Harry and Walter Gibson joined them at the Big Smoky with their horse drawn wagon, and Frank Haskins — who was walking into the country — also accompanied them on their Peace River trek as far as Pouce Coupe. The family arrived in June, set up their tents, planted a few vegetables, and set about the business of building a log cabin.
A few days later another horse drawn wagon was sighted — the Addie family had arrived. They were leading a milk cow and their small son Fred walked behind with a switch to keep the cow moving.
The first Piper home was small, with a sod roof and stone fireplace, but it served as a meeting place for the first school meeting and also for church services. An Anglican minister, Rev. Speke, visited the valley occasionally from Lake Saskatoon near Grande Prairie.
And, so the settlers came. Many were bachelors, some filed and left again to seek work, others joined the army after 1914 — many never to return. Others stayed and shared the hardships with the families who steadily arrived.
The Sheppard family, the Harpers and the Cadonas arrived by early spring of 1914 and in 1915 a teacher, Miss Anne Ligertwood, arrived and held the first classes in a small cabin belonging to Slim Ford. Later, another small building was erected for a school and the small Slim Ford cabin served as a teacherage. Soon Miss Ligertwood married a local bachelor, Mr. John McKenzie.
The first white child born in the district was Catherine Addie. She was born November 23, 1914 in her family’s little log cabin without a doctor in attendance. Three year old Ida Addie and a small boy died also in those early years because of lack of medical attention.
Henry Ortwin, Ray Harmer, Frank Palmer, Victor Peck, Adam Stutz, Jock Munro, Hans Larson and Harry Wood were some of the early bachelors of the district.
The first police station of the entire district was located near the creek on Frank Palmer’s quarter, with Constable Duncan in command. In 1917, Constable Duncan moved to the present site of Pouce Coupe village. Besides his duties as police constable, he served in various other official positions.
The first mail for the district was handled by Mr. Hector Tremblay in his home on the Pouce Coupe River. It was carried in once a month by an Indian named Duffo [?] with a team and wagon. The wagon road ended at Piper’s, and here he left his team and carried the rest of the mail on his back to Fort St. John. The Kilkerran post office had Mrs. Cadona as its first post mistress in the Cadona home. They also had a small store to serve the community.
Every district needed a notary public and Mr. Sheppard served the district at this level for several years. His daughter Barbara was the first girl to be married from the district when she married Howard Atkinson in 1917.
Further west, Alf Watt, Louie Fatta, Victor Gillett, John Marsdon, Jim Wilford, Charlie Hoover, the McAleer brothers, John Beaulne, Frank Smolik and Jim Cameron are some of the best-remembered bachelors of the early days. However, not all of them remained bachelors. Charlie Hoover took as his bride Etta Fynn, a pioneer of the Beaverlodge district, and they lived for many years on his homestead just north of the Kilkerran Hall. John Beaulne went overseas and returned with an English bride to live on his homestead to the west. Victor Gillett married and spent many years on his homestead. Frank Smolik, who came in over the river route from Prince George, also married and his son and family reside with him today on his original homestead. Brad McAleer also forsook his bachelor buddies to marry Miss Marie Proctor.
Arriving in the district in 1916 were Mr. and Mrs. Edward Barrett and children from Kansas. They came by train to Spirit River and after being met by Harry Gibson, forded the Pouce Coupe River at the present day Riley’s Crossing. They were met at Maclean’s by Mr. Barrett’s brother John, and they continued from there with wagons.
1916 saw Clarence Washington, along with a group of others, walk from Grande Prairie to file a claim, only to rejoin his armed forces troop and serve in the First World War. In 1919 he returned to the Peace country to homestead his claim in the West Saskatoon district. He had left his home in Orangeville, Ontario to seek his own in the widely acclaimed Peace River country. In 1927 he married Elsie Barrett, homesteading two miles west of the Barrette. Clarence and Elsie Washington’s two sons, Cliff and Roger, reside today in the West Saskatoon district, Cliff and family on Clarence and Elsie’s homestead, and Roger and family on the Barrett homestead.
Reverend Kerr, an Anglican minister, homesteaded in the district in 1916 and built a large log house and barn on the land now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Harrod. It was through his efforts that the first Anglican Church was built on Wes Harper’s homestead in 1919. This tiny church was the first non-Roman Catholic Church built east of the Rockies in the Peace River block. Mr. and Mrs. J. Wilford were the first couple to be married in this church and Mrs. Wilford, an English-born girl, was custodian for many years. This tiny church was moved to Dawson Creek a few years ago, and is still standing, although it has not been used for some time.
Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Mixer arrived in 1916, and a registered nurse was welcomed to the community. Kay Mixer was called on many times to assist as midwife and to care for the sick. They homesteaded 15 miles northwest of Pouce Coupe, living in a tent for the first while. Land was cleared the following spring but it was two years before a crop was put in.
In 1918 several more families arrived including Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Stephenson, Mr. and Mrs. J. Watson, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith Frederickson. They all homesteaded north and west of the hall. Fred Watson still farms his father’s original land, and his eldest sister Mary and her husband Don Hall live on their farm north of the Watson place. Smith Frederickson’s sons are married and farm land close to the original homestead on which their father still lives.
Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Stephenson bought the John McKenzie farm and moved to the corner opposite the Kilkerran Hall where early in the thirties they took over the Kilkerran post office and had a small country store — a branch of the Dawson Co-op — to serve the community.
Miss Frances Dudley, who taught the West Saskatoon school in those early days, made one of the very first bachelors happy when she consented to become Mrs. Harry Gibson. After her family was grown, she taught again in the West Saskatoon Creek School for several years until it closed. Miss Dorothy Oliver also taught in this early school, living in the Slim Ford teacherage until she married Harry Clarke.
In 1923 residents of the district constructed the last school building to be erected in this district and which served until the end. It still stands but is now used to store grain. Miss Buchanan was the first teacher to command this new school and she taught until she became Mrs. Hans Larson in 1926.
The West Saskatoon school served as a recreation center for more than 10 years until 1930 when the Kilkerran Community Hall was erected. Logs were cut and hauled by residents of the district and all labour was donated. With a hardwood floor, the hall was the scene of many dances, Christmas parties, meetings and church services. The 1967 Centennial project of the district was the restoration of this hall. Relining the walls with wood-grain wallboard and installing oil heaters will preserve the hall as a recreational center for many years to come.
When the war ended in 1919, the Watson Claricoates, the Pete Hyndmans and Johnny Hyndmans, and the Bob Whites were almost the last of the 1912-1920 residents to arrive.
By now the West Saskatoon district was a thriving community and felt the need of an organization for the betterment of the district and its recreation. The women formed a branch of the Alberta Farm Women’s Organization and worked for many years sponsoring picnics, Christmas parties and a variety of projects for the recreation and aid of residents. In 1928, this group disbanded and organized the first Women’s Institute in the Peace River district. About the same time a Farmers’ Institute in the district was organized, and these two bodies have worked side by side for many rural improvements.
As well as reiteration of the community hall, our Centennial project is this history of our district from 1912 to 1920, together with a map showing where our many neighbors and Institute members live now, besides the original homesteaders. Through the years we will add to it and probably make some corrections but at last we have started a history that will prove interesting for years to come.