INTERVIEWER: From where — did you come directly to the Peace River Country when you arrived in Canada?
WOODS STREEPER: From Nevada. We lived there approximately ten years and we moved here in my Father’s time. My Father came ahead and that was in 1918 in the spring, and my brother followed him in the fall of 1918 and they lived in this little cabin of Micky Schobert’s on the bank that winter. And, met Mother and myself in Spirit River in April, late in April. It might be worthwhile to put on this tape that about my Father and brother going down the river. They waited three days after the ice went out. They had a raft built and they launched the raft, they started down the river and they got in the Montney area and the river was jammed up and the ice moved in above them out of the back channel and they came very near to passing away right there. My brother walked ashore when the ice moved again and he got in the way of a big tree that was in the ice jam. It touched the raft and touched the shore and Father walked ashore on the big tree and the raft was no more. It went on down the river in the ice jam.
INTERVIEWER: And from there then how did your brother and Dad go?
WOODS STREEPER: Well, they had salvaged a little bit of rope and a few nails and the axe and a gun. And, they came onto where the tree had stopped when the ice moved and this tree was there and they got everything off the raft except the raft. So, they waited a day or two and they built another raft and came on down to Dunvegan which is a matter of about thirty miles and then they travelled, walked most of the way, from Dunvegan to Spirit River. There was Mother and myself and Donald.
INTERVIEWER: And then, how did he bring you back, the same way?
WOODS STREEPER: Well, to come back up to the homestead or wherever my Father had elected to settle. We contacted him and heard about the boat coming up the river and we went down to Dunvegan and met the purser of the motor vessel, the “Pine Pass”. With Mr. English, my Mother and myself, and Donald and some of our stuff, some seed potatoes and a certain amount of bedding and the other stuff come up which we sailed on up on the “Pine Pass” from Dunvegan to Streeper’s Flats. We stopped into Micky Schobert’s old cabin where my Father and brother spent the winter. This was in 1919. It was approximately May the 23rd when we would have landed there. And Father and my older brother and the man that had brought our stock with our car with our horses, and stuff had come overland from Spirit River. They were building a raft at Rolla Landing when the “D.A. Thomas” came down it, it’s first trip back up and down the Peace River from Hudson’s Hope. And, we pulled the wagon on, and the horses, we led the horses on and brought them to our place and just dumped them off there.
INTERVIEWER: And, that’s how you got your settler’s effects in . . .
WOODS STREEPER: Yes, that’s how we did what we done.
INTERVIEWER: And your main living from then on, your means?
WOODS STREEPER: Well, that winter we had a few dollars, but not too many and through that summer too. But a partner of my Father’s came up that fall, by the name of Charlie Tucker. And, he had some money, but, he didn’t like to stay, only one year and then he went back and that winter we trapped weasels. And, incidentally, that same year, that same summer was the summer that the B. C.-Alberta boundary line was established, making it B. C. and Alberta. Well, then we knew exactly where the boundary line was, but we didn’t know exactly where the quarter lines were because the stakes from the boundary line were put so they could see from one to the next ahead and then to the one back, so they wouldn’t vanish. And the surveyor on that, the head surveyor was J. D. Cotton, the head surveyor for the Dominion of Canada.
INTERVIEWER: And when, then were you able to have your land surveyed so you knew exactly where you were.
WOODS STREEPER: Well, that was done in 1930. It was ‘30 or ‘31. It was surveyed on Stuart Lake. It was two years, or three years earlier that it was surveyed in British Columbia, on the B. C. side, it was surveyed a little bit earlier. We had an approximate idea where we were from what we called the ‘cutline’, a survey line that was put through from the survey of the Dawson Creek area across the river, and then it went up as far as Boundary Lake when Fort St. John was surveyed. So, we had an approximate idea, but it was pretty vague, I’ll tell you that.
INTERVIEWER: But, you have at all times, always lived on the Alberta side of the Peace River?
WOODS STREEPER: Yes, at that time it was on the Alberta side, the north side of the Peace River in Alberta . . . about ten miles in.
INTERVIEWER: And, all through your life from 1919 to 1930, and when the pioneers came into the B. C. area, you played a big part in the pioneer days?
WOODS STREEPER: Well, not too much, not as much on the B. C. side as on the Alberta side. Because they could come down one road, they could come down on a raft and get into the B. C. area at Moose Creek and walk up the hill, and they were in the B.C., Clayhurst area. And in fact most of the settlers in the B.C. part, settled in that part of the country. But, a lot of them came in by the way of Cherry Point and came down in that way. And, then they said the B.C. ones that were really looking for land at first as far as I can remember was Hugh Fraser, John Godsman, and Pete Berry and very shortly after that was Fred Yearly and Bill Tritthardt, came in after that. And after he came in I went and got married.
INTERVIEWER: After Mr. Tritthardt came to live with you, you got married in 19 . . .
WOODS STREEPER: Yes, a month and a half. He hadn’t been there very long, in fact just after he moved in, I told him to move ‘cause I was going to get married then. Helen had been born that spring and I got married that fall.
INTERVIEWER: That’s your sister?
WOODS STREEPER: No, that’s my niece, my sister was born south of Rolla, just north of Rock Creek, in a small log cabin, there in the spring, 1920. In fact, it was the very first day of April. And, Mother was waited on by the first Doctor to my knowledge that was in the district at all, but did not stay very long, Richard J. Alvin.
INTERVIEWER: If someone got sick, back in the early days, what did they do?
WOODS STREEPER: Well, the same that I did, the first, the second summer that we were there, as far as I can figure out now, it was appendicitis, and I just got over it that’s all. My brother took sick sometime after that but we got him to the Pouce Coupe Hospital and he was operated on by Dr. Watson. That outpost hospital was established in Pouce Coupe by then, but it wasn’t when I got sick.
INTERVIEWER: Now, your house? When were you able to build your big house, able to get started?
WOODS STREEPER: Well, we built of course, that was the very first thing we done outside of plowing land for a garden and planting a garden and some potatoes, our very first work was to get a house to live in. And, we built the one room 16 X 20 and that was Mother’s and Donald’s bedroom and the kitchen and eating place and Father and the rest of us lived in a tent for the summer. And then, towards fall, we built another building where the main part of the outfit lived. And, two years later, we built an addition on to that. So, the first house, that’s where the parties and afterwards when the settlers came in, that’s where anything was held — partly in the old original building and partly in the part we put up, the small building.
INTERVIEWER: You definitely were known all around the surrounding areas to anyone who would come and stay there. You had many parties in the year. Can you tell me any funny incidences to your parties. There’d have to be some [interesting] parts to your life over there.
WOODS STREEPER: Well, actually, there wasn’t too many funny incidents really. In one way, except we were visited by a very good entertainer which we won’t make mention of his name right now. Used to say everything that was comical and that we’d even laugh about or something like that and we were entertained. Oh, one more reason why we had the parties there – Maxwells came to the country and Mrs. Maxwell played the piano and they only had a very small, a fairly small cabin that they lived in and the piano was stored at our house for a year or two with which, we didn’t have very much room, it was all of 20 x 24. Well, we presently settled down and Norman Campbell and Carl Clay and Mrs. Ollenberger would come down and play the fiddle or play the piano and we’d dance and sing and we’d have a good time. In other words, the ‘good old days’.
INTERVIEWER: It’s true that these parties could go on for two and three days . . .
WOODS STREEPER: Not really, but they went on all night and lots of times into the next day, but not two and three days.
INTERVIEWER: We’d say the party never went on for two or three days but a lot of the time they probably never got home for two or three days!
WOODS STREEPER: Well, that might be, by the time they got home all right enough, and when we had parties there were a lot of people came down from Doe River and that. After we had the sawmill there, in fact, we were sawing, and Blaine Pierce and Eddy Mast and Micky Schobert, they had a boat and they brought it down and we helped them fix that and partied. Quite a few came down and we went back up the Peace River. That was in the summer time. That was the fourth of July.
INTERVIEWER: There was a great deal of riverboat travel in those days?
WOODS STREEPER: Small boat travel, yes. And, there was bigger boat travel all right, but you never really knew when it was coming. The ‘D.A. Thomas’ run for the first year and the ‘Pine Pass’, and I believe it was the second year the ‘Northland Call’, which was a steam boat, a small steam boat, that operated on the Peace River, but it was under-powered, and didn’t operate very long. But, then the Hudson Bay, bought the ‘D. A. Thomas’ – wait a minute, back up. Johnson and Hubbard bought the ‘D. A. Thomas’ from D. A. Thomas or Lord Rhonda, the man who owned it and they operated it for awhile and then the Hudson Bay bought it and then in the fall of ‘32, ‘31 or ‘32, I’m not positively sure of that, but, the ‘D. A. Thomas’ got stuck on the sand bar at Fort St. John right out from the old trading post there at Fort St. John. It stayed on the bar there all winter and they surrounded it with sand bags and such and then when the ice moved in the spring, and the water came up it floated off and that was the last it was ever seen on the Peace River.
INTERVIEWER: You ought to mention that you did cut wood.
WOODS STREEPER: Well, we cut wood, that was a source of revenue, we did cut for the ‘Thomas’, you know and the ‘Northland Call’. But, there was another boat operated by an individual, Harry Weaver, that operated up and down the Peace River for a number of years and we became very friendly with Mr. Weaver and sometimes my brother and sometimes myself travelled with Mr. Weaver and so on. I was working with Mr. Weaver one fall when a very well know character of today by the name of Raymond Patterson came along and he travelled with us from Fort St. John to Hudson’s Hope and back to Streeper’s Flats. This same Patterson incidentally is the author of The Dangerous River and a number of other books. Have you read them?
INTERVIEWER: I haven’t myself. Now, can you tell us how you got started in building your own scow. I know it was necessary, where, however, did your love of boats come from?
WOODS STREEPER: Well, the first power boat that we had after my Grandfather died was a sizable one and my brother went down the Peace River and bought this boat from Louis Versaw in Peace River Town and it was hauled up, it wasn’t in the water when we bought it, it was hauled up to Taylor Flats sawmill where I was working by the ‘Lady Jane’, which was a boat — a small power boat which was used to scow on the river from Taylor Flats to Peace River Town. And, the boat was put together at the conveyor, that is the motor was re-installed and that, and my brother took it down the river to home which was 30 miles. But, he had trouble getting it to go. And, I took it down with a raft of lumber that fall right to Peace River Town. Incidentally, the “J .P. Ollenger’ was operating on the river that year. And he picked up the boat and took it down to Peace River and we got it going with the help of one mechanic there and Walter Taylor of Taylor Flats, and we came back up. Some of us that went down on the raft, when taking the raft of lumber down. It was some two hundred feet long and sixteen feet wide, eighty-four thousand feet of lumber on it. And we went back up to our place and, well, the ones that were coming back, if they wanted to move onto our place there at Rolla Landing, but we had a lot of land.
INTERVIEWER: You were instrumental with this homemade boat, the scow, as referred to in history in helping a good many of the pioneers bring over their heavy equipment and such.
WOODS STREEPER: Well, yes, we made a barge, not a big barge and put a motor right in that one and Mr. Clay’s tractor and his family and a lot of oats come over on that. And, also we crossed the mail with that for a period of time. Mr. Chancy Berg was bringing the mail. And, we tied it up that fall, and when cold weather came it was frozen in the ice and when warm weather came the whole caboodle went down the river.
INTERVIEWER: And, then you had to start over again?
WOODS STREEPER: Yes, we had to start over, but we just made a small boat and put it on the Peace River. But. Mr. Chancy Berg, he had a barge and boat of his own to travel on the Peace River and he helped to bring the stuff across too. And then, Mr. Johnson came in and he had the first, it was known as a kicker boat, in this country and it helped a lot of people when they wanted to move. We brought Mr. Johnson’s horse and things in the year before and then he came back across the river. Now what do you want to know?
INTERVIEWER: You’ve stumped me. There are many things that we would like to know, we’d like you to tell us, any highlights that might be worth report of up to 1939, there must’ve been, anything funny. History we don’t want dry.
WOODS STREEPER: Well, outside of the dances and the hunting, we enjoyed the hunting. And actually there, it was not as lonesome as it was here on account of people passing down river, but I’m sure one of the highlights was that there were a couple of boys, Bert Endicott, and I can’t remember the other boy’s name, came down in the spring hunting bear and they went off down the river a few miles below home, and they seen a bear all right and shot it and then they seen it was a female bear and then when they got a little closer there was two cubs. And, they proceeded to dig the cubs out. They carried them home. They were a year old, they weren’t the tiny cubs, they were a year old. They dug into the den and they rolled down and tied them and muzzled them and carried them home on their backs and built a tent for them, they had a nice cozy cabin and put them in there and kind of made a hole in the ground for them so they could go if they wanted to and then, kept them all summer. But, we could see that they were not going to be good bears, so we turned them loose and incidentally, the next summer, Jesse Starne’s father caught one of them in a trap, which would be natural because we baited them with carrots, and we fed them bears about a ton of carrots.
INTERVIEWER: Timely, and for the bear . . .
WOODS STREEPER: And, how much milk, skim milk; I don’t know, but a lot of it. That was one of the experiences where we found out that to keep a bear is very unprofitable, especially when they’re a year old to start with.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have any exciting experiences about travelling the river with your boat, apart from your scow going down the river?
WOODS STREEPER: No, not particularly. The most exciting experience on the river as I say, was my brother and father when they went down to meet us, down to Dunvegan. Other then one spring my brother went down to go out to get the garden seed and by that time it all was too choppy and he had a big pole and he thought the water was covering the ice and he stepped in it and there was no ice underneath it and down he went, right now. He aged about two years that time! But, as far as the other experience, I can’t think of anything in particular because we had learned by then not to fool with the river.
INTERVIEWER: Did you feel that your life there was a good life and the better part of your life?
WOODS STREEPER: Well, I don’t regret any of it at all, it was a good life, all right enough, but I wasn’t sorry to leave that life.
INTERVIEWER: You left there in what, 1939?
WOODS STREEPER: 1939 we left there and by that time I got a hold of another steam engine and I came out and after sawing some logs at Clay’s place, we came out and I sawed logs for Blaine Pierce up at Rolla, where the Clayhurst ferry is now. It was profitable, so from then on, I saved some more, but having the power, this was a bigger steam engine this time and having the power the eventual operation was out around Doe River. And, then another time I went up to Fort Nelson and sawed there.