2017 Spirit House Project

/2017 Spirit House Project
2017 Spirit House Project 2018-05-25T03:52:51+00:00

Baby Grave at the
Muddy Water River

The story of the baby’s grave on the Muddy Water River has twisted and turned into a riveting 1913 story about two fugitives, 39-year-old Asa Hunting and 15-year-old Mildred Shaw, who spent a winter deep in the Canadian Rockies. Jaeda Feddema forwarded an article to the Foundation prior to the 2017 Willmore Wilderness Foundation Annual Newsletter being mailed out. The story was published by Bill Scott of the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune. The Runaway Lovers of Nose Mountain was released on Thursday, January 16, 2014. Susan Feddema-Leonard received permission from the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune to re-print the article and insert it into the Newsletter.

One thousand newsletters were mailed across the country and around the world; and the article was also put on the WillmoreWilderness.com website. Several months later Susan Feddema-Leonard received an email from Shauna Rosland, who identified herself as the granddaughter of Asa and Mildred Hunting. She was the daughter of Kenneth Hunting.  Susan invited Shauna and her husband Don Rosland on a four day packtrip to the Muddy Water camp where Asa and Mildred wintered. Shauna and Don were excited to see where Asa and Mildred had lived. The couple arrived in Grande Cache in September, 2017 and headed to their base camp at Kvass Flats, a 1-½ hour ride from the Sulphur Gates. They set up camp and relaxed into the Willmore Wilderness experience. Shauna wanted to visit her grandparent’s campsite, as well as to see if the baby grave was possibly that of an aunt or uncle.

Shauna did a lot of research on the Mildred Shaw-Asa Hunting abduction story prior to her visit to Grande Cache. She came equipped with police reports, historical images of the arresting police officers, guide, Mildred and Asa. She had Bob Guest’s story, the Grande Prairie Herald Tribune article that Bob Scott wrote, along with 61-pages of other data. She also had a promise of more information coming from the Provincial Achieves.

Bazil Leonard guided Shauna and Don Rosland to the Muddy Water Camp, 2-½ hours from their base camp on Kvass Flats. He showed the couple the lay of the land, along with the route that Asa and Mildred had travelled. Susan Feddema-Leonard filmed and photographed the trip, as footage would be used in an upcoming documentary.

Shauna was deeply moved when she reached the banks of the Muddy Water River, where the Spirit House stood on the log-stone reinforced gravesite. This did not look like an Indian or Métis grave. A large flat rock had been placed over logs that were carefully notched to ensure a tight seal. This would protect the baby’s remains from weather and predators. The grave had lovingly been crafted, with a panoramic view of Turret Ridge. A white Spirit House had been erected  on the mound in 2016 by a Willmore Wilderness Foundation crew.

Shauna and her husband Don were sure that the grave was a child of Mildred and Asa. The age of the grave looked to be correct and the location was a perfect fit with the accounts and records that Shauna had collected.  Shauna noted that this baby would make a total of eleven children that the couple had together.

I have included the Bob Scott Story that was printed in the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune in this report. Please note that there are errors in this account of the Shaw-Hunting story. Susan Feddema-Leonard has shortened the account slightly. It should be noted that there are various versions of this story in the data that Shauna Rosland compiled.

Grave of Jacque Thappe
at Deadman Creek

Tom Wanyandie turned 86-years-old on June 15, 2017. He speaks the Cree language, along with a bit of broken English which is hard to understand. His daughter Emily Bequette travelled with Tom on the 12-day trip to restore his grandfather’s, Jacques Thappe’s grave. She acted as interpreter during the expedition. Tom’s youngest daughter Chehala Leonard joined her sister and father on the expedition.

Tom was born in 1931 in a Tipi. He was 38-years-old when The New Town of Grande Cache was settled in 1969. The Town was created because a new coal mine was built. Tom wanted to guide the restoration of his grandfather’s Spirit House reconstruction. His grandfather’s remains were in a dilapidated grave in Willmore Wilderness Park, on the Mountain Trail. The skull was still visible in 2009 when Tom last visited the grave, although most of the bones were gone. The old Spirit House was rotted and travellers did not know that the pile of rotten wood was a grave of an Indian trapper by the name of Jacque Thappe.

Jacque’s family had been employed by the Hudson Bay Company in the Athabasca District for some time before Jacque’s birth.  Baptism records show that Jacques Thappe was born on Oct 1853 in Jasper House, the son of Jacque Thappe (Sr.) and Therese (?).  No second name can be found for Jacque’s mother at this time. Jacque Thappe married Louise Findlay who was also born circa 1860 in Jasper House. Scrip records show that Louise and Jacque Thappe knew each other growing up in Jasper. The couple had six children, however only two survived. Marie, Annie, Baptiste, Samuel and Peggy all died young and were buried at Jasper House. Joseph (Thappe) McDonald was born in 1983 and was only three years old when his father died. His sister Louisa (Thappe) McDonald was born circa 1886, and was a baby at the time of her father’s death.

Jacque Thappe died in an avalanche in1886, while hunting at what is now called Deadman Creek. Jacque’s young widow Louise Findlay-Thappe was left to raise two young children—Joe, and Louisa—Tommy’s mother. She remarried a Métis man by the name of Donald McDonald, and the couple resided at Jasper House, but left for the Grande Cache area, when the Canadian Government created Jasper National Park.

Tom Wanyandie oversaw the reconstruction of his grandfather’s grave. He sang a traditional song, after blessing the grave. Sadly, the skull that had laid at that burial site since 1886 was missing. It was still there when Tom visited his grandfather’s grave in 2009.

Grave of Baby Delorme
at Little Grave Flats

Little is known about the baby that is buried at Little Grave Flats. An old cross is etched with “Baby Delorme.” The Willmore Wilderness Foundation and the Mountain Métis Center erected a Spirit House over this gravesite in 2009. We rode past the grave on the way to Jacque Thappe’s grave and could not see the baby’s Spirit House. The expanse of willows that had overtaken the meadow made it impossible to see the gravesite. Susan Feddema-Leonard sent the trail crew in search of the grave. Bill Leonard rode on horseback, weaving through the thick underbrush. It took an hour before he spotted it.  The Spirit House was tossed a dozen meters away for the grave site and the cross with “Baby Delorme” etched on it was some meters off in the brush in a different direction. The grave had been vandalized by either human and/or predators.

In light of the fact that we were not going to travel over Jackknife Pass to restore Madeleine Joachim’s grave, Susan Feddema-Leonard asked Tom Wanyandie to oversee the reconstruction of the little grave. Tom instructed the men to cut four big logs. They cut them and notched them, making a base that the Spirit House could be nailed onto. This made the white Spirit House more secure, making it difficult to pull the structure off of the burial plot.

Tom took the hand carved cross and instructed the crew to re-attach it to the Spirit House. Tom sang a traditional song, after blessing the grave.  The trail crew stood in reverence as Tom performed the ceremony.

The Runaway Lovers of Nose Mountain

By Bill Scott, Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune
Shortened by Susan Feddema-Leonard

Thursday, January 16, 2014 3:54:58 MST PM

Lake Saskatoon was a bustling community in 1914, rivalling Grande Prairie in many respects. It was the headquarters for the Royal North West Mounted Police, the home base of Sgt. Charles Harper, the officer in charge of the search for Asa Hunting and Mildred Shaw.

No news was feared becoming bad news in early January 100 years ago, but just as the Royal North West Mounted Police were forming a search party to head south into the bush in the dead of winter to seek two of their own, the “lost” arrived back home safe and sound—and, in storied Mountie tradition, not empty-handed.

Tracking the whereabouts of Asa Hunting and Mildred Shaw in the rough foothills southwest of Grande Prairie was a tale combining adventure and romance – and near tragedy – in the late fall and early winter of 1913. Ultimately, in mid-1914, it had a happy ending.

It conceivably all began in 1911 when Bob “Pegleg” Shaw, his wife Fern and his 13-year-old step-daughter Mildred travelled into the Peace Country, taking a break from the rigours of the Edson Trail at Asa Hunting’s stopping place at the west end of Sturgeon Lake.

FAMILY LOST

Hunting was a 37-year-old U.S.-born widower who had ventured north to forget the raw deal life had dealt him: One account has it that he had been a successful engineer in the States but a dam he’d worked on had burst. Among the victims of the ensuing flood were his wife and young family, number of children unknown.

The Shaws were homesteaders bound for a quarter section one-mile north of what became Halcourt, southwest of Beaverlodge.

Hunting’s stopping place was just that. A contemporary account describes it as consisting of one building, mainly a stable but with a section partitioned off for human use.

It wasn’t much: No furniture, hay strewn around the earthen floor for sleeping on if you chose to stay over, and a basic fireplace for heating and cooking.

Hunting was described as “looking like Rip van Winkle with his long straggly hair … he wore a big black Stetson …he moved around in a slow, morose manner and scarcely talked …”

Two years later, he was staying at the Shaw homestead, most likely as a hand hired by the one-legged settler. Some accounts say he was a neighbour but there’s no record of him homesteading in the Halcourt district unless he’d bought a quarter from an original settler.

COUPLE DISAPPEAR

In any event, everything was seemingly hunky dory – until July 1913 when Asa, now 39, and Mildred, 15, disappeared.

Mrs. Shaw subsequently accused Hunting “of the grave misdemeanour of inducing Mildred to leave her home.”

It didn’t make major headlines in the weekly Grande Prairie Herald until December when the newspaper reported that, acting on a tip, RNWMP Sgt. Charles Harper, Constable Stephenson and guide Richard “Diamond Dick” Harrington had set out for the Nose Mountain area southwest of Grande Prairie almost two months earlier and nothing had been heard from them since.

Nose Mountain, along the old Hinton Trail, was usually a 25-day round-trip. They were four weeks overdue. It was feared they’d met with foul play.

But just as Mountie searchers were gathering in January, the Harper party returned – riding in with Asa and Mildred.

They’d covered 800 miles since they’d headed out.

A hearing on a charge of abduction was held Feb. 7 at the RNWMP barracks at Lake Saskatoon.

Harper testified they’d found Mildred alone in a makeshift camp, not much more than a flimsy teepee covered with spruce boughs and a tarp, along the Muddy River near Nose Mountain. They later surprised Asa on Dec. 22 at a trapline camp further along.

He and Harrington didn’t think the couple would have survived the deepening winter in the middle of nowhere. Hinton was the closest community, a 10-day ride at best.

ABDUCTION DENIED

Hunting did not testify. But Mildred did, and to everyone’s surprise said she had not been abducted.

She wanted to leave what she called an unhappy and abusive home and had induced Hunting to take her with him when he’d gone to set up his trapline.

Nevertheless, Justices of the Peace Milton White and Alex Craig ordered him to trial at Grouard.

Three days after that hearing, a warrant was issued for Pegleg Shaw on a charge of rape laid by Mildred. A subsequent seven-hour trial found him not guilty.

In April, Mildred was committed to two years at the home for delinquent children in Edmonton. I don’t know her step-father’s ultimate fate but her mother later was a well-known Lake Saskatoon resident involved with local restaurants.

There was a happy ending: At Hunting’s trial at Grouard in July, attended by both Mildred and her mother, Justice William Simmons suspended sentence and released him pending further investigation.

Said Simmons: “As this girl and this man wish to be married, I think, Mrs. Shaw, that you will appreciate that though the accused is guilty of taking the girl away from your home and as they have evidently been living as man and wife, that this is the best cause to pursue.”

Asa and Mildred were reportedly married that very day. Could Justice Simmons have put his jurisprudential stance into effect and performed a civil ceremony himself? I don’t know.

In the 1916 national census, the Hunting’s and their 11-month-old daughter Cora were living in the Valleyview area.

There is no record of them in the 1921 census.

It seems the Nose Mountain lovers had disappeared again.

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