Mountain Culture

A mountain Freemen culture developed as a result of French and Scottish bloodlines intermingling with the native women. The fur-trade empire was dominated by hardy, adventuresome and hard-working Scotsmen from Royal households of Scotland, Highland warrior society and the Orkney Islands. During the next one-hundred years, throughout the 1800s, men like James Findlay, Picinah Findlay, Colin Fraser, Louis Loyer, and Henry John Moberly became the patriarchs of a unique mountain culture that has flourished on Alberta’s eastern slopes for more than two hundred years. 

The indomitable spirit of the Freemen remains prevalent in the Rocky Mountain social structure of today. Rustic backcountry lodges, bed and breakfasts, horseback outfits, adventure products, and trap lines are owned and operated by some of the descendants of the fur traders. Willmore Wilderness Park and Jasper National Park was, and still is, home of the Freemen and their progeny.

Visitors to the Jasper and Willmore Wilderness Park areas can rediscover folklore and local legends such as Louis Karakuntie, Ignace Wanyandie, Jacco Findlay, Tête Jaune, Louis Loyer, David Thompson, Colin Fraser, Henry John Moberly, and Adam Joachim. The bloodlines from the Canadian fur trade run deep in families of this mountain regions. Descendants of the early mountain men include Agnes, Berland, Cardinal, Delorme, Desjarlais, Findlay, Gauthier, Joachim, Karakuntie, Kenny, McDonald, Moberly, Thappe,  Plante, and Wanyandie.

Many of the places name in the Yellowhead region were inspired by the fur trade. Some of these are Yellowhead, Jasper, Grande Cache, Pierre Grey’s Lakes, McLeod River, Smoky River, Brazeau River, Cardinal River, Tête Jaune, Leather Pass, Adolphus Lake, Adolphus Flats, Mt. Robson, Colin Range, Roche Miette, Miette Range, Miette Hot Springs, Moberly Lake, Moberly Homestead, Sulphur River, Kakwa River, Big Grave, Little Grave, Deadman Creek, Thappe’s Grave, Moose Lake, Moosehorn Lake, Snaring River, Snake Indian River, Adam’s Creek, Kvass Creek, Kvass Flats, Mt. Kvass, Mountain Trail, Indian Trail, and many other landmarks.

The language of the families that lived in Jasper House was French

.. and their faith was Catholic.

The 1872 Jasper Census gives us a good idea of who was living in the Upper Athabasca River region during Vincent Wanyandie’s lifetime. Records show that 14 Shuswap men, 14 Shuswap women and 40 Shuswap children were residing in the area. There were also 30 French half-breed men, 30 French half-breed women and 150 French half-breed children. It is of interest to note that there were no English half-breeds and no Whites noted, with a total population of 281 people. Jasper was a thriving town.
Henry John Moberly: Factor at Jasper House from 1858 to 1861
Henry John Moberly: Factor at Jasper House from 1858 to 1861Photo courtesy of the Alberta Museum and Archieves
Henry John Moberly set out for Jasper from Edmonton in the fall of 1858. He was guided by Andre Cardinal and six young Iroquois who handled forty head of horses. Henry John married Suzanne Kwarakwante who was the daughter of Louis Kwarakwante. The couple had two sons by the names of Ewan and John. Ewan was baptized on August 28, 1860, and John on December 30, 1861. Although Henry and Suzanne were officially married at Lac Ste. Anne in 1861, Henry John left her for another position, and she evidently returned to Jasper to live. Suzanne raised her sons in the Athabasca Valley. She died in 1905 and was buried on her son Ewan’s homestead near the Snaring River.
Vincent Wanyandie and wife Isabella Karakunite (sitting)
Vincent Wanyandie and wife Isabella Karakunite (sitting)Courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta
Vincent Wanyandie was born in Jasper House in 1858. He was hired by the Hudson Bay Company to hunt to keep the Athabasca community supplied with meat. Vincent married Isabelle Karakuntie, who was born in Jasper House in 1866. Different scrip information reveals that Vincent resided both in Jasper House; and in the Smoky Valley at various different times, where he hunted and trapped. Official documents show that Vincent and his wife Isabelle and family live in Jasper Alberta in 1901. The Canadian Census outlined that his family was still living in Jasper House in 1906, after which they moved permanently to the Smoky River Valley–when Jasper was designated a National Park.

In 1906 the Canadian Government completed another census in the Athabasca District.

New people were moving into the Athabasca Valley, and 1906 was a time of transition.

Forty-eight-year-old Vincent (Basa) Wanyandie, his beautiful wife Isabella and five children were also on the 1906 Jasper census. The list included seventeen-year-old son Daniel Wanyandie and younger siblings. Vincent was still living in the same location that his grandfather had settled a hundred years before, near the present day Palisades, near Jasper. Basa reported owning eighteen head of horses— second largest herd in the Jasper Valley. Of the 194 names entered on the Census, 113 were newcomers to the community and were associated with the railroad survey. The other 81 entries were long-time descendants of the Canadian fur trade era.

Images of the Jasper Community in the late 1800s & early 1900s.
These people were guides & outfitters for a horseback culture on Alberta’s eastern slopes.

Louisa Wanyandie & brother Joe McDonald
Louisa Wanyandie & brother Joe McDonaldDonald McDonald & wife Louise
Louise (Findlay Thappe) McDonald (sitting) was the daughter of Picinah Findlay and the granddaughter of Jacco Findlay. Her children Louisa and Joe (standing) were from her marriage to Jacques Thappe, who died and is buried at Deadman Creek in Willmore Wilderness Park. Louise married Jasper businessman Donald McDonald whose homestead was next to Lewis Swift, at the present day Palisades Centre. Louise’s descendants became guides and outfitters in Willmore Wilderness Park, and remain in the industry today.
Mr. and Mrs. John Moberly in back ...
Mr. and Mrs. John Moberly in back ...son Dave Moberly driving & brother Frank
John Moberly was the son of Henry John Moberly. He and his brother Ewan were raised in Jasper by their mother Suzanne Cardinal Karakuntie. John, Ewan, and Ewan’s sons, Adolphus and William (Bill) were four of the seven families that were affected by the creation of the “Jasper Forest Park.” John and his family moved to Prairie Creek near the present day town of Hinton. Ewan and his sons moved to Grande Cache.

Photo courtesy of the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives

Bill Moberly (left)
Bill Moberly (left)grandson of Henry John Moberly
After leaving Jasper, Bill Moberly moved to a homestead on the Smoky River, north of Grande Cache. He had livestock and barns and was a seasoned trail hand who guided and outfitted throughout the Canadian Rockies. Bill trapped and lived a prosperous life. His progenies still live and work on his homestead. His descendants are still in the guiding and outfitting industry in Willmore Wilderness Park, and are seasoned trail hands.
Adelaide and Clarisse Moberly
Adelaide and Clarisse Moberlydaughters of Ewan Moberly & Madeleine
Clarisse Moberly was born and raised in Jasper. She met and married Tom Groat, who was listed on the 1906 census as a worker for the railroad that was being built in the booming town of Jasper. Tommy Groat was an outfitter who worked in both Willmore Wilderness Park and Jasper National Park. His son Judd Groat and Joe Groat spent their lives in the guide and outfitting industry. Their descendants are experienced trail hands in the Canadian Rockies.
Adam Joachim
Adam JoachimJasper Yellowhead Museum & Archives
Adam Joachim was the grandson of Hudson’s Bay Factor Collin Fraser who ran the post from 1835 to 1850. Adam Joachim was the son of Madeleine (Fraser) and Alex Joachim. Many of their descendants live in the Grande Cache area, including the Delorme family and many of the Joachim family. Adam was a highly educated man who spoke four languages: English, French, Cree, and Latin. He lived his life as a businessman, trapping and guiding on Alberta’s eastern slopes. His progeny continue in these business ventures to this day. Many guide and outfit in Willmore Wilderness Park
Joe McDonald and Albert Norris
Joe McDonald and Albert Norrishistoric guides in Willmore Wilderness Park
Albert Norris was a stepson of Lewis Swift, the one family stayed in Jasper because they had their land deeded. Albert and Joe McDonald grew up as neighbours and remained close friends in old age after they both moved to the Grande Cache area. Both men were exceptional trail hands and intimately knew the trail networks in Willmore Wilderness Park. They were highly regarded for their skills as mountain men.