Howard O'Hagan, writer (b at Lethbridge, Alta 17 Feb 1902; d 18 Sept 1982). O'Hagan was one of the first native-born westerners to make a mark on Canadian literature and is best known for his novel of the Rocky Mountains, Tay John (1939). His life is almost as noteworthy as his writing. As a youth, he worked on survey parties in the Rockies. He later studied law at McGill and, upon graduation in 1925, returned West. In his oft-quoted words, "I practised law for a month in Jasper, put one man into jail and got another out." He returned to guiding and packing through the mountains. After a stint as chief of publicity for the Central Argentine Railway, he lived in Australia, the US, England and Italy.
More than any other modern writer, O'Hagan has been the quintessential "mountain man" who knew the wilderness intimately and celebrated it through fiction. The protagonist of Tay John is a blond giant, "Tête Jaune," whose legend inspired the naming of Yellowhead Pass through the Rockies. It is a fictional account, set in 1880, about a primitive half-breed outcast who becomes a myth, both worshipped and despised, before disappearing into the earth from which he had sprung. O'Hagan's short fiction is also respected. The Woman Who Got on at Jasper Station & Other Stories (1963) is a collection of 11 powerful short tales. Wilderness Men (1958), 10 biographies of western heroes, includes Grey Owl and the legendary West Coast fugitive, Gun-An-Noot. His novelThe School-Marm Tree was published in 1977. O'Hagan lived in Victoria, BC, with his wife, Margaret Peterson, a noted artist.