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.

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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

50 Years Later

Mossy Vale, of course, no longer exists and is part of Saskatchewan's history. In the days leading up to the reunion I was likely not the only one who tried not to get very excited about it, for fear the turnout would be small. After all, it was to do with something that happened a long time ago.

Sunday, July 17th--only a few days over the anniversary of the "Pioneer Picnic" of 1961 that heralded the end of Mossy Vale--arrived to hot and glorious sunshine. The little hall by the beach at Tobin was a perfect setting. To say the reunion exceeded expectations is an understatement. One hundred twenty people signed the guest register, coming from as far as Ontario and Vancouver Island. The many historical photographs that were gratefully received from far and wide, including from ever-dedicated teachers Coral Pickering, Illa May, and Ann Morris, provided a slideshow trip down memory lane that was very popular with everyone. No one remembered Mossy Vale School being quite that small!

Five very special women in attendance were honoured that afternoon--all daughters of homesteaders who settled the area: Mary (Wall) Boschman, Katie (Morris) Smith, Joyce (Oram) Adamson, Eunice (Nelson) Adamson, and Alice (McLeod) Northrup. Then there was the amazing experience of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our old neighbours once more. First Reno Hill School alumni, then we who once inhabited Mossy Vale, posing for photos that now remind us of how special the moment was.

The Mossy Vale history cairn and the Reno Hill "Cherish the Memories" School sign were magnificently in place--witnessed, photographed, touched, and appreciated by those who made the pilgrimage out to them at the end of the afternoon.

Group photos courtesy: H. Larsen, B. and C. Weighill

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mossy Vale/Reno Hill Get-Together: 50 years later!

Sunday, July 17th, Tobin Lake Resort Village community hall. Short program and cake at 3:00 pm. Come a little earlier if you'd like to get a little visiting in beforehand. It's the place to be for former residents of the two districts--a chance to visit with your former neighbours and later pay a visit to our special commemorative projects: the Mossy Vale history cairn and the Reno Hill School District sign.

Prepared site for the Mossy Vale cairn. Finding a location proved pretty difficult but with thanks to R.M. Councilor, Al Boschman, we are in luck!

Sunday, June 5, 2011


A handful of old negatives were saved for me thanks to my cousin, Sandra Wiles, after my uncle, Peter Morris, passed away in 2002. No one at the time knew what they were of or whether he had even made them, but luckily I tucked them away. What the impressively large celluloids contained, when I finally processed them just this spring, is an amazing step back in time--a drop-in visit with Mossy Vale folk going about their lives in the 1940s. This post and one or two to come will feature an important occupation at Mossy Vale: logging. In this post Peter and his brother Bill are hauling logs off Birch Island, destined for local mills and as far away as Carrot River and likely Nipawin. Though their voices are unfortunately no longer here to provide commentary, my mother and Uncle Frank (Morris) tell of The Pas Lumber Company camps in the vicinity; impressively large and self-sufficient, capable of accommodating a hundred or more workers. Apparently pigs were even raised there. Frank recalls the dangers of carrying logs over the ice and how the horses could be quickly detached and freed if an over-weighted sleigh broke through.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Miss Young

Edith (Young) Vereschagin taught at Mossy Vale School the second year it was open (1944-45), and she returned the next year. Edith was an enthusiastic, accomplished writer and artist; assets which her students must have found both inspiring and motivating. She was my Uncle Jack Morris's teacher. Years after Mossy Vale, Edith told with a smile, of a "situation" that arose during her tenure. My uncle, who had misbehaved somewhat inappropriately, was dismissed early one day by Edith, with a note for my grandmother, explaining the misdemeanor. Jack didn't come back to school the following day but when he returned the next, he relayed that his mom intended to pay a visit to the school that noon to see Miss Young. Apparently, she and all of the students were not to do anything, or go anywhere, until she arrived. My Romanian-born grandmother, a rotund woman with completely broken english, and generally spoken with extra volume to compensate, could appear fairly intimidating, more so to those who crossed her. Edith, feared the worst. Anticipating the wrath of an overly protective parent, her hour of dread finally arrived. But what my grandmother brought to school that lunch hour, was a healthy dose of support and appreciation in the form of enough home-cooked food to feed an army.

Photo courtesy: A. Byers

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mossy Vale Church

The Pas Trail Mission Field was established in 1932. The first minister to serve the area was Stuart East. In the late 1930s the Anglican Church held services. Two weddings were held at St. John's Anglican Church at Mossy Vale (built in 1940): Geordie and Katie Smith, and Eldon and Joyce Adamson. Church was held every summer at the church from 1952 until 1962; a year after most Mossy Valers had gone, and as our little district was being disassembled and flooding was already in progress.

This one minute movie, edited from home movies made by my aunt and uncle, Madeline and Harry Schroeder, about 1960, brings to life the ride down the sandy road to the church. My grandfather, Florea (Frank Sr.) Morris, makes a brief appearance along the side of the road near the site of his old homestead which he was visiting that day. The house that the Morris's built and which was located across the road from the church, is briefly and partially visible through the trees as the camera pans by. In the churchyard some of the congregation (my aunt decked in a stylish hat) visit after the service, as was always the practice.

Movie clips courtesy: M. and H. Schroeder

Monday, April 25, 2011

1957 Mossy Vale Mailing Label

My dad, Geordie Smith, held on to this reminder of his farming days at Mossy Vale. Now, more than fifty years after the disappearance of the community, and with memories similarly-faded for some of us who lived there, the mailing label on this publication helps to confirm that Mossy Vale was once "quite" real. (Click on the image to view a larger version.)

The heading (in red) for the lead story of the journal is interesting in it's own right--a sort of non-intentional omen for the soon to be announced "water" development that would signal the end of Mossy Vale.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Birch Island Beavers (1957)

"The most feared ball team in the area," remarks Hjalmer Larson. "We were all pretty heavy hitters. Good memories!"

From Left (back): Marvin Reimer, Allan Grassing, Morris Mitchell, Dennis Anklovitch, Andrew Hamilton. (Front): Ellis Hamilton (coach), Arnie Cameron (student minister—and incredibly good shortstop according to Andrew), Hjalmer Larson, Lavern Larson, Forest Anklovich, Murray Anklovitch (coach)

Photo courtesy: V. Weighill

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Horseback Riders

The two horses in this well-composed picture snapped by Clara (Hamilton) are Princess and Doidge (large Percheron). On this day they were the main mode of transport for these young people.

From left: Wesley Dalke, Bernice Bell, (both visiting cousins of the Hamiltons), Alice Reimer, Verna Reimer, Walter Hamilton, Marvin Reimer, Andrew Hamilton. Era probably early 1950s.

Photo courtesy: C. Weighill

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Hamilton "V" for Victory

It was war time, and around the time of Miss Leitz's school play. The Hamiltons, whose livelihood depended on their farm and Ellis's trapline, found their own meaningful way to show support for the effort that was taking place overseas. Some of Ellis's winter trappings were arranged in this substantial "Victory V". In the picture are Ellis, Andrew, and Clara.

Photo courtesy: C. Weighill

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mossy Vale School Class: War Dramatization (1944)

The theme of this interesting picture, taken behind the school on the north side of the Tote Road (at the top of the hill where the kids used to slide down), was the Second World War and the contribution that local Canadians were making overseas. The play may have been penned by Miss Leitz. Madeline, who played the part of the nurse, remembers that the school was overly warm during the performance, and that she unfortunately fainted. At the time, some of her classmates felt it was funny that it was the "nurse" who became ill and required attention. It can now be added that the nurse from the school play went on to spend a long and dedicated career in nursing in Windsor, Ontario. Miss Leitz obviously chose well.

From left: Madeline Morris, Art Wall, Bernice Nelson, Betty Smith, Adeline Wall, Beatrice Nelson, Allan Halladay, Alice Reimer, Jackie Wall, Robbie Symonds, Olga Wall, Clarice Nelson, Joyce Nelson, Cecil Reimer, Dale Nelson. Teacher: Miss Leitz.

Photo courtesy: V. Weighill

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Smiths and Browns: Early homesteaders

(Top photo) Bonnie, Tom, Thelma, and Dorothy Smith, and Duff Brown.
(Centre photo) Dorothy, Tom and Wesley Smith.
(Bottom photo) Walter Brown.

Photos Courtesy: A. Smith

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fishing at Mossy Vale

(Top two photos) Hjalmer Larson, a Reno Hill neighbour and ardent Mossy Vale fisherman, thought "The Petaigan" was a great spot for fishing. He used to drive his Model A down to the bridge and fish off the shore there. Following a rain it could be a pretty muddy place, a fact demonstrated by the caked blotches that are visible on the pants he wore the day the first photo was taken, where he proudly displays his prize catch of the day!

(Bottom photo) George Northrup with Pete Enns, successfully back from a day of fishing. Is this a rare snap of Pete's yard and driveway? ... Looking into this classic picture of Pete with hands in back pockets, brings to mind his unique character and signature whistle. He was in some ways quite possibly, the quintessential Mossy Valer.

Photos courtesy: H. Larson

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Teachers of Mossy Vale School: 1943 to 1961

The school at Mossy Vale was basic, small and until close to the end, without electricity. The "Library" was a small cupboard in the corner and the wood stove in the opposite corner would turn red when stoked but throw marginal heat further than a few feet. Yet, through the shear determination and dedication of a handful of women who "chose" to come and teach there, the children were treated to fine learning experiences. Phyllis Hagen was the first (Sep-Dec 1943) and Louise Kemp was the last (1960-61). In between were: Irma Leitz (Jan-June 1944), Edith (Young) Vereschagin (1944-46), Helen Geppert (1946-47), Marian (Adamson) Larson (1947-49), Thelma Hamilton (1949-52), ? (1952-53), Betty Oram (1953-54), ? (Sep-Dec 1954), Phyllis (Bradshaw) Atkinson (Jan-June 1955), Irene Sawatzky (1955-57), Illa (McCann) May (1957-58), Coral Backstrom (1958-59), and Anne (Boyarchuk) Morris (1959-60).

Your assistance with the provision of missing dates and/or corrections where inaccurate will be greatly appreciated.

Photo courtesy H. Larson (Lavern Larson: the last bat at Mossy Vale School, 1961 or 1962)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mossy Vale School Students, Circa 1948

From left: (back) Cecil Reimer, Madeline Morris, Doreen Brown, (middle) Joan Reimer, Alice Reimer, Jack Morris, (front) Clara Hamilton, Marvin Reimer, Lloyd Reimer, George Reed, Marina Morris.

Photo courtesy: B. Boschman

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Leaving Mossy Vale

The recently built home in this "moving" picture taken in December, 1961, is evidence that Geordie and Katie Smith had intended to spend their lives farming at Mossy Vale. While still wielding hammer and saw in 1959, one might imagine their shock upon learning from Saskatchewan Power Corporation agents that the dreams they were building, were not to be completed. Here, on an otherwise bright and cheery morning, Katie and Geordie document the last of several truck hauls they had made during those final days, and more importantly, preserve their last memory of the home they never got to finish and would never visit again.

Photo courtesy: K. Smith

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mapping the Flood Basin of the Projected Hydroelectric Dam

This map detail of the district with land elevations drawn on it, circa 1959 and possibly created for (or by) the Saskatchewan Power Corporation (just guessing—correct or additional info would be appreciated), appears to anticipate the extent to which Mossy Vale would be flooded. The blue overlay (added by me) approximates the water levels as they are today. The locations of the Petaigan Bridge and the Mossy Vale School have been added to the map. (Guessing again, but it would appear that the heavily shaded quarters refer to "farmer owned" lands while lighter shading might indicate rented or leased lands. At the time the map was likely created it seems logical to assume that the Power Corporation was preparing to negotiate the takeover of land they would require for the lake they were about to form.
(As with all posts on the Mossy Vale Saskatchewan blog, "click" on the image to open a larger version. An additional click will often reveal a larger image yet. In the case of this map, it does!)

Source of map: unknown

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Sobering Image: Petaigan River, Bridge and Shore, 1962

As I was growing up I used to wonder what the gradual flooding of Mossy Vale would have looked like as it occured, and now I know. By comparison to the earlier post showing the Petaigan River before inundation, this is anything but the picturesque spot "our river" represented. Surely a memory we'd like not to have, or to dwell on, and difficult to post here, but to my mind worth acknowledging. This is an example of the cost of progress.

Photo courtesy: A. Hamilton

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mossy Vale School Students, 1957-58

A lunch hour photo on a warm-enough day after Christmas. A section of the portable concert stage has been removed from the school and lies temporarily propped against the wall and awaiting storage while a couple of wooden benches, also for the concert, lie upside down in the snow on the right. From left: Kenny Brown, Jim Adamson, Brian Smith (a.k.a. Boots's Friend, kneeling), Patsy Brown (standing), Verna Reimer (in doorway), Lloyd Wall (sitting in front), John Smith, Warren Adamson. Missing from photo: Harvey Reimer, who was away with his parents who were cooking at a Cumberland House camp, and Rita and Bruce Adamson who lived close to the school and therefore went home for their lunch.

Photo courtesy: I. May

Mossy Vale School Teacher, 1958

Teacher (1957-58), Illa McCann, with student, Bruce Adamson.

Photo courtesy: I. May

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Building Mossy Vale School,1943

From Left: Ellis Hamilton, Bill Symonds, Bob Halladay, Clare Nelson, Bill Adamson, Floyd Nelson. On ground from left: George Smith Sr., John Adamson, Beatrice Nelson.

From the name suggested by Harry Watts who lived south of the Petaigan River, Mossy Vale School District #5159 was formed in 1939. In 1943 the school was built on the west side of the Tote Road on land owned by Steve Matrice and Annie Morris (sec. 26) and later moved to Eldon and Joyce Adamson's northeast quarter (sec. 22) around the time the new road was put through in 1952.

Photo courtesy: E. Adamson

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pioneer Picnic, July 5, 1961 — Visiting in the "Shades"

Possibly Eileen Yager with sun glasses, Margaret (Adamson) McGibbon, and ???. The teacherage is in the background, and was transformed into a food and refreshment concession booth for the big day.

Photo courtesy: E. Adamson

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mossy Vale School, Circa 1940

From Left: Joyce Nelson, Betty Smith, Bernice Nelson, Phyllis Hagen (teacher), Clarice Nelson, Adeline Wall, Madeline Morris. Left Front: Robbie Symmonds, Dale Nelson, Alice Reimer, Cecil Reimer, Jackie Wall, Art Wall.

Photo courtesy: E. Adamson

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mossy Vale Pioneer Picnic Booth and Ball Game, July 5, 1961

Gathering at the food booth set up against the teacherage. Guess the hotdogs were cooked inside and passed through the window. From Left: ?, Jean (Smith) Mitchell, Gertrude (?) Shaw, Audrey (Young) Smith and daughter Marguerite, Mary (Morris) Mitchell behind the counter, and ???. Purses were big back then!

Women's softball game. Catcher: Teacher Anne (Boyarchuk) Morris, batter: Eunice (Nelson) Adamson. Behind the enthusiastic crowd is the school's woodshed, and in the distance is the Eldon Adamson barn.

Photos courtesy: E. Adamson

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mossy Vale Pioneer Picnic, July 5, 1961

From Left: Velma Brown, Florrie Symonds, George Larson, Olive Halladay

Photo courtesy: E. Adamson

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mossy Vale Vacation Bible School, Circa 1954

Hey look, warm day, the door is open! It was summer holidays ... and more school — Vacation Bible School that is, held at Mossy Vale School. Johnny Smith is in the foreground, Clara (Hamilton) (is that you) next to him, and Verna (Reimer) is behind, facing the camera. ... the others were too busy to look up. Audrey Jean (Smith), was this the time you came from Nipawin and attended, and so could one of those two girls be you? The identities of the boy who is standing and the bigger boy in the far row next to the blackboard, are not confirmed.

Photo courtesy K. Smith
(Thanks Verna, for also sending an identical copy)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jack Reimer by Log House and Later 1949 Home

The Reimers lived in a log house until the 2 story one was built in 1949.

Photos courtesy: C. Reimer

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Necessity: the Mother of Invention

This Gray Dort with the back cut to form a truck-like vehicle, belonged to Stacey Young and is parked here in front of Mossy Vale School. He was the father of Edith and Audrey.

Photo courtesy: H. Frank

Mossy Vale Church

In 1941, Frank and Cassandra Morris granted a parcel of their land across the road from their home (SW 27 - 53 - 11 - W2) to the (Anglican) Synod of the Diocese of Saskatchewan. This church, which was erected beginning in 1940 by area residents ended services that had been held in their home and in the homes of others. The church served Mossy Vale, Reno Hill, and Pas Trail, wasn't heated and therefore not used in winter. During the Second World War, with a number of the district men away, it was closed down and services were once again held in folks' homes or at the school. In 1952 it was cleaned up and reopened with student minister Ray Hefflefinger conducting services. The above picture might have been taken in 1954 just after student minister, Irving Fraser, had successfully organized a work bee to paint the church white.

Sources: Saskatchewan Archives (SA-1416) U.C. Pas Trail Field Mission / ISC Grant Search
Photo courtesy: C. Reimer

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Church at the Morris's, 1940

From left: (kneeling in front) Gordon with son Allan Halladay, Joyce Oram, Betty Smith, Clarice Nelson, Gerry Brown, Robbie Symonds, Sandy Smith, Bill Adamson
(standing in front) Allan Shaw, ?, Bill Symonds, Mr. Frank Morris Sr, Mr. Bob Halladay, ? (minister), Katie Morris with brother Jack Morris, ? (peaking over shoulder), ? Nelson, ? Nelson, ?, ? peaking from behind ?, Geordie Smith
(second/third/fourth rows) ? peaking over shoulder, Tom Smith partially hidden from view, ?, ?, Smith Nelson, Marian Adamson, ?, Mrs. Florrie Symonds, ? behind Florrie, ? peaking from between Florrie and Minister, ? hatted person hidden behind minister, ? hatted woman, Mrs Mary Smith, Thelma Stephenson, Mr. George Smith Sr.
(back) ? with infant or behind person hidden from view, ? left of door frame, Mrs. Cassandra Morris with grand daughter Marina Morris, ? hatted woman, ?.
(Click the photo to enlarge)

Photo courtesy: E. Adamson

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Petaigan River

Petaigan River, shot from the bridge by Andrew Hamilton.