The origins of the Town of Shaunavon date back to 1913. On September 17, 1913, lots for the new town site were sold and within approximately 8 hours 370 lots were sold to ambitious individuals who wished to establish their businesses and residency in this new community. Rumours that the Canadian Pacific Railway would be establishing their divisional office for lines heading west to Lethbridge made purchasing lots in the area popular.
The original town site was puchased by the C.P.R. from the original land owners: William Ganley, Patrick Ganley and Thomas McNealy.
By November 27, 1913 Shaunavon became incorporated as a village with over 60 businesses and on November 15, 1913 the first school was opened. On October 27,1914 after continued growth this thriving village became the Town of Shaunavon.
The establishment of the Town of Shaunavon is a tribute to the early settlers and entrepreneurs who had the foresight and courage to venture into unknown territory. Along with their desire to establish a new community, they brought along with them their own stories and adventures. Their spirit and faith helped to create a thriving community. Shaunavon continues to be a great place to live!
Shaunavon, Saskatchewan; known to some as Bone Creek Basin, to others as Boomtown, and to still others as The Oasis of the Prairies.
It's a special place, with many stories to tell. Stories about ranchers and rodeos, pioneers and bootleggers, hardship and adventure. It begins in 1913 on a stretch of prairie in the Cypress Hills uplands. Come explore the early days......
In 1913, the town-site of Shaunavon was wide open prairie...ranch country. The valleys and hills of Cypress Hills had been settled as early as 1881. Here in Bone Creek Basin, only wind claimed the land.
Early on the morning of September 17th, everything was changed. The town-site was purchased by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). In those days, rumours of a railway being built had a strange effect on men...like news of a gold rush.
When the CPR put land up for sale on the new town-site, men lined up for hours in Gull Lake, a town 51 kilometres to the north of present day Shaunavon. They anxiously waited their turn, hoping to buy a prime location lot near the railway.
Within eight hours, 370 lots were purchased for a grand total of $210,000.00. That was a fortune by 1913 standards. Settlers and squatters started arriving the same day. Many built houses on wooden skids and planted them north of town while they waited for the lot sales to be approved. When everything was official, they hitched up a team and dragged the buildings to their new property. Read the article from The Shaunavon Standard dated Sept. 18,1913
By November, Shaunavon was big enough to earn status as a village. The first work train arrived in the village at month's end, carrying steel for the new track.
When the railroad crews arrived, the village of Shaunavon already had a school, church, newspaper, and sixty new businesses. Less than a year later, the population was over 700-enough to declare town status. It needed special legislation, but Shaunavon became the first community in Canada to grow from a village to a town in under one year.
From 1917 to 1924, Saskatchewan was dry. When prohibition was repealed by popular vote, bootleggers turned to an even bigger market. The United States was dry from 1920 to 1933.
During Prohibition, the making, selling and buying of liquor was illegal. That didn't stop bootleggers like Peter Druar, who was known around Shaunavon for his home brew.
Bootlegging was risky business. One day, Mounties arrived at Druar's home with a search warrant. They went down into the basement, where three 20 gallon kegs were standing in plain view. Unknown to the Mounties, the first two kegs contained chokecherry wine while the third was filled with home brewed liquor. The Mounties demanded a sample from the first keg. They pronounced it quite good, and asked for a sample from the second keg. They called this sample delicious. One Mountie pointed to the third keg and said, "I suppose this is the same?" Druar said yes and offered to pull a sample. "No," the Mountie replied, "wine is alright for your own use, so long as you don't bootleg it."
As they left, amazed at his good luck, Druar decided to hide the keg of home brew. It was years before his family realized he had actually buried it in the backyard, under a horseradish plant.
Shaunavon has always had a good supply of fresh, cold, clean spring water. The town is like an oasis in the prairie, with tree lined streets, green lawns, gardens and parks.
In 1939, when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) were touring across Canada, Shaunavon was asked to supply water to the Royal Train.
When in town, try a sample of our Royal Water!
In the early days, lignite coal found in the hills around Shaunavon was mined for fuel by homesteaders. Later, larger mines were tunneled into the hills and the coal was mined for profit. The backbreaking labor was cheap; miners were paid between $0.80 and $1.00 per ton. During the Depression of the 1930's, coal was used to barter for supplies like groceries and clothing.
With the discovery of oil in the area, coal fuel became obsolete and the mines were abandoned. You can still see some of the old tunnel entrances in the hills. Oil fields in Bone Creek Basin have been producing "black gold" since 1952.
Today, with the development of new technology, oil activity continues to thrive in the Shaunavon area.
In the early part of this century, Shaunavon was a stop-over point for spring and fall cattle drives. Cowboys were always looking for ways to show off their skills. Townsfolk were always looking for ways to keep the cowboys out of trouble.
Favorite cowboy pastimes seemed to be shooting up the town and riding horses into the Empress Hotel and Kennedy Hotel bars. A rodeo seemed the perfect solution. So on July 1st, 1914, Shaunavon hosted its first rodeo. It was a huge success with cowboys as well as townsfolk.
Over the years, the rodeo evolved from a local event to one of national caliber where you could watch famous cowboys like Slippers, Buck Murphy, Alec La Frambois and Buck Hardin.