Skip to content

Hudson’s Hope museum news: Reeling in the years

Another busy summer season for local museums is just around the corner.
freer-farm-1930s
Bear Flat along the Peace River near Fort St. John, seen as it was in the 1930s.

Things have been relatively quiet at the Hudson’s Hope Museum, but we’re looking forward to warmer days and plenty of visitors. Here's a handful of items that have crossed my desk and piqued my interest so far in 2022.

West Moberly Historical Society

At our last meeting, I was stoked to hear that West Moberly First Nations has started a historical society. Dean Dokkie is spearheading the efforts, and contacted our intrepid curator, Patti Campbell, for help with archival research as a part of a new cultural centre for the nation. We’ve agreed to help them with finding photos, historical records, and stories of Indigenous people who lived in the area. We wish them all the best.

Fort St. John North Peace Museum

We’ve exchanged some books with our Fort St. John peers, getting our hands on North Peace trivia books printed in the 1970s by Alaska Highway News. Copies of Remembering My Early Years by long-time Hudson’s Hope resident, pioneer, and board member Dave Kyllo, have also gone out to their museum. Dave continues to be a member-at-large, tuning in from his new home in White Rock, after a lifetime in the Peace as a rancher, a cowboy, a river guide, outfitter, and more.

South Peace Historical Society turns 70

Our friends in the South Peace celebrated 70 years last weekend, and I dropped in at an open house at their archives, which continues to be home to good people and great pieces of history. 

I managed to snag a rare conversation with former president and now vice-president Day Roberts, a man of the community and a wealth of historical knowledge. While he’s quite modest, Day has lived many lives in Dawson Creek, and dropped off a fresh set of albums dating back more than 30 years. Several memorable moments were caught on film: a 1971 summer visit from Queen Elizabeth II, a 1992 winter visit with actor Leslie Nielsen, the establishment of the NAR Station Museum, and the revamp of the Walter Wright Pioneer Village in 1991.

The original aim of the society in 1952 was to be an organization spanning the entire Peace, documenting the collective history of the region. They've done well. 

A 1977 Mystery

A surprise film reel from 1977, filmed on a boat travelling the Kechika River, has become a hot news story, after footage was recovered by history buff Francois Arsenault, who often crowd sources his detective work to get the definitive tale on any videos he finds.  

If rumours on the internet are to be believed, allegedly the man driving the boat is my Great Uncle Willard Freer, years after his cowboy career on the Bedaux Expedition. Unfortunately, I can’t say for certain that it’s him without a photo to compare – but it’s quite plausible, as Willard spent the remainder of his days living in the Northern Rockies near Fireside by the Liard River.

None the less, it’s quite the find, and Arsenault loves the work that he does, posting the footage for the joy of tracking down people’s stories and getting the scoop on unexpected pieces of history.

Bear Flat Dispatch

A quick nod to our friends in the Peace River valley: I stopped in to visit Ken and Arlene Boon at Bear Flat earlier this year and wanted to thank them being good stewards of its history. For those who don’t know, the Boons have a small museum at their place dedicated to the area, transforming the old schoolhouse into the Bear Flat Museum. Ken is a master of both storytelling and restoring old buildings. 

The museum has a few familial records for me, as my great grandparents settled in that stretch of the Peace River in 1914; the Freer family spent their first winter here in a canvas tent. My grandparents, Frank Freer and Georgia Keith would also go on to own a small farm on Bear Flat before selling their homestead in the 1970s.

On a more sombre note, the last of the original Freer siblings are no more after my Great Aunt Phyllis passed away in January. Born in 1921, she was a pioneer, an athlete, and a veteran, serving as a driver in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. She is missed.

The Hudson's Hope Museum is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We’re always looking for volunteers so if you have a keen interest in history or would just like to learn a little more about the Peace River valley, come out and volunteer. There’s lots of scanning and accessioning of historical photos and artifacts to be done. Training is provided. We’re also looking for some youthful help again this summer, with a student position needed.

If you would like any further information, please call 250-783-5735 or email at hhmuseum@pris.ca.


Tom Summer is President of the Hudson's Hope Historical Society.