Journalist, adventurer, feminist crusader, author: Agnes Deans Cameron was all of these. During her career as an educator, she often told her students to “ring true and stand for something;” advice which got her both out of and into trouble.
Agnes Deans Cameron, of Victoria B.C., was the “First Woman to” do a lot of things, but it was the journey that won her recognition as the first woman to reach the Arctic Ocean over land that brought her Spirit River way. She shared the title with her niece: in 1908 the two women travelled 10,000 miles to experience northern and western Canada, including “the witchery of the Peace” in a bid to attract American and Eastern Canadian settlers. Upon completion of her travels, Agnes Deans Cameron recorded the journey in:
THE NEW NORTH
Being Some Account of a Woman’s Journey through Canada to the Arctic
BY AGNES DEANS CAMERON
WITH MANY ILLUSTRATIONS FROM PHOTOGRAPHS BY THE AUTHOR
The Spirit River part is relatively short so it is included below:
To those who continue up the Peace from here, three great open prairies present themselves: the Spirit River Prairie, the Grande Prairie, and the Pouce Coupé. The Spirit River Prairie spreads over a thousand square miles of splendid soil, sandy loam on a subsoil of clay. Wood and water are plentiful, horses winter in the open, and crops here have never been damaged by frost.
Trending south from the H.B. post of Dunvegan, one reaches the Grande Prairie by passing through the fertile belt of Spirit River. Grande Prairie is a loose term given to an area of thirty-five hundred square miles of black-loam country. Settlers in this section never feed their cattle longer than six weeks each winter.
The Pouce Coupé would seem perhaps the most attractive of all the Peace River Prairies. The natural vegetation on its one thousand acres proves the soil exceedingly rich. Pea-vine and blue-joint hide a horse here in mid-August, and berry-vines show no touch of frost at mid-September. Shrub-grown knolls dot the rolling surface, while lakes and streams give abundant water. Through three mountain-passes the Chinook drifts in, tempering everything it touches and making it possible for Indians and pack-train men to winter their horses here without any trouble on the naturally-cured grasses. They drive the animals in at the end of autumn, and the horses come out in the spring hardened and fit for work. This is a paradise for wild animals. Rabbits seek the pea-vine, the lynx and the fox follow the rabbits, and the bear finds here the berries that tickle his palate,—blackberries, strawberries, cherries, cranberries, willow-berries, and saskatoons.
The entire book is available online here.