Saskatchewan Clouds

8 Nov

By the Saskatchewan.
When the sun has dipt to the westward,
And has reddened the sky with its glow,
When the shadows o’er the soft clouds have deepened,
And the twittering skylarks fly low,
Then I wend my way home o’er the prairie
With a yearning that never does fail
And the mists of the mighty Saskatchewan
Rise, to meet me at the end of the trail.
~ Agnes Krogan

Aerial view of clouds

Aerial view of clouds

In the history of this province of Saskatchewan, Canada clouds have heralded both good fortune and terrible, horrendous bad luck.  And as thus, does Saskatchewan receive its apt slogan, “Land of Living Skies”.

For instance, take this example of prosperity in the roaring twenties;
“In 1928, Moffat shared with most of Saskatchewan in the bumper crop of the century. We bought a new car, an Essex super 6, with a plush lining and in a beautiful shade of blue, with a dashboard of simulated walnut. What a car! Most of the early cars in Moffat were Model T Fords, but variety was the by-word in the late Twenties. Bertenshaws bought a Flying Cloud, Wolseley Taylor a Nash, Reads a McLaughlin-Buick and Peter Ferguson a little Whippet. Star, Dore, Chevrolet roadster ~ they all appeared during that era. War years and the Twenties

And yet how does one even imagine the decade of drought in the “Dirty Thirties”, possibly best described by novelist Robert (Paul) Kroetsch ;
“I looked back just once and the sky in the west was positively black. AS if a great fist had closed the sun’s eye. As if a range of mountains had broken loose and was galloping straight at me. The whole west was one great galloping cloud of smothering dust. I reached to turn on the lights.

And the the shiver turned to elation. Because I saw the windshield again. A drop of rain had hit the windshield. A drop of genuine water. Even while I was watching, right before my eyes, a second drop hit.

My bowels melted. That’s when I first realized: I had forgotten what a rain cloud looks like.~Paustian, Shirley I.

“So, while we learned the most obvious lesson of the Dust Bowl – that is, how to retain soil on dry farmland – we have yet to learn the larger lessons: how to respect nature’s limits, and how to use natural processes to buffer drought’s impacts.” Kendy

Another devastation befalling the Saskatchewan prairies in cycles as regular as drought are the grasshoppers as described by Henry Youle Hind,a Canadian geologist and explorer:

“On the second of July [1858] we observed the grasshoppers in full flight towards the north, the air as far as the eye could penetrate appeared to be filled with them. They commenced their flight about nine in the morning, and continued until half-past three or four o’clock in the afternoon. After that hour they settled around us in countless multitudes, and immediately clung to the leaves of the grass and rested after their journey. On subsequent days when crossing the great prairie from Red Deer’s Head River to Fort Ellice, the hosts of grasshoppers were beyond all calculation: they appeared to be infinite in number. Early in the morning they fed upon the prairie grass, being always found most numerous in low, wet places where the grass was long. As soon as the sun had evaporated the dew, they took short flights, and as the hour of nine approached, cloud after cloud would rise from the prairie and pursue their flight in the direction of the wind, which was generally S.S.W. The number in the air seemed to be greatest about noon and at times they appeared in such infinite swarms as to lessen perceptibly the light of the sun. The whole horizon wore an unearthly ashen hue from the light reflected by their transparent wings. The airs was filled as with flakes of snow, and time after time, clouds of these insects forming a dense body casting a glimmering silvery light, flew swiftly towards the north-north-east, at altitudes varying from 500 to perhaps 1000 feet.” Hawkes

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

On the prairies, it is seen that the collective swarming behavior of grasshoppers is their survival mechanism in times of dry weather and food is scarce. Again, a healthy respect for nature, nourishing the land, preserving water all goes a long way to mitigate ruination, and defoliation of a crop.

However, the plight of the pioneer does not end with clouds of dust, nor clouds of grasshoppers. The early homesteader had to be on the look out for clouds of smoke on the horizon, signalling a massive grass fire approaching. A fire which could range in length for hundreds of miles devouring everything in its path.

“A hazard far less innocent than the howl of a prairie wolf or the wandering of livestock, however, was the menace of the prairie fire. The threat was a serious one during the warm days of spring and fall, when the grass was dry. The fall was a particularly hazardous time, when the September days were often hot and windy, and the whole country was covered by crisp prairie “Wool” and clumps of aspen and willows as inflammable as a vast timber box. Once started under such conditions a fire created its own wind and augmented any that already existed, and the results could often be tragic in a new and sparsely settled country. The most spectacular and dangerous fire in the history of our community….began in the Turtleford area…from a bush-burning operation, and once out of control it galloped wildly across the country at the speed of a race horse, in long, flaming tongues that beggared description. There was little or no defence against such a fire. The almost horizontal lead flames might be thirty to fifty fee long, with flying sparks, and small brands still farther in advance of the main fire. In the face of such an onslaught, the ordinary “Fire-guards” and sounds of men equipped with horses, water barrels, and wet burlap sacks for beating out the flames were hopelessly inadequate. Often during the spring or fall, large areas of the sky would be red with the reflections of grass fires. When the air was cool, moist and quiet, large scale danger was minimal, but especially for children the angry looking red cloud reflections of a prairie fire were always an awesome and frightening sight.”Wooff

Fire across the fields

Image of a small grass fire across the fields

In retrospect, those who reside in Saskatchewan welcome the spring clouds nourishing the crops in the field. The horrific and massive dangers of drought, prairie fire, and grasshopper are largely diminished because of adapted agricultural practices and lessons have been hard learned.

As did Joni Mitchell we, also, have “looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down…from win and lose” and from it all, the resilient pioneer had many tales to tell about Winning the Prairie Gamble.

Genealogy hint and tip:  In regards to stories from your ancestors, please peruse the Saskatchewan local history books. To discover which book may be useful, try the Saskatchewan Resident’s Index offered by the Saskatchewan Genealogy Society. Or find your pioneer’s homestead location, locate the legal land location on an historic map. On the map ascertain the closest place name to the homestead and use this information to search an online library database listing. Solicit the assistance of some kind soul on a posting board, a mailing list, or just offering to do a look – up or by wander down to your library and use their reference room. Discover which here ~ ordered alphabetically by SK place name with relevant Sask Gen Web region. Rural Municipality offices or regional museums may know if any local history books of the province’s 50th and 75 anniversary (1955 and 1980) may yet be available for purchase, or if the community wrote a new one for the 100th provincial anniversary of 2005.

~written by Julia Adamson webmaster Sask Gen Web

“The fact that we have a Sahara (desert) is not entirely tragic. The very existence of the Sahara gives to the whole world a highly valuable lesson in ecology. It teaches us what not to do with a perfect countryside. The drifting sands and stony wastes tell us more eloquently than words, what will happen when we break certain natural laws. We cannot remove tree cover without running the risk of losing the blessing of the water cycle. We cannot denude the earth’s surface without creating the desiccation of sand the dust dunes. We cannot permit animals to devour whatever little is left of green growth. Excessive grazing of cattle, sheep and goats is as damaging to the land as a wholesale felling of trees…´ from Desert Challenge ~ Richard St. Barbe Baker

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Hawkes, John. Saskatchewan and its People on Sask Gen Web Volume I, II, III
Illustrated. Chicago – Regina. The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. 1924.

Kendy, Eloise Ph.D.
Water Helping Nature Protect Us From Drought
The Nature Conservancy.

Krogan, Agnes E. Thorbergson. And a church was built.
Mulitgraph Service Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Paustian, Shirley I. (Shirley Irene)Depression, 1929-1939, in the Prairie provinces of Canada.

War years and the twenties. They cast a long shadow: the story of Moffat, Saskatchewan.

Wooff, John. Harbinger Farm 1906-1920 Modern Press. Regina, Saskatchewan.

Locate Your Saskatchewan Place-name

8 Nov Genealogy Research
Genealogy Research

Genealogy Research

Is it truly Irksome to search and research for the ancestral placename, and come up empty in the middle of your genealogical research? What are some hints and tips for discovering the place recorded from oral history, ancestral correspondence or on primary source documents? Out of the chaos can, indeed, come clarity and resolution by following the next few steps for ancestral place name research in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada.

    • First note the date of the document. Correspondence or documents dated before 1905 would refer to a place name of the North West Territories, as Saskatchewan did not become a province until 1905. In the North West Territories after 1882 there were three provisional districts , known as;
      1. Assiniboia, Assa
      2. Saskatchewan, Sask.
      3. Athabasca (Athabaska)

      The boundaries for the NWT and for the provisional districts are different from the contemporary province of Saskatchewan, and had some overlaps with Manitoba and Alberta.

    • Abbreviations for the province changed, Saskatchewan was once Sask., and now is SK. Canada was Can. and is now CA. The North West Territories has always been NWT, unless in French, in which case it is Territoires du nord-ouest; T.N.-O. There is a placename, currently the provincial largest city called Saskatoon without abbreviation not to be confused with Saskatchewan.
    • if it is the 1921 Census, then the place of habitation recorded by the enumerator is likely the Rural Municipality
    • In the early pioneering days, travel by horse and cart, meant that places were much closer together. With the advent of paved highways and motorized vehicles, urban centres grew, and smaller rural placenames folded away. Historic places such as Copeau may be found on historic maps, on the Canadian Library and Archives Post Offices website, or in one of the placename books published by Bill Barry, such as Geographic Names of Saskatchewan.
    • Searching for the ancestral name in homestead listings will determine the legal land location. Using this information, turn to an historic map to view the neighbouring sidings, post offices, elevators and placenames on the railway lines.
    • Be aware that placenames may have changed names over the course of time. This Analysis of Saskatchewan Placenames lists a few of these name changes.
    • Another fabulous repository would be cemetery listings which are coming online. These databases not only list the cemeteries, but usually closest locality and the Rural Municipality. The Saskatchewan Genealogy Society has listed over 3,000 cemeteries, and has two separate listings online
    • Pioneers often referred to their locale by the One room school house district in which they resided. The Sk One Room Schoolhouse project has close to 6,000 school district names with their locations.

So get creative and when looking up a place name on correspondence, in the released census or in birth, marriage or death certificates use some of the helpful hints above to locate where your ancestor resided in Saskatchewan. Genealogy research should not be an irksome task, make sense from the chaos, and get past your brick wall with success.

~written by Julia Adamson webmaster Sask Gen Web

Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.

Like branches on a tree, our lives may grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.

Aside

Centenary Cemetery

11 Nov Poppies for Remembrance Day

Centenary Cemetery
mind not the weeper or the prayer,
all those who have the eyes to see,

The moon gives you light,
  And the bugles and drums, the night

To the Judge of Right and Wrong
Our purpose and our power belong,

with uncomprehending eyes
laid down immediate and wise;

Where now the Mother, comfort me?
Where Art Thou Father, can't you see?

Gather round the Centenary Cemetery over there
Old and young with hymn and prayer
Poppies for Remembrance Day

Poppy

Blow out, you bugles, over lads Dead!
These laid the world away; poured out the red
     What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
        Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle

But yesterday amid glory and the prize,
          One strove to quiet the other's cries,

rules consider wise,
See whence the tear-filled eyes

O Best beloved can you see battle-corpses, myriads of them,
          And the white skeletons of young men, who saw them?

The banners play, the bugles call,
The air is blue and prodigal.

To death, because they never lived: but I
Have lived indeed, and so—(yet one more kiss)—can die!

No funerary for them; no prayers nor bells,
Just shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;

with staring sightless eyes,
Hear around the many sighs

We see and hold the good—
For Freedom’s brotherhood.

Gather round the Centenary Cemetery over there
Citizen and Child with hymn and prayer

A steady rain, dark and thick
Now feel the stir of despair quick

My comrade’s eyes
holy glimmers of goodbyes.

So now the poppy in fields doth bloom’
For the day all fill’d with gloom,

Clearing your minds of all estranging blindness
Speak now of Freedom, Honour and Lovingkindness.

Upon sightless staring eyes
soft short broken sighs,

Only his collar with his honourable mark
Mankind’s best hope? Laid out this night in solitary dark

While man has power to perish and be free—
Men perished for their dream of Liberty

Here sit the haggard men that speak no word,
No voice of fellowship or strife is heard

The British War Medal World War I.

Medal.

The body now denies
To Sleep return, little eyes

Nary it shines in lurid light,
Tales of  terrors, and the  blight,

Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

They shall feel earth enwrapt in silence deep;
Men pass the grave, and say, “‘Twere well to sleep,

The peace of death.
The lifeless breath

Before our eyes
Hear still the cries

upon earth’s peaceful breast
Each laid him down to rest,

Gather round the Centenary Cemetery over there
Generations ever after with hymn and prayer

The day is past and the battle doth cease;
And hearts rest, eventide brings peace

Now speak of the peace that comes after strife,
The calm that follows the battle-filled life —

Now come the prayers and the bell
To honour them as they fell

Resound in peace and glory long
Sing out no more the bugle song

To ancestors you must see
Will you ever remember me?

So here I pray thee lay me not
to Rest in no memory and Die for naught.

Where’s that poppy on your collar?
Stand up now for peace, shout and holler

Poppies for Remembrance Day

Poppies

Genealogy Hints and Tips: During the Centennial years following World War I (1914-1918), Search for the ancestor fallen. The tragedy has come to light, and diaries, battalions, battles, records, medals, reports, images, are coming online. From Vimy in the Classroom, Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial, Library and Archives images online at Fickr. The internet abounds remembering, honouring and paying tribute to those who fell in the Great War.  Have you, yourself, come to know your ancestor of the Great War?

Read more:

 In Flanders Fields and Other Poems With an Essay in Character, by Sir Andrew Macphail Author: John McCrae

Drum Taps Author: Walt Whitman

A Treasury of War Poetry British and American Poems of the World War 1914-1917
Auhor: Edited, with Introduction and Notes, by George Herbert Clarke

1914 and other poems. Author Rupert Brooke

Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War Author: Herman Melville

Dramatic Romances Author: Robert Browning

Poems Author: Wilfred Owen

Caragana ~ A Pink Ribbon Campaign

11 Nov
Caragana arborescens Siberian Pea Tree

Caragana arborescens Siberian Pea Tree

Caragana, the bush that perhaps saved the prairies. This wonder was planted around farms to act as a wind break, when the dust bowl of the dirty thirties carried the agricultural top soil away. Caragana, is used in arid desert-like area as a part of a perma-culture programme to nitrogen-fix the soil enhancing the quality. There is no doubt about it, the area around Caragana bushes is lush and luxurious with plant life. Around the one room schoolhouse yards, Caragana served as an amazing living fence.

However, what many pioneers and homesteaders in Saskatchewan had not realized is that the amazing Caragana is also edible, very nutritous, with surprising health benefits as well. The seeds from the Caragana pods can be prepared as any other legume, ie. the dried beans or peas purchased in the store. The young seedpods can be eaten from the trees, with a delightful snap pea flavour. And the beautiful tender yellow flowers, are simply delicious. Eat them on the trail, or scatter some within your next salad for a treat for the eyes as well as the palate.
“The whole plant, known as ning tiao, is used in the treatment of cancer of the breast, and the orifice to the womb, and for dysmenorrhea and other gynecological problems.”Plant-Life.org However Only Foods recommends that those who are pregnant not to eat the Caragana.

Next time you are out and about try a nibble of the seed pods. In its vegetal form, Caragana, does have the potential to be a staple food crop. Caragana is a very nutritious legume. What an amazing opportunity to wear a pink ribbon, and have a nibble of Caragana.

Genealogy Hint and Tip:

Next visit to the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan remember to ask to see the Pioneer Questionnaire file  These questionnaires were sent around to households Circa1950 and asked questions in regards to lifestyle such as Pioneer Diet, General Pioneer Experiences, Schools, Churches, Recreation and Social Life, Farming Experiences, Folklore, Health, Housing, Local Government, and Christmas. There is even a listing which can be searched to determine if your ancestor took part in this early survey.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Another Edible Legume Arcol-o-gist.

Caragana arborescens – Lam. Plants for a future.

Two forever foods SurvivalBlog.com

Caragana arborescens Siberian Pea Tree.

a deciduous legume tree or shrub of the Caragana genus in the family Leguminosae. It is an edible nitrogen fixer and a great source of chicken fodder. Practical Plants.

Caragana arborescens Wikipedia.

Caragana. Caragana arborescens. ‘Ross’ Caragana, Siberian Peashrub Government of Canada. Agriculure and Agri-Food.
2015-08-10

Caragana or Siberian Pea Shrub. United States Department of Agriculture. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Permaculture Plants: Pea Trees and Pea Shrubs Temperature Change Permaculture.

Shelterbelt Varieties for Alberta – Caragana, Siberian Peashrub. Government of Albera. Agriculture and Forestry. December 17, 2015.

Siberian Pea Tree (Caragana arborescens) Raw Edible Plants.

Siberian Pea Tree (Caragana arborescens) Only Foods.

Siberian Pea-shrub. Caragana arborescens Lam. Plant-life.org.

 ” if you devote 22% of a quarter section, that’s 160 acres, to trees, you can double the crops.’ It’s a question of planting trees strategically. The trees reduce the speed of the wind, modify the climate, they modify the difference in temperature from day and night, and above all the trees make it possible for the earthworms to come into the land, and the earthworm casts its own weight every 24 hours. And a well-populated acre of worms casts 30 tonnes of worm castings per acre per year. That’s equal to 30 tonnes of farmyard manure on that land.” ~ Richard St. Barbe Baker

Country Roads Leading Home

9 Nov

1, 2, 3, 4 just a bit of Homestead Rapport.

Searching in the field for an ancestral homestead or legal land location requires a knowledge of meridians, four meridians. Four? you say, yes, historically genealogists applying themselves to Saskatchewan, Canada research may indeed, need to know about four meridians.

A homestead application form from the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan or a certificate of land patent from the Canadian Library and Archives LAC would both have the legal land location of the pioneer homestead location showing the quarter, the section, township, range and meridian. These are survey notations, and the numbers for township, range and meridian can be found on Rural Municipality maps, and historic maps of the province. Land was also awarded as Métis scrip, and soldier settlement awards, however if this land location proved to be some distance from their family or prior residence it may have been sold. Land not suitable for agricultural development may have been abandoned, or farmers may have sought employment in an urban centre during the dirty thirties. Not all legal land locations became ancestral homes, indeed, however there are primary source documents for genealogy research which may prove useful even if the land were abandoned for whatever reason, or if the land was sold.

The Century Family Farm Award Program inaugurated 1981 by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food for the 75th provincial anniversary (1980) to honour Saskatchewan’s farm families. Between 2007-2014 over 3,600 families received the award. “Farm and ranch families have played a significant role throughout our province’s history,” Agriculture Minister Bob Bjornerud said. “These Century Farm Family Award recipients continue to build on the traditions of their ancestors, bring new ideas and innovation to agriculture, and will be an essential part of Saskatchewan’s future.”source In 2010, 635 , over 300 (2007), over 350 (2013) and 85 families in 2016 were honoured by the Information Services Corporation (ISC) Century Farm Award. “The family farm has always been the backbone of Saskatchewan’s economy and has helped shape the rural traditions of our province,” Minister responsible for ISC June Draude said. “Homesteaders had a strong work ethic and today’s farm families have that same strength and character. I congratulate all recipients for reaching the centenary milestone.” source

The Rural Municipalities (RM) only occur in the southern portion of the province, the prairie, grasslands and aspen parkland eco-systems. The RMs occur where there is rural settlement upon. Agricultural land was surveyed during the Dominion Land Survey for homesteads. The RMs indicated on the map below have changed since their inception in the early 1900s. Those RMs larger than 18 square miles have subsumed adjacent RMs if the population was scarce, or to allow for uban centre expansion, &c. The Northern Municipality refers to the northern province ~ the Canadian shield, tundra, and boreal forest area~ an area not surveyed under the Dominion Land Survey system. Urban municipalities are towns, cities, hamlets with a separate civic government.

Province of Saskatchewan, Canada map Author Hwy43 Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Province of Saskatchewan, Canada map after 1905 Adapted from Author Hwy43
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

The first task is to determine the ancestral homestead or quarter section. This may be written on the birth certificate, in the census, upon the homestead application form or Western Land Grant Certificate (1870-1930).

For researching a very common surname, it may be beneficial to delimit the search by meridian of the neighbouring post office, rail siding, town or village to the ancestral farm. Use the Geographical Names of Canada, an historical map index, the post office database at LAC, Atlas of Saskatchewan by the University of Saskatchewan, or Geographic Names of Saskatchewan book by Bill Barry to find the legal land location of the nearby locality to narrow the search.

For the sake of example, perhaps the research results came up with these legal land locations from the Battle of Iwuy soldier research. Randomly selecting: Belt, John Henry Army 73427 Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment) “A” Coy. 28th Bn. Residence “Little Red River Reserve”, Alingly, SK SE-17-51-27-W2, Enlistment, Prince Albert, SK, Died Thun-Saint-Martin. Military Medal Born: February 21, 1893 Darlington, England Son of Robert and Elizabeth Belt, of Alingly, Saskatchewan. The following land locations may not be relevant, and obtaining the source homestead document and conducting further comparison to oral history, and other documents are required for confirmation.

Belt, John Henry SE 28 51 27 W2
Belt, Robert NW 28 51 27 W2
Belt, Elizabeth SE 28 51 27 W2
Belt, James Victor SW 27 51 27 W2
Belt, William Thomas SW, 28 51 27 W2

This study will focus on the above record for a Belt, John Henry Sout east quarter of section 28 township 51 range 27 West of the 2nd meridian.

Township can be abbreviated T, Tsp or Twp.
Range may be abbreviated R, or Rge.

Alingly, Saskatchewan at SE 17-51-27 W2 on the map is a nearby locale to SE 28-51-27 W2. The farm is within an acceptable distance to drive a horse and cart into town. Further to this, the surnames might also found on census, and in local history books. Homesteaders on application needed to prove up their land. The provincial archives online listings also indicate military personnel who received Soldier Settlement Grants. Homesteaders could cancel their application if they found the land unsuitable, if they procured occupation in town, &c. Soldier Settlement Grants, Scrip, and those homesteads which were successfully proved up, could be sold in private transactions. Whenever one ancestor is found in the listing, pay attention to those of the same surname farming nearby, – they be cousins, brothers, uncles, &c Family farmed together to helping each other in homestead duties, at seeding times and harvest.

So to locate the legal land location, look at an historical map or a Rural Municipality map, and find Alingly in this case. This is where the meridians come in handy. A meridian seeks to have congruency with the Geographic Coordinate System of latitude and longitude. Because the earth is a sphere, correction lines are built into the Dominion Lane Survey.

The first meridian is located in Manitoba and farms west and east of the “first” or “prime” meridian are those, of course in the province of Manitoba. Additionally Ranges 28, 29, 30 and 31 west of the first meridian are located in southern portion of the province of Saskatchewan as there is some overlap where the border comes across the meridian. There is an addendum here, perhaps the primary source document with the legal land location was dated 1870-1905, then the ancestor was indeed a resident of the North West Territories. To determine which provisional district of the NWT, the farm may have resided in, compare to the township and range numbers here.

1900 Map of Manitoba and the North-West Territories

1900 Map of Manitoba and the North-West Territories Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
(note the border north and west of the province of Manitoba does not correlate at all with the 1905 eastern border of Saskatchewan which is nearly true to the second meridian)

The second meridian is near the eastern limits of the province of Saskatchewan, and the entirety of homesteads west of the “second” meridian are all in the province of Saskatchewan.

The third meridian arrives next, and again, the entirety of homesteads west of the “second” meridian are all in the province of Saskatchewan.

The fourth meridian extends in conjunction with the Alberta and Saskatchewan border which was created in 1905. Before this time, land belonged to the North West Territories. The provisional districts of Assiniboia in the south, provisional district of Saskatchewan centrally located, and provisional district of Athabasca to the north had different boundaries not congruent with the fourth meridian. If the pioneer document was dated 1870-1905, then the homestead started up in the North West Territories. Check with the township and range numbers here to see which provisional district of the NWT the homestead may have fallen into.

800px-north-west_territory_canada_1894

1894 North West Territories Map showing Provisional Districts
(note the border west of the Assiniboia and Saskatchewan provisional districts does not correlate with the fourth meridian)

Once the meridian is located on the map, travel west to locate the range number, and also ascend north along the listing of township numbers. For John Henry Belt go north to township 51, and go west of the second meridian to range 27. This locates the 6 mile by 6 mile township in which he farmed. If the map shows quarter sections then also find section 28 which is 1 mile by 1 mile, and know that John Henry Belt farmed the 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile quarter in the south east of this section. If the map chosen does not show sections, then realize that the township is divided into sections as shown here on the chart.

As the farm is at SE 28-51-27 W2 and Alingly is at SE 17-51-27 W2 it is seen that as the townships are divided into sections that the farm section number being 28, and the town being 17 does make the farm section about 1-1/2 miles north of Alingly and 1/2 miles to the west. Ordering a rural municipality (RM) map from the RM office indicates where contemporary highways are situated in relation to legal land locations. historical maps mostly indicate the rail system, so they would indicate where the farm was in relation to the rail lines.

To drive to the ancestral homestead, now convert the legal land location into Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates using a handy online converter, and use this method to find the centre of the 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile quarter where this pioneer had farmed.

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong. ~ John Denver

Once driving in Saskatchewan, realize that Canadians have adopted the metric system in 1970, and distances and mileage is by kilometers and kilometer/hour. Without a GPS system the ancestral homestead will need to be found measuring miles traveled along the highway or grid road. A very quick way to get a good approximation and convert kilometers to miles is to multiply by 6 and move the decimal to the left one. For instance, a traffic sign posting a speed limit of 100 kilometers/hour is thus converted by multiplying by 6 (100 * 6 = 600), and then changing the decimal one backward arriving at 60 miles per hour. (an actual online conversion 100 km to miles is 62.1371) On an historic map showing miles, do the opposite, 10 miles divided by 6 would result in (10 / 6 = 1.6 and move the decimal) with a result of 16  kilometers. (an actual online conversion calculations shows that 10 miles is  16.0934 kilometers)

The other very handy item to know when traveling on Roads in Saskatchewan is to read the grid road signs! Range roads are those used when driving north or south, and township roads take the traveler in an east and west direction. Picturing the range lines on the map, will help to orient driving and using range road numbers in the field, and similarly with township lines and township roads.

The numbers on the signs are very handy, as they correlate to the Dominion Land Survey system and legal land coordinates.

1917-28-51-27-w2

1917 Scarborough Map showing a portion of the province of Saskatchewan, Canada (RM 491)

Range road signs begin with the meridian number. To locate John Henry Belt’ homestead the range road signs would all begin with 2 ~ (his farm was SE 28-51-27 W2). Ranges increment every 6 miles in distance traveled. On the Range road sign, the next two digits are the range number. So to find this particular farm, the Range Road sign should indicate 27 as the next two digits following the 2. Now the last number on a Range road sign is how many miles into the range that the road has been laid down, these miles increment east to west, and can number up to 5. Examining how a township is split into one mile by one mile sections it can be ascertained that the SE quarter section 28 is 3 miles west of range road 27, situating the farm between Range road 2273 and Range road 2274.

1924-28-51-27-w2

1924 Rand McNally Map showing a portion of Saskatchewan, Canada

A township road sign determines the road name when driving east or west, and the first number is the township number. All township numbers for the province of Saskatchewan begin at the United States and Canada international border (the 49 parallel), and the township numerals increment every 6 miles in a northerly direction. John Henry Belt farming at SE 28-51-27 w2 would have his farm along township road beginning with the numeral 51. As township numbers increment every 6 miles, the next numeral is the mile number within the township between 0 and 5 still increasing in value from the south to the north. Looking again at how a township is divided it can be ascertained that SE quarter section 28 is 4 miles north of township line 51; therefore  John Henry Belt’s farm is has an allocation between township road 514 and township road 515.

Township lines or roads begin and end around geological features, and urban centres, and then continue north to the tree line. The Range lines or roads also extend straight as an arrow, and there is a lake or city, similarly, the range will continue along in the same way as a latitude or longitude line. Gravel roads, highways, and municipal roads can all have concurrency with township and range road numbering. Historically, there was allowance for a township road every mile, and a range road allowance was allocated every two miles.

So, whether determining the location for a homestead applied for in the North West Territories or in the province of Saskatchewan between 1905-1930, these insturctions should assist in arriving successfully at the pre-requisite destination. These driving instructions should also apply for any legal land location, as perchance the pioneering ancestors, or contemporary family may reside on an agricultural rural allotment with a township, range and meridian number. Settlers could also buy pre-emptions, land from colonization companies, from the railway companies or once they proved up their land, they were free to sell it on the open market.

Think on this. Imagine that the pioneer who crossed the ocean in a steamer and the journey took a few weeks. Arrival would very likely be an eastern port of Canada or the USA, and then progress overland would continue via rail to the closest stopping off point to their destination in the west. The transcontinental rail way was completed on November 7, 1885, and it traversed through the southern portion of the provisional district of Assiniboia, North West Territories. From this date onward rail companies established their own lines at various speeds and times throughout the province. Branch lines and main trunks traversed the North West Territories, continuing on after the Saskatchewan became a province in 1905. (In many cases the current highway thoroughfares run parallel to the main trunk line railway grade.) From the furthest point of the rail, the pioneer would disembark and begin walking. If a relative arrived ahead of time, the early settler may be met at the rail station by horse and cart or ox and buggy, and receive transport. An early purchase was conveyance.

After traveling around the countryside, the pioneer would need to find a iron marker placed between four monuments (pits) on an unclaimed section of land. The iron marker with the section number on it stands in the North East corner of the one mile by one mile section. The wise new-comer would need to compare the soil sample on this land with the soil of his home country to have the greatest success with his learned agricultural tillage methods and implements brought forward on the long journey. If the section and land was acceptable, the potential homesteader would then hasten to the land titles office, to fill out an application form, and lay down a $10 filing fee, returning to the land to begin his duties.

Imagine again, if you will, finding an iron post driven into the ground without asphalt roads, no GPS, absolutely not a road sign anywhere, nestled into the grasslands, or within the Trembling Aspen bluffs, and in the 1800s amid herds of buffalo. Consider, also this, the iron marker in the north west corner of the section bears Roman Numerals for section township and range. As this in this example, John Henry Belt homestead was SE 28-51-27 w2) the iron post would have read XXIV XXX XII. Early immigrants may have settled in ethnic bloc settlements to facilitate communication, agricultural harvesting work bees and settlement chores in proving up the land.

NOTE: It is always wise and prudent to contact the nearby locality before driving out to an ancestral homestead to learn how to make contact with the current owners. Ask at the regional library, museum, RM office, or town hall for advice. Seek to purchase an up to date RM map from the RM office. Consider buying an historical Cummins map from the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan and marked herein the ancestor’s name. Phone the current land owner perchance with Mysask.com or Canada411. Do not trespass on private property or farm land without permission, ever. Such practices can, indeed, be detrimental and even fatal to livestock, devastating to crops and violate the landowners sensibilities and legal rights. Also many historical township roads and range roads do not exist anymore. With the straightening and paving of highways, and the advent of motorized travel, it is not necessary for the Ministry of Highways nor the RM to maintain each and every single range road and township road from the Dominion survey system so the roads may not exist anymore. That former road allowance may now be in a farmer’s field, or pasture land. That is why a contemporary RM map is so handy for this journey to the homestead.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Saskatchewan Provincial Standard System of Rural Addressing. Adapted by Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) Information Services Corporation. Regina, SK.

To find lands in the field part 1

To find lands in the field part 2

To find lands in the field part 3

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