In Banff’s first quarter century the properties of the Whyte Museum were the center of Banff’s guiding and horse outfitting concerns.
Close to the heart of the village, near the water of the Bow River, it provided the amenities for horse-packers’ corrals. The wilderness beyond the Bow Valley was attracting alpinists and other explorers, and hunters could pursue their quarry from the valleys which feed the Bow, since the National Park was much smaller. It was Banff’s most romantic era.
The guides of that age are the stuff of legend. Most noteworthy of them is Bill Peyto, an Englishman who had arrived in the Rockies in the early 1890s. Peyto (pronounced Pea’toe) was a prospector with a keen interest in geology, a hunter-trapper in winter, an excellent woodsman, a keen-eyed reader of natural (and unnatural) signs. Climbing and hunting parties sought his services because he understood the landscape so well.
Sometime in the mid 1890s Bill built his small cabin which sits on the Museum’s grounds. It’s appointed with a window and a stove pipe, so it’s possible Bill lived in it briefly, but more likely he kept his outfitting and trapping gear in it, pack boxes and saddles, pack mantles and tents, bridles, tarps and other gear. It may also have accommodated his hands on their days in town. The cabin was built closer to the river.
In the 1890s Peyto was not alone on the riverside location. Jimmy Simpson and Fred Ballard and others had located themselves nearby, and so had Bill Peyto’s prospecting partner Jack Sinclair.
His skills as a woodsman and tracker served Bill well in his last career in the Canadian Rockies, for he became a Park Warden in 1913, guarding game and nabbing poachers. His most noteworthy act as a warden occurred in 1921 when he aided in the rescue of Mrs. Stone from Mount Eon in southern Banff park.
In the 1930s Peter and Catharine Whyte moved the cabin for two reasons: to provide temporary lodgings for their Stoney friends while the Whytes were painting their portraits, and to mask the view to the south of their house.