The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan


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The city of Estevan (pop 10,242), named after the registered telegraphic address of George Stephen, the original president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, was incorporated on March 1, 1957. It is a regional service centre 186 km SE of Regina at the junction of Highways 18, 39 and 47 on the northeast bank of the Souris River. The exposures of Coal, the hardwoods flanking the Souris River, and numerous buffalo herds steadily drew various First Nations hunting and trading groups to the area during the past 10,000 years. On La Vérendrye’s 1734 “Map of the West,” a trade and hunting corridor called the Warriors Trail was marked in the vicinity of Estevan. European fur traders adopted the trade routes established by the Aboriginal people. By 1805, when Lewis and Clark scouted along the Dakota stretch of Long Creek, the Assiniboine had replaced the Mandan/Hidatsa as the dominant people of the area. Years later, James McKay, the Factor of Fort Ellice, led John Palliser and geologist James Hector to a point near what Métis hunters called “la Roche Percée,” about 25 km southeast of Estevan; Indians made offerings to Manitou when they passed this site. In 1873 the British-American Boundary Commission established a survey camp at Woodend, near the junction of Long Creek and the Souris River, so named because there was no firewood to be found north or west of this area for many kilometres. The following year, Commissioner G.A. French of the North-West Mounted Police led a force of 275 policemen, 114 Red River carts with 20 Métis drivers, and 310 horses to Woodend, on their march to the mountains. In 1894 the SOO LINE was completed through Estevan, linking Minneapolis-St. Paul and Moose Jaw. The Territorial Government of the North-West Territories incorporated Estevan as a village on November 2, 1899. By 1905 the population was 596, and Estevan was proclaimed a town on March 1, 1906. Growth was accelerated by the centralization of electrical power production and the development of coal and oil resources in the area: Estevan Generating Station was constructed in 1930, Boundary Dam Generating Station between 1957 and 1970, and Shand Generating Station in 1992. The population doubled to 8,500 within two years of the intense development of the local oil fields in 1955. Local events of national significance include the coal miners’ strike and riot in 1931 (see Estevan Coal Strike); the crash of a Dakota Mk III, which killed twenty-two people in 1946; the survival story of Brent Dyer and Donna Johnson in 1979, as documented in Peter Gzowski’s The Sacrament ; and the controversy surrounding the construction of the Rafferty and Alameda dams in 1989. Natural resources in the area include agricultural products, clay, coal, fly ash, flare gas derivatives, natural gas, and oil. The two coal-fired electrical generating plants produce 50% of Saskatchewan’s electricity. Estevan is a regional service centre in the automotive, Education, government, medical, recreation, retail, and tourism sectors.

G.C. Salmers

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University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
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