NELLIE L. McCLUNG December 15 1920


NELLIE L. McCLUNG December 15 1920



Author of “Sowing Seech in Danny," “Men and Money,” etc.

Above: Father Grouard’s Church at Dun vegan, built 1851. Below: Miss Conlin, of Griffin Creek, and Miss De Turbeville. of Bear Lake, two sturdy and sterling pioneer nurses.

THESE are the magic words which fire the imagination with visions of camp-fires and caches and Indian Missions and bears and trappers, overshot with nights of stars and shooting northern lights. The magnetic North, land of mystery and romance!

The first sure proof we had that we were going north was the effect it had on the people. Tongues loosened, friendliness began to grow; we were off on a great adventure!

The manufacturer from Chicago came over and told me the troubles of an employer of labor—and they were many. He had given up the struggle in despair, and was coming to the north to forget the imperious demands of the working class.

The nurse, who had received a wire to come at once to the Crossing, expressed the hope that her patient, whoever he or she might be, would have the grace to live until she arrived.

“They sometimes don’t,” she said, in mild reproof, and I sympathized with her by saying that sick people are queer anyway—and not to be depended on.

The real, sure-enough settler around whom the greatest interest centered, was the young woman who, with her two little sons, aged eleven months and twenty-four, were on their way to a cattle ranch three hundred miles beyond the Crossing.

The boys were dressed like Teddy bears, and were all over the place, climbing on seats, on our knees, or racing along the aisle, and the baby of eleven months was almost as agile as his two-year-old brother. But on all that long journey, I did not hear a whimper from either of them, so I take it they are especially fitted for the life before them.

Their mother, a handsome woman of about twentyfive, with a great head of fair hair which refused to lie down whereitshould, has the same qualifications, too, for the lonely life. She told me, in the early stages of the journey, that it did not bother her a bit to get away from people. (I think she must have been living among relatives.) She said it would be a relief to get out where there were only cattle, and when I expressed surprise, she assured me she liked animals a lot better than human beings. When she was first married, she said, she soon saw that her husband wasn’t going to be much company, so she got a few hens—and in that way did not mind!

The railroad runs through a wooded country almost all the way to Peace River, with many muskegs covered with thick turf, in which the trees have grown, but with a feeble hold, owing to the thinness of the soil. Uprooted many of them lie, with a mat of turf torn up with them. This sort of soil is only in spots, for much of the land appears to be of excellent quality, and if the forest were removed would be a farming proposition.

That Disappointing Map

WE DECIDED it all among ourselves how it could be done. We would invite the British Government, -or the publishers of England, to come over and take the wood for pulp, charging them such a small royalty that it would prove attractive to them. But we would stipulate that they must take the stumps out, clean and neat, and leave the land ready for the plow, and then, having opened up this great country in this truly patriotic way, we would go further in tightening the bonds of Empire and give the first chance at these fertile lands to British immigrants!

One of the disappointments of the trip was the map which was sold to us by the “newsy.” It started off like a real map, with keys and scales and footnotes to guide the seeker after truth. But we soon made the discovery that it was assuming a confidence that it could not feel. First we noted it had not the latitude marked, and had scarcely recovered from this when we found that it had no record of a lake to which we ran parallel for several miles after leaving McLennan, a big lake of blue water. That was 'the time we determined to write to Mr. Mundy and tell him it might be well for him to go and see the country before getting out the next edition.

Later we found that the overlooked lake had a name, which may have accounted for its rejection by Mr. Mundy. It is called by the people who live near it by a name which shows more frankness than tact—“Stink Lake!” So no wonder it did not get a look in, in Mr. Mundy’s polite interpretation of the north. But he need not have ignored it entirely. He could have called it “Lake of a Thousand Smells”—or “Hold Your Nose Lake” or something.

Down the long hill, the train goes now into Peace River, and the freighters at the Crossing no longer are able to grow rich on the public, who had to havethcir goods brought down the hill this summer when the track was washed out; but they do not need to grow rich again they have done it!

No place looks well when the rain comes down in weary, gray, withering blasts, cold enough to turn to snow any minute, with a dull gloom over everything, the streets churned into black bog-holes by stalling cars, with waterproofs, rubbers and umbrellas disfiguring people and reducing them all to a common denominator of uninteresting grayness.

That was Peace River! I could only guess at the beauty of its gracefully curving banks, with their agate striped faces and clustering golden foliage.

But, if the elements were unsmiling, there was no lack cf cheer indoors, and on Saturday at noon, the Women’s Institute had a luncheon in the Dominion Hall, on whose festive gayety there was no trace of mud or rain or any other disturbing element. The Limoges china, cut glass and Louis XIV silver, were not in keeping with preconceived ideas of a frontier town —but that is the charm of the North country—it is so full of surprises —it is so uneven —so unexpected. There is nothing cut and dried—anything may happen!

Two Newspapers Already in Peace River

PEACE RIVER, with its well arranged stores, its electric light and good buildings, is a distinct surprise to the traveller. It has two thriving newspapers too, and the full quota of banks and stores. On the streets may be seen the smartly dressed tourist from the outside, come to see this outpost of civilization, who takes photographs and buys post cards to send home, and is disappointed at not finding an Indian pow-wow in full swing. There may also be seen the trappers and prospectors from the far north, to whom Peace River is the very heart of civilization, and who haunt the moving picture houses and. watching Ruth Roland and Pearl White perform their hair-raising feats, know they are in the heart of the Empire.

There is an air of expectancy in Peace River—something may happen any minute, for oil wells are being drilled and gold prospectors arrive and depart continually.

The driver who took me to Griffin Creek explained it to me. “It's a good place to hold on” lie said, "for when the strike comes, this land will be wanted for refineries and factories. We can afford to wait for we know it is coming!”

He waved,his whip over to the north bank we were waiting for the ferry to take us over "Did you ever see a finer situation for a city?—with these sloping banks and graceful curves; and over there against the hill with its flat benches, will be the residences.” r

I looked, but saw only a dripping hillside above a zinccolored river, and overhung by a leaden sky that leaked

rain water with a persistency that made me apprehensive of the thirty-four miles which lay between us and Griffin Creek. But I realized that the ability to see a city in the. wilderness is given to those who take the long trail, and so I held my peace!

We had not gone far when one of the horses went lame on the gravelly road, and began to hug the pole with every appearance of discomfort, and we thought we would have to get another

Houses were plentiful, for the land along the river road which we were travelling is all settled, and we saw many fine horses in full possession of their four good legs, but none for hire. They were either unbroken, hard to catch, or owned by some one else—or urgently' needed—or otherwise unavailable.

At one farm where we saw four fine horses chasing each other around a stack of oats, I earnestly besought the lady of the house to hire us one. She shook her head—and said she did not know what the “boss” would say!

I suggested a way of finding out, and strengthened my appeal for a horse by telling her I was a member of the Edmonton Humane Society, and would take good care of her horse and return it the next day. At that, I could see she wavered, but something held her back.

She Hadn’t Had Her Man Long

SHE came over to the buggy and explained further:

“You see,” she said, “I haven’t had this man long—I came out last March from Scotland, and I don’t want to get in wrong. He might take it all right—or he might not!—I think it better not to take any chances!”

I began to argue again—but remembering that she was Scotch I abandoned hope—and we went

At the Catholic Mission, beautifully situated, with the river bank behind it—we tried again. The sister knew nothing about horses—oh, no— indeedwhyshould she—she neverwent. out—but the father —at the big house—would know.

From the door of the Mission where I stood, 1 saw seven or eight little boys on their knees against the wall—with one sister kneeling with them, and one standing behind giving an outline of their offence. I wanted to know what it was all about, and whether the knee-drill was a successful way to treat sin in little boys—but the dark rainy afternoon was deepening into evening, and we still had many miles to go.

So 1 went across the green to the big house and interviewed the father, who threw up his hands at my request.

He had but one team, and every day he drove them— No, he could not spare one —for what good would one horse be to him for his sick calls?

1 ventured the opinion that perhaps he would not have a sick call that afternoon, seeing it was so wet and disagreeable, and his horse would be back to-morrow morning— and besides—we would pay him well!

The father was not tempted; “there might come a wedding—a christening a boy on horseback might come, wanting me—and the horses are not mine—they belong to the church—I cannot hire what is not myr own.”

There wras only one chance left the driver said—and that was Allie Brick who had many horses and would hire us one.

By this time I was anxious to see some one who would trust us; but before we got to Brick’s Corners, the lame horse solved our problem by ceasing to be lame, for on the soft dirt trail, which had succeeded the gravel road, he put down his bad foot with freedom and began to lead the other horse.

At the top of Brick’s Hill, a beautiful prairie country was revealed—a rolling prairie with clumps of trees and great blue distances. Amazing to me was the extent of the settlement, for it seemed as if every half section had its occupant its farm buildings cultivated fields and herd of cattle.

Many of the houses were made of logs, and with a rustic verandah and big chimney looked very home-like and comfortable. The land at Bear Lake, which is about half way to Griffin Creek, is held at thirty or thirty-five dollars an acre and, even at that, is hard to get .

1 protested the price with the keeper of the restaurant at Bear Lake, where we stopped for supper. He admitted that it was a high price for land so far from a railroad, "but” he said, “you know how it is they have suffered so many hardships holding down the land, that they are not going to let it go easy, and besides,” he went on—-“1 don’t know' where you will find anything better — it’s

easy to work -the crops never fail—audit’s an easy country to look at!”

And then I knew I was talking to one of the landlovers, who had invested youth and hope and ambition in this new country, and was going to see it through!

Banks Are Found Everywhere DEAR LAKE has a store, restaurant and bank, the latter presided over by a bored young man who wonders how he is going to fill in his time until the busy season starts. Everywhere in the North where there is any settlement can be seen a bank—they are more common than blacksmith shops, and in some places have preceded the store or telephone. It is all a part of the optimism of the country, and an expression of confidence in the future.

Griffin Creek, named for an old timer who left the scene of his endeavors last Spring, is a scattered settlement of splendid agricultural development. There is an Agricultural Hall, where all sorts of social gatherings are held, a post-office and store, and the minister’s house with fine garden and tennis court. Rev. Mr. Little, the Anglican minister, is a real leaderin the community, and, unlike some of his brethren, has taken a strong stand for Prohibition, with excellent results in the present campaign.

One of the strong characters of the neighborhood, who is typical of the pioneer country, is Mrs. Eaton, president of the Women’s Institute, and the keeper of the post-office. Mrs. Eaton, formerly of Newdale, Manitoba, has conducted her own farm, with signal success, for many years. One son served his country overseas during the full term of the war, being one of the very first to enlist.

“But I knew he would not come back,” said his mother— we both knew it—some way—and he left everything straightened up—and never once in his letters did he speak of coming home—though there was never a word of complaint and he always said he was glad he went. . . I wasn’t surprised when the news came—I was expecting it,”

Her other boy, who had stayed with her on the farm, fell a victim to meningitis last winter, and was dead after a few days illness. So the mother is left alone, and still carries on, with the helpof “George,”oneof the old-fashioned and unfortunately fast disappearing type of hired men— a fine, intelligent, humorous fellow, with a kindly twinkle in his eye who has no grouch at the world, but actually likes to work.

rhere hangs on the whitewashed walls of the comfortable living-room a violin and a mandolin; unused now—since the boys are gone.

“They were both fond of music,” she said—“and they liked the piano better than the organ—though I always liked the organ best, but now, some way since they are both away (she wouldn’t say the word)—I seem to take more to the piano too.”

And that night as we sat in the gathering shadows, waiting for the neighbors to come in, she sat at the piano and played the hymns and songs of other days, a little stiffly, maybe, with her hardworking hands, but with a haunting tenderness which dimmed my eyes, for I knew that the brave soul of a mother, who shed no tears or uttered words of sorrow', in this way went mourning for her two boys.

They both liked the piano best,” she said softly, and when I hear it, it seems to bring them back again.”

Then the neighbors came, and the goose dinner was served, and no shadow fell on the happy scene, but there was something in the little white haired w o -man’s face, so calm and resolute and lonely, that smote my heart with a mingling of pity and admiration.

Across the creek, in a field by itself, is the nurses’ house where Miss Conlin lives, when she is at home; and on week-ends there comes to stay with her her friend and overseas companion, Miss de Turbeville from Bear Lake. They are the district nurses, sent there by the Health Department of the Province, under the direction of Miss Christine Smith.

The house is made of logs, and is as neat as wax inside, with its blue hangings, oil-cloth covered floor and glittering pots and pans. It is divided into four rooms, Miss Conlin says, a living-room—which is the northeast corner, where a table of books and magazines and a Morris chair may be taken as evidence; a bedroom, kitchen and dispensary. The furnishings have been sent by various people, and un-

der Miss Conlin’s skilful management the little house can provide shelter and comfort in a truly surprising degree.

“We had seven in last Sunday”—said she proudly, “you see we christened one of our babies, and in its honor we assembled here when the baptismal rites were over.”

Griffin Creek has neither telephone nor telegraph yet, and so when the nurse is wanted she has to be sent for. When she goes to bed at night, it is with everything ready for an emergent call.

“She always knows just what to do,” one of the women told me, “and she makes the best of everything. You can see she comes to help, not criticize, and she never leaves till everything is right. When the flu was bad she never slept—she was everywhere — and just to see her seemed to put new life in us!”

Miss Conlin was equally enthusiastic when telling me of the hearty co-operation she receives from the people:

“They are the best on earth,” she said, and Miss De Turbeville had the same story to tell of her constituency at Bear Lake.

It was Miss de Turbeville who told me one of the sweetest dog stories of the war, showing me the photographs she had taken of the principals—a wounded sergeant and his nondescript mongrel in tan and white.

A Real Dog Story

'XILTHEN the wounded soldier, terribly shattered, was ^ ’ taken into the hospital in France, there followed the stretcher this little dog, growling and suspicious of everyone. In the operating room, to which the suffering man was hurried, the dog sprang upon the table, and gave the sprgeons to understand that if any one was going to be hurt, it would not be his master. The doctors, however, were able to convince him that their intentions towards his master were of the best, and he consented to stand aside and give them a chance.

When the patient was attended to and brought back to the ward, the dog took up his position on the foot of the bed, and was only induced to leave it when the nurses had won his confidence, which they did with bowls of milk and pieces of meat, and other tokens of esteem, and his master, now being able to talk, convinced him that they were among friends.

“’E saved my life—’e did!” said his master, stroking the dog’s honest head with his good hand; “I was buried under six feet of mortar, and he seemed to know just where I was, and dug, and barked, and then ran for the stretcherbearers and showed them where to dig. I knew nothing when they got me out—I was dead—all but—so, if you don’t mind, miss—I’d like to keep him by me.”

No, she did not mind, and the little dog stayed on, taking little notice of anything or any person. He had one love—and only one!

Before his master left the hospital, the dog was decorated for “conspicuous bravery on the field,” by the French Red Cross, and in the picture which Miss de Turbeville has he stands beside his master, solemnly receiving his honor with becoming modesty.

Train Runs by the Calendar, Anyway 'XA/’IIEN people leave the Peace River country for any ’ ’ place, they are spoken of as having “gone out,” and the usual form of greeting is “When did you come in?”

Left: L. H. Adair'a barn and some of his Scenic Heights neighbors. He farms more than 3,000 acres and has his own saw mill. Right: Main Street in Lake Saskatoon, 14 miles from Grande Prairie and the railway.

and indeed it is this question of “in and out” that is the most serious one which confronts the settlers.

“We have everything but a good railway!” they say. However, since the C.P.R. has taken over the railway prospects are brighter. It runs by the calendar now, if not by the time-table, and arrives on the day, if not on the hour, and that is an improvement over the old system!

The worst feature of the road now is the night run from Spirit River to Grande Prairie, a seven or eight hour journey without a sleeper, and generally in a passenger coach so crowded that no one has room even to sit comfortably.

The dirtiness of this train passes belief. It cannot be described in words. It has to be seen—and smelled. It is a confirmed, musty dirt, unabashed and unashamed!

Stark naked dirt, that has long ceased to be apologetic.

The people are patient and long-suffering. They take the train, as it is, without fault-finding. Slow it may be, and dirty it certainly is, but it is so much better than no train that it has a large margin to draw on before the people will find fault.

From Griffin Creek to Blue Sky the country has the same general character, rolling prairie, black loam—with occasional running streams—fairly good log buildings, and, as far as could be seen, every half section taken.

All the land in the Peace River country has been open to homesteaders, and this has resulted in a closer settlement than in the districts where C.P.R. lands and Hudson’s Bay lands have been held out of the homestead lists.

At Blue Sky we made the acquaintance of Mrs. Dodge, who keeps the post-office and stopping-house, and had the pleasure of eating one of her good meals of fresh pork, cauliflower, mashed potatoes, prune pie with real cream, and all for the price of a cup of tea and one bread and butter order on the diner.

A new house is being built, which will give her more room to feed the hungry and give shelter to weary travellers, and, like all the other people whom she has fed at her table, I hope she will live long and that every good thing in life may come to her, for she is a rare good soul, this little lady who moves so quickly and quietly, and whose kindly black eyes are quick to see a human need. She is another splendid woman who has helped to make life comfortable for the pioneers, and I heard many speak of her in terms of gratitude.

In her dining-roqgn were two of the finest cats I have ever seen, just common cats, to be sure, but so large and commanding in appearance that I can imagine the sensation they would make at a cat show.

Two white dogs, too, dapper little fox terriers, came out from behind the stove, and gave me to understand that there was no stupid prejudice in their house against feeding dogs at the table.

From Blue Sky, we proceeded to Freidenstall, a German settlement, where a fine class of German settlers are making a good showing on the land. They have their own church and, unfortunately, keep largely to themselves. It was the only settlement I saw of which that criticism could be made.

Do You Remember “Rat Portage?”

AT WATERHOLE, I made a hit with the people by n°t saying anything about the name of their town. Waterhole it is; and Waterhole it is going to be! Irresponsible and impulsive people have criticized the name adversely, saying it sounds like a cow stuck in the mud. But to the early settler it has a much pleasanter significance.

Water has been a scarce commodity in this part of the country—water of good quality, that is—and as there is a pool here that never failed, and could be depended on to furnish refreshment on the long road from Dunvegan to the Crossing at any season, the name Waterhole was not frivolously bestowed, nor will it be lightlycastaside.To the old timer who followed the trails it is a sweet sounding name, whispering hope and refreshment—and run through with rippling music like Tennyson’s “Brook.” Let no trifling outsider suggest a substitute!

One of the most beautiful places in the north is Dunvegan,

• which many optimists have selected as the great city. Certainly nature has done everything to attract the eye, for nowhere are the banks of the Peace River more imposing or ma, jestic. Thesunshine was fitful the day we crossed, and came in splashes, kindling into glory the changing shades of green and gold and copper, as it ran in an advancing wave over the hills. Some bushes were so brilliantly golden that they seemed to hold the sunshine even after it had gone—held it against its will—and gleamed and glittered after their neighbors had settled back into shade.

The old church on the river bank where once the famous picture by Father Grouard graced the altar, is still an object of interest, although the picture has been taken away. Sad and neglected the church is now, and greasy blankets and pieces of harness littered the floor, where once the Indian worshippers knelt to receive the father’s benediction.

Continued on page 48

“— and All Parts North”

Continued from page 32

ft There is still a store, a stopping-place and the old -Hudson’s Bay Post, and the ferry operated by the government, free between the hours of seven and seven. The ferry is a splendidly roomy one, and will carry four automobiles at once.

AT DLTNVEGAN we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Duncan MacDonald, who lived in the north for more than forty years, and yet has retained the sibilant softness of his Highland dialect. He still hopes to see a city at Dunvegan.

Coming up the long hill south of the river, we had a beautiful view of the deep valley, with the little settlement on the other bank. Birches with their white boles bordered the road, and as a faint breeze rippled through the golden leaves, they fell upon us in a soundless shower.

From Dunvegan to Spirit River, the roads were worse than anything we had yet seen, and consisted of a succession of mud holes, but who cares for mud holes? The day was warm and fine, and we had a Ford truck, and my admiration for it grew and grew, as it pulled through roads that seemed bottomless. But a peculiarity of this country is that there is a bottom in the mudholes. It may be far down, with terrible mud between it and the surface, but it is hard and solid. Our truck lurched and creaked and strained, and blew smoke out behind in a frenzy of endeavor—and I wondered afresh at the ingenuity of man in being able to make anything that could stand this terrific strain.

But even Ford trucks have their limit, and just as we came into Spirit River, with the sidewalk but a hundred yards away, our engine suddenly threw up its hands, and with a despairing gurgle yielded the spark of life, and none of us could say a word of reproach. It had surely earned Nirvana!

We got out and started to walk in, with our valises, but one of the Spirit River people seeing us came with his car and gathered us up and brought us to the Alberta Hotel.

Spirit River is a smart looking little town, set on a hill, a self-sufficient little town, very young and capable looking, and when we were shown the fine exhibition of vegetables and grains, and heard something of the agricultural attainments of the country, we saw that its air of conscious power was justified. All around the land is taken, and is being successfully farmed.

Spirit River has the proud distinction of having two “V.C.’s” among the boys who went to the war—their boys walked out when news of the war came, and enlisted in Edmonton.

The trip to Grande Prairie from Spirit River is made at night, and although the distance is only about fifty miles, it takes seven or eight hours, for the track is so poor the train.cannot go more than eight miles an hour, and often only four. It is fatal to look through the open door at the car ahead, as it lurches and sways and groans on its'protesting way. It has the effect of a merry-go-round or a Ferris wheel.

BUT when the train reaches Grande Prairie, the welcome of its people soon blots out the memory of the night.

Grande Prairie is the most attractive place in the north country, with its good buildings, up-to-date stores, fine hotel and beautiful surroundings. To the west is Lake Saskatoon, a smart-looking little place, without a railway. Here a Hudson’s Bay Post on the lake below the village is now used for a school.

The farms around Lake Saskatoon are of the very best, and on enquiry I found the land to be held at forty and fifty dollars an acre, which seemed to me to be a very high price for land twenty miles from a poor railway. But away to the west are the snow-capped mountains, with old Teepee lifting his white tent above them all! Cold streams, with mountain trout, and bordered with willows, give character to the landscape, and there are occasional lakes, clear, cold and sparkling, with gravelly beaches and clear cut banks. The tales they tell of the productiveness of the land almost pass belief.

Speaking of the oat yield, a man told me of threshing for one of his neighbors, whose two hundred and fifty acre field of oats yielded one hundred and six bushels to the acre, and with a twenty pound dump which gave forty pounds to the bushel. At that, the owner had a vague suspicion that he was not getting all that he should, and complained that the machine was letting too much go out with the straw!

At “Sunset Ranch,” owned by Mr. Harry Adair, four sections are being farmed. Mr. Adair has his own saw-mill, and has made his buildings of four-inch timber —such as is used in elevators. This makes a very warm building, and forty degrees below loses its terrors.

Close beside the Sunset Ranch live the Lowe family, who came over the trail from Edson many years ago, driving their stock ahead of them to their present location. Now with their sons and daughters they are very comfortably situated, and believe absolutely that there is no place like Scenic Heights.

At Valhalla there is a settlement of Norwegian people, who are developing this district into one of the most progressive

as well as prosperous in the north country, under the leadership of Rev. Mr. Ronning, the Lutheran minister. Mr. Ronning’s eldest son, Nils, was assistant registrar of Alberta University until the time of his death by drowning in Lesser Slave Lake this summer. He was a young man of exceptional ability, whose loss is keenly felt by the whole Province.

The great need of the north country is of course the railroad, and these pioneer people who were not turned aside by mountains or streams are going to have one. The ranchers around Grande Prairie have already started a fund to encourage some private concern or some Province to begin' operations, and have over ten thousand dollars in cash collected. They intend to collect one hundred thousand.

There is considerable rivalry between Edmonton and Vancouver as to which shall be the point of entry. Geographically, Edmonton is closer, but Vancouver is more attractive because of its being a seaport, and having the milder climate. Vancouver needs the grain and cattle which the north can produce so well, and

in return the north wants the British Columbia fruit. Besides, the northern people want some place to holiday in, and here again Vancouver scores.

The Vancouver boards of trade recently made a pilgrimage into the north, and were the guests of the Board of Trade in the northern towns, and talked cheerfully of coming developments. They were most anxious to find out how the people wanted their railroad to come—by the Pine Pass— or the Peace Pass—and what about having it both ways while they were at it? It was a pleasant game like the old one of—“What would you do if you had three wishes?”

One of their press men, in writing about it for his paper, quite truthfully said the visit would at least have one good effectif no more—it would hearten the settlers to wait a little longer. There does not seem to be any doubt about their waiting! In the meantime they are a well-fed, wellclothed, happy, courteous and hospitable people, who read MacLean’s Magazine, the Toronto Globe, the Northwest Farmer, and the Grain Growers’ Guide, and are not downhearted.