Who would consider travelling over the Edson Trail by car? A.M. Bezanson of course who would go to any length to promote the Peace River District; specifically the “Bezanson Townsite”.
In an effort to promote sales of business lots at the “Townsite”, A.M. Bezanson had offices established in Vancouver and Edmonton. A.J. Davidson, a real estate promoter from Edmonton, stated he might be interested in promoting sales of lots at the “Bezanson Townsite” if he could see the country however he
thought his age was not conducive to travel the “Trail” by horse and wagon. Without hesitation, Maynard stated that the “Trail” was suitable for automobiles. Following which, Maynard wired all the Hudson Bay Managers in the Peace River District that he was going to drive a car over the “Trail”. They all responded that they considered the proposed trip by automobile absolutely impossible. That comment only spurred on A.M. Bezanson to accomplish such a feat.
On December 8, 1913, Mr. Bezanson unloaded a 1912 Cadillac from a flat-car in Edson. It was a heavy load with 800 pounds of fuel and luggage. With Bill Milford, Davidson’s chaffer-mechanic behind the wheel, the three set off with many local Edson merchants looking on in amazement that someone would attempt to drive a car across the “Edson Trail”. The “Trail” consisted of criss-crossed frozen ruts often a foot deep along with many stumps from the trees that had been cut off rather high by the survey crew not to mention the miles upon miles of muskeg. Fifty miles later, they reached the Athabasca River. The ferry had already been removed from the water but the river still was not completely frozen over. The three men decided to build a raft out of logs and attached it to the ferry cables. They drove the car onto the raft and it sank. Luckily the water was shallow enough that the car could be driven back to the bank. More logs were attached to the raft and once again they loaded on the car and crossed the river without any further mishaps. Four days later they reached the Smoky River – a distance of 250 miles. As the road to the “Bezanson Townsite” had not been maintained, Maynard and his companions attempted to cross the river at Goodwin’s Crossing. Two wheels of the car on one side fell into a deep crack in the ice. Luckily Maynard had brought along a block and tackle however they needed poles to be erected as a tripod. In an attempt to locate suitable trees to be used for the poles, Maynard fell through the ice. However after considerable exertion he managed to pull himself back onto the ice. The car was finally lifted out of the crack and the group eventually reached the west bank and continued on to the “Townsite”.
After showing Mr. Davidson the “Bezanson Townsite” which included the proposed nearby railroad crossing along with the mill-site and surrounding land that would be suitable for agriculture,
the group carried on the village of Grande Prairie and then on to Beaverlodge. At every stop, everyone would come out to see the spectacle of a vehicle in the area.
Next stop – Ground where school was actually dismissed so that teachers and students alike could see the first vehicle in the area. On to Peace River Crossing where 12 miles of roadway had to be cut wider to enable the a car to pass through, back to Ground and ventured on to Sawridge by crossing the Lesser Slave Lake. This section of the journey was quick as they maintained a speed of 65 miles per hour on the ice. However just past Sawridge, the car once again fell through the ice. Out came the block and tackle and once a tripod was erected, the car once again was hoisted out of the water. This time the vehicle sustained a considerable amount of damage however with the expertise of Mr. Davidson’s mechanic, the car was operational in a few hours. Once they reached Athabasca Landing they headed on the last leg of their journey with one rim coming off every few miles.
1800 miles later they arrived in Edmonton, tired but exhilarated at what they had accomplished. However after all was said and done, Mr. Davidson decided not to invest in the “Bezanson Townsite” as he was uncertain that the proposed railway would reach that area. Undaunted by the set-back in the potential sales of business lots at the “Townsite”, Maynard continued on to Vancouver. He arrived on December 23, 1913 just in time to spend Christmas with his family before he ventured back to Edmonton to continue in his quest to solicit investors who would start business ventures at the “Townsite”.
** Information gleaned from A.M. Bezanson’s book, “Sodbusters Invade the Peace”
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By Wanda Zenner