Turn the clock back to 1961 and beyond. Roam those old dirt roads once more and visit friendly neighbours you knew so well. From its beginnings before 1930 to its dismantlement in 1961, making way for the Squaw Rapids Hydro-electric Dam, to the day in 1962 when the river rose and water erased footprints forever, there's a lot to remember and to comment on.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Steamboats at Mossy Vale

There were many steamers that once plied the scenic waters of the Saskatchewan River. Among them was the Northcote, from 1874 to 1886, which served the fur trade and also played a role in the 1885 Resistance on the North Saskatchewan River. Later, the David N. Winton (top photo) and the Alice Mattes (above) were photographed by a Morris camera at Mossy Vale sometime in the mid 1930s. These two boats supported The Pas Lumber Company, hauling supplies and maneuvering log rafts during annual summer log drives on the River. After freeze-up, logs were hauled from the bush by horse and sleigh to the Sipanok Channel where they were later floated down to the lumber mill at The Pas, Manitoba, after spring break-up. 

The Morris family settled not far from The Pas Lumber Company's camp at Mossy Vale and the company became an important source of employment for them. An earlier post featured William (Bill) and his brother, Peter, hauling logs on the Saskatchewan, but Bill also became a cook for the lumber company. It was a beautifully acquired skill that served him well throughout his life.

Another interesting boat that might have been observed at Mossy Vale in the 1930s, was the S.S. Nipawin, which boasted cabins and steerage. As important as all this activity was for the area, by 1958, The Pas Lumber Company closed permanently and around that time every remaining steamboat disappeared.

Photos courtesy: P. Morris collection

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Night of the Christmas Concert

With the church closed every winter, the school's annual concert and social was the focal point of Christmas at Mossy Vale. From early December, when desks were pushed back to the walls and the stage was installed at the front, excitement was in the air as the teacher worked feverishly to produce a spectacular show on the last day of school before the holidays. It was a big night filled with skits, carols, gifts, candy, food and good cheer and while all of these wonderful memories remain, there appears to be a complete absence of any photographs of the festive and important occasion. Therefore I made this picture from my own memory of the 1956 concert.

Happy Holidays and may 2012 be a good one!

Brian Smith
"Night of the Christmas Concert," watercolour, 1997, 15" x 11"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Logging and Farming the Boreal

These photos speak to the importance of logging in north eastern Saskatchewan as far back as the 1930s. For Mossy Vale, it was the industry of the Pas Lumber Company that created a trail by which settlers were actually able to make their way into the forested and boggy area, and onto the narrow strip of arable land in between that they settled and turned into good crop yielding farms.

Top: Saskatchewan River view. Middle: Logging crew stopping for dinner. Bottom: Morris brothers, Bill and Peter, breaking land.

Photos courtesy: P. Morris collection

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sawmill Breaks

Mossy Vale sawmills were obviously popular places to lug a box camera out to, judging by the fair number of images in existence. Thanks to the recorders of these significant toils and interactions of the day—who apparently also prepared and lugged out the sandwiches and coffee—we are treated to fascinating front row seats.

Top photo: Lunch break at the Smith sawmill; George Smith (left), three unidentified men, and Jack Reimer (right). Bottom photo: unknown event at the Morris sawmill; Frank Morris Sr. (left), son William (Bill) Morris, Cassandra Morris and son Jack (right).

As usual, your help with naming the unidentified and providing additional information will be greatly appreciated. Click on the photos to reveal larger versions.

Photos courtesy: (top) C. Weighill, (bottom) K. Smith/P. Morris 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mossy Vale Trees = Lumber to Build Homesteads With

There were a few lumber mills operated by homesteaders at Mossy Vale. They not only provided employment and income in 'lean' years but served the necessary role of creating lumber for building the community. The mill pictured here belonged to George Smith Sr.. In the distance is the Smith homestead. The workers are unknown but it's hoped the man wielding the axe was just hamming it up!

Photo courtesy: E. Adamson

My dad, Geordie Smith, used to tell about the size of trees that grew on the islands throughout the Pas Trail area. For the record, Carl Mitchell and a neighbour clearly demonstrated the girth of this one.

Photo courtesy: M. Mitchell

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mossy Vale HIstory Cairn

In my last post I ended with a photo of my mother, Katie Smith, standing beside the just-erected Mossy Vale history cairn on the day of the reunion. Over the months that I worked on the cairn plans with the other members of the Mossy Vale Sign Committee, I gathered she figured our efforts were a bit of a waste of time. But that day in July, when she navigated the rough ground with her walker from the car to the cairn, and then read the inscription plaque, it was clear she was delighted. In this post I wanted to champion the efforts of Bill Weighill and René Chabot, whose "sweat-equity" and experience in particular, is why we have such a magnificent history cairn.

René Chabot preparing to drill holes in the boulder in advance of mounting the inscription plaque.

Bringing the boulder to the cairn site, back to front: Bill Weighill, Walter Hamilton, René Chabot.

About to mount the plaque and preserve Mossy Vale's history. "Click" on the photo to enlarge and read the inscription.

Photos courtesy: C. Weighill