First Settlers
Chief Daniel Leon:

       Owing to the lack of official records the exact age of the Chief is uncertain. But church records show that he was baptised early in 1870. He was born at Ft. Babine and there married Rosie Charlie.
       Daniel worked for the Hudson Bay Co. for a number of years, he also ran his own store at both Ft. Babine and Old Fort.
       He did a great amount of church work, travelling with the bishop and priests acting as interpreter. Chief Leon was mainly responsible for the building of churches throughout the district including those of Old Fort, Ft. Babine, and Topley Landing. Because of his work he was made a church chief by the bishop.
       On a number of occasions Daniel and his wife travelled to Ottawa to speak with the Federal government officials on behalf of his people. Both Daniel and his wife were presented to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her majesty's visit to Terrace in 1957.
       Daniel marked out trap lines of the Babine Band for the Indian Agency and it was Daniel's trail that was followed from Topley to Topley Landing when the road was made.
       Chief Leon gave help to anyone, be they natives, non-natives of long resident or American visitors. Several speak of Daniel keeping their pathways clear of snow and keeping a watchful eye on their property.


Chief Tibbett:

       Chief Tibbett, of the Burns Lake Band was a good man, and well-liked by those who knew him over the years. He died about two years ago at the age of 84.
       He used to slip up to Jack Brown's house at night carrying an old storm lantern, to leave some meat outside in the safe. Next day he would mention his gift to Jack.
       In the fall, he and his wife would go up Priestley Hill, which is about 16 miles from Burns Lake, with his old horse and Buggy.
       A four-gallon gas tin of huckleberries they had picked would cost $4, and be perfect for pies or canning.
       One summer lightning struck the old church on the reserve and blew out the windows. Chief Tibbett came to see Jack the next day, to interpret the event.
       "You know, Jack, I don't think that Priest very good man," he said, sadly.


Edward Alfred Aslin:

       Mr. Aslin, known as Fred Aslin, was born in Clay County, Kansas. Following the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, he built a store at Fraser Lake, then came to Burns Lake in 1919. He built a store on the site of the present Hub store. This was destroyed by the big fire in 1926, and he refused to build any more stores, although he carried on a trading post on the Tetachuck River in the Tweedsmuir Park area. He was a fur buyer on a very large scale, with many buyers coming from Prince George and even from New York to deal with him.
       The fur buying took him throughout the country and almost everywhere he went, he travelled by foot. In more recent years he did some placer mining at Mason Creek. Being essentially independent by nature, Fred Aslin spent his last year living alone a very simple life. He past away on or about the 28th of December at the age of 84 years.


Casimere Williams:

       Mr. Williams lives on the Burns Lake Reserve. Chief Tibit ruled for many years and now his son Frank Tibit is the Chief.
       At Sherton, a lot of trapping was done and many furs were collected.
       Mr. Williams belongs to the Babine Tribe. At Babine there was an abundance of different fish; char, trout, white fish and from July to October the sockeye. The natives lived mainly on fish and game and lived in log cabins. The other end of Babine was also settled. Many would travel on ice with horse and sleigh to Babine Lake. Mr. William thinks Babine was named by a French catholic priest. The natives had a name for Burns Lake which meant "mountain creek."


Fred Stearns:

       In August 1918, Fred Stearns, who was one of the first pioneers, came to Burns Lake. He worked with the C.N.R. laying in ties for 12 cents each.
       The cars on the trains looked pretty well the same in width and length as today. The inside was mostly wooden and the seats were small and narrow. Gas lamps and coal stoves were used on the trains.
       There weren't very many roads when he first came. There was a short road out of Two Mile Creek. The highway was beginning to be built in 1925. It was built by horses, horse scrapers, hand and pick and shovel. The first stretch got as far as Richmond Hill and then in 1926 it moved out as far as Sharaton then continued to Priestly.
       The population when Mr. Stearns first came was around 240 people. There were 7 children going to a one-roomed school. In 1921, the high school was built onto the other which was left as the Elementary School. It's old position was just on this side of the Elementary school today.
       The first General Stores in Burns Lake were owned by George Mackenzie and Bob Gerow. Mr. Mackenzie's store was where S & S store is now, and Mr. Gerow's was an old log building where the Legion is now.
       Most of the buildings were made of log. There was very little lumber. Jim Wood's building was one of the original cabins in Burns Lake. There also was an early cabin just below Mr. Wood's. The first hotel was run by a Mr. Same Hepler and a Mr. Yaud. There was a building across from Center Street from the United Church, which was built in 1919. It still stands. A man by the name of Hatch had a building beside the Turner Store. In 1919-1920, the Royal Bank started at one end of this building. Mr. Jim McKenna had a fourteen room boarding house straight across from where Shelford's Store is now.
       This Mr. McKenna was the first postmaster in Burns Lake. Then his son, Bill, took over.
       The nearest police was a Mr. Aldmere at Telkwa. He used to come down once in a while for cases. There was no local government.
       The very first car in Burns Lake at that time was owned by Mr. Bob Gerow. The next one by Mr. Bruce Kerr.
       One of the first radios ever to come to Burns Lake was owned by Andy Reddy, although the sound wasn't very clear. At first there were only a few squawks off and on, and then a few words.
       The people were most friendly. You would always be welcomed into their homes. There were dances once a week and everyone had a good time. The people had to buy their water then. They got it from the government pump. This used to stand where the Public Works is now.


Mr. G. Saul:

       Mr. Saul first came to Burns Lake in June 1919. He travelled by boat from Victoria to Prince Rupert then by rail from Prince Rupert to Burns Lake.
       In Burns there was one General store then owned by George McKenzie. It was situated where the Royal Bank now stands. Fred Aslin had a store later where the Hub store is now. The people who were living here when he came (which were very few) were very friendly. There were not nearly as many Indians then as there is now. Most of them were at Babine Lake. The first policeman to come was Constable Percy Carr in 1920. The first law and order building was on the corner of the present 6th Avenue.
       The Roads in 1919 were not too good. The building of Highway 16 began that year. Before that the only kind of road or trail was the Government Trail, made by pack trains and horses.
       The first bank was built in 1920. It was managed by Mr. Niles Henderson. Jack Shofelwood and Gertie Owen (now Mrs. Ray Stanyer) worked in it. A few years later the people started to do more farming. Up to this time trapping had been the main occupation. Many men worked on the section. The main entertainment when he came was dances. George McKenzie had a dance hall above his store. When the dancing began, they had a great time and what he recalled that was quite funny, was that you could hear the pots and pans banging against the walls from the vibration of the dance. Mr. Saul was appointed J.P. in 1949, and then appointed Magistrate in 1951.


Dick Carroll:

       Mr. Carroll arrived at Burns Lake in 1909.

       He staked a piece of land adjacent to the Indian reserve as that was the first staking and had the prior right when the survey was made. Not knowing where his property would be located after the survey he built a cabin almost half a mile east on other property.
       The day he landed in Burns Lake there was just one man here, Malcolm McKinley, who acted as telegraph operator on the Yukon telegraph line.
       The Indians lived mostly by hunting and trapping and they always built their homes where the fishing was good. There wasn't any moose and the deer were scarce. Some effort was made to grow potatoes, but met with little success. There were some cattle but they almost starved to death each winter.
       Mr. George Wallace who came from South Africa was the other white man but was away to Hazelton to get his wife who was the first white woman to take up residence. Mr. Wallace filed on the property where Peter Drewcock lived lately and built a house there in 1910. Boer Mountain was named after Mr. Wallace because of his nickname, "The Boer."


William McKenna:

       In August of 1911 Mr. Bill McKenna came to Burns Lake with his parents. They started out from Kelowna and travelled with wagons as far as Fort Fraser. The rest of the way to Burns Lake, they rode horses and carried their belongings by pack horses.
       When the McKennals arrived in the area, there was nothing here except for the Burns Lake Cabin which was situated where Bill Richmond lives. There were only two men living here, working for the government telegraph.
       The Indians were the earliest settlers and they lived in houses with little or no furniture at all. They slept on floors and squatted on the floor when they ate their meals. These Indians, which are the same as we have today, were the "Carrier Indians."
       There were no doctors in Burns Lake at that time. A person who needed a doctor would have to go to Hazelton, where Dr. Wrsinch practiced.
       When families who lived here ran out of groceries, they would travel to Hazelton where there was a small store. Since there were no roads, people had to travel by horses and wagens. In Burns Lake the only trail was the government telegraph trail. Later on the men got jobs on the building of the railroad but the wages were very low.
       Mr. McKenna recalls that they lived a lot differently than now because there was very little of everything such as money, food, clothes, and poor transportation.
       In 1925, Mr. McKenna himself was brought into the Post Office, working faithfully until his retirement in 1966. Mr. McKenna, I'm sure everyone will agree did a great deal in the building and improving of Burns Lake.


Mr. Sturgeon:

       Mr. Sturgeon came to Burns Lake in 1912 from England. He walked to Burns Lake from Prince Rupert following various trails.

       There was an old cabin by the present hotel called "The Bucket of Blood". He had the first store and post office at Forestdale for forty years. The nearest government was Prince Rupert and once in a while a policeman and doctor would travel through the country.
       The only occupation here then was farming and some logging.
       His comment on the changes was, "there are hundreds of changes that can't be mentioned."


Mrs. Saunders:

       Mrs. Saunders came to Burns Lake in 1913 by boat from Vancouver to Prince Rupert, then by train to Hazelton. After she came to Ootsa Lake by mule and horse where she made her home.
       The country was forest and roads were rough. Homes were made of logs (hand cut) with dirt roofs. Having no police force, the law was made by voice of people. People were friendly then and could help each other. Most of the people lived and worked on farms. Later there was a General Store, owned by Bob Gerow, a Blacksmith Shop, and a Roadhouse. As recreation they had barbecues, different sports, and dances. Everyone for miles around attended these activities.


Mr. R. Minger:

       Mr. Minger came by railroad to Burns Lake in the year 1914. The population then was around 160 at the most. There were a few Indians and when a potlatch was held, hundreds of Indians would gather from many parts of the country.
       The homes were made by hack saw, and logs and were very rugged. There was one policeman Provincial) who travelled between the settlements. There was a Doctor and a hospital at Southbank. The only road was the one out to Francois Lake. There was also a railroad and tote road. Main occupations were hacking ties, home steading, section work on the railroad and trapping. Road construction started in 1917-18. People were very friendly and trustworthy.
       The changes are unbelieveable. Everybody had to get groceries by pack sack from stores. Mr. Minger had to walk 16 miles each way for food. Water was hauled for you at 50 cents a barrel. There wasn't any electricity until 1930's when Jonas Glands started his own plant.


Mrs. Jenzen:

       In 1914 Mrs. Jenzen came by boat to Pr. Rupert. From there she travelled by train. She settled by Tchsinkut Lake, and as they couldn't farm they lived by fishing. There was too much timber so farming was impossible. They liked the country and the Indians that were around were always friendly.
       In 1920, Mrs. Jenzen moved to Burns Lake. There was very little work and wages were poor. There wasn't a school and they hadn't any neighbours. The roads were terrible, so they made new roads as they went along.
       There wasn't any police force but there was a store and hotel on the Island named Gerow & Radelow. McKinsey had a store and Barney Mulvany had a lot of tents in Burns. Bob Gerow had the first car. "There are too many changes to mention," commented Mrs. Jenzen.


Mrs. D. Gerow:

       Mrs. Gerow came to Burns Lake in 1916, by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad. There were no buildings where Burns Lake is now, but on the Island, there were tents, and some stores.
       She remembers the first people she knew were the McKenna's family and Bob Gerow. There was a Catholic Church here then and the first store was Bob Gerow's. Later on George MacKenzie built one. There was one policeman although not permanent. There were no roads east or west. One could go as far as John Shelford's store and there wasn't a road out to Francois Lake. Lumbering and tie making was the main type of employment then, also farming and trapping. People were very friendly. Mrs. Gerow comes from Alfred, Saskatchewan. She and Mr. Gerow came out here because Bob Gerow, brother-in-law, ran a store and hotel, and wanted them to work for him.
       The first school was across from the Jewellers, and was built in 1917. Mrs. Beck now uses it as a warehouse. Mrs. Frank Keith was the first school teacher and Mrs. Bob McDonald was the second one. They taught grades 1-8 in one classroom.


Mrs. Lynton:

       In 1917, Mrs. Lytton came to the country of which is now called Burns Lake. She and her parents moved south to Francois Lake. They lived in a log cabin which had been built in 1910.
       Most of the Indians were at the Hazelton reserve. The Indians lived the same way as the whites did, living in houses or log cabins.
       During the first World War there wasn't much food, but everyone seemed to manage. In 1928, they moved to Burns Lake from south of Francois Lake. Jean Lynton, who is now Mrs. Bill McKenna, was the first girl to receive her Grade 12. Mrs. Lynton was the secretary of the first school which was at Wistaria.


Mrs. Moore:

       From my interview with Mrs. Moore, I learned that her and her four sons came to B.C. in 1921 from Alberta. She was met at Endako by Fay Short, taxi driver. Mr. Moore drove their car as far as Ft. Fraser and after selling it, caught a train from here.
       The Moore family made their first home at Tchesinkut Lake, now the Tom Kelly home. They lived there until 1944, when they moved to Burns Lake.
       Mr. Moore trapped fox and mink and cut wood to be sold for a living. When it was possible he worked for the public works.
       Mrs. John Gilgan was the postmistress, but the people were only able to get their mail a couple of times a week.
       Dances were held for entertainment with Mr. Moore playing the violin and Mrs. Moore playing the piano. Neighbors joined in with other instruments.
       When I asked Mrs. Moore what she thought about the change in Burns Lake she replied, "The town was more sociable then than now but it has changed for the better."


Mr. Kaler:

       In 1921 Mr. Kaler came to Burns Lake by foot. He owned the first sawmill in 1938, which was at Babine. He also shipped the first carload of lumber in 1942. Farming and ties were the main occupations. Work was hard as they had to use a pick and shovel. The country was pretty much the same, maybe more trees and fewer people. The roads were only cow trails and hard to travel on. The houses were made of logs and the neighbours were very friendly. They had no trouble with the Indians. A few of the buildings of Burns Lake then was a store owned by Fred Aslin, a Hotel owned by Andy Reddy, and later by Barnie Mulvaney; a bank built in 1923, a Post Office, and the policeman was Percy Carr. Newspaper, the Observer, was run by Sid Gartne.


Fred Beach:

       In the spring of 1919, Fred Beach arrived in Burns Lake. Mr. Beach owned the garage which is now owned by Mr. Radley. This was in the early forty's. This garage was then a building for trucks but later turned into a business. Mr. Beach recalls Carl Orsberg and Fred Hopess as the first men building on the garage. The first garage was owned by A.M. Ruddy and Andy Anderson. This garage was located where the Tweedsmuir Hotel is now and after it was burned down, it was relocated where Percy's Pool Room is now. When Mr. Beach first came, they travelled by horse and wagon on trails. Mr. Beach recalls the first Model T truck sent to Francois Lake, in the early 1920's. Yr. Beach used to work on the freightline going to Vancouver before the garage opened.


Mr. and Mrs. Mann:

       In 1921 Mr. and Mrs. Mann came to Burns Lake with horse and buggy from Rose Lake. There were a few small stores which later burned down, and a police station, where the Forestry building is now. The constables were: Ferrburn, Se1k, and Percy Carr. Bill Clark was famous for walking the tracks. Often Mr. and Mrs. Mann would visit the Clark by walking the tracks. Mr. Mann was the section foreman down at Rose Lake. They got their food, clothing and other things from Burns Lake or they had to travel by train to Forest Dale. They would have to stay over night, because the train didn't come back till the next day.
       The first person to have a radio was Lincoln of Palling. Almost everybody was there listening to the radio. Some people which are still living in Burns Lake, which went to Lincolns to listen were: Mr. and Mrs. Saul, Gin Saul and others.
       Mrs. Mann recalls the time when natives would jump the train to getto other places.
       Mr. Miking was the Postmaster of a small post office in Rose Lake. Albert and Dave Sterzinn worked for him. Mrs. and Mr. Mann Crammers, and Carolls and Moulds were the first to live in Rose Lake.
       Micky Stitch Dance Hall was the first dancehall in the Forest Dale.
       Mrs. Mann recalls her and many of her friends walking on the tracks to the dance. One day Mrs. Mann received a pair of men's boots or high tops. Her feet got such big blisters because of these shoes so she put on her dance shoes. But as it was to cold, she took off her gloves, ones that came up to her elbows, and put them on her feet and she described how funny it looked the way she walked.
       Another time they went somewhere with horse and buggy and the horse lost his shoe and the men tried to stop the horses, some jumped off, but Mrs. Mann was so scared she fainted and fell off the wagon on the road and they had to come back and get her. Mrs. Mann recalls another time when they were waiting for a train, they had to sleep in a shed overnight and in the morning everybody was covered with blood. When they woke up they found out that some meat was hanging above them.
       Mrs. Mann says that they had more fun in those days than teenagers do now. Mr. Mann passed away on February 6, 1967.


Mrs. Del Cassidy:

       Born Alice Louisa Gothard, February 2, 1891 at Barking near London, England, she came to Colleymount as a war bride in 1919 with her first husband, Authur Eastman. Together they made the trip to Francois Lake to their first home in a canoe. There was one child of this marriage, Doreen. Mrs. Eastman and her small daughter travelled back to England after the death of her husband. In 1924, they returned to their home at Colleymount and in this same year she married Delmer Cassidy. Three children were born, Marjorie of Southbank; Kenneth at home; and Barbara was born in the first hospital in Burns Lake.
       Mrs. Cassidy ran a general store at Colleymount and was the first postmistress. She received many certificates for her work.
       Mrs. Cassidy was an enthusiastic community worker, for this reason she was well known beyond her own community. Besides being a confirmed member of the Anglican Church, she was also a life member of W.A., (Women's Auxiliary), life memberships of the Francois Lake Women's Institute and Lakes District Fair Association were also conferred upon her.


Dick Carroll:

       The nearest store was Aldermere, a town that does not exist now and was close to Telkwa, eighty miles from Burns Lake. All goods arrived at Burns Lake on a pack horse and cost about 250 a lb. from the head of navigation on the Skeena River where it arrived by stern wheeler from either Prince Rupert or Port Essington. There wasn't any post offices or mail services.
       Log cabins were the rule as far as homes were concerned and mighty poorly furnished.
       The McKenna children were the first youngsters in Burns Lake and after 1911 quite a few other people came in.
       The railroad was connected up in the spring of 1914.
       The nearest white man to Burns Lake to the west was Mr. Charles Ross at Rose Lake and there were a few at what is now Forestdale. At that time it was known as South Buckley. Mrs. McGinnis lived at North Buckley that being the place Mr. Barnett now lives. There were only about three women living in the Buckly Valley the winter 1909 through 1910.
       Dick left Hazelton with a small pack on his back and he forgets how long it took him to reach Burns Lake and stake the land. Mr. Collison's records show that he recorded it on June 17, 1909.
       There was a big forest fire which burned down the telegraph line and he helped Mr. McKinley to put up some of the poles.
       He worked all summer on construction at the road from Hazelton to Telkwa and after making a trip to Burns Lake in the fall returned and worked on the survey of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad from Hazelton to Skeena Crossing.


Del Cassidy:

       Mr. Cassidy came as far as Vancerhoof by train from Saskatchewan in 1919. He got to Burns Lake in June.
       Matt Nourse took him to Nourse Creek by boat and from there he walked to Colleymount. While working for Fay Short he went across Francois Lake and homesteaded at west Tatalrose from 1919 to 1922. He sold it then to Bob Moore. In the same year, he met and married Alice Eastment. In 1923, Mr. Cassidy built a house with a store in the corner. Later he built a store in 1936 beside the house.
       Their four children went to school in the one room log school built by voluntary labor and $100.00 from the school board for windows. He traded with Jeffery's at the landing once a week.
       In 1923, Barnie gave a party for Alice with most of the old timers attending. Everyone had a grand time until 4:00 a.m. when Alice caught the train that would carry her part ways on her trip back to England.


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