By Nona Stauffer from information provided by Elmer and Doug Clay
Mr. Tom Clay with his family moved from Texas to the Edmonton area in 1911. Here they worked on the railway and the building of the railway bridge in Edmonton. In 1912 he met Mr. J. Hull and they decided to come north to the Peace River Country and try to find homesteads for their families. So with team and wagon loaded with block and tackle to help the team through the swamps and muskegs, they set out for Edson. They came in over the Edson Trail. The trip took better than a month, with some days when they were only able to travel one mile and other days when the going was much easier.
Tom lived in the Rolla district after 1912. On the first trip in 1911 he found a homestead and filed on two for his sons by proxy. When he arrived in Rolla in the summer of 1912 his son Lonnie Clay found that his homestead had been taken by someone else. Lonnie and his wife talked it over and decided that they would have to sell all their settlers’ effects and head back for the states. Just as the sale was to begin Mr. ‘Grandpa’ Towers came up and told Lonnie he knew of a homestead to be had in the Landry district. After a brief council with the family Lonnie stopped the sale and they packed everything and moved to the Landry district.
Mr. Tom Clay lived in Rolla from 1914 to 1925 and then returned to his home in the states. In 1930 he came back to Rolla and found that his two sons Carl and Bill had taken homesteads in the Clayhurst district. He went over with them and took out a homestead for himself. He only stayed in the district long enough to prove up his homestead and then returned to New Mexico.
Mr. Lonnie Clay, after a few years in the Landry district, went to New Mexico to remain there or in the states the rest of his life. His family moved back to Tupper in 1930 with their mother. Doug and Elmer Clay went over to Clayhurst at the age of seventeen and twenty, to work for their Uncle Bill. At this time, both boys took out a homestead. When Bill Clay was hurt in the sawmill they did all they could for Rosalie Clay and helped with all they could. In 1939 they moved Bill Clay’s threshing machine over from Rolla and it was to remain in the district and was a great help to everyone there. When World War II broke out in 1939, Doug and Elmer joined up but returned to the district afterwards. They both married shortly after the war ended and took their brides to live at Clayhurst and lived there all this time. Each one has seen the work and enjoyed — or should it be said reaped — the benefits of the pioneers and settlers.
Elmer was telling me of some of the things he best remembers so in his own words, more or less, here are some of them ….
“One day it was noticed that Mr. H.E. Craig and his son were about to move a log barn, which was 28×32′, onto a new location. As I was curious as to how this was going to be done, I stopped by and asked. I was told that as each log was taken down a number was put on the end; this way they would be able to put it back up just as it had stood before and with little or no problem. They were so right and the job was finished in just a few days.”
“For one of our many dances Mr. Bill Ewoniak came by and took Mr. & Mrs. H.E. Craig and our school teacher, Miss Morton. After the dance when Bill went to hitch the team up, one of his horses jumped right out of its harness and took off down the road. Bill spied Doug and I and asked if we would help catch that horse, and as good young men we quickly came to his rescue. The bad part of it was the snowdrifts were so deep that there was just no way we could catch that horse. So we offered to tie Bill’s cutter behind ours and take them all home. As we were getting the cutter tied on, Doug suggested we take Mrs. Craig and Miss Morton in the cutter with us and make Mr. Craig and Bill sit in the back one. All agreed this might be fun and away we went on our errand of mercy, but really we felt just for a little bit of deviltry we would see of we could upset Bill’s cutter in Moonlight Creek, as we had to go that way anyway. Well, now you should just have heard the hollering from those two men. So failing in our attempt to upset the cutter and with much persuasion from our women passengers, we took them all home safely”.
“Young people of the district looking for entertainment would saddle up their horses and ride over to Streepers, which was a regular meeting place in Cherry Point and there was always lots to do there. Even some Sundays we would just ride our and stop to pick wild berries or go to a ball game.”
Elmer Clay and wife still farm in Clayhurst and Doug Clay and wife live in Fort Nelson, B.C. where he is foreman with the Department of Highways. He served in this capacity for many years in the Clayhurst district before being transferred to Fort Nelson.