The Mackenzie & District Museum ties to Finlay Forks are many and varied, from our Marge McDougall paintings to photographs of First Nations people whose traditional territory covers the valley. The history books each give their stories, sometimes in conflict, of the people that lived or explored this beautiful valley.
As you can see by photo #1, this was valley that drew people by its inspiring beauty. The photo is taken from Mt. Selwyn looking northwest and was taken around 1963. You can see where the Parsnip River joins the Finlay River to form the Peace. The smoke rising in the foreground is from the Cattermole sawmill. Up the Finlay River a few miles, past Pete Toy’s bar, is where Marge McDougall lived with her husband Roy. The rivers in the photo are just a tiny view of the transportation system of riverboats that supplied the First Nations, trappers, prospectors, and early settlers. Names that have become synonymous with river boating are Corless, Van Somer, and Kyllo to name just a few.
Two books that give a glimpse into life on the rivers are R.M. Patterson’s FINLAY’S RIVER and Bernard McKay’s CROOKED RIVER RATS. Finlay Forks was a focal point for travellers up and down the rivers. Photo #2 shows the McKinnon ranch at Finlay Forks. It is reported that they have 400 acres under cultivation and would ship their grain by Kyllo’s river boats down the Peace River to Hudson’s Hope.
J.N. Wallace writing in The Canadian Historical Review titled “The Explorer of Finlay River in 1824” stated that there was no one named John Finlay who was reported to have explored the Finlay River in 1797. He feels that the river should be named after the person who did explore its full length, Samuel Black in 1824. Confused, there are more reports and opinions that contradict each other.
The challenge we have at the Museum is to gather information from as many sources as possible and exhibit what we have found. If there is a conflict of information, that is our incentive to research even more. Meeting new people, whether in person or through the pages of a book, makes this vocation more than just a job. If you wish to share in the research, pass on what you know, or even correct us, you are more that welcome to.
Our hours are 10 am to 2 pm, Tuesday to Saturday, September to June. During July and August we are open 9am to 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Our phone number is 250-997-3021 and our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Each artifact in the Museum has a story and we want to tell the world.
This article was printed in the Golden Raven magazine, Summer 2013