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Fort George Settlers

November 13, 1909, Fort George Tribune 

There are in the neighbourhood of 70 settlers in Nechako and Fraser valleys, and all but two or three are pre-emptors. This goes to show that the syndicates that secured large areas of land in these valleys by purchase have not made much progress in the direction of placing settlers on the land. In looking for reasons, one only needs to be taken into consideration, that is the price at which the land is offered to settlers. Land that cost the syndicates an average between $3.50 and $5 an acre is offered at $16, with a cash payment of $3 an acre. This price is not an attractive one to settlers and it becomes less attractive if they come and take a look at the land they have agreed to purchase -- for some of the land is no good for farming and most of it has to be cleared. With the cost of clearing added to the purchase price, the syndicate land will stand the settler from $40 to $50 an acre, in money and labour, before it can be made productive. Hence settlers are not land purchasers. Instead, they are pre-emptors. A pre-emptor always sees the land he pre-empts, and the initial outlay for a record for 160 acres is a fee of $2. The land has to be lived on, but permission for leaves of absence, not to exceed six months at one time, are obtainable from the government agent of the district which the land is situate. Before title is granted to the pre-emptor, certain improvements must be made and $1 an acre paid in four annual installments.

The terms are not hard to comply with, but the Land Act could be amended to advantage by giving the pre-emptor the option of living on the land or improving it to the value of $150 a year, filing a sworn declaration as to the improvements made each year. There are few pre-emptors so situated as to be able to live on their land continuously and they apply for leave of absence to look for employment, often only found long distances from the land. His leave of absence expires before he has earned enough for his needs, and he must get back on his pre-emption or have his leave of absence extended. Again: there are many men of small means who could pay for improving a pre-emption, but would be unable to live on the land for continuous periods.

Pre-empting means that the land pre-empted must be improved before title can be obtained. Then why not broaden the law, and give any bona fide resident of a district the right to pre-empt 160 acres, so long as improvements are made on the land annually?

There are thousands of acres of good land in Nechako and Fraser River valleys subject to pre-emption or purchase; but the man who would become an ACTUAL SETTLER should come and see the land for himself.

The Tribune is not able at this time to give a list of the names of the settlers in the Nechako Valley (30 to 40 in all) west of the Mud River settlement, but will do so later on. The following named are settlers in the neighbourhood of Fort George:

  1. Russell Peden, on an island at mouth of Nechaco River.

  2. A.G. Hamilton is farming purchased land on the north side of Nechaco River, 2 miles from Fort George.

  3. L. M. Moore 5 miles from Fort George on Stoney Creek Trail. Has a meadow of 30 acres, horses, mowing machine, hay rake, wagon, and other implements. His nephews, Dick and Miles Andrews have land on Budnesti Prairie, about 40 miles west of Fort George.

  4. George Ovaska, 6 miles out on the same trail on the bank of the Nechaco River, has the best market garden in the District.

  5. William Walker, on the north shore of the Nechaco River, 2 miles from Fort George.

  6. A. K. Cape, on north side of Nechaco River, 3 miles from Fort George.

  7. Frank Cannon, in Nechaco Valley, 12 miles west of Fort George.

  8. Mr. Inskip, on south side of Nechaco River, 15 miles from Fort George.

  9. Mr. and Mrs. Tetrow, the first married white couple at Fort George, have a fine place 16 miles on the Stoney Creek Trail.

  10. William Bird, 12 miles up Nechaco River, adjoining Indian reserve No. 3.

  11. John N. Miller, Thomas Tracey, A. H. Sutton, Robert Alexander, John Eagle, Ben Baedeker, Colonel Griffin, and Mr. Brady have pre-emptions in Mud River settlement, 14 miles southwest of Fort George. In Mr. Brady's family are a son and two daughters.

  12. Ed Thompson, Mr. Griffith, Charles Pinker, Ernest Pinker, Frank Hofercamp, Mr. Keller, Joseph Dufresne, Thomas Raymond, Harry Couture, W. T. B(a)ker, and Mr. Lasavelle have pre-emptions on the east side of Fraser River about ? miles southeast of Fort George.

  13. Joseph Boyer, on south side of Fraser River, 3-1/2 miles above Fort George, ? land under cultivation.

  14. Here the film was badly torn, two names are clear, W. F. Cooke and Mr. Boyer, all other details missing.

  15. Damaged film leaves only one name visible, John Porter, no other details. It appears that he lived near Cooke.

  16. Robert Eva(ns), details missing although the word Goose and Fraser appear in the text.

  17. Huble & Seeback are located at Giscombe Portage, on the north side of Fraser River, 41 miles from Fort George. They have land under cultivation, run a general store, and forward supplies over an 8-mile wagon road to Summit Lake, on the Arctic slope and whose waters run into Peace River.

At Fort George are the following named pre-emptors: James Bird, H. A. Carney, Joseph Lapage, Pierre Roi, and Edward Flameau.

The above-named total 42, who hold land aggregating 6720 acres, and all of whom have made some improvements on their pre-emptions.

A Local Story

The announcement of plans to build a trans-continental railway sparked an interest in the Fort George area and settlers, anticipating the development and settlement of a new and vibrant community, started moving in and setting up businesses.

One of the first to arrive was A. G. Hamilton, prior owner/operator of a store in Giscome and an ex-North West Mounted Police employee, who took up a pre-emption south of the Hudsons Bay Company property.

Soon afterward a pre-emption west of the HBC was taken up by James Baird, and another one south of Hamilton's was occupied by Joseph Thapage. Further south on the Fraser River was a pre-emption occupied by Pierre Rois and that same year, 1906, George Williams arrived to help prepare for the survey parties that were to follow.

One of the first farmers in the district was George Ovasko who arrived in 1907 and took up a pre-emption on the banks of the Nechako River, near the Otway area.

People connected with the surveying of the Grand Trunk Pacific began to arrive in 1907, among them being Charles W. Moore (from Quesnel), L. C. Gunn, Grand Trunk Pacific surveyor, B. B. Kelliher, chief engineer, C. C. Vanarsdol, chief engineer of the District from Edmonton to Prince Rupert, and Robert C. W. Lett the publicity and colonization agent. Although not all early arrivals remained in the area, some of those that did were George Williams, George Forbes, L. C. Gunn and A. K. Bouchier.

Some pioneer trappers who arrived in the area around the same time were Joe McNamee (known as 'crooked necked Joe', reportedly one of the best hunters and trappers of Central BC), Jack Evans (who lived in the Penny area), and Hank Munro.

One of the best known real-estate promoters in the Fort George area was George J. Hammond, who in 1908 organized the 'Natural Resources Security Company' which subdivided 100 acres (the original Central Fort George) into building lots. Another some 400 acres were subdivided soon afterward and by 1910 the sale of lots in Central Fort George was in full swing.

Land Notices - Fort George Herald - October 4, 1910

The following is an alphabetical listing of persons who placed notices of intent to purchase land in the 'Fort George Herald':

Broussean, Minnie of Savona, BC, a married woman to purchase 320 acres
Burns, Robert Micheal of South Fort George, BC, a merchant to purchase 20 acres
Charles, Thomas of Bear Lake, BC, a trapper to purchase 640 acres
Chatfield, Amos of Frank, Alberta, a jeweller
Cooke, Mrs. Sidney Percy of Cranbrook, BC, a married woman to purchase 640 acres
Daniell, John Bampfylde of Fort George, BC, a journalist to purchase 10 acres
Doolittle, Nettie of Index, Washington, a married woman to purchase 640 acres
Eagle, John of Fort George, BC, a packer to purchase 640 acres
Elliott, Alexander W. of Victoria, BC, a real estate agent to purchase 640 acres
Erskine, Mrs. Albert of Ottawa, Ontario, a widow to purchase 640 acres
Erskine, Ersdine of Ottawa, Ontario, an accountant to purchase 640 acres
Evans, George Walter of Vancouver, BC, a real estate agent
Farmer, James H. of Frank, Alberta, a banker
Filmer, Arthur of Vancouver, BC, a real estate agent
Finley, Anne of Dublin, Ireland, a widow to purchase 640 acres
Fuller, Frank of Manchester, England, an estate agent to purchase 640 acres
Fuller, George of Manchester, England, an estate agent to purchase 640 acres
Gethering, Neil of Vancouver, BC, a miner had 30 notices of intent to purchase land
Gillespie, Edward A. of Hailsam, Sussex, England, a clergyman to purchase 640 acres
Gillespie, George F. of Dublin, Ireland, a gentleman to purchase 320 acres
Gillespie, Marianne of Dublin Ireland, a married woman to purchase 640 acres
Gillespie, Thomas M. of Dublin, Ireland, a gentleman to purchase 640 acres
Godfrey, Vera of Vancouver, BC, a housekeeper to purchase 40 acres
Gresham, W. J. of Frank, Alberta, a blacksmith
Guinet, James Edward of Vancouver, BC, a contractor
Kaecke, William F. of Vancouver, BC, a prospector to purchase 520 acres
Lang, A. V. of Frank, Alberta, a merchant
Leeder, C. A. of Battleford, Saskatchewan, a storekeeper to purchase 640 acres
Lewthwaite, William of Victoria, BC, a broker
Malcolmson, George H. of Frank, Alberta, a physician
McGowan, W. G. of Frank, Alberta, a merchant
McGugan, Angus of Rodney, Ontario, a farmer
McGugan, John of Rodney, Ontario, a physician
Murphy, Annie Marjory of McLeod, Alberta, a spinster
Murphy, Mary Eva of Frank, Alberta, a married lady
Murphy, Micheal Harvey of Frank, Alberta, a merchant
Murphy, Rose Ann of McLeod, Alberta, a widow
Peden, Russel of Fort George, BC, a farmer
Quigley, Retta of Seattle, Washington, a married woman to purchase 320 acres
Quigley, Thomas of Seattle, Washington, an expressman to purchase 640 acres
Redding, Clifford of Index, Washington, a druggist to purchase 320 acres
Ryan, James Lawrence of Frank, Alberta, a clerk
Shall, Lena of Brighton, Washington, a married woman to purchase 320 acres
Shall, Louis of Brighton, Washington, a preacher to purchase 320 acres
Sinclair, Joseph of Sandy Bay, Manitoba, a farmer to purchase 640 acres
Sommer, Harry of Vancouver, BC, a prospector to purchase 640 acres
Sumpare, Gus of Hazelton, BC, a clerk to purchase 640 acres
Sumpare, Robert of Hazelton, BC, a clerk to purchase 640 acres
Tompkins, C. J. of Frank, Alberta, an accountant
Ulrich, Persie of Index, Washington, a married woman to purchase 640 acres
Ulrich, William of Index, Washington, a merchant to purchase 640 acres
Van Vechten, Stella of Everett, Washington, a married woman to purchase 640 acres
Van Vechten, Ward of Tacoma, Washington, a physician to purchase 640 acres
Waters, Abel of North Nation Mills, Quebec, a farmer to purchase 480 acres
Waters, Alice of North Nation Mills, Quebec, a spinster to purchase 640 acres
Waters, Willie of North Nation Mills, Quebec, a farmer to purchase 640 acres
Waters, Mrs. Willie of North Nation Mills, Quebec, a married woman to purchase 640 acres
Wesley, Charles of Seattle, Washington, a musician to purchase 640 acres
Wesley, Lizzie of Seattle, Washington, a married woman to purchase 640 acres
Wright, Gordon of Ottawa, Ontario, a Government Official to purchase 640 acres

Immigrants from Belgium - Fort George Herald - May 18, 1912

Arriving last Wednesday evening from Belgium were six new settlers to the area. They departed from Tete Jaune Cache on May 5 with Mr. J. G. Kelly and Mr. R. B. Kelly and travelled 250 miles up the Fraser River to Giscome. At Giscombe they caught the steamboat 'Chilcotin' to travel the last 60 miles to Fort George. It is believed that these two ladies were the first to navigate the Fraser River from Tete Jaune Cache to Fort George. Those arrving from Belgium were: Mr. and Mrs. Louis Bontez and their 11 year old son, Mr. and Mrs. H. Bontez and Lucien Hoolans

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