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Stopping House Harvest

About This Work of Art

"They were driven out of their minds by mosquitoes and biting flies. The travelers also encountered sand traps and mud holes so deep that for miles exhausted horses were left for dead, the wagons and goods abandoned while the parties continued the 96 mile trek on foot."

Such was the nature of traveling the historic Athabasca Landing Trail, a dirt "path" spanning from Edmonton to Athabasca at the turn of the 19th Century. The first cart trail was chopped out over the old Indian trail by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1875 as a trade route, and really came into its own as a major thoroughfare when the Klondike Gold Rush hit. Even when the gold rush ended it continued to see heavy use by explorers, settlers, missionaries and independent traders in hopes of finding fortunes and moving further north to settle the Peace River Country. Along the rudimentary and often corduroyed trail travel was not easy. The journey from Edmonton to Athabasca took from five to eight days with loaded wagons and even longer if there had been recent rains. Many people ended up simply walking.

Despite the long and arduous journey, there were a couple of much anticipated respites along the way, known as stopping houses. These were local homesteaders who opened their homes to weary travelers and strangers passing by, offering room and board. One of the better-known stopping houses was the Whiteley house owned by William E. and Martha Whiteley. Married in 1885, William and Martha hired out to Mr. and Mrs. Alf Hutching in Sturgeon County to gain farming experience and for a year's wages they earned a horse team with a wagon and harnesses. After a short period they ended up moving to Perryvale where they purchased land, built a log cabin, and opened their stopping house while raising a family. Not only would they now have to provide for themselves, but also for the many travelers and their livestock who passed by throughout the year, and no doubt many pleasant but hard-working days such as this were had. This scene depicts the original cabin and cookhouse prior to the building of the barn and outbuildings as seen from the field. It wasn't Mrs. Whiteley's idea of a picturesque farm, but to many of the trail-worn travelers it would have no doubt seemed a paradise when they finally arrived. The Whiteley house was also a popular stop for the weekly stagecoach delivering mail and goods between Edmonton and Athabasca. The Whitely family ran the business until the railway finally reached Athabasca Landing in 1912 and the trail was no longer necessary for transport. Over time, most traces of the trail vanished until 1976 when a group of historic trail enthusiasts began to restore the original route. If you would like to read more about the Athabasca Landing trail, please visit the Alice B. Donahue Library and Archives or go to: