August 19, 2018

When It All Began

As early as 1687, records show, Henry Kelsey, a fur trader from Hudson Bay was one of the first white men to see and explore the Canadian Prairies. History also tells us that around 1743 the La Verendrye brothers explored the more southerly plains and in their travels must have crossed the prairies at or near this very area.

As settlements in Manitoba spread westwards, no doubt fur traders and buffalo hunters explored these parts and by 1880 a few settlers were coming to the North West Territories, then divided into the districts of Assiniboia and Saskatchewan to the east (these became the province of Saskatchewan), and Alberta and Athabasca to the west (these became the province of Alberta.)

The town of Saltcoats, as it was eventually to be named, was situated in the district of Assiniboia, in the southeasterly portion of the North West Territories.

After Confederation of 1867 the Dominion Government could see that expansion of this great country was necessary. There was only one direction to expand and that was toward the west.

Already a few settlers were moving west and because the land was not surveyed the settlers resided in areas as "squatters," claiming land wherever it was available or most suitable for occupation. The government could see difficulties in this type of settlement and decided to deal with it by passing the Free Lands Homestead Act of 1872. By this act a homesteader was given 1/4 section of land to occupy and improve by clearing wood growth, if any, and also breaking the sod where the land was open prairie.

The Dominion Government also realized that surveying had to be the first step in opening up the west to avoid the joint claims by settlers who would eventually arrive in great numbers from all corners of the world.

Quite a bit of the land in this area was purchased by land holding companies or the railway and later sold to the settlers as they arrived in Canada, usually Winnipeg.