The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan


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Town, pop 947, located 21 km E of Broadview at the junction of Hwys 1 and 9. The CPR main line was built through the area in 1882; immediately Whitewood, its name derived from the white poplar trees in the area, became an important supply centre and point of disembarkation for multitudes of settlers of diverse origins. John Hawkes was the editor of the Whitewood Herald from 1897 to 1900, and later the first Saskatchewan Legislative Librarian and author of The Story of Saskatchewan and Its People . He described Whitewood in the 1880s as the most cosmopolitan place in the North-West, and added that to conduct business in the town at the time one ought to have known eleven languages. Finns, Swedes, Hungarians, Czechs, English, Scottish, and Irish settlers, among others, took up land in the region. One of the more interesting settlements to develop in the Whitewood district in the mid-1880s was that of a group of titled French and Belgian nobility. Much like the British gentry to the south at Cannington Manor, the “French Counts,” as they were locally known, tried to build on the prairies a life similar to the aristocratic style to which they had been accustomed in Europe. They brought a retinue of servants along with all the accoutrements of a sophisticated society, built beautiful residences, and initiated a number of optimistic but ultimately unsuccessful business ventures—among them sheep ranching, a sugar beet plantation, a brush manufacturing company, and a cheese factory. For a variety of reasons, all of the business ventures failed, and by the early 1900s all of the “French Counts” had left, most returning to France. They did leave behind, however, the well-endowed parish of St. Hubert, southwest of Whitewood; the descendants of their servants and workers would contribute a French-speaking presence in the area. In April 1892, the first issue of the Whitewood Herald rolled off the press. It is now Saskatchewan’s oldest continually published weekly newspaper and its editor, Chris Ashfield, is the fourth consecutive generation of his family involved with the province’s weekly newspaper industry. By 1906, the population of Whitewood was over 500 and the town was a well-established trading centre for the surrounding agricultural district. Today, the area industry consists of mixed farms and livestock operations, with cereal grains and oilseeds being the main crops grown. Whitewood’s St. Joseph’s Church, built in 1959, was the first important work of notable Saskatchewan architect, Clifford Wiens. Whitewood also has a number of heritage properties ranging from residences and commercial buildings to churches, many dating to the 1890s.

David McLennan

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