NWMP Post at East End, 1878.
Eastend Historical Museum

Town, pop 576, located in the Frenchman River Valley 33 km SW of Shaunavon on Hwy 13. The Eastend area is rich in history and geology, and rife with archaeological and palaeontological sites. In the mid-1880s, as bison populations were being decimated on the eastern plains, the area became an increasingly important hunting ground for the animals, and Indian tribes to the east and west of the territory regularly fought over the essential resource. A Métis settlement developed (ca. 1860s) to the north of Eastend, and in the early 1870s the Hudson’s Bay Company had a post in the location. The post, however, lasted only a season due to hostilities between the Assiniboine and Blackfoot peoples, and perhaps because of competition from independent traders selling whiskey. Many years later, the site came to be known as Chimney Coulee—the name being derived from the remnants of the stone chimneys that had been built in the Métis homes. In the mid- to late 1870s, the NWMP established a satellite detachment of the newly built Fort Walsh at the site, which they dubbed East End because of its location at the east end of the Cypress Hills. When the Mounties moved to the vicinity of the present townsite years later, the name endured. The first ranch was established in the area around 1883. A ranch house built at Eastend in 1902, the community’s first residence, remains occupied to this day. Huge ranching operations started to give way to homesteaders and crop production, and in 1914 the CPR built the railway through the area; the village of Eastend (East End originally) was incorporated, growing steadily over the next decades. Over the winter of 1951–52, a record amount of snow fell in the area and extremely warm spring temperatures caused the snow to melt within three days, causing the dam above the community to wash out on April 15. The entire valley was flooded and Eastend had to be evacuated. Subsequently, a dike and a new dam were constructed to prevent such an occurrence from happening again. Today, the economy of the town is driven by agriculture, oil and gas, and tourism. Another of the area’s natural resources is the white mud clay mined from deposits in the district hills. In the early 1950s, a ceramics course was offered in Eastend with the purpose of stimulating interest in developing a local industry; today, Eastend artisans utilize the resource to produce pottery. Tourism has developed substantially in recent years, following the discovery in 1991 of one of the few Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever found in the world. Although prehistoric fossils had been unearthed in the region for over a century, the find, made by local school principal Robert Gebhardt, made history and led to the opening of a palaeontological interpretive centre and research station at Eastend. The T-Rex Discovery Centre, opened in May 2000, now hosts several thousand visitors a year. Additional Eastend attractions include the Wallace Stegner House, the boyhood home of the Pulitzer Prize–winning author best known to Saskatchewan residents for his 1955 book, Wolf Willow . Also in Eastend is one of the few observatories open to the public in western Canada. The Wilkinson Memorial Observatory was founded by Jack Wilkinson, a blacksmith who built his own telescopes and hand-ground his own lenses. When he died in 1953, the community took over maintenance of the observatory, which is located on top of one of the valley hills and features an 11-inch (28-cm) Celestron telescope. The museum in Eastend houses additional palaeontological specimens, as well as artifacts and exhibits relating to the town’s early history. The Eastend area is also home to writer Sharon Butala, who became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002.

David McLennan