Back: Russell Swift, “Silver” Sylvester Barrie. Seated: Mac Esplin, Kerby Claggett.
WHY DID THEY COME?
160 Acresfor only $10 but youhad to build your own house
EVERY SETTLERHAD THEIR OWN PATH; THEIR OWNDISTINCTIVESTORY
He left with $100
It was minus 62’
Moving from Scotland
Alone in a boxcar
MEET THE “FOUNDING FATHER”OF MELFORTAND MELFORT’S “PIONEER PREACHER”
A Fur Trader first
A sod roofed shanty
His ship wrecked, 300 yds from shore
AND THERE WAS ALWAYSTIME FOR FUNat the rinkat the diamondon the crib boardat the Christmas Concert
THE BENNETT HOMEIS A ‘MUST’ SEEAT THE MUSEUM
One of the largest homes in the area made it a location for many different community events such as church services, socials, and various meetings
Why Did They ComeIn an effort to secure the west, the Canadian government ran campaigns in the 19th and 20th century to populate the sparsely filled areas that are now the Prairie provinces. Various pamphlets were put into circulation around the world advertising the Carrot River Valley's rich soil, abundance of land, fresh flowing water and lumber. If a homesteader was willing to follow the strict guidelines the government had in place, they would be given 160 acres for only $10. However, to qualify they had to build a house, cultivate at least 40 acres of land, and live on the property for 6 months every year. If all the stipulations were met, at the end of 3 years the homesteader would be given the patent for their property.The first homestead houses in the Melfort area were often small log buildings. Most homes were plastered and white washed on the inside but the exterior was left rough. To make the buildings weather tight, the cracks were chinked with mud mixed with dry hay or plaster. Some houses had sod roofs and packed earth floors for the first few years before homesteaders could make more permanent floors and roofs of wood.
James and Sarah CameronJames Cameron left Lucknow Ontario in 1881 with a team of horses, $100.00, and the blessings of his parents to settle in North Dakota, where he met Sarah Vaughn. He and Sarah married in 1888 and had 2 children.The Cameron family moved after hearing about rich Canadian land and left for Prince Albert in 1891. For their first winter the Camerons shared a house with the Aikenheads, but once spring arrived the family built their homestead the "Cameron Quarter".James and Sarah greatly respected the Aboriginals in the area and had many dealings with them. In order to clear their land the Camerons hired Aboriginal people who would camp on the farm while working. Many times Sarah Cameron would be startled to find a worker standing behind her in the kitchen patiently waiting for some milk or meat.After 15 years of farming, the family decided to move into Melfort where James opened a real estate office.
Peter AikenheadAccording to Peter Aikenhead’s diary, in 1892 he read "pamphlets from the North-West" while living in South Dakota. Curiosity peaked; he left South Dakota to explore the area he had only read about. That October, he moved his wife and nine children north. The Aikenhead’s first winter must have been hard with the temperature dropping as cold as 62 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit). Between the cold and the seclusion of a sparsely populated area, the Aikenheads must have been glad to spend the winter in a house near Prince Albert with the Camerons.Peter Aikenhead chose his homestead the next summer, not knowing that the town of Melfort would cover the homestead a few years later. Many months were required for the Aikenheads to build their homes, which they did with the help of neighbors. Displaying pioneer determination the Aikenheads continued on farming in 1894 when a devastating fire east of Flett's Springs spread west to burn 130 loads of Aikenhead's hay.
Robert and William Wood(William Wood sitting by wheel. Robert Wood center, holding hat)Brothers, Robert and William Wood moved from Dundee, Scotland to Prince Albert in 1892 before traveling to the Pleasant Valley settlement.Robert led a busy life, he was among the first to break land in the Pleasant Valley, taught at the Rothwell School in 1898, and then in 1906 he partnered with Reginald Beatty in a Real Estate and Insurance business. He also found time to marry Ivy Fox and had three children.Older brother William was also an active man. When he first arrived in the area he homesteaded with Peter Stewart. He also became very involved in local business, he operated a grocery and general store, became manager of the Fraser Stores at Melfort and Pathlow, and later joined the staff of the Melfort Grain Growers' store. In 1902, he married Esther Steven Grainger and had two daughters; Jean Golder and Edna Mae. Mae was the first baby born in the Lady Minto Hospital in Melfort.
McAusland FamilyIn the spring of 1892, W.C. McAusland left Sarnia, Ontario to "go west." After arriving in Prince Albert that summer, he worked for J.M. Campbell in Flett's Springs before taking his own homestead.The rest of the McAusland family slowly followed to the area. That fall, his son Bill and stepson Jack Taylor brought out a train carload of horses and settlers' effects. In November, his wife Frances and the younger children arrived after a long and difficult journey by rail, delayed by snow. The youngest son Crawford, then fifteen, came the following spring, traveling alone in the boxcar with livestock.Creating a homestead was difficult because all timber had to be collected from Star City to build the McAusland house and a granary. In 1895, a small building with a windmill was built to house a wind-powered grain grinder to grind grain for their cattle and the settlement.With the nearest doctor in Prince Albert, Frances McAusland was kept busy as a midwife and nurse. When her skills were called upon, she took food for the family, clean sheets, warm blankets, and her herbs. After Dr. Shadd arrived, her son Bill would be sent on horseback to fetch the doctor to assist the family in need.In 1898, W.C. McAusland left for the Klondike in search of gold. He and several others decided to travel through northern Saskatchewan to the Klondike, facing many hardships. Once arriving in the Yukon W.C. McAusland was presumed lost, until one day, he came walking across the McAusland farm yard. He claimed that there was more gold in the richness of the black loam in the Carrot River Valley than in the Yukon.
Mary and Reginald BeattyReginald Beatty is often called the “founding father” of Melfort. Beatty started west from Ontario in 1872 as part of a survey team, and then as a clerk with the Hudson Bay Company.As a fur trader in the Northwest Territories (later Saskatchewan), he befriended many Indigenous people and learnt fur trapping and the Cree language. Beatty’s attitude and willingness to learn earned him the respect and trust of many Indigenous people and received the name O-ge-mas-es (Little Clerk) from Chief Kinistin because of his size and age.Life was difficult in the early years for the Beattys (Reginald, Mary, and their children) when they settled on the banks of Stoney Creek (later Melfort). By late summer of 1884 with the help of Reginald’s brother Fred, they had built a two-story house, small barn, shed, and acquired some livestock They also managed to break a fireguard, a plot of 6 and ½ acres, and a vegetable patch.In April 1885 the fear of Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont’s uprising led Beatty to move his family and livestock closer to Fort a la Corne for safety. During the uprising, Beatty acted as liaison with the Aboriginals, and carried dispatches and inventory abandoned by the postmaster. On May 13 the Beatty family returned home to find it untouched except for some moccasin tracks in the house.For nine years, the Beatty home stood alone in the empty prairies, the only visitors local Aboriginal friends and the occasional traveler. Their isolation ended in 1891 when word-of-mouth about Stoney Creek's ideal location brought more homesteaders.
“Losing All Grain To Fire” - The Hiram Rush FamilyHiram Benjamin Rush and his family moved to the Melfort area from South Dakota in the summer of 1893, after losing all their grain in a fire. Hiram came by horse and wagon, bringing all of their belongings to the homestead he had filed for on a previous trip, while the rest of the family arrived by train. This homestead originally consisted of a sod roofed one-room shanty.Rush’s skills as a building contractor were in high demand building homes, hotels, and business for settlers in Melfort. He built the first building in Melfort on the new town site in 1902 for Ed Crawford on Main Street. By the time of his death he had built at least half of the town.Hiram suffered a stroke a few years before his death and moved to the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, in an attempt to regain his health. He returned to Melfort in 1923 to a farm north of the town, where he had built a house and resided there with his wife until he passed away on March 8th, 1924 at the age of 68.
Rev. Canon Thomas ClarkeRev. Canon Thomas Clarke was the first Anglican missionary in Northeast Saskatchewan, and Melfort's "pioneer preacher." Born in Devonshire, England, Clarke was 21 years old when he offered his services to the Church Missionary Society for Foreign Mission work in 1875.In 1877, an appeal was received for a young, practical man to open a mission among the Cree people in Saskatchewan. On May 9 of that year, Clarke set sail for Saskatchewan on the Dakota. During the first night, the passengers were startled from sleep by a crash, violent shuddering, and the sound of rushing water. Passengers rushed on deck to find the ship had crashed. The ship was only three hundred yards away from shore.After landing in New York and taking the train to Winnipeg, Clarke wrote about his 600 mile trip after the train; "Even under ordinary circumstances, without the flooded streams [and] sticky mud left by the late rains, the journey was considered an arduous one, involving a great amount of labor and fatigue; but to a young Englishman, to whom everything was new and strange, and even the worst inconvenience and annoyances appeared in a comic light, the trip proved very enjoyable."Four months after leaving England, Clarke and his party reached the Village of Battleford where he was in charge of The Mission in the Eagle Hills. Here he began his work with the Cree and became the principal of the Indian Industrial School. Clarke’s tenure in Saskatchewan became even more of an adventure when in 1885 he became an eye witness to the Riel Rebellion and was nearly killed by the rebels.In 1901, the family moved into Prince Albert when Clarke was offered a position of "traveling missionary" in the Carrot River Valley. Holding services for everyone in the 6,000 square mile area was difficult without a church, rectory, or mission building. Nine places were selected for services, but it still took three weeks to visit them all. Because of this, he secured three lots in Melfort and began to build the mission house, the first home built in Melfort.
Social LifeSpecial EventsDespite the isolation of the early years, pioneers found many activities to partake in during their spare time. They would have whist, cribbage, checkers, and chess tournaments during the long winter evenings. School Christmas concerts were always important events. In the spring time, settlers got together and joined for various "Bees." The summer months brought berry picking, picnics, horseshoes, and visiting neighbors. The main social attractions in the early days were picnics, plays and dances. The Melinda School and the Beatty family would hold dances to which settlers from all over the district would attend. The Spence home would often ring out with the laughter of a community social. Other families would sing and play the organ or violin. The Wood, Wild, and Jameson homes were popular places to go for those who appreciated this kind of entertainment.One unique special event held in Melfort were cinematography shows. In 1908, Professor Laing gave his first show in the Ozark Hotel. Many came out to watch motion pictures about fox hunts, 60 mile an hour trains, storms at sea, and the most popular, The Night- The Man Hunt.Summer SportsThe town of Melfort could boast of a golf course as early as 1919. To this day, the course attracts golfers from around Saskatchewan and Canada.The first recorded baseball game in the Melfort district was in May of 1894, when Melfort lost to Carrot River. When the Melfort Baseball Club organized in April of 1908, they decided to write to Kinistino, Birch Hills and Prince Albert about forming a baseball league. The next month, the Northern Saskatchewan Baseball League was created. Prince Albert, Kinistino and Melfort were the towns involved.Winter SportsMelfort has been producing top-notch curlers since the early 1900's. In 1904, the first sheet of ice was made for private use in Melfort. At a meeting in the Greenwood and Brown office, December of 1908, the Melfort Curling Club was organized. There were 30 names given for membership at the meeting. By the next winter, two rinks had been built and curling had become even more popular.Hockey has always been a famous sport in Canada and this was no different than in Melfort. The Melfort Juniors met in November of 1908, and organized a Junior Hockey Club called "The Melfort Whites". Today Melfort is home to the Melfort Mustangs.
The Bennett FamilyAlexander Bennett, like many young men in the late 1800s moved west from Ontario. While working as a farm hand in Manitoba, he heard about cheap CNR land further west. It was the chance to have his own homestead that brought him to this area in 1902.Alexander had to work hard to prepare the homestead so that when his wife Mary Jane and their children arrived in June 1903, they had a home to live in. As the Bennett Family grew, so did the Bennett Homestead. The homestead grew to include a log barn, blacksmith shop, icehouse, milk house, combined hen and calf house, and a pig pen.Although not a large house by modern standards, the Bennett home was the largest building in the area when it was constructed. Because of this, the house was the location for many different community events such as church services, socials, and various meetings.When visiting the Bennett House in the Pioneer Village, imagine what it must have been like for the family. Would you have liked the homesteader life?
THE MELFORT & DISTRICT MUSEUMhas paid special attention to the early settlers. The question may be asked, “Why did they come?”
If a homesteader followed the strict guidelines they would be given 160 acres for only $10