Beginning at East Pine, the end of the wagon road from Dawson Creek, the East Pine and Murray rivers had to be forded to go over the mountain to Lone Prairie, where there was a settlement of the Wartenbes, Dyrneys, Frank Parr, Wetherills and a few others.
To go up the West Pine River, the Murray River had to be forded and then to ford the Pine from the south side to the north to reach the pack trails that followed the river a few miles. You then climbed out of the valley up to Sun Dance Lake, which was a well-used Indian Campground. The trail stayed on the high country for several miles west then dropped down to the river valley, where Middle Pine River (Sukunka) joined the Pine from the south. Frank Treadwell lived here with his Beaver Indian wife. He came here from the U.S. and settled there about 1908 or 1910. He trapped up the Sukunka River.
The trail then followed up the Pine River to Bissette Flats, where Joe Bissette had settled about 1908 and where I settled in 1924 and built a cabin and corrals and caught the wild horses that ranged along the hills. This was the “Pine Pass Trail”.
The next settler was George Goodrich at Commotion Creek. He had come to the country in 1918 and his brother Martin with his wife and four boys came in 1924. Next up the river lived Ivor and George Johnson. They came in 1921 and settled south of the Pine River at Hasler Creek. Next and last up the river were Mr. and Mrs. Phil Esswein, and he had come in 1919 after getting out of the army, and Mrs. Esswein came in 1921. There were no more people until you crossed the Pine Pass and got into the Parsnip River country.
Bill Logan came in 1923 and settled three or four miles west of George Goodrich.
The Moberly Lake Trail from Middle Pine (Frank Treadwell’s) branched off the Pine Pass Trail about five mile north of Frank’s. It continued north across a little prairie and up and over the mountain to Moberly Lake, where Harry Garbitt had had a trading post, halfway between the Beaver Indians to the west and the Cree Indians at the east end on the north side.
From Little Prairie a trail ran northeast up the Wabi Valley to Jackfish Lake where a family of Metis had settled about 1920. They were the old folks, Mr. and Mrs. Callioux with their four boys and four girls and their families.
Farther along this trail you came to Parsnip Flats (now Bond Siding) and farther on to Graveyard Creek. From Jamieson Trail you could go on to near the mouth of the Pine to Pratt and Worth’s ranches near the Peace River.
The country was very open with lots of grass and pea-vine meadows, and scattered groves of poplar, willow and pine trees. Most of the hills facing south were open with lots of grass.
In 1928 three ex-U.S. Army men settled on the Little Prairie. They built a log house and barn, but two left before the winter was over, and Albert Bouchard stayed. In the spring of 1929 he broke twelve to fifteen acres of the prairie and seeded it to oats. He had three cows and calves and figured on raising cattle. He sold out to Peter Widmark in 1931 and Peter started a store and got a post office. He packed the mail from East Pine every two weeks. His young son and daughter lived with him. Peter Widmark sold out in 1934 to Bob Nicholson, who in turn sold the land to the P.G.E. about 1956 or 1957, and the railway changed the name from Little Prairie to Chetwynd, in honor of the Minister of Railways.
In September 1924 the steel ended at Grande Prairie. I went by mail stage, wagon and team driver by Van Wartenbe. I borrowed a horse at Rolla and rode across country to Dawson Creek, which had two stores, a hotel, post-office and livery stable. Then it was a two-day ride to East Pine. I forded the Murray River and then the West Pine and followed the Tom Jamieson Trail to Graveyard Creek where the Demean brothers (Albert Samuel and John Frederick) were living. From there I went to Jackfish Lake where the Calliouxs were, then to Little Prairie, from there up the Pine to Bissette Flats. There were over a hundred wild horses ranging the hills at this time.
I rode into the Pine River country in September of 1924 and made a home with Bill Logan in an old cabin on Bissette Flats. We trapped that winter and in the spring he went up river to his homestead and I stayed and built a log cabin, corrals and a drift fence from the coral to a rock bluff to the north, and another fence from the corral south to the river.
I planned a roundup for May. There was Ivor and George Johnson from up the river, Jake Smith, and his son and nephew from East Pine and a cowboy from Idaho, who was passing through and myself. We started west at Commotion Creek and hazed the horses off the hills, onto the flats and into the corrals. The first drive we caught about forty head. Every man took as many as he could handle. The studs were castrated, as we had made a deal with the Government Agent and the Police at Pouce Coupe to do this.
In 1926 I took some horses — wild one I had broken to ride and pack –out to Spirit River and sold them at thirty-five dollars apiece. With this money I took a trip to Calgary, ended up in Ontario, and then went on to Texas. When I returned in 1928, my cabin and land were occupied and registered. I had just squatted on the land. So I came down to Little Prairie and Wabi Creek area and built up a little ranch about four miles northeast of the present town of Chetwynd.
I sold the east quarter to Mr. Fusel and it turned into a golf-course and the west quarter section to the P.G.E. in 1957 and at present it is the site of a sawmill.
I feel that the loneliness and tough going on the early days was a privilege that not too many people have. In 1924, the way of life would have been the same as it was in 1824.