The Municipal District of Peace No.135 was incorporated on December 11, 1916. The first road through the Peace region was known as the Dunvegan Trail and it wound through the hills along the Peace river. As road allowances were gradually developed, most of the trail was cancelled, with the only remaining portion of the surveyed trail still used and now called the Shaftesbury Trail. Along the original trail were various Stopping Places, usually with a barn, bunkhouse and home where travellers could obtain a meal. Sometimes there would also be a general store and maybe a post office in one corner.
The first meeting of the newly formed Municipality was held at Bear Lake, one of the stopping places situated 3 miles east of the present Village of Berwyn. 7 men were present, 6 being elected Councillors and the 7th was the Returning Officer. This first meeting was held on January 2, 1917 and the Councillors present were: Nelson Pinder, who became the first Reeve, F.D. Cowin, who became the first Deputy Reeve, Jack Scott, J. McDonald, Ed Larson and George Wilcox.
The first Secretary-Treasurer was Enas Lachlan Lamont and his main reason for being hired for the position was that he was the only homesteader to have a typewriter! He remained as Secretary-Treasurer until 1931 when he left the M.D. to become Secretary-Treasurer for the Town of Peace River.
The first municipal office was built in 1918 in Peace River, and was 10 feet X 12 feet. It was moved to Bear Lake, then Berwyn and was used until 1922 when a second office was built in Berwyn. The third office, bought in 1935, was Berwyn’s first two room school and was used until the next office was built in 1976 on the SE31-82-24-W5. In April 2016 Administration moved into a new office across the street at 5240 – 52 Avenue in Berwyn. The previous office is now used for summer staff and storage.
Shaftesbury Settlement in the Peace River valley was the first settlement in the Municipality, and stretched along the west bank of the river for about 15 miles from the present Town of Peace River. This area along the river was surveyed in 1904 as river lots, and 37 of them are still part of the M.D. today. Joseph B. Early of River Lot 1 was one of the first farmers in the area to grow vegetables and flowers and often experimented with new varieties. He was also the first to use an irrigation system and his Early Gardens were one of the first tourist attractions in the area. Market gardens are still flourishing along Shaftesbury Trail today.
Part of paved Secondary Highway 684, also known as Brick’s Hill, was the place where the Dunvegan Trail wound its way out of the Peace River valley. The hill was named after Mr. Brick, who grew the first wheat in the area at the Anglican Mission, which was located on River Lot 11. All that remains there of the Mission is a small cemetery. Further along on River Lot 23 was the Saint Augustine Roman Catholic Mission, which had the first saw mill, threshing machine, flour mill, school, church and cemetery in the area. The staff at Peace River Museum have kindly given us some more historical information on the Shaftesbury Trail area. Please click on the file below to read the entire document.
In the Griffin Creek area, south of present day Brownvale, everyone knew Mrs. Bessie Eaton, who had the distinction of being the first white woman to live north of the Peace River. She settled in the Griffin Creek area in 1903 and was everyone’s friend. The first Agricultural Fair was organized in the Griffin Creek area in 1914 by another early settler – Dad Griffin, whose settlement was along the Griffin Creek.
Although sporting events in the Municipality were originally held in the Shaftesbury Settlement, the first July 1st Sports Days were held at Bear Lake in 1921, and in 1928 the Bear Lake Sporting Association purchased the NE22-83-24-W5 and organized many sporting events there. The Ratepayers Recreation Association took over the Sports Grounds from the M.D. in 1944 and continued developing the recreational area there. Eventually the Lac Cardinal Provincial Park was formed, the land was sold to the Provincial Government in 1956, and today the Municipality holds a lease of 88 acres beside the Provincial Park. As well, the North Peace Stampede Association, organized in 1956, has brought many tourists into the area with its annual North Peace Stampede, held every August at the Stampede Grounds on the recreational lease. On the right is a photo of the entrance to the Recreation Lease and Provincial Park at Lac Cardinal.