cook served some of it for dinner next day.
At Fort St. John, which in those days was just the Hudson’s Bay Fort on the riverbank, I obtained two horses. To reach Pouce Coupe I went with my horses by steamboat to Cutbank Landing [near Clayhurst] and rode south from there to the Pouce Coupe Prairie, as it was then called. The first settler’s cabin I came to, some ten miles south of the river, was the home of Jim and Wes Pollard. From there south, the settlers as I remember them were Blaine Pierce and his family. Vincents, Forbes, Millers at Rock Creek, now Rolla, Duke Brothers, Howard Atkinson, Gibson Brothers, Piper family, Shepherds and others on Saskatoon Creek. The oldest settler was Hector Tremblay, who came there from Kamloops in 1898 and had the whole country to himself until homesteaders came after the Edson Trail was cut through the bush in 1911. When I got there Tremblay had a trading post and ranch where the Dawson Creek flows into the Pouce Coupe River. He also had the only post office in the country, but gave it up to C.B. Duke, who was located on Saskatoon Creek.
There being no village in the country I got a cabin built of logs on Saskatoon Creek, in the middle of the settlement. All houses on the Pouce Coupe Prairie in those days were built of logs. The nearest saw mill was at Grande Prairie, 100 miles southeast in Alberta.
In 1915 the Post Office was moved to where the present village of Pouce Coupe now stands. Frank Haskins had built a store there and he was appointed Post Master. The mail came once a month via Grande Prairie, Alberta. As time went on a livery barn, blacksmith shop, rooming house and restaurant came into being and in 1916 the Canadian Bank of Commerce opened a branch there. I then rented a house that Fred Hasler had built and moved there from Saskatoon Creek.
By this time a sawmill was established in the settlement by Alfred Trelle, who brought it in from Alberta. In later years his son Herman gained awards for growing the best wheat in the World.
The pioneer settlers were mostly Canadians and Americans. There was little crime among them — they were too busy on the land to get into trouble. Fur bearing animals were plentiful and were the only source of revenue, as any market for farm produce was too far away until 1916 when the E.D. and B.C. railway reached Spirit River, fifty miles East of Pouce Coupe. Grain elevators were built there and in spite of the long haul wheat, oats and barley were sold there.
During the first six years I was stationed there law enforcement was not difficult as there were no really bad characters among the early settlers. I had just one murder case to deal with. The accused declared that the other man threatened him with a rifle so he shot him in self-defense. This was the statement he made when I arrested him. He made the same statement at his trial by Jury at Prince George and was found not guilty.
Being the only official of the BC Government there I had other work than that usually done by the police. Much of my time was spent issuing Game Licenses, registering trap lines and registering births, deaths and marriages. Compiling reports on the general resources of the country and making investigations for the Government and answering inquiries took up a good deal of my time. A lot of work was like that of the Government Agent, as one was not appointed there until 1920. In that year I was transferred to the S. E. Kootenay District.
After serving for twenty-five years in different parts of the Province I was sent back to the Peace River District with the rank of Inspector. The district I now had charge of comprised all of BC east of the Rocky Mountains from the Alberta boundary to the Yukon. I now had fifteen N.C.O.’s and constables and several special constables at maintenance camps on the Alaska Highway. Instead of a log cabin, my office was now located in a new Court House at Pouce Coupe with an up-to-date lock-up where short term prisoners could serve their sentences.
Dawson Creek when I first saw it was just a stream with a few log cabins, far apart, on its banks. Where Fort St. John now stands was just vacant land.
The information I have given may interest those who like to know how life was in a country that had no roads, bridges, telephones, telegraph and a once-a-month mail. No doctor or hospital. I just had a first aid kit. When the 1918 flu epidemic reached us I was able to get a doctor from Edmonton and took him to every house in the district where people were sick. He did good work and not many white people succumbed to the disease, but several Indians died. Most of them were living north of the river.