Stories of hardship and happiness: Part 2

The Ludtke family survived by taking shelter in a stream. Years later the boys could remember having to breathe only near the water

Frank Ritcey

Frank Ritcey

Keith McNeill

Editor’s Note: The following is part two of a report on a presentation by Clara Ritcey and Ellen Ferguson on the history of Upper Clearwater. The Wells Gray World Heritage Year event was held in the Upper Clearwater Hall on July 19.

The Ludtke family came to the Clearwater River Valley by horse and wagon from North Dakota. The 2,000 mile trip took Gus Ludtke and the two oldest boys two months. Berta Ludtke travelled by train with the younger children.

The fire of 1926 was started by lightning near Spahats Creek. After smouldering for several weeks, it was blown north by a strong wind, destroying homes and bridges.

The Ludtke family survived by taking shelter in a stream. Years later the boys could remember having to breathe only near the water because of the heat.

All three boys, Charlie, Lawrence and Fred, later took up farms in the Upper Clearwater.

Charlie was the mailman for many years. He had a very good memory – when he was asked to do a favor, such as fetch something in town, he never forgot. He put his memory to use in later years when he wrote a column for the Times.

Jack Tunningley homesteaded what is now Nakiska Ranch. A war veteran, he was never happy and eventually took his own life.

A couple named Wilson came from Ontario to raise beef. Unfortunately, Mr. Wilson ran afoul of a man named Jim McGinnis, who shot and killed him.

Mrs. Wilson later said that, except for “that unfortunate incident,” she enjoyed her time in the valley.

Clara Ritcey remembered that Mrs. Wilson had a fur coat and muff that she sometimes wore.

Jack Zellers and Davy Anderson were two bachelors who lived near Hemp Creek. When Davy Anderson sold his homestead (which didn’t have a house) to Ted Helset in 1941, Jack and Dave moved into a little cabin on Jack’s homestead and they invited the Helset family to live in the main house.   In exchange for this generous offer, Jennie Helset cooked for the two bachelors.

Zellers, however, liked to make his own breakfast, which consisted of hot coffee with a raw egg, milk and sugar mixed in.

Anderson came from Finland in 1918. He sold his hunter & fisherman guiding business to Ted Helset in 1942.

Clara Ritcey remembered Anderson once bought a knife for her brother and a necklace for herself. Both children were thrilled, although her brother probably was a little young for such a dangerous gift.

The Blake family came to Hemp Creek in 1931 from Edmonton.

They were well prepared. Mrs. Blake had bought some waterproof canvas and used it to make a huge tent plus packsacks.

They were related to the Emery’s of Blackpool and the daughter, Kay Blake, stayed at the Emery’s while she went to school.

Kay later helped Jessie Emery build the Bee Farm in Upper Clearwater.

Once Mrs. Blake and Kay took a shipment of chickens on foot from Blackpool to Clearwater. They were starting up the road to Upper Clearwater when they got a lift.

Kay walked ahead of the vehicle when they came to the narrow bridges over First, Second and Third canyons, in case there was someone coming the other way.

Mr. Blake eventually left but Mrs. Blake stayed on for a while before leaving for Washington state.

The land now occupied by Helmcken Falls Lodge was first homesteaded by Pete MacDougall.

He was a good friend of Mike Majerus, who had a farm farther north.

MacDougall never had enough money, while Majerus always seemed to have extra.

One day MacDougall helped himself to some things from Majerus’ cabin while Majerus was not home.

Majerus called the police, who arrested and charged MacDougall.

The trial was held in Kamloops and the judge found MacDougall guilty. He was given the choice of paying a fine or going to jail.


MacDougall said he had no money so he would have to go to jail. Majerus was horrified that his friend would be incarcerated and so paid his fine. The two went out to have some beer together (with Majerus paying) and then they traveled back home.



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