top of page
Sunrise over the Wheat Field

Canadian Prairie Homesteading

by Sandra Rollings-Magnusson, PhD

woman and child in front of A-frame home
A teenage girl and young child in field
boys on horse

Canadian Prairie Homesteaders

Welcome to my website!

     The purpose of this website is to highlight the social norms and values of those who lived during the homesteading era in Canada (between 1867 and 1914.)  A range of topics will be discussed including how settlers built their homes, how they planted crops and worked their fields, and how they survived the extreme heat of the summers and the bone-chilling cold of the winters. One-room schoolhouse experiences will be highlighted as will pioneer life in general (i.e., community events, weddings, and  funerals). Domestic chores like cooking, cleaning, gardening, and raising children will also be included as will the more dangerous elements of pioneer life - encountering wild  animals like bears and cougars. Hunting and fishing, collecting berries, and preserving food, purchasing grub stakes, collecting firewood from miles away and digging wells were all part of the homesteading experience and will be detailed on this website.  

     The homesteading era was a fascinating and unique period of time in Canadian history and I hope that readers will enjoy learning about life on the western prairies. 

1800s farmyard
Canadian Prairie Homesteaders

All About Me

woman on horse

     I was raised in the city of Regina, Saskatchewan, however as a special treat, I would stay with my grandparents on their mixed family farm in Rimbey, Alberta every summer until my teenage years. From the youngest age, I would climb into the loft of the barn and play with the farm cats and I would take long walks with the dog down into the fields and revel in the beauty of the sunshine gleaming over the growing crops. At other times, my grandmother and I would fetch the cows for milking from the pasture, we collected eggs from the chicken coop, and we fed and watered all of the farm animals. I learned how to work a cream separator and I hand-churned pounds of butter. I helped out in the garden and I shucked peas, pulled carrots, harvested cauliflower, and plucked currents and raspberries. My grandparents also taught me about mushrooms (which ones were edible and which ones were poisonous) and they took me fishing for Northern Pike. They also took me out into the fields where I sometimes rode on the tractor and they showed me how to combine and stack bales on the wagon.

    In the farmhouse, my grandmother taught me how to make meals from scratch and she often showed me how to knit and crochet, sew and make patchwork quilts. She also spoke quite often about her parents (and my grandfather's parents) who were homesteaders. From these stories, family heritage became very important to me. 

     Throughout my childhood years, I learned all about farm life and the importance of the land and animals. I came to appreciate all aspects of the farm and the hard work that was involved. I remember those times as happy times and I am very fond of those memories. 

      As such, it was not a surprise that my rural roots influenced my career. At the current time, I am a professor of Sociology at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I have studied western Canadian homesteaders for over thirty years ever since I was an undergraduate student at the University of Regina. Since receiving a Master's Degree from the University of Regina and a PhD from the University of Alberta, I have written numerous academic journal articles and books on various aspects of homesteading life. As well, I have lectured and presented on a number of homesteading topics.

     Not only do I have an academic interest in the homesteading era, but it is also my hobby as I collect photographs, books, furniture, and other antiques from that time period. During the summer months, I can often be found in provincial archives and at rural auctions seeking my next treasure.  

All About Me
Homesteading Books

My Homesteading Books

Homesteaders book cover


The Homesteaders covers the whole settler experience, beginning the year Canada was founded and the first sodbusters appeared in what is now Saskatchewan, right through the immigration boom years preceding WWI. In their own words, settlers recount their lives from the moment they registered for their "home quarter" - 160 acres of land given to them, so long as they could cultivate it. Homesteaders describe the formidable task of building the family home from sod or logs, the back-breaking labour of cropping and harvesting the fields, the patience needed when working with draught animals, and the misery of dealing with the pests which threatened their livelihood. Their reminiscences extend further as they discuss the type of food that was available, the medical practices they had to endure, and the educational experiences of their children in one-room schoolhouses, as well as their hobbies, the books that they read, the songs they sang, the pets that they owned, the games that they played, and the local dances, picnics, weddings, and chivarees that they attended during these early years.

Women Homesteaders book cover
Homesteaders book cover


The phrase "child labour" carries negative undertones in today's society. However, only a century ago on the Canadian Prairies, youngsters laboured alongside their parents' working the land, cleaning stovepipes, and chopping wood. By shouldering their share of the chores, these children learned the domestic and manual labour skills needed for life on a Prairie family farm. Rollings-Magnusson uses historic research, photographs, and personal anecdotes to describe the kinds of work performed by children and how each task fit into the family economy. This book is a vital contribution to western Canadian history as well as family and gender studies.


This book captures the unique experiences of those Saskatchewan women who homesteaded and received the patent to the land in their own name. Given the patriarchal social conventions of the time, the economic deprivations that women endured, the laws that limited their opportunities, and the hard labor they performed while proving their land, this book highlights women's achievements, their disappointments, and their failures. Whether they were widowed, abandoned, divorced, or single, their stories are recounted and their experiences have been documented in order to shed light on this often-ignored feature of the homesteading era. Compiling information from thousands of homestead files held by the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan as well as collecting photographs and information from memoirs, letters, newspapers, and reports, this book offers a rare glimpse into the significant contributions made by independent women to the agricultural development of the province.


Highlighting the voices and personal stories of early immigrants who arrived in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, "Tales from the Homestead" is a captivating snapshot of social history. This compilation of first-person accounts by English, Dutch, German, Russian, Ukrainian, and American homesteaders reveals fascinating, startling, heartbreaking, and inspiring details about new lives and communities built, risks taken, and hardships endured. The book includes stories of surviving periods of near starvation and natural disaster, and describes the challenges of navigating Canada’s nascent immigration process, building a sod home and establishing a farm, and adapting to the norms of a new country. Along with these tales of difficulty, fear, and sadness are the many stories of happiness and wonderment at the beauty of the land. Community events and parties are thoughtfully remembered, as are accounts of attending one-room schoolhouses. The camaraderie of the people, and their pleasure and delight in forging a new life for themselves on the prairies, shows the extent of their fortitude, grit, and stamina. Illustrated with archival photography, Tales from the Homestead will appeal to history buffs, genealogists, and anyone who enjoys first-hand accounts of the resilience of immigrant communities.

          * This book was an Alberta Literary Award finalist (2022).

My Journal Articles and
Book Chapters about the
Homesteading Era

1902 immigrant family

Journal Articles:


            Rollings-Magnusson, S. (2021). Frost, Hail, Prairie Fire and Weeds: Families Harvesting Crops on a Saskatchewan Homestead, 1867-1914.                     Canadian Journal of Family and Youth, 13 (2), 95-121.

            Rollings-Magnusson, S. (2015).  Sod, Straw, Logs and Mud: Building a Home on the Canadian Prairies, 1867-1914.  Journal of Family                                History, 40 (3), 399-423.

            Rollings-Magnusson, S. (2014).  Steerage, Cattle Cars and Red River Carts: Travelling to the Canadian Western Prairies to Homestead,                           1876-1914.  Journal of Family History, 39 (2), 140-74.

            Rollings-Magnusson, S. (2014).  Determined to be Homesteaders: A Descriptive Analysis of the Homestead Records of Single Women                            who Purchased Volunteer Bounty Land in Saskatchewan.  Canadian Journal of Family and Youth, 6 (1), 135-62.

            Rollings-Magnusson, S.  (2013).  Jackfish, Rabbits and Slough Water: Pioneer Diet on the Canadian Western Prairies.  Prairie Forum, 38th                     Special issue, 38, 381-423.  (Note: This was a re-publication as it was determined that this article was  one of the best articles over 38                         years of publication by Prairie Forum.  It was given the special distinction of being the last article in the last issue published by

                   this journal.)

            Rollings-Magnusson, S.  (2012).  Jackfish, Rabbits and Slough Water: Pioneer Diet on the Canadian Western Prairies.  Prairie Forum, 37,                         211-54.

            Rollings-Magnusson, S.  (2010).  Slates, Tar Paper Blackboards, and Dunce Caps:  One-Room Schoolhouse Experiences of Pioneer                                Children in Saskatchewan, 1875-1914.  Prairie Forum, 35 (1), 21-52.

            Rollings-Magnusson, S. (2009).  Spinsters Need Not Apply:  Six Saskatchewan Single Women who Attempted to Homestead Between                           1872 and 1914. Prairie Forum, 34 (2), 357-380.

            Rollings-Magnusson, S. (2008).  Flax Seed, Goose Grease, and Gun Powder: Medical Practices by Women Homesteaders on the                                     Canadian Prairies 1882-1914.  Journal of Family History, 33 (4), 388-410.

            Rollings-Magnusson, S.  (2004).  Contributors or Casualties:  Policy Choices Respecting the Child Farmer in Canada. Prairie Forum, 29                         (1), 45-60.

            Rollings-Magnusson, S. (2004). Necessary for Survival: Women’s and Children’s Labour on Prairie Homesteads, 1871-1911.  Prairie Forum:                     Special Issue, 29 (2), 227-244.

            Rollings-Magnusson, S.  (2000).  Canada’s Most Wanted: Pioneer Women on the Western Prairies.  Canadian Review of Sociology and                           Anthropology, 37 (2), 223-238.

            Rollings-Magnusson, S.  (1999).  Hidden Homesteaders: Women, the State and Patriarchy in the Saskatchewan Wheat Economy, 1870-                         1930.  Prairie Forum, 24 (2), 171-184.

Book Chapters:

             Rollings-Magnusson, S.  (2018.)  “Faithful, Brave-Hearted Pioneer Woman”: Examining Women’s Daily Lives on Saskatchewan                                           Homesteads. In Emily van der Meulen (Ed.), From Suffragette to Homesteader: Exploring One Woman’s Memoir on Life in England

                     and Canada.  Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, pp. 142-157.

              Rollings-Magnusson, S. (2015).  “Spinsters Need Not Apply: Six Single Women Who Attempted to Homestead in Saskatchewan between                       1872 and 1914.”  In Wendee Kubik and Gregory Marchildon (Eds.), Women’s History (pp. 113-37). Regina: University of Regina Press.

               Rollings-Magnusson, S. (2015).  “Hidden Homesteaders: Women, the State and Patriarchy in the Saskatchewan Wheat Economy, 1870-                        1930”.  In Wendee Kubik and Gregory Marchildon (Eds.), Women’s History (pp. 173-220).  Regina: University of Regina Press.

               Rollings-Magnusson, S.  (2015).  “Necessary for Survival: Women and Children’s Labour on Prairie Homesteads, 1871-1911.”  In Wendee                           Kubik and Gregory Marchildon (Eds.), Women’s History (pp. 82-113).  Regina: University of Regina Press.

               Rollings-Magnusson, S.  (2008). “Necessary for Survival: Women and Children’s Labour  on Prairie Homesteads, 1871-1911.  In Margaret                         Conrad and Alvin Finkel (Eds.), Nation and Society: Readings in Post-Confederation Canadian History (pp. 114-130).  Toronto:                                   Pearson/Longman.

Newspaper, Magazine and Radio Interviews:

  1. I did a radio interview on my book, “The Homesteaders”, with CBC’s Radio One, Saskatchewan on November 12, 2018. (Producer: Stephanie Mitchell) The reasons for why I wrote the book were discussed as were the topics associated with each chapter.

  2. My research on homesteaders appeared in MacEwan News on July 11, 2017. It was entitled “On the Homestead: Archive Dive Uncovers Prairie Homesteader Stories Written in their Own Words.”  Refer to:

  3. I was interviewed by a reporter, Graham Chandler, about pioneer homes on the Canadian western prairies.  The title of his article was The Last of the Soddies, published April 4, 2010 in “The Legion Magazine”.  Available online:

  4. In November , 2010, I was interviewed by a reporter, Ron Petrie of the “Regina Leader Post”.  Based on my homesteading research, he wrote a newspaper article entitled Settlers Met Cold Truth.  Available online:

  5. In April and May or 2022, I was interviewed by a number of different reporters: a)  Omar Sherif from the Melfort Journal Newspaper wrote "Sandra Rollings-Magnusson brings Homesteading Stories to Life in a new Book, Tales from the Homestead, 1867-1914"; b) Jason Antonio from Moose Jaw Today wrote "New Book Features Stories about Early Homesteaders on the Prairies"; c) Brandon Zdebiak from Fort Sask Online wrote "Fort Sask Settler Featured in Historical Novel"; d) Shelly Luedtke from SaskToday wrote "City Author with Deep Love of Rural Life gives Pioneers a Voice", and e) Gerry Lampow wrote New Homesteading Book Traces through Lloydminster." 

  6. In May 2022, Michelle Woodward from MacEwan University interviewed me. She wrote a column called "Prof Pens Book of First Person Pioneer Stories."

Managing Editor

        Along with writing book, journal articles and book chapters, I am also the Managing Editor of an online academic journal, the "Canadian Journal of Family and Youth".  I created this journal back in 2008 and since that time, I have published hundreds of journal articles and book reviews, a few of which deal with the homesteading era in western Canada.  See

(Note:  While the homesteading genre is my primary area of interest, I also have researched other topics.  For instance, I have had a book published on anti-terrorism.  I also have had a number of academic journal articles published on such topics as environmental policy, lifelong learning, and child labour on family farms (in a contemporary context.) I have also written academic reports on school-work transitions, mandatory retirement and health care policy.) 

Journal Articles and Book Chapters


                   Some Anecdotes and Stories about Homesteading Life

                                                             Homesteading life as recounted by homesteader Fred Baines:


                                            Snow. Winds. Blizzards. Torrential rains. Hail. Summer frosts. Draught. Lives lost.

                                            Buildings blown down. Prairie fires. Horses, cattle stampeded. Wild game life destroyed.

                                            Frozen crops. Bountiful crops. Tremendous yields.  Vegetables unsurpassed. Improvements

                                            in live stock. Widening markets. Educational facilities extended. Railroads. Grain elevators.

                                            Loading platforms. Churches. Immigration. Scotch, Welsh, Icelandic, Ukrainian, Doukhobor

                                            and other Europeans.” (Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan, Homestead Questionnaire)

When Did the Homesteading Era Begin and How Did It Come About?   


     Many words could be used to describe the homesteading era on the Canadian prairies.  It was a unique period of time in the sense that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children decided to leave their mother countries and move half-way across the world to live in a foreign land. They moved from such countries as England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium, and the Ukraine to immigrate to the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Others migrated east from the Maritime provinces and the central provinces of Ontario and Quebec to begin their lives anew in an undeveloped region, while still others travelled north from the United States to become Canadian homesteaders. The vibrant excitement of the homesteading era was contagious.  Just the utterance of one word, being a ‘homesteader’, invoked visions of hardy men, women and children working the hard prairie soil, day after day, month after month, and year after year, in order to place a mark on their own piece of land. Many of these people were poor, they were isolated, and they faced many dire and dangerous situations, however, they had patience, courage, the fortitude, drive and willingness to eke out a living on the prairie land. For many, even though homesteading was a hard endeavour, they believed that they were working towards a better future in a land that promised democracy, financial opportunity, freedom, productivity, and attainment of land ownership.   

      Under the direction of Sir John A. MacDonald, the Prime Minister of Canada, the “Dominion Lands Act” was created in order to encourage settlement across the western prairie region.  Under this “Act”, the land was partitioned into quarter-sections and was offered to those who wished to farm for the price of a $10 registration fee.  For those who acquired land, there were a number of stipulations which they had to follow. Initially, in 1871, only men 21 years of age and over could apply for entry.  By 1872, the age restriction was lowered to those men who were 18 years of age and older.  In 1876, women who could prove that they were heads of their own households (aka ‘feme soles’) were also able to apply. In terms of ‘proving’ their homestead, they had to build a habitable home, reside on the property for six months every year for three years, and break and crop thirty acres in three years. (Revisions occurred over time, with regard to residency requirements and the number of acres broken and cropped.)

      With the government offer of free land, hundreds of thousands of immigrants flocked to the western prairies in order to take up free homesteads.  Such an opportunity, for many, was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity as their lives in their mother countries left little room for advancement or for improvement for themselves or for their children. Many people faced political and religious purges, industrialization and pollution, overpopulation, climatic and geographic hardships as well as conscription, class discrimination, and cultural barriers. A world depression that occurred between 1873 and 1879 also motivated people to seek alternative means for survival as this event had significantly altered the economic landscape of many European countries and limited their employment opportunities.

      For example, the British, Scottish and Welsh populace suffered from the effects of the Industrial Revolution with workers making wages well below subsistence levels. Unemployment rates were high, people lived in poverty and squalor, criminal activity was increasing, and contagious diseases were widespread.  The Irish had just come through the potato famine where seven million of their people had perished from starvation and their economic future was painfully bleak. The German people, particularly those who were Mennonites or Hutterites suffered long term discrimination and so they turned to western Canada as a land that would welcome them in bloc settlements where they could follow their religion in peace. The Dutch were experiencing restrictive trade policies and export markets for cattle. Dairy products became limited, the price of grain rose dramatically, and Dutch marketing systems became obsolete which lowered farm income and wages while people from Belgium were facing problems of overpopulation, a shortage of agricultural land, and a lack of any future prospects for themselves and their future generations.

      In addition, with all of the land in these various countries being previously owned by generation after generation of the same family, it was virtually impossible for any common person to obtain property of their own. In short, many people faced dismal futures. As such, when the possibility of owning their own land in a new country became available to them, it was not a surprise that they took up the Canadian Federal Government offer of acquiring free homestead land on the western prairies.

      Aside from the Europeans who came to the western region, many Americans also moved north to obtain free homestead land.  Typically, the Americans were in much better financial shape as many had been homesteaders when free land was opened across the mid-west, prairie and plains areas of the United States.  By developing their homesteads and selling them at a profit, many were in the situation where they had extra funds in their pockets to invest when they moved north into Canada to claim free homestead land.

       In addition to the immigrants who came to the west, there were also a number of migrants who also moved from the maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick as well as from Newfoundland, Ontario and Quebec. Much like their American counterparts, many people who came from east of the continental divide had the monetary means to settle in a new area.  Some had owned farms, while others had been farm labourers or workers in factories or industries.

       Regardless of the many factors which motivated many people to leave family and friends

behind and move to a new country or region, all were pulled by the opportunity to obtain free land,

begin working on their homestead and gaining the patent. In other words, even though they may

have come from a multitude of different countries, all with their own customs, belief systems,

language, and clothing, they had one issue in common – they all wished to homestead and they

all wished for a better future.

       Given that they were all descending into one area of the country, it is not surprising to find

that many of them shared similar experiences.  Whether they were travelling by Red River cart

with their oxen or horses over buffalo trails, fording fast-flowing streams, getting stuck in the mud,

or facing dangerous wild animals such as bears or wolves, all would have become quickly familiar

with the prairie environment.  Buying enough provisions to last a year, otherwise known as a

‘grub stake’ was an expected expenditure among all homesteaders as was purchasing tools, farm

implements, building materials and clothing.  Hunting larger wild game, snaring rabbits and gophers,

fishing in the local streams and collecting wild berries and mushrooms to add to the daily diet were

also essential tasks as was learning how to preserve food so that the homesteading family would

not starve over the course of the longer winter months. 

       Another common trait associated with homesteaders was the carpentry skill and knowledge needed in the building of the family home. Learning the best ways to construct a home was shared among the homesteaders with the result that homesteader homes were much the same depending on where they decided to settle. For those who had a number of tall, sturdy, and straight trees on their land, they would opt for constructing log homes. For those who registered for land on the barren prairie, where there was not a tree in sight, they would build their home out of rectangular pieces of sod ploughed from the earth, while those who had a few extra funds in their pocket could arrange for cut timber to be shipped to them by rail from Ontario and Quebec mills. Along with building their homes, homesteaders also had to begin cultivating their fields by breaking, harrowing, seeding, and threshing.  As wheat was the product of choice on the export market, most homesteaders were inclined to grow this crop.  Homesteader after homesteader followed the same basic rules for growing wheat on their land, harvesting the crop, bagging the seed and driving it by horse and wagon to the local grain elevator for grading. 

       Environmental conditions such as the extreme heat of the summers and freezing temperatures of the winter also affected homesteaders in the same fashion.  Many stories have been told of homesteaders becoming lost in snowstorms and experiencing frostbite, watching crops being destroyed by hail, surviving cyclones which tore down their buildings, living through times of drought, or battling prairie fires caused by lightening.  Fighting off pests was also a common complaint. Being bitten by mosquitoes and bulldog flies, dealing with rabbit, gopher and grasshopper infestations were all conditions which every homesteader encountered.    

      The lack of medical facilities, doctors, nurses and midwives were also a great concern for the homesteaders.  The closest hospital, in the early years of homesteading, was in Winnipeg, Manitoba. As for local doctors, they might be 25 miles or more away from the family home, as were nurses.  Professional midwives were also scarce, however in emergencies, many local women stepped up to the task to help a pregnant neighbor when needed. Given that money was scarce and doctors were expensive, sometimes families could not call on a doctor for assistance, but rather tried to help out their ailing family member on their own or turned to neighbours.  Using home-made recipes, traded among the homesteaders, the medication was applied or ingested with the hope that it would be successful and return the patient to full health.    

       Living in an undeveloped region meant that homesteaders were reliant on each other for survival. Helping each other out was part of the community spirit that developed over time, with people coming to together to build barns, sheds or granaries, or assisting their neighbours if they were ill and unable to work their fields or take care of their families. Such ‘bees’ were beneficial.  Not only did they allow people to meet their neighbours, but one was always assured that there would be assistance available if needed. 

       Camaraderie was also experienced among many homesteaders.  Neighbours would stop by and visit each other from time to time, typically sharing a lunch or coffee or tea. Discussing the current news or upcoming events like socials, picnics, dances or weddings or funerals would have been a highlight as would trading novels, or singing the newest tune on a harmonica or guitar.  If one neighbour had been to town, he would make sure to pick up the mail and distribute it to all of his neighbours on his return trip, picking up stories and anecdotes along the way.

       Many homesteaders and their families also developed similar hobbies while living in the west.  Some would collect Indigenous artifacts like arrowheads, while others collected stones. Stamp collecting was also popular as was reading newspapers like the Nor’-West Farmer or Grain Growers’ Guide, playing music, writing in a diary, singing, or writing poems.  For other forms of entertainment, homesteading families also had pets.  While some had cats and dogs, others were able to tame wild birds and animals.  It was not unheard of for someone to have a pet moose, deer, coyote, snake, frog, magpie or even a raven.

     School aged children attending local one-room schoolhouses also encouraged a sense of shared purpose and fellowship among the homesteading community. Children had to learn how to speak and write English, but they also played games during recess and learned how to interact with each other, even though they came from different countries.  

       Given the similar conditions that homesteaders faced, it is not surprising to find that they acquired similar belief systems associated with the prairies that brought them together as a community.  Even though they had come to western Canada with their own cultures, customs and religions that made each of them unique, they also became part of a new dynamic – a new social environment. Their dances, songs, tales, legends and traditions, beliefs and superstitions, and cultural sayings as well as their customs of traditional agricultural and domestic practices, types of buildings and utensils, and traditional aspects of social organizations all helped to create a new homesteading lifestyle. In addition, by experiencing the same climatic, geographic, political, economic and social conditions and learning from each other as to how to overcome various ordeals and difficulties as they arose, homesteaders were, in essence, part of a new microcosm of society. They and their stories and experiences became part of the homesteading culture or prairie folklife of the region where their motivations, struggle for survival, back-breaking labour, and tenacity made them a distinctive part of western Canadian history.

German immigrants in 1902
farm children in the 1910s

Carmangay, Schiller, Keystown and other Interesting Place Names

Behind every place name, there is a story. Whether these homesteaders’ stories feature a particular person or family in a district, whether the area was named after specific locales from the old country, or whether the name had Indigenous roots, what is significant about each of these place names is how they came to be recognized and referred to by members of the community. It should be noted that while thousands of such place names and explanations for their origins exist, only a selection of them are highlighted here.

Alameda, Saskatchewan - The name Alameda was suggested by the wife of the first settler (named Groyer) who lived near the junction of Moose Creek and the Souris River. She decided to name the area after Alameda, California (a village that was founded in 1853). The Post Office was established and took on this same name and when the rail line came through, the station and town adopted the name Alameda as well.[1]  

Bavilla, Alberta – By the late 1800s, the land suitable for farming in the southern part of the  Bellis district of Alberta had been homesteaded and new settlers from the Ukraine looked to homestead on the north side. These new setters called the area ‘Prosvischenia’ (from the Ukrainian name “Prosvity” which means knowledge). In 1898, more Ukrainian settlers followed and homesteaded in nearby Bavilla. Originally, the district was to be called Banilla after a town in the Ukraine, but due to the registrant making his N like a V the name was registered as Bavilla.[2]  

Briercrest, Saskatchewan – According to homesteader, Mrs. Edna Jaques[3], her mother and father had been driving along a trail when they came upon a tiny hill which was covered with brier roses. They decided that they would name their farm ‘Briercrest’. When the railroad came through, the railway men asked us for the name of the nearest town and we said ‘Briercrest’.

Bruderheim, Alberta  - Translated from German, the word Bruderheim refers to ‘brethren’s home’. A number of settlers travelling from Volhynia to western Canada wanted their new village name to reflect their German background and Moravian faith. Given that the name of their church in Volhynia was named ‘Bruedergemeine’ or ‘Breathren’s Church’, they adopted a similar vernacular for Bruderheim.[4]

Canora, Saskatchewan - Mr. Wilson Allan, who was the first storekeeper in Canora, named the town after the Canadian Northern Railway Company. Taking the first two letters from each of the first three words of the company, CA, NO and RA, he created the name Canora.[5]  

Carmangay, Alberta – A man by the name of C.W. Carman came to this area in 1904 and bought 1,500 acres of land along the Little Bow River, paying $3.50 per acre. He created one of Alberta’s largest wheat farms on the present townsite of Carmangay. The name of the town commemorates the name of C.W. Carman and his wife Gertrude Gay as well as their son, Gay Carman.[6] 

Cornwall School District #698 – This school district received its name from the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall who were touring Canada when the district was established in 1904. It is also interesting to note that the Cornwall School District was located in the Fairy Hill area which was named by homesteader Mr. H.C. Lawson whose people had previously resided at Fairy Hill in the Isle of Wight, England.[7]

Edenbridge, Saskatchewan – According to homesteader Sam Vickar[8], a Jewish colony had settled northeast of Melfort, Saskatchewan. A synagogue was built as was a Hebrew Cemetery.  However, the colony was divided by the Carrot River, so a steel bridge was erected in 1907.  Sam said that the colony named the bridge Edenbridge meaning ‘Jewish bridge’. Eventually, the name of the bridge extended to the name of the colony and in turn, to the name of their town.  

Eigenheim Mennonite Church - This church was located near Rosthern, Saskatchewan.  ‘Eigenheim’ was a German word which means ‘own home’ and not only reflected the German community which settled in the area, but also emphasized their strong connection to their mother country of Germany. Similarly, the Bergthal Mennonite Church in Didsbury, Alberta, the Ebenfeld Mennonite Church in Glidden, Saskatchewan, the Mennonite village of Eigenfeld, Manitoba, and the town of Waldheim, Saskatchewan were all locations which were named in remembrance of the residents and their German roots.[9] 

Enilda, Alberta – Enilda was named after the postmaster’s wife, Adline Thompson. It was her first name spelled backwards.[10]

Flett’s Springs, Saskatchewan -  While homesteader Felix Belliveau[11] reported that Flett’s Springs had been named after the area’s first settlers, it unfortunately, became known for more than just its name. As Felix stated, the people in the region came to believe that it was a dangerous place as many cattle, in the winter, had gone through the ice and drowned there.

Foam Lake –  In 1882, Joshua and Frances Milligan and their children homesteaded twelve miles northwest of the present town of Foam Lake and six miles west of Fishing Lake. Their travels always took them by the foamy shores of a shallow body of water which they started to call ‘Foam Lake”.[12]

Gowanbrae School District #413 – The name of this school, located in Kinistino, Saskatchewan was named by homesteader Samuel Jackson’s brother-in-law whose name was McGowan Hamilton. He took the last part of his first name and added the term Scottish term ‘brae’ to it as he was Scottish. Samuel Jackson also pointed out that the Weldon Post Office (and village in Saskatchewan), was named after his wife's cousin, Weldon Ellis, as a personal memorial to him after he had passed away by those who lived in the vicinity.[13]

Irondale, Alberta -  Irondale got its name because iron and coal deposits were found in the area in 1902.[14]   

Jansen Lake, Saskatchewan - Eric Neal[15] reported that he homesteaded in 1905 and lived sixteen miles southwest of Watson, near Jansen Lake. He remembered that Jansen Lake had been named after John Jansen, a land agent who had come from Nebraska, USA. John brought many settlers with him from the United States and they all settled in the Jansen Lake area.

Josefsburg, Alberta – The Schram family[16]  , as well as 400 others, came from Austria in the late 1880s. “They went by freight to Winnipeg, then known as the end of civilization. The rail took them on to Calgary and some of these families settled near the town of Dunmore, Alberta. The Schram family continued onto Red Deer by rail, then they had to continue north by horse and ox drawn wagons following Indigenous trails that brought them to the south banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Then they went by ferry across the river and camped at Fort Edmonton for several days and then they decided to head northeast.”  When they finally arrived at their destination, they called the area ‘Josefsburg’ (which was named after the community they had left in Galicia, Austria.) By 1891, they had built their home and were satisfied they had located in a productive area. They felt that the area was a land of hope and promise, so they called their own land ‘Hoffnungsau’ which means ‘hopeful meadow’, not realizing that the place had already been named “Dog Rump Creek” because of the dog-shaped creek running through the area.

Keystown, Saskatchewan - Keystown was named after the first settlers, six Keys brothers who homesteaded in the vicinity (six miles north of Pense) in 1883 and 1884. The land for the townsite was purchased from one of the brothers, Adam Keys.[17]  

Lake Lenore, Saskatchewan - George Gerwing[18], a homesteader, said that Lake Lenore had been named after a surveyor’s daughter.

Lloydminster, Saskatchewan - The name of Lloydminster was adopted at a meeting by a group of leading Barr colony citizens.[19] The meeting was held in homesteader Stephen Hall’s house in January, 1904. A first consideration that was discussed at the meeting was that the name should contain the name of their respected leader, Reverend George E. Lloyd. It was then suggested that the word ‘minster’ be included as the word refers to a ‘central church’. All members were in agreement that the combined words of Lloydminster aptly described their community experiences.[20]  

McDonald Lake, Saskatchewan - Homesteader Isabel Muirhead[21] indicated that McDonald Lake (located seven miles northwest of Estevan) had been named after her father.

Naseby Post Office, Saskatchewan – This Post Office was named after the Battle of Naseby which occurred in 1645 in Northhamptonshire, England. This was a civil war between the royalist army of King Charles I and the British Parliamentarian army. The name was suggested by Mr. Matchem, the Postmaster of the area, who was an Englishman.[22]

Nipawin, Saskatchewan – Nipawin was an Indigenous name.  Originally, an early form of the name ‘Nipowewin’ referred to a “standing place where families of Indian people awaited the return of their warriors. While the name was spelled in various ways [over time], the most common in fur-trading days was ‘Nipawi’, which eventually changed to ‘Nipawin’.”

Pibroch, Alberta – In 1911, the local community felt that it was time to have their own post office rather than having to travel three miles to Edson to collect their mail. A post office application was sent to the Postmaster General in Ottawa asking for a post office at their location. A reply from Ottawa asked them to submit three names of which one would be chosen. The names suggested were Learig, Halltown, and Pibroch. Homesteader Aaron Roddick argued for ‘Pibroch’ as the name for the post office as he claimed the majority of the settlers were of Scottish descent. As he stated, his family was of Scottish descent, the neighbouring Calderwoods were good enough to be Scotch as they had come from Ireland, the Hudson’s and Hall’s were almost Scotch as they came from England while the Mitchells, McIntoshes, Irvines, Thomsons, Millars, McPherson and Yules were so Scotch, they “still had heather growing between their toes.” The authorities at Ottawa selected the name Pibroch for the new post office.[23]   

Prosperity, Saskatchewan -  Mrs. Ada Morrison[24] indicated that her husband’s aunt, Mrs. Robert Christian, named the school district and the post office ‘Prosperity’ because everyone in the district had prospered. For years, their land had successfully produced #1 hard wheat. 

Rimbey, Alberta – Rimbey was named after the first settler to homestead in the area in 1901, Ben Rimbey. His brother, Sam Rimbey, homesteaded a short time afterward.[25] 

Rocanville, Saskatchewan -  The post office in this area, located eighteen miles north of Moosomin, was run by a Metis individual called Rocan Bastien. In naming the post office, he used his first name when the rail line came through in 1903. Eventually, the town that built up around the post office was called Rocanville, as well as the school district.[26] 

Schiller School District #3618 – The Schiller School, a one-room schoolhouse, located in Quinton, Saskatchewan was named after the German philosopher, playwright and poet, Friedrich Schiller (1788-1805). The name was adopted at the time that the school was built by community organizers and accepted by the federal Department of Education.[27]

Spalding Railway Station, Saskatchewan – Spalding station was originally named Magellan Station when the rail line was built, however, the people who lived in the area signed a petition to rename it Spalding as the Spalding Post Office was only two miles away.  Not only would this provide a continuity of a name that they were all familiar with in the area, but also people preferred the name of Spalding. As for the origin of this name, it was the birthplace of the first postmaster’s wife - Spalding, Lincolnshire, England.[28]

Spedden, Alberta – The first post office in the area was called the Cache Lake Post Office. The name ‘cache’ was derived from the Indigenous cache which they used to leave behind along the lakeshore when they went out buffalo hunting. In addition, the hills north of the lake were called ‘Cache Hills’. However, in 1919, the name ‘Cache Lake’ was changed to Spedden during the year the Canadian National Railway track was laid. One of the workmen in the surveying party was named Mr. Spedden. While working in the area of Cache Lake, he passed away and the hamlet of Spedden was named in his honour.[29]

St. Peter, Saskatchewan – St. Peter got its name from the Benedictine fathers who first arrived in the Wolverine Creek area and put up their tents. This area became the headquarters for their colony in May, 1903. Later in June, they built a mud and pole hut and it became the first Benedictine Monastery in Canada. Three-quarters of a mile further north, they built another Monastery.  In 1904 when the rail line came through, the name of St. Peter was changed to Muenster, Saskatchewan.[30]

Sutherland, Saskatchewan – This village was named after William Charles Sutherland who was an elected member of Saskatoon’s town council in 1906 and an elected member of the first legislative assembly of the Saskatchewan provincial government in Regina. He owned a large farm alongside the village.[31]

Warspite, Alberta – The original name of the village was Frances Siding, named as a tribute to the daughter of Martin Byrne on whose homestead the village was built. In 1920, it was renamed Warspite after the British cruiser which fought so gallantly in the Battle of Jutland between British and German forces during WWI.[32]

Willows, Saskatchewan – Hazel Dennison, a homesteader, indicated that four miles west of their land was a general store that was run by a man named William Lowes. She remembered that she used to drive her mother with a wagon and team of oxen to this store and get supplies of groceries and other necessities. Eventually the town was named after the storeowner by combining the first parts of his first name and last name.[33]


[1] Mrs. James Bean. (1892). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[2] “Early Settlement of the Bellis Area by School Districts,” Waskatenau: 1867-1967, p. 2.

[3] Mrs. Edna Jaques. (1902). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[4] From Bush to Bushels: A History of Bruderheim and District, p. 3

[5] J.E. Barschal. (1893). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[6] The Carmangay and District Home and School Association, “Carmangay,” Bridging the Years: Carmangay and District, p. 4

[7] Mrs. Clarissa Stewart. (1903). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[8] Sam Vikar. (1906). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[9] John J. Andres. (1892). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[10] Wikipedia: “Enilda”,

[11] Felix Belliveau. (1902). Pioneer Folklore Questionnaire, PAS.

[12] “Origins of Names of the Town of Foam Lake and Surrounding Villages,” They Came from Many Lands, p. 37.

[13] Samuel Jackson. (1878). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[14] “Early Settlement of the Bellis Area by School District,” Waskatenau: 1867-1967, pp. 2-3.

[15] Eric Neal. (1906). Pioneer Folklore Questionnaire, PAS.

[16] Jack Schramm, “The Schramm Family,” Along the Fifth: A History of Stony Plain and District, p. 499.

[17] Mrs. Jos. Keys. (1886). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[18] George Herman Gerwing. (1903). Pioneer Folklore Questionnaire, PAS.

[19] The Barr colony refers to a group of 2,000 immigrants who immigrated to western Canada in 1902. For more information, refer to Lynne Bowen’s, Muddling Through: The Remarkable Story of the Barr Colonists published in 1992.

[20] Stephen Hall. (1903). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[21] Isabel Muirhead. (1883). Pioneer Folklore Questionnaire, PAS.

[22] James Gray. (1906). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[23] Westlock History Book Committee. “Pibroch Story,” 80 Years of Progress, p. 20.

[24] Ada Morrison. (1883). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[25] Rimbey Historical Committee. (1952). History of Rimbey, Alberta: 50 Years of Progress, p. 6.

[26] Ada Morrison. (1883). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[27] Herman Wodtke. (1909). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[28] Michael H. Fouhse. (1907). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[29] “History of Spedden,” Waskatenau: 1867-1967, p. 1 .

[30] Joseph Bonas. (1903). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[31] John Evans. (1892). Pioneer Experiences Questionnaire, PAS.

[32] Members of the Warspite-Victoria Trail Historical Society, “Place Names of this Anthology,” Between River and Lake, p. iv.

[33] Hazel Dennison. (n.d.) Memoir. Accession No. RE-695, PAS.

Anecdotes and Stories


Follow me:

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black LinkedIn Icon
Are you interested in the homesteading era in Canada?  If so, fill in the form below if you want to contact me with a question or comment.  I would love to hear about your own ancestors and their experiences. 

Thanks for submitting!

Contact Me
bottom of page