Historic 1919 silent film shot in Faust

Garth Lodge stands in front of an old log cabin on the east side of Faust featured in Back to God’s Country, a silent film produced in 1919. Lodge currently owns the property east of Oldman’s Creek where the cabin is located.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

An old log cabin in Faust more than 100 years old has become famous in a silent film shot in 1919.
Built in 1915, the cabin is featured in Back to God’s Country which earned the cabin its name.
The film was shown Sept. 16 at the High Prairie and District Museum as part of Culture Days.
Even as the cabin show its age, landowner Garth Lodge still takes pride in the historic house located in bush area along Railway Ave. just east of Oldman’s Creek on the east side of the hamlet.
“It’s kind of a place where you’re at peace,” says Lodge, 87, who bought the land about 10 years ago and values the landmark.
“The cabin is in terrible condition.”
Lodge put up some props inside and added plywood to the roof about eight years ago to keep the cabin standing.
“I wanted to keep it from deteriorating,” says Lodge, a resident of Faust for 70 years.
“It has deteriorated quite a bit in the last few years.”
The cabin was originally part of the Burkheart homestead.
Some of the defining features of the cabin include saddle notch log construction, typical of the first cabins in the area, a low-slope roof and chinking between the logs.
Inside, the cabin was built with a basement or cellar, Lodge says.
Winter scenes, which take place in the harsh Arctic, were actually filmed in Faust, with Lesser Slave Lake doubling for the Arctic wastes.
Lodge reflects on what he knows about Faust as a main location for the film and what he saw on the screen when he watched it about 20 years ago.
He writes what he remembers what he was told.
“Back to God’s Country was produced by Sir James Oliver Curwood. His story was related to me by my stepfather, F.L. Pruden, and Capt. Bill Rumley, the first fishermen in Faust,” Lodge writes in his memories Sept. 16.
“It was the second silent movie ever to be filmed in Canada, by Canadians and Americans.”
Copies are available in VCR at the national archives in Ottawa, he says.
“I have personally viewed a VCR of the movie; it’s silent with written words on the bottom,” Lodge says.
“It’s very entertaining with an excellent story.
“The winter scenes of the movie were all filmed out in front of Faust on the winter ice on Faust Bay.
“All the props were locally made in Faust.
“In the movie, there is a large ship supposedly stuck in the ice in the Arctic. A local mink rancher and artist in Faust built the props. It was one side only of a ship frozen into the ice. The film crew filmed from only one side.”
While some of the filming crews stayed in the cabin during production, Lodge says some lodged at other places.
“The film crew was given room and board at the Burkhearts on the east end of Faust,” Lodge says.
“Merten Carl, their nephew, drove the film crew onto the lake on filming days with teams of horses hitched to a sleighs with cabooses on top with windows, a door and an airtight heater inside for heat.”
Lodge also has another interesting point.
“F.L. Pruden told me the leading man died of pneumonia about two-thirds of the way through filming and they had to substitute a new leading man to finish the movie,” Lodge says.
Sir Curwood and his wife also wintered one winter in Faust, he says.
“I don’t remember if it was the winter of the filming,” Lodge says.
As a familiar famous feature in the film, the cabin has some historic value. The cabin was identified as a potentially significant site in Big Lakes County’s heritage survey in 2011, says Pat Olansky, director of planning and development.
“It has not officially been declared a historic site,” Olansky says.
Back to God’s Country is a Canadian drama film directed by David Hartford. It was one of the earliest Canadian feature films and was the most successful silent film in Canadian history.
The film was also the first film written by a Canadian woman, Neil Shipman. It cost $67,000 to produce and grossed $1.5 million, making it Canada’s most financially successful silent film.

Back to God’s Country cabin as seen from the rear of the cabin that faces west.

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