Rhymes, Rants & Accolades from North Central BC

Archive for October, 2018


Several years ago the Fraser Lake & District Historical Society published a DVD that featured 3 historical presentations I had composed back in 1997 or 98 when I was employed by the Village of Fraser Lake to help develop our little museum.

I was extremely pleased that the Society had put forth forth the funding to transform the collection of almost 200 slides and accompanying audio tapes into digital productions, which together with the technical and performing talents of Jean-Luc Lemire, I was pleased to help develop into DVDs.

Thanks to Richard Cannon and Mickey Bisanz who helped with initial funding, the society was able to produce several hundred copies of the DVD. There are still a number of copies available for only $10.00 from Society members.

The first presentation on the DVD “The Collins Overland Telegraph Trail” explains the conundrum voiced by Fraser Lake pioneers about which side of the lake did the old telegraph line pass through our area: there were actually two telegraph lines: the first was on the south [town] side of the lake and the other, nearly 50 years later, followed through along the north shore.

The second presentation titled “The History of Fraser Lake & Area” is composed of 75 slides, narrated by Jean-Luc with background music from “Fraser Country” which many people remember as oldtime tunes played by Bessie Whitehead and her musical friends.

I found the following script for the Fraser Lake History spiel on my computer.

  1. Many thousands of years ago, the central interior of British Columbia lay buried beneath a solid mass of ice.
  2. As the air became warmer the ice receded, leaving huge lakes and rushing rivers in its wake.
  3. The land grew lush with vegetation and people began coming in from the north and from the south.
  4. The Carrier Natives of Fraser Lake are descendents of people who called themselves Ta-cullies, meaning “those who go upon water.”
  5. The Carriers developed their own culture and language. Messages painted on rocks have survived the centuries
  6. In the spring of the year waterfowl were plentiful. The rest of the year the Carrier subsisted mainly on fish.
  7. An important food source were the sockeye salmon runs, which occurred in the late summer and early fall.
  8. Winter villages were established near the rivers, where the salmon came up in great numbers to spawn.
  9. Weirs were built across the rivers. The fish were trapped in large funnel-shaped baskets made of willow.
  • The baskets were emptied into cottonwood dugout canoes, and the salmon were taken out to be cleaned and dried in the sun.
  • Simon Fraser was the first white man in the Fraser Lake area. In September of 1806 he established a fur trading post near the native village of Nautley.
  • The post- later named Fort Fraser- was located in the vicinity of what is now Beaumont Provincial Park.
  • For more than a century, the Native people of Fraser Lake traded the hides of beaver and other animals at the Hudson Bay Company post.
  • This sketch of a Hudson Bay Company canoe on the shores of Stuart Lake, was drawn by a travelling artist in about 1874.
  • The artist sketched one of the few joyful occasions that brightened the lonely life of a Hudson Bay Company trader.
  • Catholic missionaries – known as Oblate fathers- established a church at Nautley Village in 1903.
  • The bearded man in the top row is pioneer Oblate Father A. J. Morice. In 1920 he opened an addition to the old church at Stellaquo.
  • The Yukon Telegraph Line was put through to the Klondike Gold Fields in 1901. It followed the old Collins Overland Telegraph Trail which was never completed.
  • The Telegraph trail became the main transportation route into the Fraser Lake area.
  • Huge packs of supplies were transported over the telegraph trail, on the backs of horses and mules.
  • When the Blackwater Road was built in 1910, early settlers such as Howard Foote were able to bring in wagons and supplies left in storage at Quesnel.
  • Ernest Peters was in charge of the Hudson’s Bay Post at Fraser Lake for many years. In 1910 he was appointed Sherriff of the Cariboo.
  • In 1911 Sherriff Peters rode in the famous Sans Car when it stopped in Fort George on the way to Hazelton. The car had to be disassembled at Fort Fraser, and transported through the bush on packhorses.
  • A year later John Ruttan of the rapidly developing town-site of Fort Fraser, drove his automobile into the community.
  • Most of the lumber for the houses and other buildings at the Fort Fraser town-site had been cut in John Ruttan’s steam-powered sawmill.
  • A brick mill was set up near Fort Fraser for the construction of chimneys and other masonry work.
  • The Fort Fraser Hotel was built in 1913. Later it was managed by the Tittemore family.
  • The United Church Manse was also constructed in 1913. The first minister was the Reverend Peter Pilkey.
  • The town-site of Fraser Lake was surveyed in 1908 by pioneer surveyor, Frank Swannell.
  • At that time the only house in town was the Murray cabin, nestled below what is now known as Mouse Mountain.
  • Just east of Fraser Lake was the cabin built in 1906 by Yukon Telegraph lineman, Harry Leduke. The fragile old building has been relocated to its present location behind the museum and restored by the Fraser Lake & District Historical Society.
  1. In 1912 a road was finally built along the south side of the lake, linking the town-site of Fraser Lake to the rest of the world.
  • The Braithwaite family, who homesteaded near Robertson’s Beach, no longer had to bring in all their supplies by boat.
  • In 1913 the Reverend William Sweetnam was postmaster at Fraser Lake. He established his first Anglican Church, called St. Pauls, at the Fraser Lake town-site.
  • The “end of steel” of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad was slowly approaching the Fraser Lake area.
  • Dynamite was used to cut through canyons and rock bluffs. The “big cut” below Mouse Mountain took two years to complete.
  • Construction camps were everywhere. Bostrum and Green had a large camp near Fort Fraser.
  • In the spring of 1914 track-laying crews, from both directions, were racing to finish up at a central point: one-quarter mile east of Fort Fraser.
  • On April 8, 1914 the long-awaited railway, which linked Prince Rupert BC with Eastern Canada, was completed.
  • Endako was established as a divisional point for the railway. A brick roundhouse was built, and an engine turn-about, as well as the tallest water tower on the line.
  • The roundhouse accommodated boilers and other equipment which was taken off the trains for repairs.
  • The Stella School opened in 1914, in an abandoned railroad construction building approximately 3 miles east of Endako.
  • In 1919, Dan Webster, Bert Black and Merle Hartman constructed a sawmill at the Fraser Lake town-site.
  • A year later Msrs. Gayer and Connelly of Endako established a general store in Fraser Lake.
  • The Tittimore family moved to a farm on the north-shore of Fraser Lake in 1920.
  • The first resident dentist, Dr Bamford, constructed the Bamford family home in the Nithi Valley in 1919. The building is still standing.
  • The Nithi River School was also built in 1919, on the Bamford property,
  • During the 1920s sturgeon weighing as much as 500 pounds were caught in Fraser Lake and shipped to gourmet markets across the continent.
  • One fisherman, known as Fisherman George, used to picket live sturgeon to the Fraser Lake wharf and butcher them on Wednesdays, the day the fish train was due.
  • The lake provided a natural rink for hockey games and other winter activities.
  • A steam-powered sternwheeler named The Bluenose was built by the sawmill company to tow booms of logs on Fraser Lake.
  • In 1927 Tommie Hawker became the first water skier on Fraser Lake, when he stood up on a board and sped across the water behind the Bluenose stern-wheeler.
  • The Fraser Lake schoolhouse, built in 1920, doubled as a community hall.
  • The Fraser Lake Hotel was owned by the Brindamour family. It burned to the ground in 1937.
  • The Lejac Residential School for Indian children was built in 1922. It closed its doors in June 1976.
  • In 1928 Sandy Annan constructed a hotel in Endako that was described as, “the classiest building of its kind along the railroad line between Prince George and Prince Rupert.”The building is still standing and in use.
  • The cutting and selling of ties to the railroad was an ongoing source of income for many local residents.

Grain was grown and harvested successfully in the Nechako Valley, and to a lesser extent, in the Fraser Lake area.

  • The annual log-drive on the Stellako River was usually held in June. The pike-pole in the foreground was poised to catch the boatman, if he became caught in the fast water above the falls.
  • The logs were towed in booms to the sawmill at Fraser Lake.
  • In the early nineteen thirties, young Bruce Ray earned 50 cents a barrel for delivering water to Fraser Lake households, in a stone-boat towed by the family cow.
  • The second Fraser Lake Sawmills store, constructed in 1942, contained a battery pack storage system that provided the first electric lights to Fraser Lake homes and businesses.
  • The Nithi Valley Rodeo, held on the Burn’s place in the nineteen-thirties, attracted visitors from as far away as Ootsa Lake and Fort St James.
  • One year Harvey MacDonald placed first in the steer-riding competition.
  • Construction of the Kenney Dam on the Nechako River in the nineteen-fifties, provided employment for many local residents.
  • The dam was completed in 1952. It effectively blocked off the headwaters of one of the largest rivers in the Central Interior.
  • In 1956 the Skins Dam Spillway was completed. It diverted excess water into the Cheslatta River, which in turn increased the flow on the Nechako to its present level.
  • The Endako Molybdenum Mine opened in 1965. For 17 years it was the main source of employment in Fraser Lake. After 4 years closure, the mine reopened in 1986.
  • The mine, which in its heyday processed more than 30,000 metric tons of ore a day, was the largest open pit molybdenum mine in Canada.
  • Fraser Lake was chosen as the company town-site. Its population swelled from approximately 100 to more than 1700 .
  • In 1977 Fraser Lake Sawmills shut down its sawmill and planing mill facility at Fort Fraser which had been in operation – off and on- since 1942.
  • The company also shut down its sawmill at Fraser Lake, which had been in operation – at various locations- since 1919.
  • Both operations were amalgamated into a large sawmill and planing mill complex located just east of Lejac.
  1. White Swan Park, which for many years was the site of a noisy, bustling sawmill, is now a beautifully landscaped stretch of waterfront bordering the Village of Fraser Lake.
  • THE END   [final slide]                                                                                                          There is a third presentation on the DvD titled “Fraser Lake Tales ‘N Trails” which I compiled from a collection of Angus Davis’s great slides. I added a few of my own pics and others and narrated a rhyming script celebrating our beautiful scenery, as I saw it, back in the 1980s. (Includes a neat sequence from Mouse Mountain Days back then)

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