George Turner from Kansas, as a young man, was deputy for Bat Masterson, the noted western sheriff and gunman. George lived when a man had to be “lightning on the draw” to stay alive. He was “fast” as the 27 notches in the wooden handle of his old 45 attested to his skill.
He decided to come to B.C. to avoid any of his old enemies. He settled by the Kleena-Kleene River, 50 miles from a store up river at the Kleena-Kleene settlement where he got his mail. Anahim was about the same distance away. He trapped and traded furs for essentials at the store. He lived off the land and essentials were tea, flour, tobacco and sugar.
He found a bee tree one day with enough honey for him for a year thus reducing his essentials list. He fashioned hives out of a hollow cedar tree which served him for many years.
After he reached 80 years, his infirmities caught up to him and he applied for the Old Age Pension. A problem arose when he had to prove his age to local authorities but a member of the B.C. Provincial Police force came to the rescue with a visit to his remote cabin. An old application for a homestead in Bella Coola in 1903, found among his 40 years of papers, was proof enough.
In conversation with the officer, he revealed his past, as an old revolver was found in a pack sack with 27 notches on the handle. When asked if he was still a good shot, he said he was out of shells. Then, with the officer’s weapon, he hit a milk can 25 yards away with rapid shots, each hitting the can. He asked that the can be thrown in the air and he hit it three times out of four. His skill from 50 years ago was evident.
He died in 1956 as a beekeeper, trapper and former deputy sheriff, having lived an amazing life. Proof of the ingenuity of our pioneers and a bit of colour from the Chilcotin.
This story is from the book One Hundred Years of Beekeeping in B.C. 1858 – 1958. W, Turnbull.
Thanks to the Friedenberger’s of Kersley who showed me this old book.
Andy Motherwell is an amateur historian and regular Observer columnist.