Melfort, pop 5,559, located 90 km east of Prince Albert and 178 km northeast of Saskatoon, in east-central Saskatchewan’s parkland belt, is surrounded by the black loam of the fertile Carrot River Valley. Melfort is known as the “City of Northern Lights” because of the spectacular aurorae seen in the night skies for much of the year.
The first settlers came to the area in 1892 and established a settlement called Stoney Creek. In 1902 the Canadian Northern Railway surveyed the area, and in 1904 the railway was built about 2.4 km (1.5 miles) south of Stony Creek. As the railroad did not come near the settlement, the people moved the entire community to the railroad, buildings and all. The General Manager of the Canadian Northern Railway, Malcolm Hugh McLeod, asked Mrs. Reginald Beatty, the first White woman settler, to name the new settlement; she named it Melfort after her parents’ estate in Argyllshire, Scotland.
The Farmers’ Railway opened in July 1909, the first railroad built between Melfort and Regina. The settlement of Melfort grew quickly: it was incorporated as a village in 1903, achieved town status on July 1, 1907, and became Saskatchewan’s twelfth city on September 2, 1980.
Melfort is located in one of the most productive farmland areas in Canada, the Carrot River Valley, a territory that has never known drought or severe crop failure.
The city is an agricultural service centre: most industries are agriculturally related and include meat processing, feed mills, seed cleaning plants, the manufacture of farm chemicals, and the largest grain storage capacity in northeast Saskatchewan. The sale and service of agricultural equipment and supplies represent a key component of the retail sales in the city. As the hub of northeast Saskatchewan, Melfort serves a trading area population of 60,000; tourism is also a major industry, with an estimated $9 million spent annually in the area by travelers. Melfort is served by four public elementary schools, Melfort and Unit Comprehensive Collegiate, and a Community College which provides a variety of educational opportunities for adults in the area. Cumberland Community College also offers a full range of first- and second-year Arts and Science classes from the University of Saskatchewan.