Reno Hill School District 5158; Memories of When the Water Came or The price paid for electricity

8 Mar

Rainy Days and Mondays

Reno Hill School District 5158; Memories of When the Water Came

~or~

The price paid for electricity

  • “Change is the parent of progress.” Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

The E.B. Campbell Dam was first proposed as the “Squaw Rapids Dam” by the Saskatchewan Power Corporation and the Government of Saskatchewan. This hydroelectric dam was the province’s inaugural venture into providing electrical power. By the mid 1900s it was recognised that the province’s growing electrical energy demand was to soon surpass the existing facilities. In 1961, the province required 1,500,000,000 kilowatt-hours, by late 1964, the Squaw Rapids plant was constructed to produce 1,000,000,000 kilowatt-hours of energy from six 33,500-kilowatt hydraulic turbine generators. The building of the 110 foot (33.5 m) high dam commenced in the beginning of 1960 at an estimated cost of $46 million dollars. The dam is 2,370 feet (722 m) across between the banks of the river, and 620 feet (189 m) wide at the base of the dam, and allows for a two-lane highway across the deck of the dam. The Saskatchewan River was diverted in 1961, and by the fall of 1962, with the $57 million dollar dam completed, the river was closed, filling the dam reservoir. By June of 1963, Premier W.S. Lloyd opened the Squaw Rapids Dam in front of a crowd of approximately 3,000.

  • “The creation of huge reservoirs allows some control over the flow of the river itself. . . . But the [river] is not just a machine. It is an organic machine. . . . For no matter how much we have created many of its spaces and altered its behavior, it is still tied to larger organic cycles beyond our control.” White p. 111-12

The Squaw Rapids hydroelectric station, renamed in 1988, honours E.B. (Bruce) Campbell who was the assistant chief engineer during the construction project. Bruce Campbell was also SaskPower president and CEO between 1983 to 1987 The name “Petaigan” for the reservoir was brought forward to honour the former river now under the reservoir waters. Others suggested that Major E.E. Andrews, a nurse of the Second World War from Carrot River should be honoured with the reservoir naming. William Thorburn employee and trader of the Northwest Trading Company constructed a home and trading post in the area in 1791. Common usage of the name Tobin rather than Thorburn, easier to pronounce, became the name of the trading post and the nearby “Tobin Rapids“. (However, the 1924 Rand McNally Map refers to this location as the Tobin Rof??ls Rapids (see attached enlargement Image) Carrot River suggested the reservoir be named ““Tobin Lake” after much controversy. 174 years after the Tobin NW trading post was established on the rocky bend in the Saskatchewan River, Saskatchewan’s first hydro electric power station was erected, and just as Tobin Rapids was named after William Thorburn, so to Tobin Lake bore his name.


  • “Dams for hydroelectric power generation are located at a site
    where the difference in elevations between the surface of the new reservoir and the outlet to the
    downstream river is adequate to power electrical-generating turbines.”Cech [2003, p150-15

Squaw Rapids, in northern bush lands, was selected because of two sets of rapids on the site. Water plunges 105 feet (32 m) in huge penstocks which channel the water into giant turbines.CP June 15, 1963.7,000,000 cubic yards (6,000,000 m3) of earth were excavated from the reservoir site and re-used creating embankments for the earth-filled dam and a 3,000 foot (900 m) long airstrip. The reservoir covers 75,000 acres (303.5 km3) of land, and when full, the water level rises to 1,013 feet (309 m). By the end of 1962, the water level had already reached 1008 feet (307 m) rising at about one foot (0.3 m) of water a day. Tobin Lake stores 1,780,000 acre-feet (21,965,000,000 cubic meters) of water or 271,322 gallons (about 1,000,000 liters). Plans for the reservoir included creating the reservoir at Squaw Rapids, encompassing Tobin Rapids and extending upstream to the town of Nipawin located 45 miles (72 km) from the dam site at Squaw Rapids. The Torch River Valley provides a natural floodway should the river exceed its highest known peak at spring thaw.


  • “Mr Schell always predicted that with the water power potential for cheap electricity and the abundance of natural resources, Nipawin would eventually grow into a city, and was very concerned when the townsite was laid out that the streets be kept wide, rather than the then popular narrow ones, and that as many pines as possible be left in and around the townsite.” [Mr Winn Schell printed the first newspaper in Nipawin – The Monitor in 1907 later called The Recorder]Schaible p. 842

The reservoir base 46 miles (74 km) by 11-12 miles (18-19 km) wide was prepared for the new lake, wells, dugouts, and basements were all filled in, sawdust piles removed, telephone and power poles, fences and buildings torn down or moved away. The Department of Natural Resources had the $817,000 assignment to clear the reservoir site, removing all useable lumber from crown lands, clearing the 40 by 10 mile (64 x 16 km) area. It was proposed to open the area to farmers who could take some two to three million feet (600,000 to 900,000 m) of spruce lumber from the area. Approximately 40 million feet (12,000,000 m) of white spruce timber, and four million feet (1,000,000 m) of jack pine timber, 17,000 cords (62,000 m3.) of jack pine or fence posts, and 50 million feet (15,000,000 m) of poplar timber needed to be cleared. Following the clearing, a forest fire was set deliberately, to reduce the site to ash, however this failed due to rains, but not before covering the dam construction site with thick smoke. Additionally the SPC put out another $50,000 on clearing and after the dam opened, another contract was needed to prevent logs jamming the dam. 50,000,000 board feet of pine and spruce were removed from the area.


  • It was known from experience where stands of pine and spruce had been flooded during water control projects that trees were still standing after 20 to 30 years…this would have destroyed the recreational potential of Tobin Lake for many years, and would have reduced its usable surface area by two-thirds,” said Resources Minister Eiling Kramer.Leader-Post Oct 2, 1963.

The steam-generating plants at Moose Jaw and Prince Albert were to be closed down in favour of the more economical hydroelectric station here. Water flow at the Squaw Rapids dam is regulated by remote control at the Queen Elizabeth Power Plant in Saskatoon and later from Regina. The hydro-electric project is located 150 miles from Prince Albert, 42 miles (68 km) from Nipawin, 30 miles (48 km) from Carrot River and 45 miles (72 km) upstream of Tobin Rapids.

  • “We should strive to welcome change and challenges, because they are what help us grow. With out them we grow weak like the Eloi in comfort and security. We need to constantly be challenging ourselves in order to strengthen our character and increase our intelligence. ”

120 farmers from the Petaigan, Mossey Vale, and Ravendale districts were estimated to be affected by the filling of the dam reservoir. The farmers who had lands expropriated for the project moved out before December 31, 1961. “SPC has purchased 134 quarter sections of their farm land…most of these farmers have relocated on similar farms in the same general area.Longman 1961 Archdeacon Payton related that the Anglican Church was removed before the region was flooded. About 205 sections or 131,200 acres (531 km2) of land were needed for the Squaw Rapids Hydro Electric project, of which 55 sections (143 km2 were owned by the Crown leaving 600 quarter sections (390 km2) of land in private hands. By October 24, 1962, SPC had only six quarter sections ( 4 km2 ) left to negotiate. SPC also allowed homesteaders to have a lease on their the portion of the land which was above the water line, the Government not only bought the land that would be flooded, but they also paid for improvements done upon the land. After purchase, SPC put buildings up for tender on the condition of sale that the buildings be completely moved or dismantled before December 1961.

  • In all, 100 families were affected, most of them already located in the same general area. They received an average of $55 an acre (4000 m2 or .004 km2 $35,200 a section or $8,800 a quarter section.)).”CP Oct 26, 1962

Compensation packages first proposed considered 2-1/2 the value of the assessment with an additional percentage paid out based on individual needs. In 1924, the Canadian Pacific Railway was offering agricultural land for $11.66 per acre on average with irrigated land fetching $43.74 per acre reported The Financial Post. Whereas, in 1954 the Saskatoon Star Phoenix published that land selling in the Nipawin area was listed for approximately $100 per acre and prices across the provinces were down about 15 per cent from 1953 sales. Land elsewhere in the province was listed at $60 to $70 an acre, and lighter lands may only receive a listed sale price of $25 to 50 per acre. Farm lands for sale in the Rural Municipalities of Torch River, Nipawin and Moose Range, were listed at $50 to $100 per acre in 1966.

  • When the water backs up after the 1962 spring breakup in the river ice, the Petaigan River will burst its banks and disappear, and a church, a school, a curling rink and a farmer’s union lodge, as well as scores of farm homes, will vanish in the Petaigan district.Hooper March 1960

As Daniel Baird relates, “maps present a picture of the complex relationship between water and land as they intersect with human life…driven by the politics of settlement and energy. [Tegan Smith’s] exhibit gestures toward the depths of the lake, which we then have to imagine. The image of long abandoned, rotted out barns in the silty green murk of lake water, fish drifting through their open doors and windows, long spikes of light descending from the surface, everything in suspended animation, in slow motion, is haunting and even funereal. The sparsely settled Mossy Vale, with its isolated farms, traditional hunters and trappers, has become a place of memory.


  • Having no electricity, we were fortunate to have an ice well; our milk and cream we hung down the well in cans. We canned everything we could; meat, game, chicken, turkey, and all kinds of fruit wild and cultivated – so we were rarely at a loss for a quick meal if somebody unexpected dropped in.Horn p. 260

The Nipawin School Unit No. 61 school board advertised for teachers for the 1961 school term. 16 pupils between grades one and eight were enrolled at Reno Hill School District 21 miles out of Carrot River. The Labalm School District was another one room school district nestled in the hamlet of Moose Range serving 15 pupils in the primary grades as well. Squaw Rapids school was a newly established one room school operating out of a trailer for the approximately 20 children of the Saskatchewan Power Corporation Squaw Rapids Dam site area. By the fall of 1961, the Squaw Rapids hydroelectric development project saw a community population of 1,955 necessitating the construction of a two room school building for 61 children. Over the summer of 1961, 275 pioneers came together at the Mossy Vale school near Nipawin for a re-union. The Nipawin Public School saw a huge enrollment, jumping to 834 students in September of 1961. The school enrollment was expected yet to rise to 864 pupils. Five rural schools closed. Mossy Vale, Glen Horne SD 5048, Grassy Lake, Kirkwell (Kirkwall SD 4647) and Welland SD 4473 schools closed their doors. At Nipawin public school, grade seven students attended classes at the high school and at a separate building. The staff room, library, and electrical rooms have been converted to classrooms. The Nipawin ten room school expected to open in 1962 will alleviate some of the over-crowding. In grade one alone, there were 124 students at the beginning of the 1962 school year.


  • Miss Dengate began teaching at Inkster School, with an enrollment of some 37 children spanning ten grades. She hadn’t any experience with one-room schools, and so had to learn a lot in a short time. The school was far from luxurious, with its outdoor plumbing and water pail and dipper, quite a change for someone from England, used to having electricity and indoor plumbing. There was a big stove on which the children would leave their lunch pails to thaw, as it would freeze on the way to school and stay frozen if left on the floor.Haywood p. 681

Cumberland House (“Waskahiganihk” ) settled in 1774 upon an island in the middle of the Saskatchewan River delta region surrounded by swamps, marshes and lakes. It is here that Father Ovide Charlebois erected The first log building schoolhouse in the 1890s inaugurating a system of instruction with both Catholics and Protestants teaching the curriculum. Cumberland House residents depended on a ferry crossing during the summer months, and an ice road in the winter.  The dam is approximately 30 miles(48 km) upstream from the delta area.


  • In 1945, a new home was built, but still no plumbing or electricity.Pihowich p. 777

The Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-41-G) which was launched on 5 October 1984 was able to photograph the Squaw Rapids Dam on October 9, 1984.

“Reshaping life! People who can say that have never understood a thing about life—they have never felt its breath, its heartbeat—however much they have seen or done. They look on it as a lump of raw material that needs to be processed by them, to be ennobled by their touch. But life is never a material, a substance to be molded. If you want to know, life is the principle of self-renewal, it is constantly renewing and remaking and changing and transfiguring itself, it is infinitely beyond your or my obtuse theories about it.”
Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

With other companies pushing forward in potash production, in 10 years time provincial potash production should reach $100,000,000 a year,” said Premier Woodrow Stanley Lloyd, “The estimated power production for 1963 is 2,000,000,000 kilowatts, five times the production of 10 years ago….This kind of development and announced intention will help keep our place as the fourth largest producer of minerals among Canadian provinces. Leader-Post Jan 1963. Lloyd was also quoted as saying, “there are good reasons for satisfaction in a review of developments in Saskatchewan during 1962. One of the highlights of the economic year has been the surge of activity in connection with our mineral resources. With the opening of the world’s largest potash production plant at Esterhazy, and with 15 other firms actively engaged in potash exploration or development Saskatchewan now has a claim to the title of “World Potash Capital.” Our farm electrification program has nearly reached completion this year and the total of farm homes electrified has been brought to nearly 63,000.”Saskatoon Star-Phoenix Dec 1962.

  • “People who want a cure, provided they can have it without pain, are like those who favour progress, provided they can have it without change.”
    Anthony de Mello, Awareness: A de Mello Spirituality Conference in His Own Words

When Bill and Clara Weighill reminisced on the Mossy Vale area, a quote popped to mind, “We’re all in favor of progress, providing we can have it without change.” For the settlers in the area, there were a lot of ups and downs, and lots of hard work. Homesteading in the area was challenging, there were swarms of bull flies, hordes of mosquitoes, horse flies by the dozens, deep snow, muskeg, swamps, mud holes, and as Kristan and Ellen Sogen relate, the pioneers took it all in stride. The farmers who moved left their homes with sentimental reluctance, regret and melancholy, and yet there was an overall feeling of congratulations towards the Saskatchewan Power Plant, which serves the electrical needs of northern Saskatchewan residents.

The area was filled with settlers who did not give up. The Ravendale Frienship club grew together as ladies of the community gathered for an afternoon outing. Well, as the Squaw Rapids Development commenced, the club dwindled as folks gave up their land, and moved away. But, there was no despair, there was no wailing, with steady faith, the club soon built up again, flourishing and able once again to help the community wherever they were able. They were open to love, light and laughter.

The rail finally came through over hill and dale, through swamp and over river, however it arrived four miles outside of the town of Nipawin. This did not mean the end of Nipawin, resilient, forward thinking and stalwart, the townspeople picked up their houses and their buildings and moved them north beside the rail. These were a people looking at the glass half full, not half empty.

  • “When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change… The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back…[It is] time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym 

Settlers made a living the hard way, yet it was felt that it was a healthy life. Making success from the challenges in life, coming together with family and friends to meet the next opportunity allowed these pioneers to be truly grateful and able to celebrate the next step forward for the community when the hydro-electric construction began. Electricity, a much needed, and most desired service and life has changed forever.

Article written by Julia Adamson, Sask Gen Webmaster.

Squaw Rapids Reel

By Don Messer

Squaw Rapids dam a symbol of might,Brings steady power both day and night,

Through summer, winter, spring and fall

Steady power – now reverse all.

The SPC’s pledged to bring

Reliable power for everything.

To serve you well that is their aim

Now all get set, four ladies chain

Reno Hill School District 5158
South east section 18 township 53 range 11 west of the 2nd meridian

near Mossy Vale, SK, CA
Located at north west section 28 township 53 range 11 west of the 2 meridian
E.B. Campbell Hydroelectric Station, Squaw Rapids Dam, Tobin Lake
Located at Section 12 Township 54 range 10 west of the 2nd meridian

Other neighbouring school districts and placenames

Moose Range Rural Municipality 486

Glen Horne School District 5048 SE quarter of section 2 township 51 range 10 west of the 2 meridian.

Grassy Lake School District Unknown School District number and location. Please E-mail if you know

Kirkwell (Kirkwall) School District 4647 SE section ? township 52 range 16 west of the 2nd meridian

Wellands school district 4473 south west section 27 township 50 range 15 west of the 2 meridian (1922-1961)

Labalm School District 4573 unknown location. Please E-mail if you know

Squaw Rapids School District Unknown School District number Located near dam Section 12 Township 54 range 10 west of the 2nd meridian (temporary school)

Mossy Vale, SaskatchewanMossy Vale Saskatchewan: Mossy Vale/Reno Hill Get-Together: 50 years later!
Prepared site for the Mossy Vale cairn.

Neighbouring places

Petaigan post office had three locations:

  • north west quarter of section 33 township 51 range 11 west of the 2nd meridian 1953
  • NW quarter section 22, township 51, range 11, west of the 2 meridian
  • SE Section 4, Township 52, Range 11, west of the 2 meridian

Ravendale post office SW Section 3, Township 53, R.10, West of the 2nd Meridian

Moose Range post office North west quarter of section 16 township 49 range 12 west of the 2nd meridian

Petaigan River geographical feature (waterway)

Garrick hamlet Northwest section 17 township 52 range 16 west of the 2nd meridian

Beaver House post office north east quarter section 34 township 50 range 15 west of the 2 meridian

Ravine Bank (two locations) Section 14, Township 51, Range 14, west of the 2nd meridian

and Section 16, Township 50, Range 14, west of the 2nd meridian

Prince Albert township 38 range 26 west of the 2nd meridian

Carrot River section 17 township 49 range 11 west of the 2 meridian

Nipawin section 16 township 50 range 14 west of the 2 meridian


Pioneer Ways to Modern Days : history of the town of Carrot River and the Rural Municipality of Moose Range.

Carrot River & District History (Association). Carrot River, Saskatchewan: Carrot River & District History, 1985

Jess. Reno Hill School District 5158, south east section 18 township 53 range 11 west of the 2 meridian near Mossy Vale- Saskatchewan Gen Web – One room School Project March 8, 2013.

Bibliography

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School, Reno Hill School District 5158, Mossy Vale School District 5159, Carrot River, Nipawin, Petaigan River, Garrick, Beaver House, RAvine Bank, Prince Albert, Ravendale, squaw Rapids Dam, Tobin Lake, E.B. Campbell Hydroelectric Power Plant, Sask Power, reminiscing, memories, wistful nostalgia, melancholy, regret, sentimenal reluctance, underwater, flooded, reservoir, man made lake

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