Area History

Last Mountain Lake and Area

The Legend of Last Mountain When the Great Chief of the world completed the building of all the hills, he found he had a little material left over and he looked about to see where he should put it. He saw that the prairie lay smooth and level and for many days journey, unbroken by mountain, lake or stream. “What fitter place than this to lay good soil?” he said, and in the midst of the prairie he built a mound with what dirt remained and, scooping a hollow with his hand, he made the water left over from the rivers a long lake. And he breathed on it so that the grass and trees grew, and the birds and buffalo came to rest in the shade. All that was wanting was a name, so the Great chief lifted up his voice and summoned all his braves and they came on wings like the eagle, greeting their chief with a shout like thunder booming among the hills. Then from their ranks stepped Cheewana, daughter of the great chieftain, beautiful as the summer morning, wise as a beaver and she bent at his feet. And she said, “Because this mountain was the last of thy making and this lake is the last of thy filling, I offer you for the one the name of Last Mountain and for the other that of Last Mountain Lake.” **Published by William Pearson Publishing Company Ltd. of Winnipeg in the approx. year of 1911, from a pamphlet called “Last Mountain Lake Saskatchewan’s Summer Resort**”

Early History of Last Mountain Lake For the first inhabitants, the Last Mountain Valley was a land of abundance. Groups of Cree Indians depended on the wildlife for their food, clothing and shelter. Waterfowl were hunted during spring and fall migration. In the fall, Indians visited the lake to fish for walleye, northern pike and whitefish, but bison were the Cree’s mainstay. It is estimated that 60 million bison once roamed the Great Plains of North America. Yet their demise was swift. In July 1869, Isaac Cowie, a clerk with the Hudson’s Bay Company, passed through one of the last great herds at the north end of Last Mountain Lake. He wrote…”They blackened the whole country, the compact moving mass covering it so that not a glimpse of green grass could be seen. Our route took us into the midst of the herd, which opened in front and closed behind the train of carts like water round a ship…So we travelled among the multitudes for several days.” By 1879, the great herds were gone from Saskatchewan and by 1884, only a few scattered animals remained. In 1887 the Canadian government was urged to protect the Last Mountain Lake area, then a part of the North West Territories. It was feared that further development of the Long Lake Railroad would extend settlement to the islands and shorelines of the lake where important populations of nesting and migratory birds occurred. To prevent the loss of valuable wildlife habitat, the Canadian government set aside the north end of the lake as a sanctuary. Settlement in the area took place with the turn of the century. Early Settlement of Last Mountain Lake In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the railway and the Dominion Government of Canada wanted more settlers out west to unite Upper and Lower Canada -the eastern provinces of Canada with British Columbia. The rail lines didn’t want to lay track over land with no settlement, as it wasn’t economically feasible. As the demand for furs declined and the buffalo population dwindled, Saskatchewan started noticing the agricultural land capabilities in the middle and southern portions of the province. Settlement, towns and rail lines developed the prairies south of the tree line. Immigrants were attracted to Saskatchewan by the Homestead Act, which granted a quarter section or 160 acres to homesteaders if they could ‘prove’ the land in three years. The immigration pattern resulted in ethnic bloc settlements. Goverment’s efforts to promote immigration and encourage agricultural development between the 1890s and the 1920s increased the Saskatchewan population to almost a million by 1920. Wheat production also began to rise. In 1901, territorial farmers harvested a 12,736,642-bushel crop. European settlers first arrived in this district in the late 1800s and eventually set up a town site called Watertown, near the northern end of Last Mountain Lake. Before railways arrived on the prairie, it was steamboats that brought people and supplies to the land. The Pearson Land Company ran a steamboat on Last Mountain Lake to help bring settlers into the area. These steamboats played an essential transportation role for several years. Canadian Pacific Railway The first train arrived at nine o’clock on the morning of August 23, 1882, which was also the occasion for the christening of the new capital of the North-West Territories. The Governor General of Canada, the Marquis of Lorne, in consultation with his wife, Her Royal Highness, Princess Louise, daughter of the Queen, chose the name “Regina” in honor of her mother. The general manager of the CPR, William Cornelius Van Horne, celebrated the occasion in his private railway car with Lieutenant Governor Dewdney and officials of the CPR, the Hudson’s Bay Company, the land commissioner and many local dignitaries.The completion of the national Canadian Pacific Railway occurred on November 7, 1885. This enterprise was significant in the prairies where produce had to be transported long distances to markets and necessities of life had to be imported.Earlier that same year grading began on the first branch railway out of Regina. The Qu’Appelle, Long Lake and Saskatchewan Railroad and Steamboat Company received a government grant for a railway running from Regina to Long Lake and a steamboat navigating the length of Long Lake. Trains ran between Regina and Sussex (now Craven) and the C.P.R. eventually purchased this line. This was the beginning of a new resort area for Regina near Sussex and the proximity of the railroad allowed for the opening of Lake View Park (Saskatchewan Beach) and Cain’s Point (Regina Beach). South End of Last Mountain Lake It is reported that the first white man to see Last Mountain Lake was Daniel Harman in 1804. He worked for the North West Trading Company. In 1869, the Hudson Bay Company built Last Mountain House, nearby what is now the town of Silton. From here settlers traded with the local Cree and Assiniboine Indians. This Hudson Bay Company post was later destroyed by fire in 1873. In the 1880’s a rail line was built by the “Qu’Appelle, Long Lake and Saskatchewan Railroad and Steamship Company, from Regina to Sussex (Craven). During this time period, many settlers started moving into the area, including Mr John Dale, who was the first owner of the land along the north side of Last Mountain Lake (Long Lake), where Sunset Cove and Sundale Resort currently exist. When one walks the fields in this area, numerous stone rings and cairns, from native campsites, can still be observed through-out the surrounding fields; reminding us of the tremendous changes that have taken place here during the past century. The first known property owner of what is now known as Regina Beach was Mr William Cain. The beautiful point was then known as Cain’s Point, sometimes spelled as Kane’s Point. Mr Cain established a trading post at Regina Beach and traded with the local Indians. In 1902, an Englishman from Winnipeg, Manitoba arrived by the name of William Pearson. He becomes a very important person in that era, forming the Pearson Land Company and the Pearson Steamship Company. In 1910, a doctor from Regina by the name of Davis Low, purchased Cain’s point and subdivided it into lots. He renamed this area Regina Beach.

In 1912, the first train arrived in Regina Beach, which in 1913, ended the era of the steamships on Last Mountain Lake. In 1915, the original Regina Beach School was built. Last Mountain Lake was the primary transportation link to the railhead at Regina, as the lake stretched some seventy-five miles to the south. A paddle wheeler boat, then a steamer, brought mail and people to and from the area until the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) ran a line north from Regina, to a few miles west of the lake. This rail line serviced the communities of Valeport and Port Hyman, neither which exist today. The first building ever recorded at Buena Vista was an old stone building, rumoured to have been built by convicts in the mid 1800’s. It was later inhabited by Mr Foster, a Government Game Inspector, (in 1890) and was named the GreyStone Lodge. In 1902, Mr Walter Comstock and his wife moved there from Winnebego, Minnesota, and became the first known settlers in the area. Lumsden Beach was established in 1903. In 1905, the Lumsden Beach Summer School was established by John Doyle, a Methodist Minister, and in 1908, he established the first church camp in Western Canada. It still exists today, more than 100 years later and is recognized as the oldest church camp in Western Canada. In the early days, most people travelled to the camp by either riding the Qu’Appelle Steamer or taking the train from Lumsden. Wilkies Livery supplied transportation to the camp for 50 cents each, for a party of two or more. 1907 photo of the town site of Port Hyman, located a few miles east of where Sunset Cove now stands. and Communication&subcat=Steamboats and River Travel&id=1635 The History of Sunset Cove,-105.0020&z=16&t=h&hl=en The Hamlet of Sunset Cove was established on part of the W1/2.28, Twp. 21, Rge.22, W.2M. The original owner of the land was John Alexander Dale. The land survey was performed between the dates of March 23 and April 20, 1959, and signed by all parties on April 23, 1959. It was registered in the Land Titles Office on July 3, 1959. The land was advertised for sale by an advertisement placed in the Leader-Post and also by word of mouth. The advertisement in the Leader-Post provided information where perspective purchasers could view the lots to be sold and also indicated that they would be on a “first come-first served” basis. There were 35 front lots, which sold for $500.00 a lot; and 32 back lots, which sold for $250.00 a lot. The Rural Municipality of McKillop #220 administered our original Hamlet. The first property owners/builders at Sunset Cove were John and Erna Stinnen and Mike Bishop. Many of the purchasers of these original lots still own their lots today, more than fifty years later. These original owners were anxious to start building and did so in May of 1959, even though they did not get their actual title until later that year. This was quite an undertaking since there were no roads and no electricity. Access to the Hamlet was via John Dale’s farmyard and pasture. It was virtually impossible in the winter and wet weather to access Sunset Cove. Many times John Dale would kindly come to their assistance with his tractor. Some landowners used a portable power plant for construction purposes, lights, radio, etc. An Ad Hoc Committee was formed to lobby the R.M to construct an access road into the Hamlet of Sunset Cove and to construct Mountain Drive. Property owners contributed $15 per lot on a number of occasions to offset the cost of the roads. The original road that was constructed was a roller coaster trail, much to the delight to some of the children. This Ad Hoc Committee, consisting of both front lot and back lot residents, came up with recommendations for the development of a Public Reserve, to allow for a public swimming area and a green space; as well as boathouse spaces for most of the back lot residents. In later years, since there were not enough spaces for all back lot residents to have boathouses, the Resort Village also utilized the land at the south end of the west road allowance to provide for additional boathouses. In 1968 the Hamlet petitioned the Minister to establish the Hamlet of Sunset Cove as an Organized Hamlet and this was accomplished. This gave the Organized Hamlet control of 60% of the municipal taxes. A Hamlet Board was elected. The first members of the Board were: Gerry Argue, Chairman; Gerry Kennedy, Member; and Shirley Schneider, Member. The first major undertaking of the Organized Hamlet Board was to have the access road constructed to all-weather standards. In 1968, the main access road was rebuilt. The road was leveled and widened at the same time. This construction activity was partially funded by loans from some of the residents of the Resort Village. In 1982 the Board recommended to the property owners that it would be beneficial to become a Resort Village. As a Resort Village, the Village would have its own Mayor and Council, set its mill rate, and become the master of its destiny. The recommendation was accepted and the Minister of the Day was petitioned to now re-establish our Organized Hamlet as a Resort Village. In January of 1983, the Resort Village of Sunset Cove was established. An election was held, and the first Council Members of the Resort Village of Sunset Cove were: Mayor, Gerry Argue; Councilors: Dr. Robert Babchuk and Bill Ciz. Jean Rose became the first Clerk, and later in the term Mina West became the Clerk. This Council operated until the next election in 1985. In 1985 the Resort Village purchased the land known as Parcel A, which was zoned as agricultural land, and annexed it as part of the Resort Village of Sunset Cove. In 1986 a tennis court was constructed on the west part of Parcel A. Later, the remaining part of the parcel was subdivided into four lots and sold. In 2001, the Resort Village of Sunset Cove provided street address numbers for all lots at the Resort Village. In 2006 a parcel of land at the East end of the Resort Village of Sunset Cove, which was also zoned as agricultural land, was annexed as part of the Resort Village. In 2010, the Resort Village of Sunset Cove consists of 36 front lots and 36 back lots. North End of Last Mountain Lake The north end of Last Mountain Lake lies about 10 kilometres from an early townsite then known as Watertown. Homesteaders began taking up land in the district in 1903; and for a number of years, before the railway was built through the area; much of the transportation of people and freight into the region was by water. The Wm. Pearson Company established on the lake a “port of call” for its barges and steamer, the SS Qu’Appelle. It’s southern port, located near the south end of Last Mountain Lake, was called Port Hyman, with Watertown being it’s northern port. In 1910, as the railway approached, businesses from Watertown and other areas moved towards the rail line, and the first structures began to appear on the Imperial townsite. The rail line was constructed several kilometres west of the lake in order to maximize the amount of agricultural land on either side. 1909 Photo of the S.S. Qu’Appelle. and Communication&subcat=Steamboats and River Travel&id=1634 Steamships On November 2nd, 1904, the Leader (now the Regina Leader Post) reports the W. Pearson Company of Winnipeg will place a boat named “Welcome” on Long Lake (Last Mountain Lake) in 1905. Steamboats once traveled Last Mountain Lake On May 31st, 1905, the Leader has a story on page 7 entitled “Long Lake – Silton District” where it states “an unfortunate break-down of the machinery of the new boat “Lady of the Lake” (occurred) a few days ago” From an article written in the Leader on December 17th 1907 confirms the trial run of the Qu’Appelle was made on August 5th and 6th, 1907. However the article continues stating “the boat” was also running in 1906, and in 1907 the W. Pearson Company had the Qu’Appelle rebuilt and had a new engine installed. Some believe that the Lady of the Lake was refitted in 1907 and commissioned “Qu’Appelle”. However, local historians believe the Lady of the Lake was a paddlewheeler built in 1905 by a local farmer and operated independently until a severe summer storm sunk it in 1907. This audio recording of Mr Ralph Huggins, a Steamship operator on Last Mountain Lake, supports this belief. and Communication&subcat=Steamboats and River Travel&id=1636 The Sessional Papers of Canada (Sessional Papers, 1908, number 21b, page 121) confirms the registry of the Qu’Appelle, built at Port Hyman, Saskatchewan in 1907. The beached Qu’Appelle was burned near Saskatchewan Beach as part of the celebration of the end of the war in 1918. Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area Since 1887, Last Mountain Lake has been officially recognized as a special place for wildlife. It was the first federal bird sanctuary reserved in North America. More recently, the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area has been designated as a “Wetland of International Importance” one of only 30 such sites in Canada and 700 such locations world-wide. Two main factors contribute in attracting such a wealth of birdlife to the area: its good habitats and its strategic location in the heart of the central flyway of North America. Last Mountain Lake is an important migratory stopover for hundreds of thousands of birds travelling across the Great Plains, between their northern breeding grounds and their southern wintering grounds. Over 280 species of birds have been recorded at Last Mountain Lake during migration. Up to 50,000 cranes, 450,000 geese and several hundred thousand ducks may be observed when migration peaks. Although less conspicuous, scores of songbirds, shorebirds and birds of prey spend from a few days to a few weeks every year in the area. Birds travelling through at least 25 different countries, from arctic Canada to Argentina, use Last Mountain Lake’s rich habitats. Last Mountain Lake offers habitat for 9 of Canada’s 36 endangered, threatened or vulnerable bird species. They include the Peregrine Falcon. the Ploving Piper, the Whooping Crane, the Burrowing Owl, the Ferruginous Hawk, the Loggerhead Shrike, the Baird’s Sparrow, the Caspian Tern and the Cooper’s Hawk. Volunteer groups such as the Last Mountain Lake Stewardship Group, help protect our beautiful lake. (Special thanks to Gerry Argue, Erna Stinnen and Tom Fulcher who researched and prepared the material for this page)