Editor’s Note: The following is part three 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.
Mike McDougall left the Clearwater River Valley in 1937 and the brothers John and Henry Hogue took over his homestead.
They were both skilled woodsmen and their broadaxe work can still be seen in the interior of Helmcken Falls Lodge.
Fire warden Jack Norman (l) once said, “I need three good men or John Hogue.”
One winter Henry Hogue got sick while trapping with his brother near Azure Lake.
John Hogue walked out to get help. An airplane flew in from Kamloops and landed on the frozen lake – but then sank through the ice. No one was hurt in the incident and a second plane was dispatched from Kamloops to retrieve both the pilot and the sick man. Henry eventually recovered. People with a submersible camera recently took photos of the airplane, which is still at the bottom of the lake.
Jessie and Frances Emery from Blackpool started a honeybee business in what is now Wells Gray Park in the 1930s – attracted by the masses of fireweed growing following the 1926 fire.
The girls thought nothing of walking from Blackpool to Upper Clearwater and back.
The two girls eventually married two Shook boys, another pioneering Upper Clearwater family.
Clara Ritcey remembered seeing a honey extractor at the Shooks’ home, and being given honey and recipes on how to use it by Frances Emery.
“It was amazing honey,” she recalled.
Mike Majerus, who had been a slate layer in Luxembourg, came to the valley in 1911 with a survey crew.
He is remembered as a funny and entertaining storyteller.
He is also remembered for his horse, which he treated more as a member of the family than as a work animal.
Majerus never rode the horse. He only led it.
Sometimes he would bring it down to the Helsets’ so it could socialize with other horses and not be lonely.
The horse never worked to cut its own hay. Majerus did that all by hand.
When Majerus left the country, he gave the horse to the Helsets on condition that it not be shot.
Majerus like to have several hats, which he would wear all at once.
He also liked to wear rubber boots – that he would cut a hole in “to let the water out.”
Sometimes he would have dinner at the Helsets. He would use his hunting knife while eating, and when done, would wipe it off on his pant leg.
“Boy, my brother was just green with envy,” Clara Ritcey recalled.
The next day her brother did the same trick – wiping his knife off on his pants after dinner.
“He didn’t try that again,” said Clara.
John Ray had the northernmost and most isolated of the homesteads.
He married Alice, one of the Ludtkes, and although there was quite an age difference they had three children.
Nancy Ray was about her age and used to come and visit her, while Alice Ray would visit her mother, said Clara Ritcey.
Clara remembers that, at the time, she wondered why the two adult women would want to talk for hours. Now she realizes that Alice Ray must have been starved for company.
Also important in the history of Wells Gray Park were a couple of prospectors based out of Blue River.
Waldy Munter was an uncle to the Helset girls. He lived to age 101 or 102.
Munter made one or more trips from Blue River to Barkerville, carrying only a rifle, hatchet and a few other supplies – including several spikes.
He and a partner walked from Blue River to Murtle Lake, where they used the hatchet and the spikes to make a raft. They then paddled the raft to the north end of the lake, where they broke the raft apart and recovered the spikes.
They then backpacked through the woods to Angus Horne Lake, where they built another raft.
They were travelling downstream when they hit a rock. This turned out to be a good thing, because otherwise they would have gone over Rainbow Falls by Azure Lake.
Once at Azure they made another raft, paddled to the west end of the lake, disassembled the raft, and hiked to Hobson Lake.
One more raft took them to the trail from Hobson to Quesnel Lake.
From Quesnel Lake they traveled to Barkerville.
Munter’s partner on the first trip, Charlie Peterson, chose to remain in Barkerville.
Another Blue River trapper, Angus Horne, wrote poetry in a style similar to Robert Service’s. He sold his trapline in 1937 to Clifford Munter.