Hugh McIntyre, of Pipestone, Manitoba, visited the Peace Country back in 1912, keeping a diary of his journey (more about that here). His impressions of this area are fun to read with the buffer of time and progress between us and those early pioneer days. It’s no wonder McIntyre didn’t stay if these were his opinions on the Peace (entries are not consecutive):
Mud and lots of it–hills and many of them with an odd stump thrown in just to wake one up–all go towards making the journey a hard one on both man & beast.
We have practically left civilization behind for we have travelled all day with out seeing a single settler. The country round here is very rough and from a purely farmer’s point of view almost worthless. We were told that once we crossed the Big Smoky and climbed the hill that the sight which would then meet our eyes would be amply reward for all the trial and tribulations of the trail, but don’t you ever think it–we don’t. There are many miserable liars in this world and that man was surely one of them.
Since leaving Edmonton almost a month ago now we have seen but little to take the eye. Alberta had many million acres of land no doubt but if what we have seen is a fair sample of the rest not one section in 30 is a patch on Manitoba–at least our part of it. To-night we are roosting in an old disused shack–the horses in one corner while the rest of the party are comfortably disposed of on the ground. We have the tent up too–but concluded to come in here as being warmer and less trouble. I’m last up again but will soon fix that. Hope the bear does not pay us a visit to-night. Should make Spirit River settlement tomorrow evening all being well.
Another strip of poor country between this place and the Spirit River Settlement, only fit for ranching but the land round the settlement looks good. The settlement is comprised of a few log shantys with a Revillon Bros. Store and a Catholic Mission. The majority of the inhabitants are breeds.
After leaving the Spirit River we struck more ranching country but thank the Lord the roads got some better. Landed here last night about 6:30 and landed right on our feet. This is sure the Daddy of them all. Two Bruce men by name of Esplin–been here for 9 years–brothers. They own a ranch–and say they are characters. Two old bachelors–Jack does the chores and looks after the horses while David cooks, housekeeps and keeps an eye on the cattle. Everything outside and in is clean as a new pin. The grub is par excellence. Asked David last night if he smoked, here is his answer: “You bet I smoke like hell and Jack chews like hell.” While a few moments later he consigned the cat to the lower regions for being in the pantry. Fine fellows both of them–none better.
April 18th 1912 This morning saw us on our way to the Peace River–the wonderful Peace River that we have come so far to view. Prairie for the first two miles but from there on, 7 miles, our way lay thru bush and timber. Saw nothing exciting on the way and arrived opposite Dunvegan at 11:30 a.m. What do you know about Dunvegan? Great Scot? Half a dozen bldgs mostly in connection with the H.B. store and that’s all–but oh the hills and ravines–sheer drop of 700 ft–the banks of the River are fully 1000 ft high at Dunvegan while the River is 1200 yds wide.
The Peace is the best river we have seen yet on our trip but the country is most disappointing. I can hardly find words to express the situation. One hears so much of the Peace River Country and the difference between what one reads & hears and the actual surroundings is so great that I’m fair flabbergasted. The whole secret of this cry the “Last Great West” is in the hands of unscrupulous Real Estate men, professional boomers and wildcat men. Why the people out here are townsite crazy.
Dunvegan has a townsite on the market now right up on the top of the hill at the back of the present location which is on the North side of the River and on this side the townsite is partly staked out. Such an utterly impossible place for a townsite. At one part of the trail the lots are staked out so that only about 10 ft is on the level–the balance sloping gently down at the rear into a 700 ft gully and not so very gently either but something like this. It’s alright tho’ these townsites will be staked out and put on the markets in the Eastern Cities and will be gobbled up like hot cakes. Surely the government ought to take a hand in this business and protect the public from such outrageous thieving.
All the boys in bed and I’m off too. Musn’t forget to record our thankfulness for such a beautiful day. Enjoyed ourselves fine–lolled around like Indians on the banks of the Peace while we stayed there and then a steep hill climb steady for–and hour to get out of the River bed and mind you the partly surveyed townsite is on this hill.
Threshing is not such a burning question here as down home. So little land is under cultivation–only small patches here and there, mostly oats, wheat has been grown with much success in these parts both Fall & Spring but the latter so far has proved the better. The farmer will not blossom forth till the railroad comes in and gives him a market for his grain. What would be the use of starting in to farm in dead earnest when one has no market for the crop? Of course settlers coming in are buyers but not large enough to prove beneficial to all the settlers or to encourage extensive farming. It costs money to get your crop thrashed–12 cents a bush wheat & oats. And then the farmer has to hire the gang & herd the whole outfit besides. What would some of the Pipestone farmers think of that. No wonder the homesteader only has a small patch of grain.