Lewis Swift

Lewis Swift was drawn to Jasper and the Athabasca Valley in 1893. He brought in a grindstone and a supply of trade goods to the area. He lived in the only building that was left of Jasper House for a two- year period. He cultivated a patch of land and grew potatoes, wheat for flour and oats for his horses. He had some cattle and chickens and, of course, a good herd of horses.

During a trip to Edmonton in 1897, he met and married Suzette Chalifoux, a woman of mixed blood. Prior to her marriage to Lewis, Suzette had a son by the name of Albert Norris who would later play a big role in the guiding and outfitting industry of Jasper and Willmore Wilderness Park. The Swift children included Dean, daughter Lottie, Jimmie, Willis, and John. Willis and John died as infants. “On the walls and rafters of her house hung many roots, herbs and vegetables, as well as bacon, hams and swatches of sphagnum moss. It served her in place of cotton for many purposes—to line the baby’s bed, to use as diapers, to scrub with and to wipe pots and pans.” (Quote from “Overland by the Yellowhead” by James MacGregor.)

This amazing Métis women kept a tidy household, helped Lewis sow and reap their garden, along with helping to look after their livestock. Lewis built a little waterwheel, which could turn out two sacks of flour a day. He also made a one-horse cart from the end of a large Douglas Fir log. He also did blacksmith work.

Lewis Swift traveled back and forth to Edmonton, and each time, he heard the prospects of a railway traveling up the Yellowhead pass. In 1907 the Dominion (Canadian) Government set aside the vast area east of the summit of the Rockies as a national park and had selected an area some six miles south of Swift’s ranch for its headquarters. Now it was rumoured that all squatters and freeholders within the park were to be moved out. Swift began to worry.” (Quote from “Overland by the Yellowhead” by James MacGregor.)

The Métis families had their guns seized, and they had to move in order to feed their families. John and Ewan Moberly went to Edmonton to purchase wagons and plows. John moved his family to Prairie Creek near Hinton, while Ewan, Bill, Adolphus and Adam Joachim moved to the Grande Cache area. Isadore Findlay moved to Shining Bank near Edson. His son Deome Findlay would move to the Grande Cache area, and his grandson Alvin Findlay still resides there and works full-time as the President of the Mountain Métis.

Swift thought that he too would lose his land and, like the others, only be paid for the improvement he had made to the land. Lewis was fortunate to negotiate title on his 160 acres. Once he received that, he absolutely refused to sell out to Park authorities. Lewis spent his life on his land and it was purchased by Parks Canada after his death.