Places Our Fore Fathers
JOE GERMAIN first settler
From the Daily Herald Tribune
Although his log cabin was the first raised on Richmond Avenue- and years before there was a Grande Prairie hamlet the historic site of that little- known Quebec born venturer into the South Peace was wecomed at first as a city park.
" Joseph Endore Germain, a native son of St. Anne de la Perade in the Champlain district of Quebec, where several of his family still reside, came west to Edmonton in April 1902, " reported the Grande Prairie historical edition Dec. 21, 1934.
"Following his trade of harness maker, he heard much about the vast northland known as the Peace River Country from trappers and fur buyers.
"On January 19, 1905, Joe set out for the North and that summer squatted on part of the present townsite of Grande Prairie. Though some misunderstanding, he let it go after the surveyors came through and later located on land in the Spirit River district where he is now farming.
"The first job Mr. Germain had in the north was with Alley Brick in Peace River. After trapping all winter he joined a survey party for the summer months. Each winter he put in trapping, one season with Arthur Gunn who lives near Clairmont.
"Of his early day experiences, Mr. Germain regards the pastime of catching wild horses, of which there where hundreds roaming the district, the most exciting. Later he became a freighter for the Hudsons Bay Company and Revillion Freres and his trail experiences were varied."
More than 10 years after Mr. Germain Arrived in the Peace Country and had relocated in the Spirit River district, other old settlers made history in that special and valued Herald-Tribune report.
With the arrival of the E.D.&B.C. Railway in the young city of Grande Prairie in March 1915, the honour of driving the golden spike, symbolic of the completion of the railway, was awarded to Mrs. Campbell Benson, who in the spring of 1905 arrived with her husband who took up residence in the Kleskun Lake area.
Born in Fergus Falls, Ontario. Mrs. Benson at an early age moved with her parents and her family to the west.
Her father, the late Robert Wishart, first came west to enlist against the Riel uprising near Fort Garry, Man., in 1879.
On receiving his discharge he went to the Portage Plains and filed on the first homestead to be entered at Portage la Prairie. After bringing his family to the west he dies in 1906.
It was while in Winnipeg in 1903 that Miss Wishart met and married Campbell Benson, scion of one of the oldest families of that area. While in 1905 Mr. and Mrs. Benson resolved to make their home in the Peace Country near Kleskun Lake.
According to the book "Grande Prairie, Capital of the Peace" published in 1968, on the opening of the North country, Germain had sold his 80-acre scrip to Grande Prairie townsite promoters and had left for the Spirit River country.
The empty Germain cabin was now occupied by the Campbell Bensons, who quuick to see opportunity in vanguard of settlers beginning to trickle across the prairie, left their isolated Kleskun Lake location and set up a stopping place near the crossing of Bear Creek.
Shown in the book is the photograph with cutlines, the Edson Trail weary found food and lodging here at the Benson stopping place, forerunner of Grande Prairies hotels.
In the long years since settlers arrived in the developing city center, the site of that first log cabin home build by Joe Germain is now Germain Park.
One of the oldest buildings in the downtown area is slowly being dismantled and the timber sold, the press report of October 20, 1970, regretting as another symbol marking Grande Prairies history was passing.
The old premises on the corner of 102 Street and 99 Avenue have led a varied life during the past 54 years. Business has been confined to two main trades lumber and a motor garage.
The building was put up about 1915 and was owned BY Jim Evans of the Buffalo Lakes Lumber Co. Mr. Evans used it for his lumber yard and office. The firms manager lived upstairs.
About 1926 the Buffalo Lakes company was bought out by the Frontier Lumber Co., which was operated by J.A. Macdonald of the city.
Soon after it was rented out as a garage and had several operators up to the time the three-lot property was sold to P.V. Croken of the city, the present owner, in 1958.
Mr. Croken continued to rent the property until recently when he decided to have the buildings dismantled and the site cleared.