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Cross-posted: 04-024: Eric Logan and Stories of the Early Days
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 peoples in early years from Moberly Lake, East Pine, Pine Valley and the Sukunka Valley. Although their trapping and hunting tracks lead them quite some distances from each other and modes of communications were meager; they were very dependent on each other for survival. These stories are of people and happenings before 1950, as we have many well-written records of every feat of progress since that time recorded elsewhere. Some of Logan’s recollections are from stories told him by pioneers he encountered after coming to this area in 1931 from Calgary and his own early experiences. There are, I am sure, no words to express the hardships and deprivations or the endurance of these early people, so I will try to leave a picture of their trails as they passed through an era of time. (LEE PHILLIPS, 1973)
Eric Logan was born April 1st, 1917 in Calgary, Alberta, and came with his father, mother, brothers, and sisters to settle near Moberly Lake when barely fifteen years old 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 Frank Twidwell from the time he was sixteen, until about the time of Mr. Twidwell’s death.
Eric and his dad were packing on the Alaska Highway when Mr. Twidwell went to the hospital at Pouce Coupe and Eric made a trip down to see him (as he had blood-poisoning after freezing his feet) before he passed away.
“Bakers Cabin” was used as the home cabin of Mr. Twidwell and was sixteen miles up the Sukunka Valley from Middle Forks (this is the name used by early people for the place we know now as Twidwell Bend.)
As the story goes, “Mr. Baker” was the first white man to go into this area as early as the late 1800’s. He came from the States and traveled by dugout canoe from Middle-Forks to the place he built his home cabin.
When Mr. Twidwell came he built his home cabin about five miles farther on. They visited back and forth about once a month. Baker was a man who didn’t like wild meat, so after a winter on beans and salt pork, he appeared to have scurvy and about April 1st. Mr. Twidwell had led him on a toboggan all the way to Middle Forks as they had no dogs at this time.
Mr. Twidwell had a root cellar and had raised a good garden. His cabin at Middle Forks was eight foot by twelve and stood near where the bridge is now. He fed Mr. Baker fresh meat and potatoes till he felt a little better and they went on to Fort St. John. Mr. Baker never came back.
By this time there was only one other person up the river and that was Joe Kyah, a beaver Indian and farther up Harvey Kyah, who now lives at Moberly.
Frank Twidwell had 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 and she married Pat Calliou; the other daughter died of tuberculosis somewhere near Arras at an early age.
Frank Twidwell built another cabin beside the falls on the Sukunka and lived there with Bob Fry, a man who had come to the country with him and had started a trading post at Middle Forks. At the same time, Harry Garbitt had a trading post at Lone Prairie. Logan, with Fry as a partner, went west from there to Burnt River, and thus it would appear they were the first white men to trap the Burnt River area.
Mr. Twidwell came from the States at an early age, about twenty, to Vancouver. He says his dad was one of the first Indian Agents in Washington DC. He came as an ox-driver and logger, and only went back once forty years later to his dad’s funeral. This apparently coincided with the first Chicago World Fair. As the story goes, the man who was to drive a six bull team of oxen was having trouble, so Frank Twidwell took over and became the man who drove the six Bull team of oxen for the Old Timers through the streets of Chicago, during the Worlds’ Fair. They also were dragging a great big log to slow them down and keep them under control.
Eric doesn’t know exactly where Harry Garbitt had his Trading Post at Lone Prairie situated, but it seems likely that it was on the Wetherill Ranch. A large settlement of white people were in Lone Prairie at one time.
Milo Durney came about 1914 or 1915 from Idaho. He made the first wagon road into Lone Prairie over the mountain. There are several graves of the Durney and Wetherill families left in Lone Prairie.
The next people were the Wartenbe’s, 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 had a few horses and cattle and came from Montana about 1915. One son’s name was Dave and a daughter Mrs. Irene Madden still lives at Groundbirch.
During the Second World War most of the people left this area and scattered. The Wetherills were probably one of the last to move and went to Groundbirch, driving their cattle and about three hundred sheep. One person stayed behind in the person of Milo Durney and he passed away in early 1960, still a resident of Lone Prairie. I knew him well and was saddened by his death. He has many descendants throughout the area.
Eswiens 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 that Eric Logan heard of and lived that far west of Little Prairie.
Eswiens came about a year after Johnsons and they had an adopted boy and girl. You can still see the remains of the old log building close by the Hart Highway. One it is said to have the date of building carved in the logs.
Roy Logan (brother of Eric) went nearly every summer and helped the Eswien family cut Birch wood for the next winter, and so they got to know them well.
Mr. Eswien was an outfitter at this time, using Bull Mountain as a hunting area. Roy Logan was horse wrangler for him when he was twelve years old on the first hunting party to go into Bull Mountain country. Frank Cardinal and Eswien were the guides, but it was Frank Twidwell who showed them the way to Doctors’ Lake on 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 guiding for Maurice Paquette. Maurice had returned in about 1920 after his discharge from the army and it was about this time Harry Garbitt decided to move his trading post from Lone Prairie to Moberly Lake, as the Saulteaux Indians were moving from the encampments along the Sukunka to Moberly Lake.
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. There is a little hill and you can see where the Kyah family and others have been buried. There must be about forty graves there.
There’s also supposed to have been, although its’ pretty well lost as to location, a graveyard near Twidwell Bend where approximately two hundred Beaver Indians were buried. At this early time they were mostly hung in trees in dugout baskets and all their belongings were placed with them. This was during the years the Indians trailed from McLeod Lake by a trail which ran to the west end of Moberly Lake. The Beaver Indians from Halfway (Mile 147) also used this road 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 of which Maurice Paquette told of disappearing, while he was overseas during the war. When he returned in 1920 the population at the west end of the Lake had depleted 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 and they never talked of it, very likely not knowing why they were being destroyed. This reserve has continued to decrease till now there are only about ten adults left today.
A Swede came to farm in Twidwell Bend country–not far from the graveyard we are speaking of, and burnt this graveyard of the Beaver Indians. The story goes on that the Indians held a council meeting which turned to a War Dance and decided to kill this man for graveyard robbery–and this I was told was held at Sundance Lake, thus giving it it’s name. However, he heard of the meeting and skipped the country.
The McLeod Indians never buried any one under ground — they made dugout logs and hung them in the trees with all their belongings. The Indians did the same here – put their belongings with them – but later started burying them in shallow graves, mostly not over a foot under ground.
Old Chief Gwillim, the last of the Saulteaux tribe is buried about six inches under ground and he’s buried in a grave on the North side of the Reserve. This is a big graveyard and there’s another one just up on a little flat over-looking the Lake above Alexies Gauthier’s house. Mrs. Monias’ oldest daughter was buried there about 1940.
Eric Logan found the man who drowned in the Sukunka when he and Martin Goodrich were rafting down the Sukunka. He doesn’t remember his name, but he was buried in a graveyard behind Nicholson’s house and he placed a large flat rock on his grave and his brother carved his name and where he was born on it.
He drowned two miles up the Sukunka River while coming down with a pack of fur and riding a raft which hit driftwood. Martin Goodrich was able to get to the drift-wood and make another raft by tying it together with his pack-sack straps and came on to Twidwell Bend.
That spring they had built another cabin on the Burnt River, as the one they had had washed away so it was June when they were returning. It was quite awhile before they found him and then in a spot they’d passed often and then only a rubber boat showed up when the water went down. He still had his packsack on his back and had been so long in the water, all they were able to do was notify the Police, cut a coffin from a spruce tree and carry him up the hill to a grave they had dug.
He had a brother who came as far as East Pine and met him there and took him to the gravesite. This was the man who carved his name on the Rock Marker.
Another tragic note; Martin Goodrich had had a son drown in the Burnt River the year before but he was never found. Mrs. Nicholson speaks of several graves in the graveyard behind her house.
The Pine River ran very high in July, Frank Twidwell had put up hay in stooks and the water washed it away, however no cattle were lost. They used a raft to get within a hundred yards of his old home — there was no other way to get there.
There was lots of snow some winters, and this was the reason verandas were built on Trappers Cabins. Wood and other things used could be found as well as finding the door if you’d been away for awhile–and often they camped under the spruce for days. Sometimes the snow would be so deep, that you only had a hole to slide under the veranda to get to the cabin door–then it would be so dark inside that only candlelight made it possible to see.
It was about sixteen miles from Middle Fork to Bakers Cabin. Frank Twidwell’s cabins had fireplaces in them — this 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. These cabins were warm, but usually smoky, but these men were glad to have a warm place to stay and didn’t worry about a little smoke-tan.
Years ago there were always a few timber wolves, really not that many but a few families of six or eight hung around Baker’s Cabin. One winter as many as thirty in a bunch were seen. There used to be lots of deer in the country around the Big Bend in the years from 1935-1937, but the snow got deep and a Chinook wind crushed the snow so they couldn’t travel, and of course this didn’t stop the wolves or people on snowshoes. The deer were slaughtered by the spring of 1937 and it was the wolves that took their toll.
From Bakers’ Cabin to Middle Forks one spring they counted thirty dead moose on the river, killed by wolves, and one time Eric and Willie McLean had to kill a cow and calf moose that had been chewed on and left alive near Bakers’ Cabin.
Willie McLean and Calliou had built a cabin across the river from Bakers’ Cabin. They then traveled about eight miles to their trap-line on the Burnt River. They didn’t build cabins on the Burnt, but made lean-tos to stay in. These were built like an A-frame and a fire down the middle, and used as their head camps.
Wilbur Nicholson’s present day trapline is on some of Frank Twidwell’s old trapline. Calliou and Allen Cardinals’ dad trapped in there along Windfall Creek from ten to fifteen years after Mr. Twidwell died. They built a cabin along Windfall Creek where it empties into the Sukunka and right on an island. They used Old Cardinals’ cabin and had another one this end of the Big Bend, just above Sukunka Falls.
Harry Garbitt became the first fur trader at Moberly Lake when he moved there from Lone Prairie. The building known 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 veranda all along one side and a door in the middle. They had a long counter towards the back and in front of the warehouse where a few groceries were kept, 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 Department 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 and this for one month. I can remember in the 1940’s when a bar of soap and two or three pounds of bacon was 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–no floors. They moved into these when it got cold in winter and back to the teepees as soon as it warmed in spring.
Mrs. Tommy Napoleon was perhaps one of the last to use a teepee on the North-east corner of the Lake, and the “Old” Crying man lived in a teepee every summer till just a few years ago on the West end of the Lake.
The “Old” Dokkie probably was the oldest man to ever live at Moberly Lake.
Fred Napoleon is married to one of his daughters. The oldest daughter died on the Jack Fish Lake road, so now the older Dokkies are gone but many descendants remain. They were Beaver Indians and lived on the West end of the Lake. He came as a young lad and was still riding horseback just before he died, and 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 foot two inches. He spoke very broken English and wouldn’t talk to a white-man unless it was someone he’d 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, dances started being held and the girls were very bashful. “Old” Dokkie would come to the dances and say “Och! No good, white man crazy, everybody crazy. — My boys — my girls — no good! Too much drink, too much everything.” He didn’t like them drinking home brew.
A mowing machine and hay rake were brought in by Harry Garbitt from Hudson’s Hope, after being brought from Peace River Crossing by riverboat. They used two poles between two horses, and piled what they could on them (middle of poles) and packed them on this. This was one of the ways a sick man could be moved. Imagine!