Leah Pipe’s depiction of a railway being constructed is one of the many illustrations in the Caribou Joe book recently released by Leonard Lea Frazer.

Caribou Joe chronicles NW in railway days

Leonard Lea Frazer wrote Caribou Joe about a bootlegger in the early railway days and several northwest artist contributed.

Leonard Lea Frazer didn’t know what he had stumbled upon when he met what looked like a road-weary traveller in the lobby of the Valemount Hotel in 1979.

Frazer, who is an avid historian and journalist ended up speaking with a man he describes as ‘an old drunk’ in the prologue of his book, Caribou Joe and the Building of the Grand Trunk Railroad.

What Frazer discovered after letting his thirst for history get the better of him was the beginning of a four-hour conversation that would be responsible for a series of stories in the Canoe Mountain Echo, a former Valemount publication.

“Caribou Joe is not like the Kondike Petes or Yukon Jacks that people have come to associate with the gold rush days,” Frazer said.

“Regardless, he was a legend in his own time.”

Caribou Joe was a bootlegger who made his way by offering his wares to the men that built the Grand Trunk railway, Frazer learned in the first and only conversation he had with Caribou Joe.

“After that I would almost constantly tell my friends the stories he told me,” he said.

“They got tired of hearing the stories and suggested I write them down.

“It wasn’t until 1986 that I actually took their advice.”

When Frazer introduces Caribou Joe he is a wet-behind-the ears 18-year-old plying ‘stump whiskey’ to blue-collar lads along the Grand Trunk.

Caribou Joe used to cart up to 70 bottles of moonshine on horseback and always kept his revolver, knife and rifle close to him, Frazer wrote in episode one of his book.

“Suddenly I had all these people reading the paper strictly for my Caribou Joe stories,” Frazer said.

“Well I’m sure they read the rest of the paper too, but they read about Joe first.

“I had people yelling at me across parking lots trying to find out what was going to happen next.”

The book is a compilation of years of episodes published in the Echo, which Frazer admits became mostly imagination after a time.

“I ran out of material from the conversation I had with Joe fairly quickly,” Frazer said.

“But with steady research and a bit of creativity I managed to keep writing.”

Frazer took a 20-year hiatus from writing about Caribou Joe until a new editor came to Valemount asking for some fresh stories.

“By then I had started collecting illustrations and was living in Smithers,” Frazer said.

“That’s where the artists from the northwest come in,” he said.

Most of the stories in Caribou Joe are accompanied by illustrations from northwestern artists, such as, Leah Pipe, James Madam, Bill Metcalf, Theresa Schwab, Katherina Loschberger and Wanda Belisle.

“There are also several photos,” Frazer said.

“But, I think, the illustrations give the book a bit more texture.”

 

Just Posted

Trying to open the door on Smithers pot retail

Three Bulkley Valley men look to open Smithers’ first cannabis store on Main Street.

Broken axle caused New Hazelton train derailment: TSB

It could happen again without a different way to inspect trains

Smithers man sentenced to 51 days on nuisance charges

Frederick Patrick was released on bail on outstanding assault charges after breach sentencing

Not guilty pleas in sexual assault/forcible confinement case

Three Hazelton area men will face 8-day trial

One in critical condition after train hits grader near Smithers

The collision occurred at the Lawson Road crossing in the rural community of Quick

Fashion Fridays: Must-have wardrobe basics

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Cryptocurrency exchange CEO who suddenly died leaves Kelowna house in will

Gerald Cotten, holding the keys to money tied up in his virtual currency exchange, died in December.

Regulator’s report, coming today, unlikely to settle Trans Mountain pipeline battle

The Trans Mountain pipeline will remain a controversial topic both in the political ring and out

Australian woman killed in avalanche at Whistler

The woman and her partner were reportedly rescued by ski patrol, but she did not survive

Most Read