History

Submitted by Kathy Reschny – Village of Denzil Administrator

February, 2008

The following information was written by Frank Baker. All information contained herein was extracted from the Denzil and surrounding area “Heritage of Hope” history book. Copyright Inter-Collegiate Press 1983.Denzil in 1914

                                                In order to write a history of the Village of Denzil, one would have to have been an adult in 1909, and have lived to be ninety at the present date. There are several people who almost qualify, but it is impossible to find anyone who actually lived in the Village this long. I have lived alongside the village on the farm for close to sixty years, and the committee has asked me to do my best to gather as accurate a history as I can. If you discover a few inaccurate accounts in this article, it is because memories are sometimes a little foggy, and dates are debatable. I have tried to talk to every old-timer, and a few not so old, to get as much information as I can. There have been several attempts in the past to write about the village, and I will draw what information I can from these articles.

When the C.P. Railroad built the rail line from Moose Jaw to Macklin in 1905-1910 there was a provision made for a stop about every seven or eight miles. This was done to attract business for the railroad and to open up the prairie region to settlement. The settlers coming in were a good source of income for the railways, and the railway owned, through a government grant, thousands of acres of undeveloped land, that would soon bring income if the area were developed. A considerable amount of the area around the railway was filed on by settlers before the railroad was built.

Much of the Denzil area was taken up by settlers who came here through the Village of Scott, which was an established area about halfway to Battleford, the regional capital of the territory. One of the original pioneers was a Norwegian, who it is said had made some money in the Klondike Gold Rush, and took up land on section 34-37-26 W 3. Mr. A.F. Olson chose this land because it was astride the railway survey, and he felt that a village development would take place very close to his property. There was considerable speculation as to where the railway would establish a stopping point in the area when the line was built.

This influenced some early settlers to file on homesteads located along the rail line. The rail surveyed the northeast quarter of section 33-37-26 W 3, almost from corner to corner and the north seventy acres, more or less, became the site for the Village of Denzil.

Mr. Olson established his farmstead across the road allowance, east of the village site, and established a small supply business, hauling his supplies from Battleford with horses and wagons. By the time the rails were laid there were several other Norwegian settlers arriving that had taken up homesteads close to the Olson’s. Most of these people came from established pioneer areas in the central, northern United States, in search of fertile land. A substantial number of settlers arrived of Russian-German descent, who had lived in the southern areas of Russia, but were actually German settlers on a second migration from their homeland.

One of the major reasons for coming to the Denzil was the extensive advertising done by the Luseland Company. This company had large tracts of open land in the Scott area, and southwest of there, along the west side of Tramping Lake. They promoted and took people to see the land for a fee, and a lot of settlers used their development as a base to find their own homesteads further west.

The Catholic Church was establishing St. Joseph’s Colony in the area, and this brought new people to this same area. The railroad was a source of employment and many migrant workers found the free land inviting enough to become farmers. Many tradesmen were drawn to the new area by building and business potential. My parents came in 1908, and took up land adjacent to the rail line, a half mile north of the Olson home.

My father built his first residence with supply boxes of one sort or another garnered from the rail camp east of the village. Being a plasterer and bricklayer by trade,  he was able to find employment when the village began to take shape. Most of the early settlers were either relatives or friends, of someone settled nearby, and many of the German pioneers had been village neighbors in Russia.

The area surrounding Denzil had some features that seem to have influenced the early settlement besides the railway. The large valley in which the village is situated, was a source of livestock feed as well as the several large bodies of water along the railway in the valley. The surrounding land was gently rolling, which appealed to the type of mixed farming that came here, with many sloughs to supply water. The prairie fires had burned through the area, but there was evidence of some tree growth that was an attraction to the pioneers. Many of the settlers were able to dig fairly shallow wells and get good drinking water. There were many springs that supplied year round water along the valley, attracting wild birds and animals that later became a source of income and food.

The weather, although severe, was affected in winter by the Chinooks, that blew in from the west, often bringing needed moisture for crops, as well as mild temperatures. The land is on average a brown loam, which was fairly easy to break and cultivate, being very fertile under normal conditions. Although somewhat stoney, the land around the village was, and still is, above average production quality acreage.

The village began as a settlement center as soon as the rails were laid in 1909. It is situated approximately 15 miles west of the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, and about 140 miles due west of Saskatoon.

The first village settler was Angus McLoed, who came from Manitoba. The first store was built by Archie Eyre, and later operated by Scallen Bros., to be destroyed by fire in the winter of 1911.

There are two versions of the way the village got its name. One is that the village was named after Lord Denzil, a C.P.R. official. Another version is that Mr. A.F. Olson, one of the original Norwegian pioneers, I mentioned earlier, entertained two officials of the railway for dinner. In appreciation of his hospitality, they named the village after Mr. Olson’s eldest son. The son’s name was Ansel, and due to the Scandinavian accent of Mr. Olson, or a misunderstanding, the name came out as Denzil. I can find no proof of the right credit for naming the village, and any future readers of this history may choose the one that suits them.