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Hudson's Hope Museum news: Summer days and fireside tales

Upcoming book chronicles life of pioneering cowboy Willard Freer
willard-freer
Willard Freer - hunter, outfitter, packer, guide, and cowboy.

Warmer days are here, and so are the summer hours. The museum is looking forward to seeing visitors stop in, our cabins are now open to the public.

The last time I penned a column, the focus was dinosaurs, and the rich prehistoric history contained within the Peace. I’m happy to say our dinosaur exhibit will be getting new foam inserts to better hold fossils and castings.

Virtual heritage fairs were held last month, with students from Grades 3 to 6 submitting displays on local history. A big thanks to all the judges who volunteered their time to review projects. 

One summer student has also been hired on, wishing a welcome back to Joey Poirier. He’ll be working on accession materials, updating artifacts for our database, and safely moving them into the temperature controlled storage in the Rutledge Heritage Building. 

The building chronicles the history of guides and outfitters in Hudson’s Hope and surrounding areas. The structure was reclaimed from Leo Rutledge’s homestead, who arrived in 1929 to make his fortune in the Peace.

Other prominent outfitters are also featured, such as Olive Powell, who donated over 60 taxidermy animals collected by her and her husband Gary. The pair ran an outfitting business all the way from Fort Nelson to Peace River for more than 30 years.

I’ve also been chatting with author and historian Jay Sherwood. He’s a family friend, and a friend to the museum. For the past few years, Jay’s been sifting through journals left by my Great Uncle, Willard Freer. A book is in the works for a 2022 release, titled Kechika Chronicler: The Northern B.C. Diaries of Willard Freer.

Freer was one of the cowboys hired in 1934 for the Bedeaux Expedition, which saw Citroen half-tracks make their way through the wilderness of Northern Alberta and B.C. The journals chronicle Freer’s life after the expedition, from 1942 to 1975. He spent much of his time living along the Alaska Highway in Fireside north of Fort Nelson, along the Liard River.

Jay says his diaries are incredibly valuable, with a rich pantheon of Northern B.C. historical figures mentioned in the pages. Freer worked with Skook Davidson for many years at the Diamond J Ranch and spent time packing for government survey parties and mining companies, as well as working for the US Army during World War II.

The museum is now open seven days a week, from 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 valley, come out and volunteer. We have lots of scanning and accessioning of historical photos and artifacts to be done. Training is provided

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