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Coming Home to Saskatchewan

Part Two of Three


By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner
May 2004

The Western Development Museum is a treasure house of artifacts symbolic of the Saskatchewan spirit. History-minded donors who have long since left the province sometimes take the time and trouble to return to the province artifacts which have their roots in Saskatchewan. Some artifacts are returned from neighbouring provinces, others come from more distant places.

This series will feature three 'homecoming' stories. Part One told the story of a quilt made by the Canadian Red Cross during World War Two and its journey across the ocean and back. Part Two, below, highlights the travels of a Depression era saddle and jacket. In Part Three, a hand-built model steam engine will make a return trip to Saskatchewan after many years spent in Ontario.

Part Two: William Cowie's Saddle and Jacket

Two artifacts donated by Theresa Cowie of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, tell a very interesting story. Theresa’s husband, William Kirby Cowie grew up near Dundurn, SK. As a 16-year old in 1935, William “hired out” with a team of horses and wagon at threshing time. With his earnings, he bought a saddle at Great West Saddlery in Saskatoon.

Black horse saddle

William’s jacket bought in Prince Albert
WDM photo

William set out on his horse Sparky for Prince Albert. Along the way, he stopped at the homes of several Indian families.

 

William Cowie, age 16, with his new saddle on Sparky,
setting out for Prince Albert, 1935. WDM Archives

When William got to Prince Albert, he bought a handsome moose hide jacket decorated with beadwork at the local Hudson’s Bay Company store.

William's jacket

Prince Albert
WDM photo

 

Butchering on the farm; William’s father wearing the jacket, Dundurn, SK, 1938. WDM Archives

But times were hard in Saskatchewan during the 1930s.

William left the farm in 1937 for California. His parents sold their farm in 1940 and also headed for the United States. Many of their possessions were sold at auction, but William could not part with his saddle and jacket. His mother kept them until he retired from the United States Marine Corps in 1959 and moved to a cattle ranch in Arkansas. After William’s death, his widow decided the jacket and saddle “needed a home somewhere in Canada where he was born January 16, 1919 in Dundurn. The museum was the logical place...”

Check out Part One and Part Three to read more 'coming home' stories.


You might also like:

- "Ahead of its Time: Minneapolis-Moline UDLX Comfortractor" by Collections Curator Ruth Bitner

- About the WDM Collection

- How to donate an artifact