When we first arrived in Driftwood Canyon, Gordon Harvey had just died (December 1976) but his house, a shed, a bathhouse and a log barn were still standing.
Stories about Katherine, Peavine and their son Gordon Harvey are layered into Driftwood history. Peavine had a claim on Harvey Mountain (named after him) and any hikers going up the Harvey Mountain Road trail passes by the remnants of his cabin at one of the switchbacks. Gordon, in his memoir below, speaks of his father’s booming voice and real estate savvy. Wet’suwet’en stories speak of how he used that voice to intimidate them during the years when they were being steadily evicted from their homesites along the Bulkley Road (now the Telkwa-Moricetown Highroad).
Katherine played piano at many parties and was known to be pretty feisty. Some say the way she heated her house burned down three of them – if you’ve ever tried to saw logs into woodstove-sized lengths with a swede saw, you’ll understand her preference for opening the door to the woodbox, shoving in one end of a log, leaving the door open and just pushing it further in as it burned.
After his parents’ death, Gordon continued to live on the family property, another one of the valley’s eccentric bachelors. He told his family’s story in Bulkley Valley Stories, published in 1973.
Memories of Driftwood Canyon
My father, C.G. Harvey, arrive in Hazelton in 1907 where he entered the hotel business. He was one of the “Big Three” with “Black Jack” McDonell and Jack Sealy. He was also engaged in the land promotion business. Happy Turner wrote: “he was a good one to spy out the land and in no time, was on speaking terms with every section post in the district. He is still pushing in a tunnel on Harvey Mountain with a true prospector’s optimism.” He located, for Jack Sealy, a large ranch in the Driftwood Creek area, which is now the even larger Bill Morris ranch. [This has since been split into several properties.]
Prior to coming to the Valley, he prospected in the Kootenays, California, Mexico and the Yukon.
My mother was born in London in 1882. In 1908, she came to Canada, working in the law office of R. B. Bennett who was M.P. for Calgary West and later Prime Minister of Canada. On she moved to Vancouver and then north to Prince Rupert and up the Skeena by river boat to Hazelton. There she worked in the office of District Mining Recorder, S.H. Hoskins, father of the retired Ford dealer, Os Hoskins.
In 1912, she and my father were married and carried on the hotel operation until 1914. Then that summer they rode horseback to Smithers with me, their six month old son, strapped to the saddle. When we reached the Sealy Ranch, the young foreman, Bill Kirton, recently arrived from England, took us by wagon over a rough mining road to our property on Harvey Mountain – on the way to Silver King basin. Sometime later dad broke his leg at the mine and we found him in the cabin administering his own first aid. He had taken apart a section of stovepipe and was using it as a cast. We pulled him out on a hand sleigh to receive medical help.
My mother and dad carried on mining operations under the most primitive conditions with hand drill, shovel and wheelbarrow. I worked in our mine when I was eleven. They stuck with what he described as the only “mine in the Babines” – others were only prospects.
How did my father get the name “Peavine Harvey”?
On one occasion, he was preparing exhibits of Bulkley Valley produce for the PNE at Vancouver. Included was a sheaf of our famous timothy hay and some wild huckleberries.
The night before he left, some “friends” stole into his hotel room and made some changes. In place of timothy, they put in a bundle of local peavine hay and replaced the berries with a box of rabbit manure. He didn’t discover it until he arrived at the PNE in Vancouver.
“Peavine” Harvey will be remembered for his booming voice – he was hard of hearing! A stenographer who worked for the Government Agent, Mr. Bryant, said the whole building vibrated when Peavine greeted the staff in the office. My mother, a bit of a woman about five feet tall, was an accomplished musician. She played background music on the piano for the silent movies, run by Wiggs O’Neill and held in the old town hall. We kids used to sit on hard wooden benches to view the weekly Tarzan cliffhanger.
I went to Driftwood school where Edna Vickers, 19, taught us. I was quite in love with her and informed my parents I’d be marrying her when I grew up. I hadn’t figured on Roland Sykes beating my time – she walked out of my life when I was 13. In August ’72, they were back in Driftwood where many of us students had a reunion.
Driftwood Canyon now has electricity – I paid my first bill in January, ’73. If you follow Babine Road to Sealy’s corner and turn west you will see a sign by the old school that reads, “Fossils”. About two miles up, you enter a provincial park, “Driftwood Canyon Park”, which includes the fossil beds, crown land above it and the virgin wilderness to Silver King Basin. I have owned the original “Peavine” Harvey homestead since my father’s death in 1945. I have my private park, called “Lone Pine Park” whose visitors book contains five thousand names of people who seek the quiet beauty of Driftwood Canyon.
Ten years ago, visual artist Perry Rath and I (with the wonderful help of Dorothy Giesbrecht) collaborated to make the weather from the west, a collection of my poems and his paintings. The paintings, many of which came from his In the Skin of This Land series, layer paint, photographs, maps and other texture to create an image that reflects the complexity of the ways we inhabit the land.
Perry’s partner, Taisa Jenne, lived with her family just up the road from us for many years and so he came to know Driftwood Creek and the Babine Mountains from the first days he arrived here.
Right at the turn onto road to the Jenne house stood the remnants of the Harvey home – a tumbling down barn and a tilting bathhouse. Using the old photograph from our collection and one of his own taken at the time, layering paint over topographical maps, Perry made Driftwood Vestige.
When BC Parks gave Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park a facelift, designer Tom Grasmeyer created some beautiful interpretive signs along the path to the fossil beds. One of those signs acknowledged the ways in which the creek and the canyon have been a source of inspiration for many of us. Posted on a platform above the creek, it includes an image of this painting and one of the many poems I’ve written after a walk along the creek:
under the heel of its turn
digs a hole
the current does not diminish across its surface
but some aspen leaves
slow you down
if the creek and leaves are right
a few cool seconds to linger
over the intricate arrangement of creekbright stones
submerged in water’s endless exhalation
one breath singing in the long song to the sea
The creek is vibrant reminder of both transience and tenacity. The Harvey house is long gone and the old log barn has finally fallen. No more space for timothy or tractors. No more room for pirate treasure hideouts. By the time this summer’s grass is fully grown, it will have all but vanished.