Tag Archives: Palliser Triangle

Swift Current Gen Web’s Amazing History

8 Jun

Swift Current Gen Web Regions’s Amazing History

What do Chimney Coulee, the great Sandhills, Palliser Triangle, Cypress Hills, Willow Creek, Fort Walsh, ’76 Ranch have in common?  They are evolutionary geographical features of the Swift Current Gen Web Region.  It is with an understanding of this region that researchers will garner an interest into its character, values, institutions, and the way the culture has characterized its peoples.  What is the heritage of the Swift Current Gen Web Region?  History has many tangents, and no single facet can tell the complete story, as the roots come from a wide variety of cultures and experiences.

The Captain John Palliser British North American Exploring Expedition of 1857-1860 defined a triangular area radiating south from Kindersley as basically an extension of the Great North American desert, and encompass the Great Sand Hills of Saskatchewan.  Palliser’s expedition arrived during a cyclical episode of great drought.

The first nations of the plains have had a rich history in this area.  The Snake and Gros Ventres of the 17th century were gradually displaced by the Assiniboine in the 18th century.  The Sioux came up from the United States over the latter half of the 19th century creating settlements.  The small pox epidemic of 1832, which lasted six years, virtually wiped out 31% of the Assiniboine population killing over 4,000 persons.

All the British colonies of Canada, provinces and territories were united in the Canadian Confederation on July 1, 1867.  To include British Columbia into confederation, an inter-colony railroad would improve communication and transportation in general between the settlements of eastern Canada, those communities of British Columbia.  To make the railroad economically viable, pressures arose to expand the population across the prairies to improve trade.

Rupert’s Land, or Prince Rupert’s Land, was a territory in British North America comprising the Hudson Bay drainage basin.  This land was operated by the Hudson’s Bay Company for 200 years from 1670 to 1870.  Rupert’s Land was transferred to Canada in 1869, but the transfer was only consummated in 1870 when £300,000 was paid to the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Le Mont-aux-Cypres / Cypress Hills Metis settlement established a presence in this area 1870.  It was also during this decade, that “consumption” or pulmonary tuberculosis ravaged the population of the indigenous population.

Back in 1871, Isaac Cowie operated a Hudson’s Bay Company post from 1871-1872 trading with the area Metis.  This site  came to be known as Chimney Coulee [now a Provincial Historic Site]. Isaac Cowie stayed only the one winter, taking back with him thousands and thousands of pelts, never to return.   In Saskatchewan, the majority of trading posts were operated near or north of the “tree line” or where settlements Metis or immigrant were established.

The Government of Canada passed the Dominion Lands Act of 1872 creating the opportunity for settlers in the Last Best West.

In the spring of 1873, unknown Natives stole a horse/horses from a small party of Canadian and American wolfers, led by Thomas W. Hardwick and John Evans.  At Fort Benton, Montana Territory, the wolfers pleaded for assistance and justice for the crimes against them, however, help was not forthcoming, and a posse formed from American and Canadian traders.  The posse arrived at Abe Farwell’s trading post.  An altercation broke out between the posse and the Little Soldier Assiniboine camp, though Little Soldier attested that they did not have the missing horse, and offered two of their horses until the missing horse was located.  Shots were fired by the posse, and between thirteen to eighty Assiniboine fell and one trader.  It was during this time period that the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) were established by Prime Minister Sir John Macdonald to maintain order in the North-West Territories in response to this, the Cypress Hills Massacre. The “March West” across 900 miles (1,400 km) was the government’s attempt at bringing recruits to the west to create a military presence and serve as a safety net for prairie residents. [Clarification Note]

The creation of the Department of the Interior in 1873 had a mission to attract settlers to Canada, creating a strong agricultural economy out west.  Settlers were pulled to the area with strong motivations of a better life, and were pushed out of their homelands because of restrictions, over-populations, and under-employment.

The British North American Boundary Commission surveyed the international boundary along the 49th parallel between Canada and the United States of America between 1873-1874.  Dr. George Mercer Dawson was the geologist-naturalist who reported “prime grazing land” in his investigations along the border survey.

In 1874, thirteen First Nations chiefs signed Treaty Four at Fort Qu’Appelle which covered the land south of the South Saskatchewan River.  Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota are among the contemporary thirty five First Nations encompassed by Treaty Four.

Whatever the cause of prejudice and animosity between the First Nations and the traders, the Cypress Hills Massacre set a precedent for the Dominion Government.  Fort Walsh North West Mounted Police Post [now a National Historic Site of Canada  a was erected 1875 in Cypress Hills.  Additionally NWMP posts were created at Maple Creek, Willow Creek, Ten Mile, Farwell, Eastend, Stone Pile, Snake Creek, and Swift Current in the Swift Current Gen Web Region.  The police regularly patrolled the trails discouraging whisky trading, cattle rustling, overseeing the railway camps, and generally maintaining “law and order”.

David Laird becomes the first Lieutenant Governor  of the North West Territories in 1875.

The Fort Walsh National Historic Site notes that “adhesions to Treaty Four were signed at Fort Walsh in 1877 (Man Who Took The Coat, Long Lodge, and Lean Man)”

Swift Current Gen Web Region is coloured in Yellow   Adapted from:
“White, James. Manitoba and Northwest Territories [map]. 1:950,400. [Ottawa]: Dept. of the Interior, 1900. Red blocks show total acreage of land under crop in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories respectively.  Shows size, in acres the areas of Athabasca, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Assiniboia and Manitoba in 1900. Source: University of Manitoba : Elizabeth Dafoe Library : Map Collection “Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

John Macoun, a professor of natural history examined the areas of the South Saskatchewan Rivers in 1879-1880. The weather on the prairies cycles between drought, and extremely wet spring and summers.  Macoun’s wet summer was in direct contrast to the drought experienced by Palliser.  Macoun sent news to the Government surveyors, that the lands between Moose Mountain, and Cypress Hills featured great swaths of green grasses, forecast productive soil for cultivation.

The Buffalo which had previously roamed the plains in great herds were decimated by 1879. The buffalo were gone, the main source of sustenance for the First Nation’s PeopleThe Canadian Government facilitated large scale farming and ranching prior to the homestead settlement of the “Last Best West.”  The Dominion Governments policy regarding ranching, and grazing land evolved considerably between 1870-1930.  Basically any lands unfit for crop production, and could not be used for homestead settlement, would be recommended for grazing lands.  Grazing leases were established for up to 12,000 acres of land.  Cattle are the major ranch animals, supplying beef on demand.  Ranches generally speaking were a large scale affairs, because low productivity is involved.  They require large areas of land with low population density.

Edgar Dewdney is appointed by Prime Minister MacDonald as the new Indian Commissioner, and arrives at Fort Walsh 1879.  In 1880 over 5,000 Indians come to Fort Walsh on treaty day seeking assistance as they are starving.  Dewdney forced all the First Nations to leave Fort Walsh in October of 1882, starving as they were, and travel back to their reserves for their  annuities.  MacDonald himself traveled to Fort Walsh in November 1882 to make treaty payments. Maureen Katherine Lux quotes MacDonald; “I know they are not getting enough flour but I like to punish them a little.  I will have to increase their rations, but not much.”  With such treatment, those First Nations who had held out, and not signed treaties were forced to submit, as their people were so hungry and weak.  Throughout this decade, First Nations people died from Whooping Cough, tuberculosis, and starvation.

Though the country of Canada first envisioned a northern route for the transcontinental railway through Prince Albert, the agricultural promises provided by Professor Macoun coupled with the threat of an American invasion, changed the laying of the rail.  The 1881 contract given the Canadian Pacific Railway Company saw the rail extend from the province of Manitoba and reach Swift Current by 1882.   This railway, the Canadian Pacific Railway created the first transcontinental railway, and served as an impetus to bring settlement and development across the plains.

The District of Assiniboia, North West Territories, was  created in 1882 as a regional administrative district of Canada’s North-West Territories.

The province of Saskatchewan was created in September of 1905.

Rangeland, Cattle Companies and Ranches.

A Scotchman by the name Sir Lister Kay arrived in the 1870s, one of the first ranchers who to the area, ranching between Swift Current and Medicine Hat NWT, a rangeland of about 150 miles. Kay had about 30,000 sheep and several thousand cattle. The “76” Ranch at Crane Lake owned by the Lister Kaye Co. and under the management of a great cattleman, D.H. Andrews, was one of the most profitable and successful ranches according to notes of the Saskatchewan Historical Society. The “76” Ranch at Crane Lake was then operated by the Canadian Land and Ranch Co. with their headquarters at Crane Lake which Kay had left behind.  No discussion of the Saskatchewan Range would be complete without mentioning the Empire Cattle Company, and T Bar Down and the Conrad Price major ranches.

Simon Evans [Atlas of Saskatchewan] reports that “the number of beef cattle in Saskatchewan rose from 212,145 in 1901to 360,236 in 1906, …the number of beef cattle in the province rose from 360,000 to almost 900,000 between 1906 and 1921…and peaked at 453,606 in 1919.”

To recall the “Round Ups” of the early twentieth century, Mr Harry Otterson, range manager of the Bloom Cattle Company recalls a round-up of 1904.  “The range business has passed through some marked changes in the Cypress Hills the past thirty-five years.  The vast territory lying between the C.P.R. railway and the Milk River in Montana was an empire of grass and water, where cattle roamed at will.  The round-up outfits reached far from the home ranch during the summer to gather the straying cattle and return them to their range.  …The trailing of sheep in great numbers, between the Milk River, and the Canadian line was fast destroying the range for cattle, and Montana cattle were moving into Canada in increasing numbers, partly on account of the splendid range found there, but largely on account of the vast trek of shepherds across their home range.  During the late summer of 1904 there were several disastrous prairie fires along the Canadian border and the greater part of the range was burned, from Battle Creek east to the Frenchman River, north of Saco, Montana. “~Maple Creek News 1939  The Bloom Cattle Co. located at T Bar Down Ranch Herds of the Bloom Cattle co ranged in size from 3,700 head of cattle  to fifteen thousand steers. ~ The Eastend Enterprise March 24, 1938  The Turkey Track Ranch was located to the east, and the “76” range to the north.   The Oxarat Horse Ranch near Fort Walsh was the oldest and largest horse ranch  of the country in the early 1880s.

Ranching was not without perils and the miles of grassland gutted by enormous raging grass fires has already been mentioned in 1904 resulting in scarcity for the cattle feed.  Another peril came for the Turkey Track Ranch under Messrs. Cresswell and Day which set up during the summer of 1903, and they were hit by the worst winter on record for cattle.  Deep snow falls alternated with frost, seizing up the cattle, resulting in a loss of over 8,000 head of cattle.  Generally speaking cattle could fend for themselves over the winter months, however the winter of 1906-1907 also took thousands of cattle caught up in the great northwest blizzards.  The Canadian Pacific Railway fenced off their rail grade, and cattle, pressed forward by the northwesterly winds were caught on the CPR fence wires, and perished.  The larger ranch outfits who had a rider traveling with the herds could cut the CPR fence, and let the cattle through to open wind swept lands, and coulees for protection from the fierce wind, fared better during this severe winter.  Those cattle outfits which were smaller and without a rider lost as many as 90% of their herds.

Miriam Green Ellis recalls that, “apart from the fur trade, ranching is the oldest business in Western Canada.  The ranchers came on the heels of the buffalo, and established themselves in pretty much the same locale, which was natural.  They figured that if the grass could feed buffalo the year round, it should be able to feed cattle, sheep and horses.  The grass in this area cures on the ground and in the old days the stock never got anything else, nor had they any winter shelter except the coulees. ”  It was in 1912 that the “lease system” required that the rancher had to reside on the land of his lease, and the open range for cattle grazing became a thing of the past.  In the declining years of the Saskatchewan rangelands, Robert Cruikshank kept the Rush Lake Ranch going, Gordon Ironside and Fares operated the Crane Lake Ranches, Gilchrist Brothers owned the largest cattle herd of South Western Saskatchewan by 1938.  The June 13, 1944 edition of the Leader Post noted that cattle numbers were reaching the capacity of the rangeland.  About 100 stockmen and ranchers owned around 90,000 head of cattle, and sheep.

Swift Current Gen Web Region [green] in the Province of Saskatchewan Adapted from Author Hwy43 Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Ethnic Bloc Settlements

Lac Pelletier in 1907, Dollard and Val Marie in 1910 were a few of the French settlements in the region.  Shaunavon received Irish settlers, and Webb the Welsh.  Belgian settlers were attracted to Swift Current as were the Dutch immigrants.

A large Norwegian Ethnic Bloc Settlement arose around Climax and Robsart in 1911 along the USA and Canada border, and extended north for some 12 to 24 miles and extended east and west 60 miles. Swedish settlers arrived to Admiral and Shaunavon, often working at the Canadian Pacific Railway to earn cash in order to prove up their homesteads.

A German group settlement arrived to the area round the Vermillion Hills, Herbert, Excelsior, Swift Current and Coulee.  In the 1920s Russian and American German concentrations of immigrants were found in southwestern Saskatchewan around Eastend, and Consul areas.

Hutterites migrated from the U.S.A. to Alberta and Manitoba around 1918.  The migration from Alberta to Saskatchewan bean in 1952 when lasws in Alberta changed.

  • Bench (Lehrer) near Shaunavon 1956. 1,200 acres for 13 families; 72 people
  • Tompkins (lehrer) near Tompkins 1956. 8,800 acres dfor 12 families; 71 people
  • Spring Creek (Darius) near Walsh 1958. 14,369 acres for 14 families; 69 people
  • West Bench Hutterite Colony  near Eastend 1960. 8,000 acres for 13 families; 84 people
  • Box Elder (Darius) near Walsh1960.  9,320 acres for 11 families; 74 people
  • Simmie(Darius)  near Admiral 1962.  6,980 acres for 15 families; 101 people
  • Cypress (Lehrer) near Maple Creek1963.15,638 acres for 14 families; 94 people
  • New Wolf (Darius) near Maple Creek1963. 13,303 acres for 20 families; 138 people
  • Sand Lake (Lehrer) near Masefield 1964. 10,720 acres for 13 families; 76 people
  • Haven (Lehrer) near Fox Valley1966.  10,560 acres for 15 families; 92 people
  • Ponteix (Darius) near Pontiex 1970.  9,120 acres  in conjunction with New Wolf population

A Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization began in 1922  Refugees from Russia settled between 1923-1929. Emmaus General Conference Mennonite [GCM] saw 368 immigrants settle at Swift Current, Gull Lake, Wymark, Schoenfeld, McMahon, “Pella” at Neville, and “Rhineland” at Wymark. Herbert GCM 224 settlers settled at Herbert, Gouldtown, and “Glen Kerr” at Morse.  Mennonite Brethren “Bethania” settled at Main Centre [70], “Elim” [120] at Kelstern, “Gnadenau” [70] at Flowing Well, Green Farm [120], Main Centre [400], Swift Current[80].  The Herbert Invalid Home was established at Herbert.

Placenames in the Swift Current Gen Web Region

  • Towns    Eastend, Maple Creek, Shaunavon
  • Villages    Bracken, Cadillac, Carmichael, Climax, Consul, Frontier, Val Marie
  • Rural municipalities     Arlington RM#79, Bone Creek RM#108, Carmichael RM#109, Frontier RM#19, Grassy Creek RM#78, Lac Pelletier RM#107, Lone Tree RM#18, Maple Creek RM#111, Piapot RM#110, Reno RM#51, Val Marie RM#17, White Valley RM#49, Wise Creek RM#77
  • First Nations     Nekaneet Cree
  • Indian reserves         Nekaneet Cree Nation
  • Organized hamlets     Darlings Beach
  • Special service areas     Admiral
  • Hamlets     Orkney, Piapot, Simmie.
  • Unincorporated Communities.  Altwan, Battle, Creek, Beaver, Valley, Belanger, Bench, Blank’s, Beach, Blumenhof, Blumenort, Canuck, Cardell, Carnagh, Chambery, Claydon, Clearsite, Crane, Lake, Crichton, Cross, Cummings, Cypress, Hills, Park, Divide, Dollard, Driscol, Lake, East, Fairwell, Edgell, Forres, Fort, Walsh, Frenchville, Garden, Head, Gergovia, Govenlock, Hatton, Hillandale, Illerbrun, Instow, Kealey, Springs, Kincorth, Klintonel, Knollys, Lac, Pelletier, Leghorn, Loomis, Mackid, Masefield, Maxwelton, Merryflat, Monchy, Nashlyn, Neighbour, Neuhoffnung, Notukeu, Olga, Oxarat, Palisade, Rangeview, Ravenscrag, Robsart, Roche, Plain, Rosefield, Scotsguard, Senate, Sidewood, Skull, Creek, South, Fork, Staynor, Hall, Stone, Supreme, Tannahill, Treelon, Tyro, Vesper, Vidora, West, Plains, Willow, Creek

How have the settlers, and First Nations living in the south western corner of Saskatchewan defined themselves in contrast with populations overseas, and across North America?  How has the geographical location of the area changed over the centuries?  How useful is the concept of the history of the Swift Current Gen Web region when it comes to define the modern civilization, and our ancestors from this neck of the world?

The study of human geography studies the climate, religion, culture and physiography  as humans interact with their physical geography.  This is a small study with a focus on the Swift Current Gen Web portion of the province of Saskatchewan, and its political boundary evolution, demographic changes, and climatic forces.  The economic, political and cultural dimensions of the Swift Current Gen Web region have indeed evolved over time.

Note The new Swift Current Region Gen Web is online at https://swiftcurrentgenweb.site123.me/ while the original Swift Current Region Gen Web site is under maintenance by Ancestry/Rootsweb.com. Check periodically for progress on the historical site http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~skswiftc While waiting please check out https://swiftcurrentgenweb.site123.me/

The new provincial Saskatchewan Region Gen Web is online at https://saskgenweb.site123.me the original Saskatchewan Region Gen Web site is under maintenance by Ancestry/Rootsweb.com. Check periodically for progress on the historical site waiting http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cansk in the meanwhile please check out https://saskgenweb.site123.me/


Daschuk, J.W. , Paul Hackett, Scott MacNeil.  Treaties and Tuberculosis: First Nations People in late 19th Century Western CAnada, a Political and Economic Transformation.  CBMH/BCHM Volume 23:2 2006 Pages 307-330

Fung, Ka-iu.  Atlas of Saskatchewan Celebrating the Millenium 2000-2005.  University of Saskatchewan Second Edition.  ISBN 0-88880-387-7.  PrintWest Saskatoon.  1999.

  • Trading Posts. Pre 1759-Post 1930.  Page 34, 35
  • Lemmen and Lisa Dale-Burnett.  The Palliser Triangle.  Page 20-21
  • Waiser, Bill.  Scientific Explorations 1870-1914. Page 42-43
  • Barry, Bill.  First Nations and Treaties 1871-1906.  Page 44-45
  • Avery, Cheryl and Stan Hanson.  North West Mounted Police and the Indians.  Page 46-47
  • Anderson, Alan. Ethnic Bloc Settlements 1850s-1990s  Page 56-57
  • Evans, Simon.  The Saskatchewan Range in 1906 and 1921.  Pages 64-65.

Gagnon, Erica.  Settling the West Immigration to the Prairies from 1867-1914.   Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21Settling the West Immigration to the Prairies from 1867-1914.   Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Lux, Maureen Katherine.  Medicine that Walks: Disease, Medicine and Canadian Plains Native People, 1880-1940.  Illustrated Edition.  University of Toronto Press, 2001.  ISBN 0802082955, 9780802082954

Norton, William.  Human Geography Sixth Edition.  Oxford University Press.  ISBN 978-0-19-542511-6.  2007.

Pohorecky, Zenon.  Saskatchewan People A brief illustrated guide to their Ethnocultures.  Second Enlarged Edition.  1977 Saskatoon.  Saskatchewan Association on Human Rights, Canadian Department of the Secretary of State, and the Saskatchewan Department of Culture and Youth.

Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan.  Collection Name Saskatchewan Historical Society.  Collection Call Number SHS121 Description of Item Ranching Clippings File 1838-1945

Richards, J.H. and K.I. Fung.  Group Settlements.  Atlas of Saskatchewan.  University of Saskatchewan.  Modern Press. Saskatoon. Page 13. 1969.

Wiebe, Rudy.  Extraordinary Canadians: Big Bear.  Penguin Canada.  2008  ISSN 0143172700, 9780143172703 digitized online by Google Books

Clarification Note:  Avery, Cheryl and Stan Hanson state that in the Cypress Hills Massacre, “A group of American wolf hunters raided an Indian encampment near Battle River.  They murdered about twenty, wounded twice that many and drove the others off.” Wikipediastates that “The number of casualties differs from accounts but the number of Assiniboine deaths was higher than twenty.”  Bill Graveland of the Canadian Press reports, “A misunderstanding over missing horses, fuelled by alcohol, led to the bloody slaughter. When the dust settled, at least 23 native people — men, women and children — were killed along with one of the wolfers.”  “Fuelled by illicit liquor, tempers flared, and, in the ensuing debacle, some 20 to 30 Assiniboine people were murdered” states Canadian History.ca  Rudy Wiebe puts it forward, “May 1873, when six American whisky louts in the Cypress Hills massacred forty drunken Assiniboine and violated both women and children.  Only then did Macdonald legislate the North West Mounted Police into existence.”  Another variation by Cypress Country Celebrating our History  reports “Early  Spring  1873  saw  the  Cypress  Hills  massacre  where  between  20  –  60 Assiniboine were killed, including some women and children.”  Pohorecky page 48 recounts that “80 peaceful Assinboine are killed by “wolfers” from Fort Benton at Cypress Hills Massacre.”

Note The new provincial Saskatchewan Region Gen Web is online at https://saskgenweb.site123.me the original Saskatchewan Region Gen Web site is under maintenance by Ancestry/Rootsweb.com. Check periodically for progress on the historical site waiting http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cansk in the meanwhile please check out https://saskgenweb.site123.me/

The new Swift Current Region Gen Web is online at https://swiftcurrentgenweb.site123.me/ while the original Swift Current Region Gen Web site is under maintenance by Ancestry/Rootsweb.com. Check periodically for progress on the historical site http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~skswiftc While waiting please check out https://swiftcurrentgenweb.site123.me/

Maybe the Ghosts Will Live Again!

25 Feb

Second Spring

Maybe the Ghosts Will Live Again!

Try out Saskatchewan‘s newest Sunday afternoon tourism trend. Discover a part of Saskatchewan’s history and seek out an abandoned ghost town. Walk down main street of our pioneer’s community and imagine what life was like a century ago.

Why did the settlers arrive to settle here in this particular location? What was the community like, and how large did it get? How many children attended the one room school house, and how far did they travel? Did the community main street once boast a store, church, hotel and elevator? What were the stories behind the communities who are only remembered by their cemeteries? Were there once barn dances and Christmas socials at the schoolhouse? What occurred to cause the abandonment of the buildings at this site? What are the real life stories behind the ghost towns?

According to the Saskatchewan Atlas edited by J.H. Richards and K.I. Fung, they used the terms unincorporated hamlets and settlements in Saskatchewan. A settlement may disperse over a greater area than a hamlet, and a locality may refer to a settlement without post office or community.

Whereas, the Atlas of Saskatchewan Celebrating the Millenium Edition defines various unincorporated places in Saskatchewan. A hamlet has a population less than 100 persons, a locality has less than ten residents. A post office is defined by a rural post office site, and a railway point may be a siding or a junction along a rail line. An organised hamlet also has a population less than 100, however would have a chairman, members, and advisors who act for the community in a similar capacity to the role of a mayor or councillor in a city but on a smaller scale. A resort village is also served by a mayor, councillor and administrator similar to a town or village.

Both books define a locality as former communities which may only exist in historical documents, post cards, maps or the designated place, and these placenames were enumerated during census years as a part of the Rural Municipality (RM) rather than as an individual entity or locality.

A locality, or designated place without residents but with visible remains of civilization may, in fact, fit a definition of a “ghost town. Wikipedia goes further, “A ghost town is a town that has been abandoned, usually because the economic activity that supported it has failed or because of natural or human-caused disasters such as war.”

In Saskatchewan a community reaches city status with a population over 5,000; may incorporate as a town with a population over 500, and reaches town status with a population over 100.

Along the highways and roadsides of Saskatchewan still stand deserted homes, schools, businesses and churches of communities once bustling with hope and optimism of new dryland agriculture methods. The depression years coupled with the great drought of the dirty thirties saw a huge exodus from the rural settlements searching for economic prosperity in the cities. Especially hard hit was the area of Saskatchewan defined as the Palliser Triangle consisting of areas of badlands, sand dunes and semi-arid soil, and it is here that a span of highway has the moniker now of Ghost Town Trail, Saskatchewan.

Along with the abandoned buildings are the tales of ghosts, haunting figures and eerie sounds. One of the more famous tales in Saskatchewan is of the ghost train traveling near St. Louis, Saskatchewan. A devastating train derailment occurred as well as a fatal accident which laid claim to a pioneering family.

The textures and character of the abandoned buildings have spawned a cult of photographers roaming the countryside to historic ghost towns. The techniques vary from capturing the perfect sunset or sunrise shot, capturing a ghost town at night with innovative light painting techniques or perhaps a ghost town capture offers an opportunity to use high dynamic range HDR photography. Some photography excursions seek out a focal point such as an historic pool elevator, a heritage train station or rusty car in a cloudy summer landscape, a colourful autumn scene or a seasonal winter setting.

Defined perhaps as Saskatchewan’s current tourism craze, the Saskatchewan Heritage and Folklore Society SHFS, brings history to life. Plaques and points of interest demark heritage stories, historic searches for diamonds and rubies, or may regale how pioneers would move a whole village to be on the tracks if the railway did not go through town. In the roaring twenties Saskatchewan was at its height in terms of population rise. These horse and buggy days saw numerous settlements spring up approximately every five miles alongside the newly laid rail lines.

Besides creative commons sources such as Wikipedia, books have been published about this new tourism attraction of Saskatchewan Ghost Towns in Saskatchewan, Including: Armley, Saskatchewan, Cactus Lake, Saskatchewan, Island Falls, Saskatchewan, Zichydorf, Saskatchewan, the Fren, Ghost Town Stories of the Red Coat Trail: From Renegade to Ruin on the Canadian Prairies , Canada Ghost Town Introduction: Govenlock, Saskatchewan, List of Ghost Towns in Alberta, Lucky Strike, Alberta, Hallonquist, Saskatchewan , Ghost Towns in Saskatchewan: The French Counts of St Hubert, Saskatchewan, Ghost Stories of Saskatchewan , and More Ghost Stories of Saskatchewan . Films, for example Ghost Town Trail, Saskatchewan and documentaries on television have aired.

You may want to join this trend, popping out for a coffee on a lazy Sunday afternoon, traveling down a little used grid road to uncover a bit of Saskatchewan history. Program your GPS, look up a historical map of Saskatchewan, get the lay of the land, and head out. If you find an abandoned building do not trespass or venture forth inside a decaying building. Explore from a safe vantage point from public lands.

Saskatchewan ghost towns, a book researched by Kan Do Wheels and is now online to “tell why a community was born, lived and died”. Frank Moore, the author states that “people are returning to some of these towns and buying salvagable buildings…People are coming to realize the slick, future-shocked city life can’t meet their needs. And so they are looking for an alternative – a place where they can enjoy a sense of community, take charge of their lives, and know harmony with their environment.”

And to echo Moore, “Maybe the ghosts will live again!”

For more information:

Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouse Project

Online Historical Map Digitization Project

Search Saskatchewan Placenames

How do I locate my Ancestors Home Town in Saskatchewan?


Related Posts:

What can be found at the NEW Saskatchewan Provincial Archives website?

The Era of Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouses

Why were Canadian “Last Best West” homesteads created?

•Love and Marriage in Saskatchewan- a comprehensive guide

How did pioneers travel to their prairie homesteads?

Why were Canadian “Last Best West” homesteads created?

•How to locate birth, marriage and death certificates in Saskatchewan, Canada

Are there genealogy sites that can compete with Ancestry.com?


“A man who is not afraid is not aggressive, a man who has no sense of fear of any kind is really a free, a peaceful man.” Jiddu Krishnamurti. All rights reserved. Copyright © Aum Kleem All my images are protected under Canadian and international authors copyright laws and may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without my written explicit permission. Image: Second spring“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~ Albert Camus The images may, in fact, be licensed through Getty images. Peace and love be with you. Namaste.


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