Government - History - Trapping & Fishing History
Trapping and Fishing History of the Snow Lake Area
Trapping and fishing played huge roles in the history of Snow Lake area. The earliest trappers, the Aboriginal peoples inhabiting the area, traded furs for goods with Hudson's Bay Company representatives and other traders.
Samuel Hearne and David Thompson, fur traders and explorers, traversed northern Manitoba, including the Grass River corridor. Tramping Lake and Wekusko Lake (previously known as Herb Lake), which are just a few minutes from the Town of Snow Lake, form part of that river system that crosses the whole of northern Manitoba.
One of the earliest settlers in Snow Lake area was George Bartlett. He arrived in 1912 with a friend, Carl Auley, and trapped in the area of Mitishto Creek near what is now Dyce Lake. He and Henry Morton had an ill-fated venture raising silver foxes, which were very valuable at $800 a pelt. After serving in the war, Bartlett eventually built a trading post on Loonead Lake at the entrance of the File River. This business collapsed after a few months when the bottom fell out of the market. He used to say: "That's the fur game. The "Skin Game" we used to call it.
The next venture was fishing and freighting for the Rex and Bingo mines on the east shore at the south end of Herb Lake (Known as Wekusko Lake - "wekusko" means "herb" in the Cree language). But fur was his heartfelt trade, and he decided to build another trading post on Reed Lake. This business was successful until 1929, when the railroad to Flin Flon and later the line to Sherridon cut off most of his trade. He then moved to the town of Herb Lake and purchased a store. Bartlett and his wife Ernestine and their family operated the store for many years. He then moved to Bartlett's Landing on the west shore of Herb Lake to help operate a fish camp with his stepson, Charlie.
Bill English came to Wekusko Lake area in 1920 to try prospecting. He'd had a varied career in the US and Panama, and fought in the First World War. Winters he partnered with Joe Kerr and Wilfred Vickers to raise the capital for prospecting. In summers, they searched out ore-bearing rock with a dip needle, the only instrument available at the time. Chisel Lake property was first staked in 1927 by Bill English, Joe Kerr, Dick Woosey and Johnny Kerr. In 1928 he prospected at Cold Lake, and held property at Stall Lake until a disagreement with the government caused him to release it. Joe Kerr and Walter Johnson then staked it, and sold their claims to Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co. English didn't enjoy trapping, so in 1934 he quit and opened a store near the town of Herb Lake. His wife Margaret was an accountant from Seattle, and she is remembered for her many kindnesses to trappers and prospectors whose clothes she mended and washed. The Herb Lake children also benefited from her piano teaching.
The English home was moved across the ice in two pieces from the site on English's old trapline to Snow Creek. He then went into business with Snow Lake's first general store. The old log house remains, but the store is gone.
Another early trapper was Ralph Bryenton, who came west Wekusko Lake area in 1930. There were no registered traplines them, but trappers respected each other's territory. In 1939 Bryenton built a home on an island in Herb Bay, and his wife and his stepchildren joined him. He freighted on Wekusko Lake, and also operated a theatre in the town of Herb Lake. He created several films, including Fur Trapper of the North. He also had staked the property, then dropped it, which later became the Osborne Lake mine. Bryenton spent three summers in the far north studying and collecting botany samples. They eventually moved to Alberta, and then back to the trapline in 1961.