One hundred years ago settlers flocked to the Peace Country. Land was cheap and plentiful and life was going to be good up here. It didn’t matter that the road would be a rough one. There was a trail, an easy shortcut called the Edson Trail.
But it wasn’t an easy trail. It wasn’t even a trail, really. There was muskeg, mud, and forest. The mosquitoes were worse than they are this year: their swarms cast shadows. There might not be a stopping place to eat and sleep along the way, and the rotting carcasses of starved or mired horses and cattle along the way must have seemed a dire omen. Still, those early adventures were “hell bent for the Peace,” driven by the lure of the world’s best crop and ranch land.
On the other end, the people of Spirit River and Grande Prairie needed a way to transport their grain, horses and beef to larger markets. It didn’t look like the railway was going to go Spirit River way. What do pioneers do? They take what they’ve got and build what they want. By 1910 they had enough money collected and work on the Edson Trail and Smoky River ferry was already underway. A year later the trail was so much improved as to allow a twice-weekly stagecoach to run between Grande Prairie and Edson (although sometimes passengers still preferred to walk). The settlers came, bearing the names bestowed on local towns and stopping places and creeks, and armed with the drive, energy and know how that made Spirit River, Grande Prairie, and other Peace Country localities what they are today.
On July 23rd there will be an Edson Trail Centennial Celebration at Evergreen Park. Information is available on line and in the Herald Tribune. Unfortunately, rain has interfered most insistently with a 100th anniversary trail ride from Edson to Grande Prairie, ending at Evergreen Park. September may bring the weather required… fingers crossed!