Interviewed by Mr. E. Hendricks
[Note: Mr. McKellar’s father owned the place where New Dawson Creek was situated after the move from “Old Dawson”]
ALEX McKELLAR: We came to the Peace River country in the fall of 1919. My father had just sold out in Saskatchewan. We moved here with my dad and mother and two brothers. We originally settled at a place called Lymburn, which used to be known as the old Brainard district. My dad went into cattle again. We had a few too many cattle down there so we had to find more feed for them. For a while he was undecided whether to go back to Beaverlodge or whether to come up to the Pouce Coupe area. We landed here in the Pouce Coupe area in July 1923.
My dad bought the quarter from John Peebles that was from the creek up to the railroad track and then from Eighth to Thirteenth Street as it is now. That was the first quarter. Then in 1927 he got the Empy homestead, in the fall. About that time I came back from Alberta where I had just finished three years in school, and I took up freighting during the winter of 1927-28. Freighting turned out to be quite a task. We had pretty good stopping places along the road — Riley’s Crossing, Scott’s (Bear Canyon), Olson’s, Grant’s camp, Moose Creek, Vincent’s (Brown’s), Michelle’s. At Spirit River we generally stopped at George Bremner’s. We always had to pack a grub box and blankets [for ourselves] and oats for the horses. It took about five days to make the round trip. Sometimes it was pretty cold, but lots of times it was good. We used to have some pretty good times at nights. We’d sometimes have a dance in some of the bunkhouses.
INTERVIEWER: What did you do in summertime?
ALEX McKELLAR: We were pretty busy, breaking and clearing the land, and there were always buildings to put up, fencing to do – all kinds of things to do in the summertime!
INTERVIEWER: What did you do for recreation?
ALEX McKELLAR: Oh, we had different sports days around the country, a lot of private house parties, and things like that. Actually I think we had better times – more social times than we have today. We used to have the odd ball game – club game, pick-up game. We never travelled around to ball games, just sort of pick-up affairs.
INTERVIEWER: How did you spend winters when you weren’t freighting?
ALEX McKELLAR: There was wood to haul, feed to haul, – all kinds of things to do when you get a bunch of stock around, – not too much out of town. After the steel came in, in 1930, we hauled a lot of wood for the town, and we hauled fence posts, telephone posts and bridge pilings – anything we could get to do.
INTERVIEWER: When did they start building elevators in town?
ALEX McKELLAR: I think it was in November before they got going on them, – No, October. I worked with the elevator crew down here, five elevators we built. My mother boarded the crew for the McCabe elevator, – that’s the first one in the line-up.
INTERVIEWER: What buildings were here at that time?
ALEX McKELLAR: In town there were no buildings at all. We were just in the process of moving the old town over. The Co-op store, Wes Harper’s store, the hotel — all by horse power, except Harper’s store was moved by some big “cats” that they’d used to build the railroad with. The old Co-op store was moved by the McQueen’s with a big capstan. It was quite a long process but I don’t believe it was closed down one day all the time it was being moved.
INTERVIEWER: What were some of the early buildings in the new town?
ALEX McKELLAR: Well, there was the Red Apple Hotel, Tuttle’s Blacksmith Shop, Reasbeck Hotel, livery barns, Co-op store, Harper’s store, Paul Dalcheid’s harness shop and the first school was built where the government building is going up now – then there was Love’s Drugstore too. [Actually there had been a log school before that]
INTERVIEWER: What did your father do after he sold his property to the railroad company for a townsite?
ALEX McKELLAR: My dad moved to the Kilkerran district. He bought a half-section out there and farmed. He raised cattle and hogs and quite a few pretty good horses. Everything was done with horses in them days; we hardly knew what a tractor looked like.
INTERVIEWER: How long did you stay there?
ALEX McKELLAR: We stayed until I got married in December (26) 1934. I met a girl from Willow Valley [His wife’s maiden name was Beatrice Cuthbert] We raised four kids and now we’ve got eleven grandchildren.
INTERVIEWER: After you got on your own what did you do?
ALEX McKELLAR: I farmed from 1934 until about 1941, and then sold out and went to work on the Alaska Highway until 1945. In the meantime I bought a half-section from Gus Henderson at Rolla, and another quarter from Scobie in 1947, and farmed there until 1963. Then I rented my farm and “retired”, but I kept on working at many jobs.
I bought grain, working as second man for three years, then ran the Chetwynd Grain and Feed for pretty near two years — and then back farming for two years. I really retired last year, but I find myself busier than I ever was before!
INTERVIEWER: Now after all these years, who are here of the original McKellars?
ALEX McKELLAR: We have something like thirty-two descendants. About fourteen of these are serving one business or another in Dawson Creek. Then there are a number of direct descendants of my father the late Duncan McKellar still going to school.