Willard Freer’s Northern BC and Yukon Diaries, 1942-1975
In Kechika Chronicler, award-winning historian Jay Sherwood delves into the diaries of reclusive packer Willard Freer to uncover daily life in one of the most remote areas of BC.
Willard Freer lived in remote areas of northern BC for most of his life. Born in Kamloops in 1910 and raised in the Peace River country, Freer came to the Kechika River valley in 1942, where he worked for a number of years with famed packer and guide Skook Davidson. He then built a cabin about 35 kilometres to the north and spent the rest of his life in the valley, and at Fireside, an Alaska Highway lodge near the junction of the Kechika and Liard rivers.
By all accounts, Freer was a quiet, introverted person, who faithfully kept a daily diary from 1942 to 1975. Most of the entries are brief, but cumulatively they provide a detailed record of life in northern BC and southern Yukon Territory. Due to his proximity to the famed Alaska Highway and the historic Davie Trail, Willard encountered many of the Indigenous people who lived, worked and travelled through the Kechika valley, as well as casual visitors, bush pilots, government survey parties including the Geological Survey of Canada, major mining companies, and branches of the US Army in northern BC during World War II.
Willard Freer’s diaries are the most extensive written record of daily life in one of the most remote regions of British Columbia. Kechika Chronicler provides a voice for his story.