Our History and Heritage

Our History and Heritage


Firsts in what is now Saskatchewan

Historians love to debate what came first. Firsts are notoriously difficult to verify, but here’s what we found:

Henry Kelsey was the first white man to enter what is now Saskatchewan, in 1691. 

In 1739, Brothers François and Louis-Joseph de La Vérendrye were the first Europeans to cross the northern prairies and reach the Rocky Mountains. 

It is believed the first wheat planted here was in the 1750s, at Fort a La Corne in the Carrot River Valley.

The first permanent white settlement was at Cumberland House in 1774.

St. John the Baptist church, established at Ile a la Crosse in 1846, was the first Catholic church, and Holy Trinity was the first Anglican church, built at Stanley Mission, La Ronge, in 1853.

The first telegraph office in the then NWT was erected in 1878 at Humboldt (since the railroad line was expected to go along the more northerly Yellowhead route to Edmonton).

In August 1878, the Saskatchewan Herald, first newspaper in the territories, was founded at Battleford by Patrick Gammie Laurie. 

The first lieutenant governor was A.E. Forget, and Walter Scott was the first premier, 1905.

It was claimed that Gerald Spring Rice of Regina brought in the province’s first “horseless carriage”, a noisy, unpredictable novelty, but the author didn’t say when or what. The first auto in Saskatoon might have been one brought by A.J.E. Sumner in 1903.

1911: Regina and Moose Jaw got electric street railway systems. In 1913 Saskatoon did too.

In April 1920 Roland Groome became Canada’s first licensed commercial pilot and aviation engineer. In World War I he served with Britain’s Royal Flying Corps as a flying instructor.

Regina’s first radio station was CKCK, which first broadcast in Regina, July 1922. Saskatoon’s was CFQC, established in 1923. 

The first Rhodes Scholar in Sskatchewan is said to be Austen Bothwell, who led in formering a branch of the Canadian authors Association in 1925.

In 1954 the first major oilfields were discovered in the southwest, and the first television broadcasts hit the airwaves, from CKCK Regina and CFQC Saskatoon.

Ladies First

Trailblazers other than politicians 

Nellie Carson of Saskatoon was said to be the first woman pilot in Saskatchewan, the ninth in Canada. On June 8, 1931 she set a record for altitude gained by a woman — around 16,000 feet.

Lydia Gruchy was the first woman ordained as a United Church minister in the province, in 1916. She was also the first woman in Canada to be awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity, in 1953.

The book Prairie Pot-pourri by pioneering journalist Kate Simpson Hayes was said to be the first “regional fiction” book published in the province. 

First female chief of a First Nation was Alphonsine Mary Lafond, who also chaired the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations senate.

Ethel MacLachlan of Regina was the first juvenile court judge and first female judge in the province, even though she was a teacher, not a lawyer.

Nan McKay graduated from the U of S in 1915, first Metis and Aboriginal woman to do so. 

Delia Opekekow became the first Aboriginal lawyer in Saskatchewan and Ontario. She graduated from Osgoode Hall, Cambridge and Harvard, and specialized in treaty rights.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond of the Muskeg first Nation was the first Aboriginal judge in Saskatchewan. 

[Hayes: Drake, Regina: The Queen City, 90. Miller: Green & White, fall 2004, 15-17. McLachlan: Waiser, Saskatchewan: A New History, 240]


Important mileposts in our history

1670: Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) was formed to purchase and market Canada’s immense riches in fur. 

1821: The HBC and North-West Company merged.

1869: The HBC signed over Rupert’s Land to the Dominion of Canada. 

1870: North-West Territories were transferred to Canada, and the first lieutenant governor appointed. 

1874: The newly-minted North West Mounted Police marched west. Its first posts in what is now Saskatchewan were at Fort Pelly, and later Fort Walsh.

1874: Fort Livingstone became the temporary provincial capital until 1876. The international boundary was being surveyed.

1877: The NWT capital was transferred to Battleford, and Sitting Bull joined some 5,000 Dakota Sioux who had fled to Wood Mountain after the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

1882: The NWT were divided into four districts: Assiniboia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Athabasca.  

July 1882: The new CPR line under construction reached Moosomin, where John Lake and his party landed on their way to found the city of Saskatoon. Moose Jaw was founded that year too.

1883: The NWT legislative building was erected at Regina. The CPR line crossed Assiniboia and reached Calgary.

1883: The CPR chose the site for Moose Jaw as a railway depot, and built facilities there.  It reached Regina November 7. 

1885: North-West Resistance (Riel Rebellion) ended with the hanging of Louis Riel and several Indigenous men. Most of the latter did not have legal counsel. 

1905: The new province of Saskatchewan was born. 

1911: Saskatchewan had the third largest provincial population. 

October 12, 1916:  Female British subjects got the vote in provincial and municipal elections. 

December 31, 1916: Prohibition was enacted.

1917: Saskatchewan Provincial Police was formed. 

1940: British Commonwealth Air Training Plan bases were set up to train Commonwealth air crew.

1944: In a landslide election, Tommy Douglas’s Co-operative Commonwealth Foundation (CCF) assumed the reins of provincial government, becoming the first social democratic government on the continent. The CCF later became the NDP.

1946: Saskatchewan Transportation Company was formed, a government-owned bus company. It was axed in 2017.

1947: A publicly-funded hospitalization plan was implemented in Saskatchewan, the first province to introduce such a program, which was later copied by the rest of the country..

1948: The Saskatchewan Arts Board was founded, the first in North America. It propelled the advance of art, literature and other creative activities in the province.

1949: The process of rural electrification began.

1951: The new Cobalt-60 bomb at the U of S became a high-tech treatment for cancer tumours.

1952: An outbreak of polio attacked masses of Saskatchewan people, leaving many crippled for life. Eldorado Mining and Refining Limited began mining uranium in northern Saskatchewan.

1954: Television arrived like a meteor in the province, with CFQC and CKCK the first to broadcast in the new medium. Saskatoon’s George Genereux won an Olympic medal for trapshooting at the Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. Golfer Pat Fletcher won the Canadian Open.

1954: “Scramble lights” for pedestrians at important intersections were being tested in Saskatoon. These lights permitted pedestrians to cross the intersection every which way, including kittycorner. They lasted for some decades.

1955: The new University Hospital (now RUH) opened in Saskatoon. The province celebrated its golden jubilee with much fanfare.

1957: The Saskatchewan section of the Trans-Canada highway was completed. Progressive Conservative John Diefenbaker became prime minister.

1959: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip came to Saskatchewan. The South Saskatchewan River Dam project near Elbow was launched, promising life-giving water to much of the arid Palliser Triangle.  

1960: The precious right to vote was finally given to “Treaty Indians.” Western Canada’s first steel mill, IPSCO, was established in Regina.

1962: Medicare was implemented under Premier Woodrow Lloyd. A potash mine at Esterhazy began digging up potash; underground flooding led to an innovation called the Blairmore Ring, which revolutionized potash production.

1963: The first buildings of the new University of Regina campus started to take shape near Wascana Lake.

1964: Electrons first raced through the world’s biggest linear accelerator located at the U of S, an early step on the path toward the Canadian Light Source Synchrotron, which has dazzling benefits for health and other research.

1965: The province rejoiced as the U of S opened the new Western College of Veterinary Medicine. No longer would aspiring vets have to move to Guelph for their training.

1966: Regina’s Globe Theatre was born. The Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the Ottawa Roughriders to win the Grey Cup. They won again in 1989 against the Hamilton Tiger Cats, in 2007 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and in 2013 against the Tiger Cats again.

1967: Canada’s centennial sparked an explosion of activity in the province. The South Saskatchewan River dam project was completed, irrigating a vast swath swath of dryland, and bringing water to southern communities.

1970: Regina’s Saskatchewan Centre of the Arts, now the Connexus Centre, was opened to much fanfare.

1971: The Canada Winter Games took place in Saskatoon, with the ski component held at the man-made “mountain,” Mount Blackstrap.

1972, The Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College was established as the teaching facility of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians.

1974: The government came up with a free dental care plan for children. Regina campus became a separate institution, the University of Regina.

1975: Saskatchewan brought in a prescription drug plan. The Saskatoon Farmers Market was inaugurated.

1976: Sherwood Credit Union in Regina implemented one of our handiest systems – the first automated teller machine in Canada.

1977: Western Canada’s first “research park”, Innovation Place, was inaugurated at the university in Saskatoon.

1981: Saskatoon’s Folkfest was incorporated, and is still a popular annual multi-cultural festival.

1982: The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, comprised of band chiefs, became the first Indigenous legislature.

1983: Our population reached one million.

1984: The government began to subsidize the Crow’s Nest Pass Agreement, first enacted in 1899. When it was axed in1995, gain transport costs soared.

1989: Swift Current Pioneer Co-op lived up to its name and pioneered the handy new debit card.

1990: Ramon Hnatyshyn became Canada’s first Ukrainian governor-general of Canada. He was also a senator.

1991: Saskatchewan’s first Imax theatre opened at the Saskatchewan Science Centre in Regina.

1992: Wanuskewin Heritage Park opened as an interpretive centre just outside Saskatoon. Previously it mostly been the domain of long-ago Indigenous people, and inquisitive archaeologists and anthropologists. The federal and provincial governments and twenty-five First Nations bands signed the long-awaited Treaty Land Entitlement agreement to honour unfulfilled promises.

1994: Remains of “Scotty,” the famous T-Rex dinosaur, were unearthed at Eastend.

1995: Internet service came to Saskatchewan, courtesy of SaskTel.

1997: Former members of the PC and Liberal parties united to form the new Saskatchewan Party.

2002: Catriona LeMay Doan, and Haley Wickenheiser of Shaunavon and her team won Olympic gold at Salt Lake City, along with some hockey players. Wickenheiser and her team won again in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

2004: The revolutionary Canadian Light Source Synchrotron came to fruition on the U of S campus.  Corner Gas, the blockbuster prairie sitcom created by Saskatchewan comic Brent Butt, was launched. It lasted until 2009. It spawned a feature film and an animated version with characters the spitting image of the originals.

2005: Saskatchewan celebrated its centennial .

2007: Saskatoon hosted the Juno Awards. The Remai Art Centre, home of Persephone Theatre, opened. Now it is known as the Remai Modern Art gallery. But Saskatoon came second last of fifteen in a politeness survey conducted by Reader’s Digest.

2008: An American-based company, Site Selection Company, rated Saskatoon as one of the best places to live in Canada.

2012: Regina scored amongst the top five best places to live in Canada, in Moneysense Magazine’s list ranking 190 Canadian cities. But that year Stats Canada said Regina and Saskatoon experienced the country’s highest number of murders.

2016: The Rush, Saskatoon’s pro lacrosse team, won the NLL championship. They did it again in 2018. In August, Clayton Boushie was fatally shot in a farmyard, and the verdict outraged many.  A bus carrying Humboldt Broncos hockey players collided with a transport bus near Armley, Sask., killing sixteen on the bus, and injuring thirteen. It was a national tragedy.

2017: The Moose Jaw Times-Herald announced it would close, after 125 years of publicstion. Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) public bus line closed down, along with many other services, leading to public outrage. StarPhoenix columnist Doug Cuthand won an indigenous media award.

2018: Greyhound Bus Lines, after the closure of STC, also shut down in western Canada – leaving a yawning transportation gap. Our comfortable old department store, Sears Canada, folded. The Saskatchewan Aviation Museum and Learning Centre opened in May near the Saskatoon Airport offering educational classes, exhibition flights, flight simulators and replicas of vintage planes.  

2019: After mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, police addressed a packed house in March at a Regina mosque. In Saskatoon, Muslims and non-Muslims also crowded into a mosque, where dignitaries of all stripes voiced heartfelt sympathy and shock at the atrocity. On July 10, protesters outside the Bessborough Hotel railed about lack of government action to address climate change, while inside the hotel premiers gathered for a historic conference.  

 [Saskatchewan government timeline online; Saskatchewan History Centennial Timeline by Ruth Bittner and Christa Nicholat, WDM, 2005; newspaper accounts. This is a skeleton list only; consult our sources for more landmark events.]

Westward ho!


While most arable land in the province was taken up by individual homesteaders, chartered companies recruited specific kinds of settlers in pursuit of their vision:

The York Farmers Colonization Co. (1882): Toronto-based James Armstrong, managing director, advertised for “experienced and thrifty farmers” from Ontario and other parts of the Dominion, and “first-class tenant farmers from the Old country” to settle in what is now the Yorkton area. 

Cannington Manor Co.(1882): Founded by Englishman Captain Edward M. Pierce, who came to this area when there were already some settlers. He founded a remarkable colony, bringing in scions of wealthy British families to learn to farm. He built a mansion (now gone) and the young patricians enjoyed grand balls, gambling parties, hunting, polo and tennis. Although lackeys did the work, the lifestyle was not sustainable, and most of the bluebloods left for greener pastures.

QuAppelle Valley Farming Co. (1882) Toronto-based, directed by Major W.R. Bell, recruited settlers from eastern Canada and the USA. They ran their farms within a large tract near Indian Head, known as the Bell Farm, in a co-ordinated, factory-like system.

The Temperance Colonization Co. (1882): John N. Lake of Toronto, land commissioner, helped people primarily from Ontario, to settle in the Saskatoon area, to be “forever free of the accursed liquor traffic”.

Primitive Methodist Colonization Co.(1883), Toronto-based, led by Reverend W. Bee, helped adherents of this Wesleyan sect of Methodists from Ontario and Britain to settle in the Pheasant Forks area—north of Wolseley.

Scottish Crofters Resettlement Co. (1882), founded by philanthropist Lady Gordon Cathcart, who resettled poor families of landless share-croppers — then being forced off Scottish estates—in the Wapella area. 

East London Artisans Colonization Co. (1884): Founded by British baroness Burdett-Coutts near Moosomin. As benefactress, the baroness resettled poor, unemployed working-class families from east London. 

Rolanderie Farming and Stock Raising Co.(1885): Dr. R. Meyer of Alsace-Lorraine, a wealthy gentleman with grand ideas about agriculture, settled European nobles, including nine French counts and a Belgian baron, at St. Hubert near Whitewood to carry on their aristocratic way of life.

Saskatchewan Valley Land Co. (1902): Directed by Colonel A. E. Davidson based in Minnesota, the company helped Americans seeking affordable farmland to settle in a tract of land extending from the Craik area to Dundurn. 

The Britannia Co. (1903): Founded by Englishman Reverend Isaac Barr, who settled a multitude of largely middle-class Britons and their families, wishing to “exchange the poverty of England for an estate in Canada”, in what is now the Lloydminster area.  

[Cannington Manor: Beck, Pioneers of Cannington Manor. Temperance Colony: Kerr & Hanson, Saskatoon: the First Half-Century; others: John Archer, Saskatchewan: A History]

Treaty rights

Promises, promises …

Promises (in a nutshell) “the Queen” made in 1876 to the Crees in Treaty Six, in return for surrender of their lands. Other treaties were similar. The trouble was, historians say, the government did not stick to its own promises.

“Reserves for farming lands” up to a square mile for each “Indian” family of five;

Each “Indian” man, woman and child would receive a gift of twelve dollars; 

Schools would be provided if the indigenous people so wished;

No liquor would be allowed on the reserves or sold there;

The “Indians” could hunt and fish anywhere, with certain exceptions;

The government could appropriate sections of the reserves to put up buildings;

A census of “Indians” was to be taken soon after the treaty was concluded, and every year afterwards; 

The Queen would spend $1500 every year for ammunition and twine;

Native families would receive certain agricultural implements and tools (all low-tech), seeds, oxen, cattle and pigs, to encourage them to farm.

Each chief would receive $25 per year and his “head men” would receive $15 each year, and a suit of clothing every three years, plus – on the “closing” of the treaty – a flag, a medal, and a horse, with harness and wagon. 

Indian agents would receive $1,000 each spring to buy provisions for farmers on reserves;

Each Indian agent was to maintain a “medicine chest” (since interpreted as free Medicare) for the First Nations bands. 

[The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West Territories…]

Resistance hotspots

Clash sites in the Northwest Resistance of 1885

Duck Lake – March 26

Battleford – March 30-31

Frog Lake – April 2

Fort Pitt – April 14

Fish Creek – April 24

Cutknife Hill – May 2

Batoche – May 9-12

Frenchman’s Butte – May 28

Steele Narrows – July 2

[Howard, Strange Empire; Historical Atlas of Canada]

A wound that never healed

Why Metis and First Nations were disgruntled about government treatment

illustration of Big Bear
Illustration of Big Bear by Ruth Millar

Lack of government aid to Metis settlers after a series of bad harvests.

The decision to build the CPR railway along a southern route instead of the planned northern route.

Some loss of Metis land titles in Manitoba.

Demand for recognition of Metis land in the Duck Lake area.

Adoption of an American survey system that rejected the Metis’ traditional strips of land extending perpendicular to the river, giving each farmer river frontage.

Primitive and inadequate farming equipment allotted to the Aboriginals under the treaties.

Miserly rations in a time of crisis caused by the disappearance of the buffalo.

Inadequate clothing supplied to the natives.

[Stonechild & Waiser, Loyal Till Death, 59; other sources]

Quirky facts in 1884

Curious things that happened during the Northwest Resistance

Surgeon Major Campbell Mellis Douglas (VC), who missed the steamer at Saskatchewan Landing, just happened to have brought along a folding canoe he invented. Passing the beleaguered Northcote en route, he silently paddled into Saskatoon to take up his medical duties tending the wounded there. 

Among the wounded on the Northcote was Hugh John Macdonald, son of Prime Minister Sir John A.  He was wounded at Fish Creek.

Telegraphy was a boon during the Northwest Resistance, as news reports flew over the wires in Morse code to eastern newspapers. Telegraphers call it the Victorian internet. The telegraph arrived in the battleford area in 1876.

The pilot on the Northcote at Batoche was John Segers, newly returned from a steamer expedition up the Nile in Egypt to rescue General Gordon at Khartoum. (They didn’t make it in time.) At Batoche, Segers lay on the floor of the vulnerable pilot-house to escape whizzing bullets and steered the wheel with his toes, as a crew member shouted directions to him from a lower deck.

William Robinson brought troops on a steamer down Lake Winnipeg to Selkirk at the end of the rebellion. He was another pilot on the abortive Nile expedition. After the 1885 conflict he had a successful business career involving sawmills, lumber and steamboats. 

Colonel Arthur Williams – a nationally prominent figure – was a Member of Parliament for Durham East in Ontario. The Midland Battalion he had assembled in Ontario were devastated when their beloved commander died of typhoid fever on the Northcote, heading homeward to Grand Rapids. 

Materials used to armour the barges that carried troops and supplies included barrels of provisions and sacks of flour. They were dubbed “flourclads” a pun on the word “ironclads,” steamers employed in the American civil war.

Three generals were involved in the 1885 resistance: the overall commander General Middleton, General Thomas Strange, and Major General John W. Laurie, who actually outranked Middleton but agreed to a subordinate position. Middleton received a knighthood and substantial pension for his efforts. 

Ann Flora McKay, daughter of Joe McKay — the farm instructor at the Sweetgrass Reserve who had fled with his family down the river in 1885, married a Mountie named Joe McKay after hostilities were over.

Twins! During officers’ celebrations on board a steamer returning from the rebellion, two officers from different military units met each other and discovered they had the same last name. Incredibly, they realized they were twin brothers separated as children.

Imasees, warrior son of Big Bear, participated in the murders at Frog Lake, but he survived being hanged with other perpetrators by fleeing to Montana. A year later he went to Ottawa dressed like a chief, and far from being punished as a leading rebel, was greeted with fanfare. Go figure. 

[Macdonald, Saskatchewan Herald, 11 May 1885. Segers: Saskatchewan Herald 18 May 1885 & other sources. telegraphy: McCourt, Saskatchewan, 149. Twin soldiers, Sask. History autumn 1955, 277. Imasees: Cameron, Blood Red the Sun]

Wet or dry

The Prohibition saga in Saskatchewan

1908: The provincial government adopted the Liquor Licencing Act, which regulated the days and hours when licenced bars and clubs could sell booze. It also let adult males vote by plebiscite whether to allow such outlets in their communities.

1911-14: Ban the Bar crusades led by activist groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union showed growing support for prohibition of liquor sales across the province.

1915: In the name of patriotism during the Great War, the legislature closed all private bars and clubs (by axing their licences) and set up government-run, off-sale liquor stores.

1916: A wartime plebiscite calling for prohibition, including the shut-down of   government liquor stores, won majority support – much of it from women exercising their hard-won franchise.

1917: The feds issued an order-in-council under the War Measures Act, banning the sale of made-in-Saskatchewan liquor to other provinces and the USA.

1919: Federal wartime regulations were cut at war’s end, and provinces could again choose whether to be “wet” or “dry.”

1920: In a plebiscite, most Saskie voters again voted to remain dry.

1921: The provincial government adopted the Saskatchewan Temperance Act banning the production or sale of alcohol — except for medical, scientific or religious purposes.

1922-23: Police reports disclosed more stills producing taboo liquor in our province than anywhere else in the country, while bootlegging and rum-running were soaring.

1924: In another plebiscite, most voters approved a moderate wet option.

1925: The temperance act was axed, and liquor was again peddled through government-run stores. Licenced beer parlors were banned for another decade.

[Archer Saskatchewan: A History; Ken Dahl’s 1996 master’s thesis.]

Unsung heroes

Noteworthy characters in our history, whether you agree or not!

Inspector Walsh of the NWMP fed Sitting Bull and his starving Sioux who had fled canada after their triumph at the battle of the Little Big Horn. After most of the buffalo were slaughtered, food was scarce. Many of his men did likewise, from their own rations.

Cree Chief Big Bear, who refused to sign treaties sanctioning the transfer of their lands to the Crown, relegating them to reserves. He was holding out to see how treaty bands fared under the treaties, but was punished for his stand. In the end, starvation among his people forced him to capitulate. 

John W. Foster of Ottawa, born in Abernethy, was recognized by the Chilean government for his humanitarian activism that helped thousands of Chileans fleeing the Pinochet dictatorship. With lobby groups in Toronto he pushed for federal support for the refugees to help them settle in Canada. At least 7,000 Chilean refugees came to Canada, many to Saskatchewan.

Honore Jaxon, a.k.a william Jackson, Riel's secretary
Honore Jaxon, a.k.a William Jackson, Louis Riel’s secreatry.
Photo from University of Saskatcheewan Archives
& Special Collections.

The learned Englishman Honorέ Jaxon (William Jackson) sided with the Metis in the North-West Resistance; in fact, he was Riel’s secretary. For the rest of his life he saved his irreplaceable papers about the resistance, until as a penniless old man living in New York he was ejected from rented rooms, and his cache of historic papers went to the city dump.

During the terrible Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918-19, Walter Murray, president of the U of S, imposed a quarantine on campus, sealing it off from the world and thus saving thousands of lives: only one person on campus died from the flu.

Father Claffey, an Irish priest, was in Rome during Nazi occupation in World War II. With a secret rescue group, he smuggled Allied fugitives into the Vatican or safe houses. That story was told in a book, The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican, and a movie, The Scarlet and the Black, starring Gregory Peck. Father Claffey ended his days in a hostel at St. Paul’s Hospital, Saskatoon.

Peter Dmytruk, born in Radisson, was an RCAF flight sergeant in World War II. He was serving as rear gunner when his Lancaster bomber was shot down over France, but he survived.  He worked with the French Resistance before being captured and executed by the Nazis. The French awarded him a posthumous Croix de Guerre, a street in a French town was named in his honour, and a monument was erected at the spot where he died.

Joan Bamford Fletcher

Joan Bamford Fletcher of Regina, a member of the British FANY, was appointed by Supreme Allied Commander Mountbatten to lead some two thousand women and children out of a Japanese prison camp through the jungles of Sumatra, at the close of World War II.

Bud Pelton of Bushell rescued pilot Jimmy Price and his passengers after they crashed on the way to Uranium City in 1953. After he brought them in a dogsled to safety at Bushell, they were flown to Edmonton for hospital care. They lost limbs to frostbite but survived.

[Claffey: Millar, Saskatchewan Heroes & Rogues, 120-131. Ewen: Millar, 86-105; Ewen: China Nurse. Fletcher: Millar, 133-146. Foster: www.uregina (2017); Green & White; spring 2017, 40. Pelton: McIntyre, Uranium City: The Last Boom Town, 42-45] 

Sworn to secrecy

Resistance fighters, intelligence agents and spies 

Several Saskies worked for a British secret agency, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), which operated in Europe and the Far East during WWII. Others worked in North America for the British Security Coordination (BSC) run by Sir William Stephenson (Intrepid) whom Churchill and Roosevelt appointed to coordinate British wartime intelligence in the U.S. 

One SOE agent was Jacques Taschereau, born in Humboldt. In 1944 he worked with the French Resistance, sabotaging trains, blowing up factories, and ambushing Nazi soldiers. In 1945 he was transferred to the Far East where he trained in jungle warfare at the SOE’s Eastern Warfare School. He parachuted into Burma with six other Canadians who worked with guerrillas to ambush Japanese soldiers crossing the mountains into Siam (Thailand).

Alleyre Sirois of Vonda and Saskatoon was another SOE agent, which recruited him because he spoke French fluently (albeit with a Canadian accent). After training in Whitby, Ontario, he did undercover work and sabotage in France but was betrayed by a stool pigeon. Luckily Sirois escaped to a safe house. On his return, he studied law and became a judge.

George Findlay Andrew, born in China but with roots in England, immigrated to Saskatoon in the 1950s. During WWII he had been SOE spymaster in Chongqing. For complicated reasons, by that time SOE could no longer conduct sabotage in China, so his people chiefly created false propaganda. But other countries in Asia were part of his mandate, and he dipped his fingers into spy capers in various countries.

Leslie Andrew, later of Saskatoon.

Findlay’s son Leslie Andrew, who immigrated to Saskatoon after World War II, joined the SOE during World War II and was sent to India. It is likely that he trained at the Eastern Warfare School. As a European he could not blend into Asian crowds, but he trained others in espionage skills. On a repatriation ship from Hong Kong he had met and married a Saskatoon nurse who served in various theatres of war. After the war ended they were posted to Africa for a while, but returned to Saskatoon.

Benjamin de Forest Bayly
Benjamin de Forest Bayly was Intrepid’s right-hand man at Camp X near Whitby, Ontario during World War II. – Photo from University of Toronto Archives.

Benjamin De Forest Bayly, who grew up in Moose Jaw, was right hand man to Sir William Stephenson (known as Intrepid). Bayly was wartime Deputy Director of Communications at the international spy school, Camp X, between Whitby and and Oshawa, Ontario. Camp X was the secret Canadian base for Churchill and Roosevelt’s British Security Coordination (BSC) headed by Stephenson. An engineering whiz, Bayly perfected an unbreakable cipher machine, and a system for locating enemy subs. As a young man he might have attended the U of S, but apparently did not graduate from here. Before the war he moved to Toronto to study electrical engineering, and became a professor of engineering at the University of Toronto. In 1955 he resigned from the university to establish Bayly Engineering in Ajax, wherre he also became mayor.

Henry Nuett, the anti-Nazi German who escaped from prison camp in his homeland (chronicled below), was still in danger of being shot when he reached France, for the Resistance thought he was a Gestapo spy.  But he convinced them he was anti-Nazi, and they inveigled him into the Resistance. His skills were prized: he translated German signs, documents and labels, helped identify rocket sites, tracked troop movements, and posed as a Nazi corporal to direct trains in the wrong direction. His basic military training in Germany helped him provide German weapons instruction. Then he worked for British Intelligence in Russia until 1948, but had to stop because the Russians knew he was a spy. After these many thrilling and dangerous wartime experiences he immigrated to Uranium City. Later he became a detective in Edmonton.

Patsey Sullivan grew up in Saskatoon, where her father taught at the first Saskatoon incarnation of the U of S. After living in Europe, she returned to study at the U of S about 1917.  In 1941 she began working for the spy chief Intrepid at the BSC offices in New York.

Conrad O’Brien-ffrench (not a typo!) has been dubbed Saskatchewan’s James Bond. He was born an aristocrat in England, but he came to Canada where he joined the RNWMP and served at Maple Creek around 1910–12. Then he served in WWI, and dabbled in spy capers as a prisoner of war. Later he joined the British secret service as Agent Z3. While spying on the Nazis he met author Ian Fleming, leading to claims he inspired the Bond character.

On the home front, Emma Woikin was a Doukhobor farm woman who went to Ottawa and inadvertently, because of her Russian connections, became entangled in the Igor Gouzenko espionage trials that helped launch the Cold War. On her release from prison, she returned and worked in a Saskatoon law firm.

[Andrew: Findlay Andrew papers. Bayly: Ken Smith, “Mayor Pat Bayly”, municipal document, town of Ajax, 2001; Stafford, Camp X, and other documents. Dmytruk: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Nuett: Harris & Taylor, Escape to Honor. O’Brien-ffrench: Saskatchewan History spring/summer 2013. Sullivan: Interview. Syrois: Green & White fall 2005. Taschereau: McLaren; cbc.ca/xcompany. Woikin: June Callwood, Emma]

Escapers and evaders

Saskies who escaped captivity (though some were recaptured)

During the Cypress Hills massacre, wolfers seized five native women and violated them – except for one, a teenager. Abe Farwell’s Indigenous wife grabbed a pistol, stomped over to Solomon’s fort, and demanded they release her.

During the 1885 Resistance Metis farm instructor Joe McKay and family fled from the Sweetgrass Reserve in a small boat with only their clothes, and almost no food. Subsisting in sub-zero weather on spruce gum and grease used for caulking, with their former captors in pursuit, after about three weeks they reached Prince Albert.

In 1885, William Bleasdell Cameron, author of Red Blood the Sun, escaped being killed at the Frog Lake Massacre dressed as a woman, with the help of a Woods Cree, Kinistatin, who smuggled him to the safety of Big Bear’s camp. Kinistatin had worked at the HBC store.

During World War I, Mervyn Simmons (originally from Buchanan, Sask.) was a downed pilot who escaped three times from German-run prison camps, only to be captured by the Kaiser’s army. On his fourth try, he made it across the border to Holland, and home. He narrated his story to Nellie McClung, and she wrote Three Times and Out about his experiences.

During World War II, Henry Beaudry, a grandson of Chief Poundmaker, was captured at Ravenna, Italy and taken to Stalag VIIA. He and a Mongolian from the Russian army escaped enroute to another camp. After the two endured intense cold and near starvation, sympathetic farmers smuggled them to an American base. After the war Beaudry resided on the Mosquito First Nation, where he painted scenes of prison camp conditions. He lived to be ninety-five.

Henry Nuett (born Hans Nutt) was a Social Democrat, German anti-Nazi who was imprisoned in a German concentration camp, Borgermoor-Emsland, where he lived in daily peril. In a breathtaking act of courage he broke free and ran twenty-four miles barefooted, with Nazi guards in pursuit. Ill-clad and half-starved, fording icy ditches and sleeping in haystacks, he threaded his way through Nazi-infested Germany, Holland, and Belgium, constantly in danger of being shot. In France his German accent made him a target, but finally he was accepted by the the French Resistance, and during the Cold War he worked for British Intelligence in the USSR. Later he reportedly worked in Uranium City as a butcher, ending up in Edmonton as a detective.

Three Saskie civilians were interned in Hong Kong, Morris (Two-Gun) Cohen, Gladys Andrew, and Leslie Andrew. Luckily, all of them were later repatriated to Canada aboard the Gripsholm in a prisoner exchange with Japan.

Cecil Merritt, commander of the South Saskatchewan Regiment, was captured at Dieppe with eighty-eight of his men. After leading them across a bridge under siege at Dieppe, he was captured and imprisoned at a camp in Bavaria. He and sixty-four fellow prisoners escaped through a tunnel in June 1943, but were caught. 

Book cover, Escape: A canadian Story.
Barris’s book chronicles the thrilling adventures of Canadians imprisoned in Stalag-Luft III, site of the Hollywood film The Great Escape, which did not mention Canadians. Some Saskatchewan men helped with the tunneling project,
but none of them escaped.

RCAF pilot Ken Woodhouse of Prince Albert leapt out of his damaged Spitfire north of Paris in March 1944, and holed up in a haystack. A French trucker picked him up and took him to the Resistance, who guided him from one safe house to another, supplied him with fake ID, and shepherded him and twenty-six other evaders all the way to Bonaparte Beach, where they were boarded a fast boat to England.

Being part of an escape route like the Comet Line bonded its participants, both evaders and their helpers, for life. Woodhouse was one of four Saskatchewan members of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society, Canadian branch. The others were E.A. Powell of Saskatoon, W.G. Dennstedt of Moosomin, and J.E. Harlton of Riverhurst.

[Andrew family: Findlay andrew papers. Beaudry: North Battleford News-Optimist, 9 Feb. 2016. Cameron: Stonechild and Waiser, Loyal Till Death, 112. Cohen: Millar, Saskatchewan Heroes & Rogues. Farwell’s wife: Savage, A Geography of Blood, 105. McKay family: Tolton, Prairie Warships, 116-122; Nuett:  Collins and Taylor, Escape to Honor, 1985; Frances (Bergles) Daw, former Uranium City resident. Woodhouse: The Evaders, 258-262; Greenfield, The Forgotten;  Lavender and Sheffe, The Evaders,  26, 96-112, 242]

Murphy’s Law

If it could happen, it did

Early in 1904 the roof of a curling rink in Regina came crashing down. Luckily, the curling playoff scheduled for that day had been cancelled

QLLS bridge
The QLLS bridge, also known as the CPR Bridge, collpsed more than once due to the spring ice breakups. Photo LH 871 from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library.

The QLLS bridge in Saskatoon collapsed in 1904 and 1905 under the weight and force of annual ice breakups. The wooden bridge was reconstructed, with the same result, until finally concrete piers were erected. The ice breakup was an annual spectacle, as titanic blocks of ice crashed against each other. That ended when the Gardiner Dam was built. 

Steamboat accident in Saskatoon.
A spectacular steamboat accident in Saskatoon June 8, 1908. Photo PH 89-23-8, from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library.

A famous accident occurred in 1908 when a steamer crashed into the Victoria Bridge in Saskatoon. The wreck of the “City of Medicine Hat” June 7, 1908. was called “the greatest marine disaster in the history of Saskatoon.” The crew managed to scramble to safety, while a herd of cattle crossing the bridge stampeded. The accident heralded the demise of the steamboat era on the Saskatchewan River, because of the river’s shallow waters and shifting sandbars.

Around 1910 there was a Canadian Northern Railway train wreck near Hanley, so memorable a postcard was made of it.

Slumping on the east riverbank has plagued Saskatoon since early days. In 1929, the McCraney Slide along Saskatchewan Crescent wreaked havoc. It happened again in various places in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1990s, and often since 2000.  In 2016 the riverbank near the University Bridge again collapsed, leaving a gaping hole big enough to park a bus. 

People staring at aftermath of streetcar accident in Saskatoon.
Crowds on the riverbank in Saskatoon after a streetcar
tumbled to the ice below in 1922.
Photo LH 996 by Boyles Ltd., from
Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library.

In 1922, No. 4 (Exhibition) streetcar came down the Long Hill and missed a turn onto the Victoria Bridge in Saskatoon on March 3,1922. It plunged down the riverbank and crashed on the ice, but no one was killed.

Bridge collapsing with train on it
Bridge collapsing in Saskatoon in 1912.
Photo LH 2003-1 by Dicker & Dunsford, from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Liibrary.

A Canadian Northern passenger train jumped the tracks when leaving the railway yards in March 1912 and knocked out a span of the railway bridge. The sleeper car Kipling, crashed onto the river ice below and injured thirteen people.

Locomotive N0. 5517 flipped over on its side in the railway yards in Saskatoon in the 1930s. Photo PH 2012-74 and 75 from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library.

In the 1930s, locomotive No. 5617 went off the rails in the railyards of Saskatoon. This crowd attests to the entertainment value of such an incident, even if it was only a tip-over.

Even streetcars went off the rails sometimes. A Mayfair-University streetcar was derailed at Avenue E and 25th Street on February 4, 1947. The car was of a type known as “puddle-jumpers.”

The Duncan Dam and Reservoir was a PFRA project completed in 1942, but ten years later spring runoff was such a threat an emergency spillway had to be built. But they had to scramble to block even that, after a spectacular washout in 1952.

In 1954 planes were zooming around above Moose Jaw. Pilot trainee Thomas Thorrat from Scotland went out for a spin in a Harvard jet, but didn’t see the Trans Canada “North Star” coming his way. Thorrat ploughed into the airliner, it exploded and split in two, and all thirty-five of its passengers perished. The tail of the airliner then crashed into a house below, killing one person, the housecleaner.

Within hours of its opening, the centre span of the newly-built Dyck Memorial Bridge collapsed in September 2018 and fell into the Swan River north of Canora. Luckily no one was on it at the time.

Some accidents are just too horrible to contemplate. See our Sports section for accounts of two major highway accidents involving buses and athletes.

[Memorial Bridge: CBC, Global TV, Regina Leader-Post 18 Sept 2018. Thorratt: Diderick & Waiser, Looking Back, 95-96. Duncan Dam: Prairie Memories, 159]

Wasn’t that a riot?

Though ours is generally a peaceful province with law-abiding residents, there have been mass public disturbances here over the years. 

Regina, May 1, 1931: A May Day parade (spurred by the communist-based Workers Unity League) through Market Square led to a three-hour clash between jobless men in the parade and local residents who objected to red flags marchers carried. Several from each side were injured and some marchers arrested before the conflict ended.

Saskatoon, November 1, 1932: City police and about twenty Mounties dispersed some two hundred unemployed men protesting being sent to the Exhibition grounds relief camp.

Saskatoon, May 8, 1933: A Mountie died after falling off his horse during a ruckus with jobless men in the Exhibition grounds relief camp. He was one of the RCMP officers and city police ordered to remove fifty “troublemakers” from the camp.

Regina, July 1, 1935: In the City Market area pitched battle raged between jobless men from across western Canada taking part in the “On-to-Ottawa” march – versus RCMP officers and city police. A city cop and a protest marcher were killed and about one hundred more rioters from both sides were injured.

Rosetown, July, 1952: At a baseball tournament, a bat-swinging “rhubarb” between two teams led to the Mounties’ holding two players – the instigator who had hidden in a house while an opponent threatened him from outside – in custody overnight. Both left the next day.

Saskatoon, October 23, 1993: Rowdy fans celebrating the Toronto Blue Jays’ win at the World Series spilled onto 8th Street from nearby bars, and were met by city police in riot gear and armed with teargas. Damages to adjacent properties came to thousands of dollars.

Unity, March 31, 2016: The RCMP were called in to settle a brawl in the local arena between fans of the competing Wilkie Outlaws and the Biggar Nationals after a game that day to determine the 2015-16 SaskWest Hockey League championship winner.

Prince Albert, December 14, 2016: One inmate was killed and two seriously injured before a standoff in the federal penitentiary – allegedly over stingy food portions – was ended by an emergency response team.

Regina, June 9, 2017: a guard and a prisoner were injured and great damage done to the provincial jail in a violent clash between guards and inmates protesting meal changes.

Moose Jaw, September 13, 1944: after a dance at Temple Gardens, pilots-in-training from the nearby British Commonwealth Air Training Plan base attacked local swains who had assaulted airmen for dating local girls. After ensuing street fights, city police detained several local youths, and the flyboys were confined to base to cool their heels.

[Archer, The Story of a Province; Waiser, A New Saskatchewan History; Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan]



So many sports – so little time (and space)! In team sports, hockey predominated in winter, football in autumn, and baseball in summer. Fortunately, books about Saskatchewan sports abound.

Superjock showcases

Acknowledging Saskatchewan athletes and sports builders

Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame (Regina) includes displays of portraits and artifacts as well as the archives of curling, football, gymnastics, athletics (track and field) and so on.

Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame (Battleford).

Saskatchewan Golf Hall of Fame (Saskatoon).

Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame (Swift Current).

Saskatchewan Powerlifting Hall of Fame (Saskatoon).

Softball Saskatchewan Hall of Fame (Regina).

University of Regina Sports Hall of Fame (Regina).

University of Saskatchewan Athletics Wall of Fame (Saskatoon).

Area sports halls of fame (Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon and Yorkton).


Gold medalists in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame

Earl (Tommy) Thompson (Birch Hills): hurdling, 1920 Summer Olympics, Antwerp, Belgium. Inducted in 1974.

William Beattie Ramsay (Lumsden): ice hockey (with the Toronto Granites), 1924 Winter Olympics, Charmonix, France. Inducted in 1985.

Ethel Catherwood (Saskatoon): high jump, 1928 Summer Olympics, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Inducted in 1966.

George Abel (Melville): ice hockey (with Edmonton Mercuries), 1952 Winter Olympics, Oslo, Norway. Inducted in 1993.

george genereux with trap shooting gun
Olympian George Genereux sets his sights on a target. Photo B 8758 by Leonard Hillyard, 1953. Photo courtesy of Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library.

George Genereux (Saskatoon), trapshooting, 1952 Summer Olympics, Helsinki, Finland. Genereux was inducted in 1966. He was also Saskatoon Citizen of the Year in 1952.

Richard (Rick) Reelie (Saskatoon): discus, javelin and shotput, 1988 Summer Paralympics, Seoul, South Korea. Inducted in 2011.

Catriona LeMay-Doan (Saskatoon): speedskating, 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano, Japan; and 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, Utah. Inducted in 2006.

Sandra Schmerler (Biggar), Jan Betker (Regina), Joan McCusker (Yorkton) and Marcia Gudereit (Moose Jaw): women’s curling, 1988 Winter Olympics, Nagano, Japan. Inducted in 2001.

Lucas Malowsky (Regina): speedskating, 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver, BC. Inducted in 2017.

Haley Wickenheiser (Shaunavon):  gold medals for women’s ice hockey at the 2002 (Salt Lake City), 2006 (Turin), 2010 (Vancouver) and 2014 (Sochi) Winter Olympics, as well as a silver medal fir women’s softball at the 2002 Summer Olympics, Sydney, Australia. She was inducted in 2018.

Hockey legends   

Saskatchewan-born “original six era” (1942 -1967) hockey players in the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame. Over 500 past and current NHL players were born here, more per capita than any other Canadian province.    

Gordie Howe, known as “Mr. Hockey”, is considered the most complete player ever and holds the record for most NHL games played.  Born in Floral in 1928, Gordie played twenty-seven seasons, the first twenty-five with the Detroit Red Wings (1947 to 1971 when he was a six-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy for most points in a season), played on twelve All Star teams and won the Hart Trophy as most valuable player six times. His style of play created the “Gordie Howe hat trick” — a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game.

Sid Abel, nicknamed “Old Boot Nose” played several seasons with Gordie Howe on the Red Wing’s “production line.” Born in Melville, he played from 1940 to 1944, and after two years of war service, 1946 to 1952 with Detroit. He was awarded the Hart Trophy in the 1948-49 season.

Doug Bentley, born in Delisle, was sometimes called “Peanut” because of his small size. During the twelve seasons (1939 to 1951) he played with the Chicago Blackhawks, then one (1953-54) with the New York Rangers, he won the scoring title twice before the designation of the Art Ross trophy and was named to four All Star teams.  in Chicago, he played on the “Pony line” with his younger brother, Max.

Max Bentley, also born in Delisle, was labelled the” Dipsy Doodle Dandy” because, though small, he was fast and an “artist” with the puck.  He played five seasons (1942 to 1947) with the Chicago Blackhawks, six with the Toronto Maple Leafs (1948 to 1953) and then the 1953-54 season with the New York Rangers. He was awarded the Hart Trophy once, won the Art Ross Trophy twice and played on four All Star teams with the NHL.

Bert Olmstead, born in Sceptre, known as “Dirty Bertie” for his tough, physical play, played 1949 to 1951 with the Chicago Blackhawks, 1952 to 1958 with the Montreal Canadiens and 1959 to 1962 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, twice leading the League in assists.

Goal tenders at weigh scale
Goaltenders Johnny Bowers in New York, September 1955.
Photo B 15312 by Leonard Hillyard,
from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library

Johnny Bower was known as the “China Wall” because of his effective poke-check style of goalkeeping. Born in Prince Albert in 1924, he played the 1953 to 1959 seasons with the New York Rangers, then from 1960 to 1969 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, during which he twice received the Vezina trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the season.

Glen Hall, (“Mr. Goalie”), was known for his butterfly style of net minding.  Born in Humboldt, he played the 1955-56 season with the Detroit Red Wings, for which he received the Vezina Trophy, then from 1958 to 1967 with the Chicago Blackhawks playing on several All-Star teams and again receiving the Vezina Trophy.

Emile Francis was nicknamed “the Cat” for his speed and agility in goal keeping. Born in North Battleford, he played the 1948-49 season with the Chicago Blackhawks and from 1950 to 1955 with the New York Rangers. He is known for introducing a baseball type of catching glove in goal.

Gerry James, “Kid Dynamite”, is best known for having played professional football and NHL hockey at the same time. Born in Regina, he was with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL from 1952 to 1964 while also playing from 1954 to 1960 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, so his name was engraved on the Stanley Cup in the 1958-59 season and the Grey Cup in 1959.

Also legendary during that era — though not in the Hall of Fame – are:

Freddie Sasakamoose, nicknamed “Chief Running Deer” by his teammates during the single (1953-54) season he played with the Chicago Blackhawks. Born on the Ahtahkakoop Reserve, he is best remembered as the first indigenous player with treaty status in the NHL.

Clarence Campbell, originally from Fleming, was an NHL referee from 1933 to 1939. After a couple years of war service, he became president of the League in 1946 until 1977. Possibly best known for his controversial decision to suspend Maurice “Rocket” Richard during the 1954-55 playoffs — leading to a riot in Montreal — his primary feat was expanding the NHL to a twelve-team league in 1967.

NHL stats on players from Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan hockey players have left a giant footprint in the NHL. A Facebook video (possibly based on a quanthockey.com post) determined that historically 516 NHL players had been born in Saskatchewan. Other Saskie statistics: 137,000 games played, 21,000 goals, 34,000 assists, 28,000 wins, 56,000 points scored, 61 NHL awards and trophies. A total of 141 towns, cities or villages in Saskatchewan have sent players to the NHL, and 87 players have helped win 171 Stanley Cups, more than any other province, American state or European country, it said.

[Heritage Classic 2019, seen on Facebook; https://www.quanthockey.com/nhl/province/nhl-players-born-in-saskatchewan….] 

Grey Cup lore

Four times the Roughriders won and two times they “almost won” the Grey Cup

In 1966 the Roughriders defeated the Ottawa Rough Riders 29 to 14 in Vancouver — the first Grey Cup win in Saskatchewan history. George Reed, the teams star running back, was named most valuable player.          

In 1972 the Saskatchewan Riders led until the last minute of the game, when an unlucky defensive mis-cue allowed the Ottawa Rough Riders to score a winning touchdown.

In 1989 the Roughriders defeated the Hamilton Tiger Cats 43 to 40 in Toronto. With the score tied 40 to 40 in the dying seconds in the 4th quarter, Saskatchewan’s kicker, Dave Ridgway, booted a 35-yard field goal to win the game.

In 2007 the Roughies defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23 to 19 in Toronto.  Saskatchewan corner back James Johnson made three interceptions, while receiver Andy Fantuz caught the game-winning touchdown.

In 2009 Saskatchewan led 27 to 25 with seconds to play in the fourth quarter when the Montreal Allouette kicker missing a potentially winning field goal. Then, lo and behold, the Roughriders were called for having too many men on the field! Unfortunately, the Montreal kicker didn’t miss the second time.

In 2013 the Roughriders defeated the Hamilton Tiger Cats 13 to10 in Mosaic Stadium; the first ever Grey Cup win by the Roughriders on their home field.  This victory somewhat lifted the burden the team and its fans had been carrying since the loss due to an embarrassing too-many-men-on–the-field penalty four years earlier.

More Rider lore

Origin of the “Roughriders” name: First known as the Regina Rugby-Football Club, the team was renamed the Regina Roughriders in 1929 in honour of the RCMP officers who tamed broncos while training at the Regina depot. In the 1940s “Regina” was replaced in the name by “Saskatchewan” to reflect widening support forthem

Origin of the Green and White team colors: The team had historically worn purple and gold, then red and black sweaters until 1948, when a Roughrider official bought two sets of new, bargain-priced, green and white sweaters in a Chicago surplus store.

Old Taylor Field: Constructed in 1929 as the home of the Roughriders, it was renowned for its power outages, outdated plumbing and sections of bench seats, steep aisles and crowded concession areas, plus small, dark and leaky dressing rooms for the players. Yet, when it was demolished in 2016 after the adjacent new, larger, state-of-the art Mosaic Stadium) was completed, nostalgic fans lined up to get signs, benches and even urinals, as souvenirs.

Eyeball in the grass: The 1929 field had been named for “Piffles” Taylor, a Great War veteran, who had a glass eye. It is said that he once lost the lost the eye during a tackle and the game was delayed while he and his teammates searched for it in the grass.

The Roughriders’ ”Thirteenth Man”: Despite the relative smallness of old Taylor Field, Roughrider fans generated so much noise that visiting players could not hear the signals being called. This, it was claimed, gave the Roughriders an advantage— like having an extra player on the field.

Section Twenty-eight: This was a seating area in the east side bleachers of Taylor Field.  It was usually occupied by loud, rowdy University of Regina students who heckled opposition players on their designated bench and their fans in the adjacent visitor stands

The Flame:  A nickname for an enthusiastic fan in the 1990s who, whenever the Roughriders scored a touchdown, shot a flame into the air from a device atop the green helmnet he wore.

Watermelon helmets: A practice introduced by a few fans to raise the spirits of fellow members of Green Nation when their team was struggling in the late 1990s. They are said to be hot and wet to wear but really do draw attention at home and away games.

Legendary Roughriders

“Roughies” whose numbers were retired; they were inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame

#23 Ron Lancaster, quarterback (1963 to 1978), known as “the Little General”, led the Roughriders to their first Grey Cup win in 1966.

#34 George Reed, running back (1963 to 1975), recognized as “the greatest running back in CFL history”.

#36 Dave Ridgeway, kicker (1982 to 1995), described as “one of the best placekickers in the Canadian game”.

# 44 Roger Aldag, offensive lineman (1976 to 1992), twice named the CFL’s outstanding offensive lineman.

Gene Makowsky is the most recent Saskatchewan-born Roughrider football player (1999 to 2011) named to the CFL Hall of Fame.  Alumnus of the WMCI Marauders in the Saskatoon High School football program and the U of S Huskies football team, he starred as an offensive lineman for the Roughriders.

Junior footballers 

Saskatchewan’s proud junior football tradition

The Saskatoon Hilltops and the Regina Prairie Thunder (successor to the Regina Rams since 1999), have dominated the prairie conference of CJFL (Canadian Junior Football League). They have taken the CJFL championship 36 times (Hilltops – 21, Rams 15, Prairie Thunder 1) since the inception of the league in 1947. The Rams’ national championship record (under the direction of Frank McCrystal for fifteen years) included repeats in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998; after which they represented the University of Regina in Canadian Intercollegiate Sport. The Prairie Thunder won the CJFL championship in 2013.

In 2017 the Hilltops (directed by twenty-year head coach Tom Sargeant), were the first four consecutive season Canadian Bowl champions in the history of the CJFL. After its third “threepeat” in 2016 (defeating the Westshore Rebels 37 to 25 in Langford B.C.), the Hilltops went on to an historic “four-peat”, defeating the Windsor AKO Fratmen 56 to 11 on November 11, 2017 in Windsor, Ont.

Travel tragedies

Calamities etched in the collective memories of Saskatchewan sports fans

December 9, 1956:  Saskatchewan Roughriders players Melvin Becket, Mario Demar, Gordon Sturtridge and Ray Syrnk, returning from an all-star game in Vancouver, were killed—along with the other passengers and crew on TCA Flight 810–when it crashed into a mountain near Chilliwack, BC. To honour them, their sweater numbers were retired and they were listed in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

December 30, 1986: WJHL Swift Current Broncos players Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Chris Mantyka and Brent Ruff were killed on when their team bus flipped after skidding off an icy highway overpass just east of Swift Current.  A monument memorializing them was erected near the site in 2008.

April 16, 2018: SJHL Humboldt Broncos players, Logan Boulet, Adam Herold, Jaxon Joseph, Jacob Leicht Connor Lukan, Logan Schatz, Evan Thomas and Stephen Wacht, plus Dayna Brons (therapist), Tyler Bieber (announcer), Mark Cross (assistant coach), Glen Doerksen (bus drivers) and Darcy Haughan (head coach) were killed when their bus collided with a tractor trailer at the intersection of highways #35 and 335 between Tisdale and Nipawin.

Baseball (fastball)

Major Leaguers

Two Saskatchewan-born players currently in the Detroit Tiger minor league system are pitcher Dustin Mollekin from Regina and right fielder Cole Bauml from Maryburg.    

Nine baseball players from Saskatchewan played in the National and/or American baseball leagues since WWII—eight of whom were pitchers!

Ralph “Buck” Buxton (Weyburn) pitched first for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1938, then the New York Yankees in 1949.

Aldon “Lefty” Wilkie (Zealandia) pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1941 and 42 seasons, then again in 1946.

Ed Bahr (Rouleau) pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1946 and 47 seasons.

Joe “Stubby” Erautt (Vibank) pitched for the Chicago White Sox in the 1950 and fifty-one seasons.

Dave Pagan (Nipawin) pitched for the New York Yankees from 1973 to 1976, then briefly for Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates in 1977.

Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current) pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1969 to 1973, the Boston Red Sox 1974 to 78, then briefly for the Texas Rangers before finishing with the Milwaukee Brewers 1979 to 81.

Terry Puhl (Melville), though drafted as a pitcher, was moved to the outfield to take advantage of his hitting ability. He  went on to play fifteen outstanding seasons (1977-90) with the Houston Astros, before ending his professional career with the Kansas City Royals in 1991.

Andrew Albers (North Battleford) who debuted as a relief pitcher with Minnesota Twins in 2013, then briefly with the Mariners and Blue Jays—before going on to ply his skills on the mound in South Korea.

Pros in skirts  

Saskatchewan stars who played in the All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBL)

Fifty-some Canadian women baseball players were recruited for the All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBL) that, from 1945 to 54, had franchises in ten midwestern American cities. Three are the subjects of a 2016 play by Saskatchewan playwright Maureen Ulrich, titled Diamond Girls. (Ulrich was born in Saskatoon, graduated from U of S in 1980 and now lives in Lampman). Notable among the twenty-seven players from our province were:

Velma Abbott (Regina), an infielder known for her speed on the base paths, played for the Kenosha Comets and Peoria Redwings.

Mary “Bonny” Baker* (Regina) played from 1943 to 1951 with the South Bend Blue Sox. Known as an All -Star catcher, “Bonny” also served as a model for league promotions.

Catherine Bennett (Regina) a pitcher, played for the Kenosha Comets and South Bend Blue Sox.

Genevieve ”Gene” George (Regina) catcher, played for the Muskegon Lassies.

Thelma Grambo (Domremy) catcher, played for the Grand Rapids Chicks.

Christine Jewett (Regina) outfielder, played for the Kenosha Comets and Peoria Redwings.

Margarite Jones (Regina) pitcher, played for the Minneapolis Millerettes and Rockford Peaches.

Daisy Junor* (Regina) a skilled outfielder and speedy baserunner, played with the South Bend Blue Sox 1946 to 1948, then after a brief stint with the Springfield Sallies, finished the 1949 season with the Fort Wayne Daisies.

Arleene “Iron Lady” Noga*: (Ogema) was a fearless infielder and power hitter, first with the Fort Wayne Daisies in 1945, then with the Muskegon Lassies from 1946 to 48.

Ethel McCreary (Regina) infielder and pitcher, played for the Kenosha Comets.

Mildred “Millie” Warwick (Regina) infielder, played for the Rockford Peaches.

Elizabeth Wicken (Regina) outfielder, played for the Grand Rapids Chicks.

Elsie Wingrove (Saskatoon), outfielder, played for the Fort Wayne Daisies and Grand Rapids Chicks.

Odds and sods 

Saskatchewan sports factoids

Freddie Sasakamoose, born on the Ahtahkakoop Reserve, was the first Indigenous player with treaty status in the NHL. His teammates called him”Chief Running Deer” during the single (1953-54) season he played with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Clarence Campbell, originally from Fleming, was an NHL referee from 1933 to 1939. After his war service, he was president of the League from 1946 to 1977. Possibly best known for his controversial decision to suspend Maurice “Rocket” Richard during the 1954-55 playoffs—leading to a riot in Montreal – his primary feat was expanding the NHL to twelve teams as in 1967.

The home course of PGA tour golfer Graham DeLaet — where he learned his craft as a boy ­– was at Weyburn.

The last Canadian golfer to win the Canadian Open was Pat Fletcher in 1954, then club pro at the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club.

The Rush, Saskatchewan’s professional box lacrosse franchise (Saskatoon) in the National Lacrosse League since 2016, won the NLL league championship in 2016 and again in 2018.

Brendan Rooney of Saskatoon helped the Yale Bulldogs lacrosse team win it’s its first NCAA championship in 2018.

David Newsham (1948-1983) was instrumental in the development of soccer in Saskatchewan, now the fastest growing team sport in the province??           

Tony Cote, from the Cote First Nation, founded the Saskatchewan Indian Summer Games in 1974.

Mark McMorris from Regina won the bronze medal in Men’s Slope Style at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, despite a near-fatal snowboarding accident but months earlier.

Blair Morgan of Prince Albert was an international motor cross and snow cross champion until an accident in 2008 left him paralyzed.

The longest downhill ski run in Saskatchewan is in the Duck Mountain Ski Area, about 35 km east of Kamsack. It is 1600 metres.

Joan Phipps of Saskatoon, who first rode a thoroughbred to victory during a New Zealand race in 1977, now mentors young women aspiring to become jockeys.

Among the 2018 inductees in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame was Lisa Franks, who earned seven medals, six of them gold, in wheel-chair racing at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Paralympics.

Twenty-eight hockey players aged eighty and over in the Saskatoon Sixty Plus Hockey League, were inducted into the Canadian Eighty-Plus Hockey Hall of Fame In 2018.

Hundreds of elementary school students have competed each year alongside some of the top international track and field athletes during the K of C Indoor Games in Saskatoon since 1965.

The Canadian Championship Sleddog Race, alonga route similar to that used by early trappers and NWMP patrols between Prince Albert (more recently the Elk Ridge Resort) and Lac la Ronge, has been held most winters since the late 1990s.

[Cote: Eagle Feather News, June 9, 2018. Eighty Plus: Saskatoon Express, October 15-21, 2018, 4]

Adventure sports and recreation

Intrepid individuals, rather than teams, test their solo prowess

Hanging, gliding and soaring aficionados have their own clubs in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert. At the provincial level the Saskatchewan Hang Gliding Association and the Saskatchewan Soaring Association cater to such interests as does the Aviation Education Centre at Saskatoon airport and perhaps elsewhere. It is said that gliders can remain aloft for hours.

Hot-air balloons operate by filling the balloon-shaped sac with hot air from a propane burner below, making the craft lighter than air. There is at least one such enterprise in Saskatchewan that offer rides (at a price) in Saskatoon and Regina, and perhaps elsewhere. In Weyburn a certified balloon pilot owns her own multicoloured balloon, and sometimes takes up passengers. She says it takes four people to launch the balloon, and four to pack it away on descent. As well,  advertising balloons sometimes float above communities if atmospheric conditions are right.

CFQC celebrity Wally Stambuck about to test his parachute in 1953, as pilot Alex Bowman explains bailout procedures. Photo PH 2014-15 (CFQC photo?) courtesy of Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library

If jumping out of planes is your thing, skydiving in Big Sky country can be experienced in Saskatoon and Moose Jaw. Contact the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association or Saskatchewan Tourism for more information. Much safer than parachuting experienced by World War II air crew who bailed out after their aircraft were shot down, and who faced the danger of capture by the enemy.

If you don’t want to go all the way to the Rocky Mountains, rock climbing can be experienced in facilities such ss Saskatoon’s Grip-it Climbing.

Deer standing in grassy field
Photo by Gerry Ackerman.

To practice your shooting skills, shooting ranges are offered by the Saskatoon Gun Club, Prairie Storm Paintball in Moose Jaw, and Wascana Pistol club in Regina. Come to think of it, there’s the great outdoors. Wild game hunting is also still a popular pastime.

Wild boar hunting is not for the faint of heart. These fierce feral pigs go grunting around at night in thirty-seven states and four Canadian provinces, including Saskatchewan, where they were brought in the 1990s to diversify agriculture. They broke loose and ensconced themselves mostly in the eastern part of the province. The CBC has an online map showing their haunts.

Paintballing is offered by various commercial enterprises.

Parkour, a lesser-known but dynamic activity that came about through firefighter training in France in the 1980s, is gaining in popularity world-wide. It involves much leaping, running, jumping and climbing through or over obstacles. Various parkour gyms exist in cities around the province, but you can do it on a lawn!

People also play underwater hockey in this province. There’s the Saskatoon Underwater Seals Hockey Club (they have a Facebook page) and a likely possibility that the YMCA is involved.

With a boat you can waterski or wakeboard on lakes and waterways throughout the province (perhaps not so extreme, but thrilling all the same). There’s a Saskatchewan Waterski and Wakeboard Association, one in Saskatoon and possibly other regional ones.

[Ballooning: Conroy, Discover Weyburn, 9 August 2017. Boars: Canadian Geography, 15 November 2017; greatfallstribune.com/story/news/2019/11/25. Parkour: Gavin Robertson, “A parkour gym? In my little prairie city?” Culture magazine, 25 September 2019. General: internet sources]

Prairie Gold

“Prairie Gold” was a grant-funded website created by students, during the infancy of the internet. Its flaws cannot be corrected due to shortcomings of that early software. But it is worth looking at for its broad sampling of outstanding Saskatchewan athletes in a wide range of sports, up to the date of its creation (prior to 2002). Find it at;

spldatabase.saskatoonlibrary.ca › csdata › PrairieGoldMenu