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Unity townsite, 1920s.
Unity and District Heritage Museum

Town, pop 2,243, located approximately 90 km SW of the Battlefords at the junction of Hwys 14 and 21. Settlement of the area began in 1904 and Unity began to develop with the arrival of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1908. By the early 1920s, Unity’s population was over 600 and growing. The community experienced somewhat of a decline during the 1930s, but subsequently recovered, particularly after World War II. Much of the community’s return to prosperity and future growth was due to oilfield exploration and resultant developments. After natural gas was discovered near Unity, local furnaces and coal stoves were converted to burn the gas and, in 1944, Unity became one of only three communities in Saskatchewan with their own domestic natural gas system, prior to SaskPower being given the authority in the 1950s to establish the provincial utility. (Lloydminster had natural gas in 1934, and Kamsack’s system was in place in 1937.) Drilling for oil in the Unity area also revealed a substantial deposit of sodium chloride (common salt) laid down when much of Saskatchewan was covered by inland seas. In the late 1940s, a salt mine was developed and, today, the mine, operated by Sifto Canada, is the community’s largest employer with 60 employees. Further, exploratory drilling also revealed extensive deposits of potash, and the first attempt at potash mining in Saskatchewan, indeed, in Canada, was made near Unity in the early 1950s. The industrial activity in the area, combined with modified and more successful agricultural practices after the dry years of the 1930s, caused the town’s population to skyrocket. The community’s numbers rose from 682 in 1941, to 1,248 in 1951, and, between 1955 to 1965, approximately 100 new homes were built in the town. By 1966, the population was 2,154. Despite industrial development, agriculture remains the major concern in the region. Unity has three large modern inland terminals, as well as substantial farm machinery dealerships. Unity has been participating in the nationally acclaimed “Communities in Bloom” competition since 1999, winning first place in their population category that year and again the next. In 2003, the town’s floral displays and attractive appearance earned Unity a national “Communities in Bloom” championship.

David McLennan

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