After spending several hours with Eric Logan at his home on the north shore of Moberly Lake, I’ll endeavor to put in writing some of the history of people in early years from Moberly Lake, East Pine, Pine Valley, and the Sukunka Valley. Although their trappers and hunting tracks led them considerable distances from each other, and modes of communication were meager, they were very dependent on each other for survival. These stories are of people and happenings before 1950, as we have many other well-written records of every feat of progress since that time. Some of Mr. Logan’s recollections are from stories told him by pioneers he encountered after coming to this area in 1931 from Calgary as well as his own experiences. There are, I am sure, no words to express the hardships and deprivations or the endurance of these early settlers, but he tried to leave a picture of their early lives. These are some of the things he remembers best along with some of his own personal history.
Eric Logan was born on April 1st, 1917 in Calgary and came with his father, mother, brothers, and sister to settle near Moberly Lake when he was barely fifteen years old. That was in the fall of 1931. He’s quite sure his mother was the first white woman and they were the first white children to live at Moberly Lake.
Eric trapped with the well-known Frank Twidwell [Treadwell] from the time he was sixteen, until shortly before Mr. Twidwell’s death. Neither Eric Logan nor Frank Twidwell was the earliest trappers in the Sukunka Valley. A Mr. Baker had established a base cabin about sixteen miles up the Sukunka from “Middle Fork” where that river joined the Pine. The confluence much later became known as Twidwell Bend, the name it bears today. There is some doubt whether “Frank’s” name was really Twidwell or Treadwell.
As the story goes, Mr. Baker was the first white man to go into this area, sometime in the late-1800’s. He came from the United States and traveled by dugout canoe from Middle Forks to the place where he built his cabin.
When Mr. Twidwell came along he built his home cabin about five miles farther on. They visited back and forth about once a month. Baker didn’t like wild meat and after a winter on bean and salt pork, he appeared to have scurvy about April 1st. Mr. Twidwell hauled him on a toboggan all the way to Middle Forks, since they had no dogs at this time. Twidwell’s cabin at Middle-Forks was eight foot by twelve and stood near where the bridge is now. He also had a root cellar and had raised a good garden. He fed Mr. Baker fresh meat and potatoes till he felt a little better and then they went on to Fort St. John. Mr. Baker never came back.
At this time there were only two other persons up the river — Joe Kyah, a Beaver Indian and, farther up, Harvey Kyah who now lives at Moberly.
Frank Twidwell married Joe Kyah’s daughter, but she died when only a very young woman. They had two daughters. The youngest one was a beautiful girl who married Pat Calliou. The other daughter died of tuberculosis somewhere near Arras at an early age.
Frank had come from the United States to Vancouver at about twenty years of age, as an ox-driver and logger. His father, he said, was one of the first Indian Agents in Washington D.C. Frank went back only once, to his father’s funeral at the time of the Chicago World’s Fair. In the parade, a driver was having trouble with a six-bull team of oxen. Twidwell took over, put a huge log behind the vehicle to slow the beasts down, and became “The man who drove the six-ox bull team for the Old Timers down the streets of Chicago”.
Some time after he had established himself near Baker’s Cabin, he went into partnership with Bob Fry, who had come in with him, and started a trading post at Middle Fork. Harry Garbitt, later the well-known trader at Moberly Lake, was operating a post at Lone Prairie. Fry and Twidwell built a cabin beside the Sukunka Falls to use as a base. From there they worked west to the Burnt River, thus apparently becoming the first white men to trap that area.
Eric doesn’t know exactly where Harry Garbitt’s Trading Post at Lone Prairie was situated, but it seems likely it was on the present Wetherill Ranch. A large settlement of white people was in Lone Prairie at one time. Milo Durney came about 1914-1915 from Idaho. He made the first wagon road into Lone Prairie over the mountain. Several graves of the Durney and Wetherill families are left in Lone Prairie.
The next people were the Wartenbes, after whom a mountain has been named, as they had a trap line over this area. Everyone trapped to survive in those years. The Wartenbes — with a few horses and cattle — came from Montana about 1915. One son’s name was Dave. A daughter, Mrs. Irene Madden, still lives at Groundbirch.
During the Second World War most of the people left this area and scattered. Wetherills were probably one of the last to move, going to Groundbirch, driving their cattle and about three hundred sheep.
One person stayed behind in the person of Milo Durney who passed away in the early 1960’s, still a resident of Lone Prairie. I knew him well and was saddened by his death. He has many descendants throughout the area.
Essweins apparently arrived in the area about 1920 or even a little before — Ivor Johnson should be able to tell. Martin Goodrich and George Goodrich came at the same time. Mrs. Johnson was the first white woman to move in on the Pine River living that far west of Little Prairie.
Essweins came about a year after Johnsons. They had an adopted boy and girl. You can still see the remains of one of their log buildings close by the Hart Highway. One is said to have the date of building carved in the logs. Nearly every summer Roy Logan and his brother Eric helped the Esswein family cut birch wood for the next winter, and so they got to know them well.
Mr. Esswein was an outfitter at this time using Bull Mountain as a hunting area. Roy Logan became horse wrangler for him when he was only twelve years old. On the first hunting party to go into Bull Mountain Country, Frank Cardinal and Esswein were the guides, but it was frank Twidwell who showed them the way to Doctors’ Lake at the head of Windfall Creek. This is on the divide to the Wolverine River.
Otto Eldon came to this country in 1922 or 1923 and worked at guiding for Maurice Paquette. Maurice had returned about 1920 after his discharge from the army. It was about this time that Harry Garbitt decided to move his Trading Post from Lone Prairie to Moberly Lake, as the Saulteau Indians were moving there from their encampments along the Sukunka.
You can still see the remains of the old log buildings of Chief Gwillim and “Old John”, the medicine man, and Bill Desjarlais’ dad. There are many graves of these people on Martin Creek. From a little hill you can see where the Kyah family and others have been buried. There must be about forty graves there.
There is also supposed to have been, although its location is almost forgotten, a graveyard near Twidwell Bend where approximately two hundred Beaver Indians were buried. At this early time the bodies were mostly hung in trees in dugout baskets. All of their belongings were placed with them. This was during the years when the Indians came from McLeod Lake by a trail which ran to the west of Moberly Lake. The Beaver Indians form Halfway (Mile 147 of the Alaska Highway) also used this trail to McLeod Lake and some came by Jack Fish Lake to the Sukunka Valley.
Many of these graves could have been of the Beaver Tribe. Maurice Paquette told of their disappearing while he was overseas during the war. When he returned in 1920 the population at the west end of the Lake had dropped from 700 or 800 to a small group and there were graves all over the country. Possibly the flu epidemic after the War 1918-1919 hit them severely. They never talked of it. This reserve has continued to decrease till now there are only about ten adults left.
A Swede came to farm in Twidwell Bend country, not far from the graveyard which we spoke of. His clearing fire burnt over the graveyard. There were many carved posts in the old cemetery, as much as thirty feet high. This is the only record so far of anything resembling totem poles in this area. The story is that the angry Indians held a council meeting which turned into a War Dance and a decision to kill this man for graveyard desecration was made. This meeting, I was told, was held at Sundance Lake, thus giving it its name. However, the offender heard of the meeting and skipped the country.
The McLeod Indians never buried anyone under ground, following the same practices as the local Indians. Later they started burying them in shallow graves, mostly not over a foot under ground. Old Chief Gwillim, one of the last of the Saulteau Tribe is buried about six inches under ground in a big grave on the North side of the Reserve. There’s another one just up on a little flat overlooking the Lake above Alexeis Gauthiers’ house. Mrs. Monias’s oldest daughter was buried there about 1940.
The rivers and rough country around present-day Chetwynd took many lives. Eric Logan himself found the body of a man who drowned while rafting down the Sukunka River with Martin Goodrich. They had built another cabin on the Burnt River that spring because high water had washed away their first one. It was June before they could come out with their furs. About two miles up the Sukunka the raft struck driftwood. Martin was able to crawl up on the log-pile, tie another raft together with his pack-straps, and come on to Twidwell Bend. The other man went under. It was quite a while before they found him, in a place where they had searched often. Only a rubber boot showed above the surface, but they found the body, the pack still strapped to his back. He had been so long in the water that all they could do was send word to the police, then hollow out a coffin from a spruce tree and carry the remains to a grave they had dug on the hill above. A brother who had come as far as East Pine laid a large flat rock to cover the grave, and carved on it the name of the deceased, with the date of his birth and death. [Mr. Logan could not remember the name.]
It was a double tragedy for Martin Goodrich, whose son had drowned in the Burnt River the year before but had never been found.
Mrs. Nicholson, an old-timer, still living at Twidwell’s Bend, said that there was a large burial ground still visible behind her house.
Eric remembered winters when there was a great deal on snow. For this reason wide verandahs were built on trappers cabins. Not only were wood and other things stored under them, but they often helped to reach the door where a man snow-shoed in, too exhausted to dig down to the entrance. Sometimes snow was so deep that only a little hole showed at the roof where a man would worm his way under to slide down to the floor-level and open the protected door. Inside, a candle stood ready in the pitch-blackness. In spite of the verandahs, men often had to camp under the spruce for days.
Frank Twidwell’s cabins had fireplaces in them, which saved packing stoves or stove pipes. They were made of rock and plastered with a mixture of mud and grass. Some of these old fireplaces are still partly standing although the cabin roofs have fallen on them. The cabins were warm but unusually smoky, but these men were glad to have a warm place to stay and didn’t worry about a little smoke-tan.
Water on the Pine ran very high in July, some years washing away Twidwell’s hay which he had put up at the Bend. Although they needed a raft to get near the buildings, no cattle were lost.
Years ago there were always a few timber wolves. Several families of six or eight hung around Baker’s Cabin. One winter as many as thirty were seen in a pack. Many deer also lived in the country around Big Bend. In the years 1935 to 1937 the snow got very deep, and a Chinook wind iced the snow so that they couldn’t travel, but of course this didn’t stop the wolves or people on snowshoes. The deer were slaughtered off by the spring of 1937. It was the wolves who took their toll. From Baker’s Cabin to Middle Forks one spring they counted thirty dead moose on the river, killed by wolves. One time Eric and Willie McLean had to kill a cow and calf that had been chewed on and left alive near Baker’s Cabin.
Willie McLean and Calliou also built a cabin across the river from Baker’s Cabin, from which they travelled about eight miles to their trapline on the Burnt River. They built no cabins on the Burnt, but made lean-tos to stay in. These were built like an A-frame with a fire down the middle.
Wilbur Nicholson now traps on some of Twidwell’s old lines. After the old man died in Pouce Coupe hospital from the effects of frozen feet, Calliou and Allen Cardinal’s dad trapped there for perhaps fifteen years. They used “Old Cardinal’s” cabin, another they built on an island where Windfall Creek empties into the Sukunka, and a third at the other end of the Big Bend above Sukunka Falls.
Harry Garbitt became the first fur trader at Moberly lake when he moved there from Lone Prairie. The building standing now was not the original Trading Post. Eric worked on this one in 1939. The old Trading Post was about sixteen feet wide and twenty-eight feet long with a verandah all along one side and a door in the middle. Towards the back and in front of the warehouse there was a long counter where a few groceries were kept. There was nothing on the shelves. They always had a few bear and other hides hanging on the wall, and a rack with a few dresses in case someone decided to get married.
Eric knew Harry Garbitt well and dealt with him many years. These were the times when no money ever changed hands. He believes he never saw currency or coin of any kind for over five years. You trapped and traded for whatever you needed, and never worried about it. Everything was credit. No fancy foods were available, just rice, beans, baking powder, salt, flour, lard and tea and sometimes Reindeer Brand condensed milk. Butter was hard to get. No canned fruits, just dried prunes and apples. This was standard diet along with wild meat and bannock. Bannock was made from flour, salt and water and cooked on top of the stove. If you added baking powder you had biscuits.
The old people –they didn’t get old age pensions — were given a ration by the Dept. of Indian Affairs of twenty-five pounds of flour, one pound of baking powder, a three pound pail of lard, and probably five pounds of rice or beans for one month. I can remember the 1940’s when a bar of soap and two or three pounds of bacon were added to this.
The old people still carried brush for fires and lived in teepees when Mr. Logan came to Moberly Lake. Finally they began to build small log cabins out of poplar with dirt over the roof and with dirt floors). They moved into these when it got cold in winter and back to the teepees as soon as it warmed in the spring.
Mrs. Tommy Napoleon was perhaps one of the last to use a teepee on the northeast corner of the Lake, and the “Old Crying Man” lived in a teepee every summer till just a few years ago at the west end of the lake.
The “Old” Dokkie was probably the oldest man ever to live at Moberly Lake.
Fred Napoleon is married to one of his daughters. Now the older Dokkies are gone but many descendants remain. They were Beaver Indians who lived on the west end of the lake. He came as a young lad and was still riding horseback just before he died, when many thought he was nearly a hundred years old. He rode through Chetwynd many times when the highway was being built. He always wore a large feather in a small dress hat. He was a tall slim man — six feet two inches — who spoke very broken English and wouldn’t talk to a white man unless it was someone he had known a long time. If you knew him he was all right to get along with, as long as you stayed off the reserve. About the time the girls were twenty years old, dances were started. The girls were very bashful. “Old” Dokkie would come to the dances and say, “Och! No good, white man crazy, my boys, my girls, no good! Too much drink, too much everything!” He didn’t like them drinking home brew.
Harry Garbitt brought in the first mowing machine and hay rake from Hudson’s Hope after they had come by boat from Peace River. They were transported with two horses on tandem with two poles fastened on either side from horse to horse. The load was piled across the middle of the poles. This was an adaptation of the old horse travois of the prairies.