Celebrating 100 Years
By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner
Boomtime in the Last Best West
Saskatchewan’s growth between 1905 and 1915 was astounding. Only 195,000
people called the province home in 1905. During the next decade,
villages popped up seemingly overnight along a web of railway lines in
southern Saskatchewan. By 1915, the population topped a half million.
Regina’s Daily Province newspaper reported on April 6, 1911:
Towns Will Grow Up Like Mushrooms
One hundred and seventy new towns will be born in western Canada this year. This will be an advance of practically one in every two days...
On April 8, 1911, the same paper reported:
...Figures compiled ...by the department of immigration at Winnipeg show that for the past four weeks, there have arrived in that city each day including Sundays, over 1000 settlers for the West....In addition there have been on average 800 settlers per day passing through Portal on the way to the new lands of the western provinces... This makes a record 42,000 settlers for the four weeks...
Immigration in the pre-First World War years peaked in the fiscal year 1912-1913 when 402,432 immigrants arrived in Canada. The outbreak of war in 1914 ended the steady stream of people to the province in this first great wave of immigration.
Immigrants from Russia heading for the homestead, c. 1905
WDM photo, 5-A-94
A Different World
One hundred years later, Saskatchewan is a much different place. Those
who lived here back then might wonder what happened to so many farms,
perhaps one on every quarter-section, that dotted the prairies. Why is
the plaintive sound of a steam locomotive whistle no longer heard? Where
are the dozens of villages once strewn along the railway lines? Where
are the hundreds of grain elevators that once lined the tracks?
Pioneer homesteaders would marvel at today’s roads, open in all seasons, travelled by vehicles that did not need cranking to start. They might wonder why so many people have moved to the cities. They would stand in awe at the sight of jets streaking overhead. No doubt they could not begin to imagine what a smart phone can do.
Dozens of Anniversaries
In 2005, the province marked its centennial with festivities and fireworks, pancake breakfasts and parades. Over the next few years, dozens of communities, large and small, called people home to celebrate their 100th anniversaries. In 2012, Blaine Lake unveiled a bronze sculpture, Denholm and Macrorie held homecoming reunions, Ogema christened its Southern Prairie Railway, and Waldheim planted flowers and entertained young and old under a big top tent. People gathered to remember bygones and to visit with friends old and new.
Unveiling ceremony, wheat stook sculpture, Blaine Lake, 2012
R. Bitner photo
Former railway station, now the town’s library and
museum, Waldheim, 2012
R. Bitner photo
Centennial schedule of events, Waldheim, 2012
R. Bitner photo
Who’s Celebrating 100 in 2013?
A host of Saskatchewan communities are marking their 100th anniversaries in 2013. In June, there was Dodsland, Hafford, Lafleche and Leader. The people of Abbey, Coleville, Hazenmore, Marysburg, and Shaunavon have July dates circled on their calendars. In August it’s Bredenbury and Radisson’s turn. North Battleford and Weyburn are celebrating 100 years as cities. For hometown hospitality, why not drop in to share in one of these celebrations? Check Tourism Saskatchewan’s website www.sasktourism.com for details.
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