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The Last Harvey of Castle Semple

The story of the Harveys started with John and Elizabeth Harvey who married in the early 1700’s. The last Harvey who owned the Castle Semple estate from 1883 to 1908 was James Widdrington Shand Harvey. This article is about his son James George Gordon Farquahar Shand Harvey or just Shand to those who knew him. He was born in 1880 on the island of Mauritius, off the African coast.  In 1883, he moved with his parents to their inherited estate, Castle Semple, in Scotland. He emigrated to Canada in 1905. He led a very simple life, working with pack horses and earning a meagre living as a trapper. He kept in touch with his sister Margaret who returned to Mauritius to live on the plantation owned by the family. He died in 1968 at the age of 88. I holidayed in Canada in 2018 and visited his grave in Hinton Alberta.

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Although Shand led a simple life he became a bit of a celebrity when his life in Canada was immortalised in the book “Pack Saddles to Tête Jaune Cache” by James G MacGregor. He was also interviewed by Mr & Mrs Mark Truxler on March 8th 1967 and that provides further insight into his life. While in Canada we stayed in Jasper (doesn’t everyone) and I contacted the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archive and they put me in contact with the family on whose land Shand lived. They are coming over to Scotland this year (2019) and I have arranged to meet them and show them round Lochwinnoch and the Castle Semple estate. One of the owners of what remains of the Castle Semple mansion has very kindly agreed to meet them. So who was Shand?

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pa34-4_141 - James Shand-Harvey at home

Left is a photograph of Shand in 1958. He arrived in Strathcona by train in August 1905 with £500 in his pocket and a return ticket home. Strathcona is on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan river, Edmonton is on the North bank and these settlements merged in 1912. On the 1st of September 1905 Shand witnessed the ceremony and celebrations of Alberta becoming a province of the Dominion of Canada with Edmonton as its Capital. Canada was a self -governing dominion within the British Empire from 1st July 1867. It did not become fully independent until 1982. The Queen is Head of State.

This was, literally, the end of the line, only wilderness lay ahead. As he stepped off the CPR train (Canadian Pacific Railway), he began an experience which was to last 63 years. His sole purpose for coming had been to see the Rocky Mountains. In the end he homesteaded, surveyed, ran base lines, packed for railways and mountaineers, became a forest ranger and a trapper. His spiritual needs were met by an intimate harmony with the vast wilderness about him. He was a part of the early history of the area from Lac Ste Anne to Täte Jaune, but

the area around Hinton and north to beyond the Muskeg River settlement, was his “estate”, a far cry from the gardens and farmland of Castle Semple.

He trapped in an area of Alberta totalling approximately 6,000 square miles. It spanned an area southeast of Old Entrance as far as the Brazeau River to northwest as far as the Wapiti and Smoky Rivers. His trapline on the Muskeg River was five days travel by horse north of Old Entrance. He trapped animals basically in their feeding grounds hence his, restrictions were merely the altitude, climate and vegetation. Experience quickly taught him how to master these. He relished his complete freedom and trapped where he pleased, happy in the knowledge that physical and cultural barriers were non-existent.


The base camp of a trapper was generally a cabin with a single slope roof, log sides, wooden floor, jackpine pole roof supports with a layer of bark placed between supports and sod covering. His season schedule for trapping consisted of packing in supplies and setting up caches in September and October; working the trapline from November to February; packing out furs from February to April; and relaxing, guiding or prospecting from May to August. This routine was repeated year after year and varied only with the severity of winter.


Other than trapping, Shand-Harvey's first job was for the surveying firm of Driscoll & Knight which was employed by the Dominion Land Surveyors. He was assigned to make an official survey of the Old Victoria Trail, under the supervision of Bob Heathcote and Alfred Driscoll and he also worked on the 14th Baseline survey. His former education at Eton and his knowledge of mathematics proved advantageous for the computations that were required. Western Canada at this time was being mapped in a grid with meridian lines (north/south) every 4 degrees and baselines (east/west) every 24 miles. This work concluded before Christmas and by chance he met an acquaintance from England. He had a homestead east of Edmonton and Shand spend the winter there. During that time he resolved that on returning to Edmonton he would sell his return ticket and stay in Canada.


In the April of 1906 Shand decided he would go north and try his hand at homesteading. By July he had built a cabin and started clearing the land which was forested. However, much as he enjoyed the solitude, the servitude of clearing 160 acre of forest by hand outweighed the advantages and he returned to Edmonton.


He decided to stay, sold his return ticket, bought a rifle and a horse. Shand wanted to join one of the survey parties working on either of the Transcontinental Railways (The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway or The Canadian Northern Railway) that were vying for a route west to the coast. By this time of year all the survey parties had left so he had to wait till the following spring. He found work with a freighter taking supplies to Lac St Anne. This route partly followed the Klondyke (1897) trail up to the Yukon. This possibly reminded him of Lochwinnoch and the Klondyke cabinet works. While at Lac Ste Anne he bought a team and buggy and began taking settlers out to look for land.


In the autumn of 1906 he returned to Edmonton and started delivering supplies around the town. He had his first and only brush with the law during this time - a parking ticket! In front of each store were hitching posts and along the street rings had been bolted into the sidewalk. You were expected to tie your horse to one of these. Shand’s pony had been taught range etiquette, once dismounted and the reins taken over its head and dropped to the ground the horse would remain in that spot just as resolutely as if it was tethered. Shand had not tethered his horse and was taken to the magistrate and fined. I don’t know if they operated the “pay within a fortnight” discount in 1906.


During the winter months he kept his driving train well employed, and for relaxation sought out Montana Pete, Rod McCrimmon and many another man who had travelled west into the mountain area. He first came to the Yellowhead Pass area in 1907 and returned to stay in 1909, packing supplies during the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway survey and construction. By 1911 with a few horses of his own he hauled supplies from Lac Ste.Anne to Tête Jaune Cache. When he first came here it was through barely discernible Indian trails, through the muskegs (swamp) and thick forest. Civilisation lay 200 miles behind in the embryo city of Edmonton. Now, thousands of tourists each year enjoy the splendours of this area arriving by train or along the paved highway.


It was in the spring of 1907 that Shand finally gratified his urge to start out for the mountains. He got a job on the party that was going out to extend the survey of the 14th Base Line all the way to the mountains. The Base Line itself was a swath up to 8ft wide cut through the forest. When this survey was finished it would be a further 120 miles longer and at every mile a stake would be driven into the ground as a permanent marker of its position. Unlike a railway survey which sought the easiest route, this was a line of latitude and all points had to be equidistant from the North Pole so it crossed lakes and cliffs. He worked as a packer, loading up the horses, ensuring everything that would be required was present, flour, bacon, beans, clothes, tents, stoves, axes. It had to be done with the utmost forethought and care as they would not see another store until they emerged from the trail eight months later. It was during this survey that Shand got his first sight of the reason he came to Canada – the Rocky Mountains (around Jasper). It was the Autumn at the end of their 160 mile survey with millions upon millions of Aspens turned bright yellow and in sight of Roche Miette, a great square block, flat on top and rising 2000ft sheer above the pass. Shand made up his mind, this was to be his country.


He spent the winter of 1907/08 in Edmonton. The young city’s motto was “Industry, Energy, Enterprise” and people were pouring in to make their fortune. Ten years previously this land had been all but empty and unexplored. Surrounded by all this money making Shand wondered if he was not ambitious enough. During his time “out west” he found people in remote areas supported each other, you had to in order to survive. He found the “What’s in it for me?” attitude that pervaded Edmonton ugly, “what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” His thoughts returned to the places where he first saw the Rocky mountains. The soil was marginal, the area was subject to early frosts and it seemed unlikely farmers would go that far. There was little reason to think that civilisation would spread into this area in his lifetime and overwhelm it. It would be left alone to its few natives (Assiniboines, Stonies, Cree, Métis (mixed European and Indigenous descent), Chippewas and Iroquois) and to such white men as himself who would love it all the more for its remoteness.

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In the summer of 1909, he was asked to take a party of Englishmen up to Mount Robson “and bring them back alive!” From the photograph below of Mt Robson you can understand that comment. He was reluctant at first but in the end agreed. The party was headed by L.S. Amery editor of the London Times, William Munn of a publishing firm, James Priestly, Geoffrey Hastings and Moritz Inderbinen, a well-known Swizz guide. One evening as the group were enjoying their campfire, Mumm and Priestley, both former Etonians, sat discussing the recent death of a beloved old Eton master. Much to everyone’s surprise Shand spoke up. Amery described the incident thus:-

 “one of our packers … the roughest diamond in our outfit, revealed the fact that he had once been the master’s pupil.”


In the four action filled years that Shand had spend in Canada, the influence of the West had gone far in transforming him from a scholar to a (rough diamond) packer. The photograph opposite was taken while he was at Eton in either summer 1894 or 95 when he was aged 13 or 14. He is wearing a “bum-freezer” and black tie which boys under a certain height (possibly 5’2”) had to wear.

Reproduced by permission of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College

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In 1910 at Prairie Creek Shand took ownership of his first shack. Up until then he had lived mainly in a tent or camped in the open. This “roof over his head” did not last as the bustle of the settlement became too much for him and he returned to his tent. Around this time, he learned how to construct a tepee which had several advantages. You could build a fire inside it due to its natural chimney shape avoiding the need to carry a stove. The native Indians left the tepee poles in place for use by the next traveller making setting up camp easier.


By the spring of 1911 Shand looked upon himself as a seasoned packer and guide. This was also the time that the railway had reached beyond Jasper and Yellowhead Pass. The demand for packers reduced significantly and some began taking tourists on sightseeing trips. This was not for Shand. The Federal Government had set up the Athabasca Forest Reserve and was looking for men who were self-reliant, who could live off the forest and gain the respect of the sparsely scattered natives. A forest ranger’s life suited Shand exactly. Employment was during spring, summer and autumn leaving him free to trap during the winter. So, in the spring of 1912 he became ranger for the Rock Lake – Grande Cache district which covered some 4000 square miles. He refused the role of game warden because he knew the natives had to kill game out of season to survive and he refused to spy on them.


He was a trusted friend to newcomers, First Nations, and Métis. He lived side by side with the native Indian population and learned to speak fluent Cree. In 1912 he vigorously defended the rights of the displaced Métis from Jasper to retain their settlement lands in Grande Cache when the federal Government attempted, for the second time, to move them. His success in this matter may be down to that oil that has smoothed so many wheels, the old boy network or more politely, who you know. His best friend at Eton was the son of the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, the Duke was Prince Arthur the seventh child and third son of Queen Victoria and he served as Governor General of Canada from 1911 till 1916. Shand’s friend, the Dukes son Prince Arthur of Connaught, served as Governor-General of the Union of South Africa from 1920-1924. A word in his friend’s ear, who perhaps passed the message to his father the Governor General and hey presto problem solved. In the book “Pack Saddles to Tête Jaune Cache” Shand recalled how the old Queen used to drive up to Eton in her carriage to visit her grandson, and spoke of the times when the two boys went to Windsor Castle to have tea with her.


Shand did not trap during the winter of 1913/14, instead he bought a little shack in Hinton where he met Roy Woodley. Roy planned to start his own store, post office and restaurant next to the station built by the Canadian Northern Railway located a few miles west of Hinton just before it entered Jasper National Park. The two hit it off and Shand helped him move.  Roy named the site “Entrance” because it symbolised the railroad entrance to the Jasper Forest Park leading to Tête Jaune Cache (Yellowhead Pass). He decided to make a similar move and sold his shack in Hinton and set up camp on Orchard Creek half a mile west of Entrance station. In 1921 he built a one room cabin in which he lived for 47 years. The land where Shand built his home was owned by Roy Woodley.


Two railway companies were building a Trans-Canadian railway. Both got into financial difficulty and the Government took them over and combined the best of both. By 1927 the section of rail at Entrance was abandoned and torn up, while a new community sprung up across the river on the other rail line at new “Entrance”. The abandoned station building in what is now known as Old Entrance is the office and residence of Old Entrance B&B Cabin run by a granddaughter of Roy Woodley, Mary Luger. Shand’s cabin is in the grounds of the campsite. Mary and her siblings grew up with Shand and two of her sisters, Cindy and Marj are visiting Castle Semple this September 2019. Shand used to mark the children’s height on the doorway of his shack.

Charlie Matheson and James  Shand-Harvey

To the left is Charlie Matheson and Shand in his cabin at Old Entrance mid 1960s courtesy of Mary Luger. James Shand-Harvey passed away, Tuesday, May 7th, 1968 aged 88. Many people in the area paid their last respects as he was buried from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Hinton. To the last, Shand was mentally alert and conversant on any topic that might appear in the daily newspaper. At the Hinton cemetery, in the warm sunshine of a pleasant spring day in the foothills Shand’s body was lowered into the ground. Jackie Hanington, who remembers many years back, as a tiny girl in Old Entrance being given wheelbarrow rides by Shand up and down the slope placed a chunk of Old Entrance turf with him in his grave. Pallbearers at the funeral were Carl Luger, Billy Magee, Paul Marshall, Gordon Watt, Bill Woodley and Cliff Woodley. 

The cabin in which Shand lived still stands although it has had a tin roof fitted to preserve it.


His cabin looked over the Athabasca River with the Rocky Mountains in the background. For over 40 years Shand lived entirely on his own resources, far back in the bush, and generally far from help. If his food supply had failed or some accident had befallen him, he would have perished. He never worried about having an accident, it was his life and he enjoyed its challenges.

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One last event in Shand’s life is worth mentioning primarily because it affected the entire world. In the spring of 1919 Shand returned from his trapping expedition. He felt a chill coming on and dozed off in front of the fire. When he woke his head was pounding, and his lungs and throat were full of phlegm. He slipped in and out of consciousness as his conditioned worsened. Eventually the fever broke and a neighbour visited to say the same sickness had struck half the community at Grand Cache and five had already died. The Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918/19 which swept the world in the dying stages of World War 1 had arrived in northern Alberta. Estimates range from 50 to 100 million died from its effects, as much as one third of the world’s population contracted the disease. To maintain morale, wartime censors minimised early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. Papers were free to report the epidemic's effects in neutral Spain. This created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit, thereby giving rise to the pandemic's nickname, "Spanish flu".

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