Pouce Coupe appears to have been named after the Chief of the Beaver Nation, “Pooscapee.” This is documented in The Land of the Twelve Foot Davis by J.C. MacGregor (1806).
As the French translation of ‘pouce coupe’ is cut thumb, one explanation of the derivation of the name is that a prospector cut his thumb and called in French “Pouce Coupe.” The Beaver Indian name would be near enough phonetically that French voyageurs would call him by the French phrase.
In the Beaver Language this word “Pooscapee” meant the place where the beavers had a dam and went away and left it and that is the place where the chief had his lodge. There is a belief that an old mount on the river flats below the village is where this lodge was located. But that has not been proven.
The area’s first settler of European descent was Hector Tremblay, although the lands of the Peace River Valley were known to Caucasians for 150 years. Tremblay was a French-Canadian who was said to have started out from Kamloops with some other men and were travelling north with horses for the Yukon gold diggings in 1898. Impressed with the Peace River Country, Tremblay decided this is as far as he would travel and built himself a log cabin. By the time he passed away in 1916, he had a well-established ranch and store at the same location, where the Dawson Creek flows into the Pouce Coupe River.
The main influx of settlers to the Pouce Coupe Prairie came from 1912 to 1914. Most of the men travelled over from Grande Prairie, on what was known as the Grande Prairie Trail for many years. They took a trail that was cut by Tremblay and went up a steep, grassy slope onto the rim of the plain where Pouce Coupe is now.
A Post Office, Police Station and Bank of Commerce were established during the early years. The first three schools in the Peace River Block were opened in 1915. Development was slow during the years of the First World War, as many of the younger men had gone overseas. After hostilities ended in Europe, the enlisted men returned to join an influx of new settlers and the Village began to grow. A Government Agency and hospital were also built in addition to a drug store, beauty parlour and beer parlour.
The railway came in 1931 as the first train came into Pouce Coupe. Rather than stay, it continued onto Dawson Creek where a townsite was laid out in the middle of grain fields. Pouce Coupe was incorporated the following year, in 1932.
Although the railway running through Pouce Coupe was decommissioned, the tracks can still be seen and the wooden trestle bridge constructed in 1930 remains a tourist attraction for visitors. The bridge is just outside of municipal boundaries and is a short walk from the west end of Bissette Drive.
In the 1970s the Pouce Coupe Museum opened its doors to the public, creating more visitors through tourism as the Village shared its stories. The Village also celebrates its history through events such as the annual Canada Day Parade and festivities. Past and current residents celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Village’s incorporation during a homecoming weekend in 2007. Ten years later, the Village held a street party to mark its 85th anniversary.
Pouce Coupe has seen residential expansion in recent years with the development of three major subdivisions, despite losing its hospital and Peace River Haven. Continuing to find ways to foster growth, the Village of Pouce Coupe Council recently approved the West Pouce Neighbourhood Concept Plan in 2018. The plan identifies a 32-hectare area known locally as West Pouce for future residential development.
The Village has grown into a municipality of nearly 850 residents that includes an elementary school, library, municipal government office, Post Office, gas station and convenience store, museum, hotels and motels, Royal Canadian Legion and more!
Information provided by the South Peace Historical Society