GO NORTH INTO A LAND OF NATURAL BEAUTY AND
IF YOU PERSEVERE, YEA SHALL BE REWARDED.
According to Biblical stories, God told Moses to lead his people to the Promised Land. As the story goes after many trials and tribulations, the succeeding generations of those who started the journey were rewarded entrance into the land of milk and honey.
Our forefathers came north to the edge of civilization to earn a living and to feed their families. The first migration to settle the area came mainly from eastern Canada, mostly from Quebec, to build a sawmill and harvest the forest. The heydays of 1910-1919 the original Big River are a story worth telling. They came to an area of virgin forest, built a sawmill, created a lake, created a town, built the original roads then followed it with the railway. The early Big River had a population four or fives times what it is now and a sawmill BURNER, which stood for three-quarters of a century. But, alas after the fire of 1919, the mill was moved elsewhere and most of the people left with it. Most, BUT not all.
Five individuals, who believed, purchased the company town. From that point on there was a belief in the community and the town would survive. The 1920s saw the freight swings to the north, carrying supplies up and fish back, small mills were operating, logging in areas that had not been burned out.
The 1930s saw the majority of the second migration to settle the area, a large influx of homesteaders came from the prairies to escape the drought, supplemented with immigrants from Europe, the population of Big River and area improved and the agricultural community was becoming more noticeable.
The war years had a large number of volunteers from the area, most did return, but some paid the ultimate price so that we can live in the freedom that we now sometimes take for granted.
With their return the population of our community again improved, as many of the returning servicemen brought with them wives that took their place in the community.
The 1950s had the emergence of the crown corporation. Saskatchewan Timber Board, later Saskatchewan Forest Products, which took over the small mills in the area, building a mill on the shores of Cowan Lake. Since this time except for a couple of years following the 1969 fire, Big River has had a large sawmill in the community. The community has prospered because of this.
The Centennial History Book Committee has tried to tell the complete story of our community and our friends and neighbours. We have solicited information from as many sources as possible. A great deal of respect and a big thank you goes out to the individuals that compiled the original history of Big River. Timber Trails has been a great asset to our committee, you will find that some of our book is a duplication of Timber Trails, we did this because the work that they did was good and the information complete, we could not improve on their story, and alas some was used out of necessity. The people who were there, and those that remember when are getting fewer with the passing of the years.
Our committee also solicited information from you the people. The committee spent many hours compiling lists of former residents and tracking down contact information. Over two thousand pamphlets were passed and mailed to residents and former residents of our neighbourhoods. We had over 600 replies with information and pictures. To those of you who were missed, please accept our deepest apology. To those that knew and did not respond, remember, you had the opportunity! In most cases the entries that we received are what we used, the depth of material and the amount of information in the stories are what was submitted to us. We used almost all the information. We could only work with the material we had at hand, though in some. we knew there was so much more that could have been told.
The family history section of the book has much to offer you as the reader. It also settled a major debate within the committee. As you read the book you will notice that there are no stories of personal tragic disasters. The committee's final decision was that if the families wished to mention these tragic events, they would do so. If not, may the individuals involved and their stories rest in peace.
You will also notice that there are no celebrities heading in these pages. It is not as if Big River has not produced any leaders within their fields of endeavours. Big River has produced quite a number of athletes, artists, writers and politicians. From our community, we have had individuals go on to play with professional teams or compete as individuals, and a number who could have. A number of individuals who have played on national or provincial teams, or have competed as individuals at that level and again a number who declined the invitation. We have had singers, writers and artists that have received acclaim from beyond our community.
Big River has also produced its share of politicians, whether it be in Governments, as leaders of their service groups, or as leaders of their industry. Big River people do have a voice, and usually, follow our words with action. So yes, Big River has produced its share of noteworthy people, but as a committee, we couldn't decide as to where to draw the line, who to include and who not, and God forbid if we missed somebody. So, therefore, again the family histories became the answer. Those that want to mention their accomplishments will do so in their family histories.
The committee started this project in 2002; many hours of volunteer work was expended so that this book could happen. For a project of this magnitude, the committee was relatively small. We worked on our own at home and met every Monday night for over two years. The committee members are Nicole Klassen, Meada Wilson, Sharon Bradley, Jana Panter, Nova Warriner, Dorothy Kuxhaus. Wendy Wilson, Eugene Michel, Beryl McKnight, Amanda Crashley, Doug Panter, Margaret Olenchuk, Bev Morgan. Christopher Warriner and finally the leader of the group in every sense, except for the title Kathy Panter.
The Committee would like to acknowledge and express our thanks to the proof-readers, Helen Vik, Vivian Zinovich, Pat Warren, Merle Swanson, Susan Maitland, Arlene Ritchie, Wendy Hartnett, Jodi Chenard and Linda Raymond. Your services have reduced the spelling and grammar mistakes to a minimum. As readers we can enjoy the contents of the stories, not to become entrapped with the composition errors. We would like to give special thanks to Brenda Hanson for the artwork for the cover of the book.
The final acknowledgement that we as a community have to make is to our Forefathers. For without their vision and perseverance, we would not have the community that we live in today. For those that came and persevered, your offspring have reached the land of your dreams.
The Big River and District Centennial History Book Committee - would like to acknowledge the following contributions to this project:
The Debden Credit Union, Big River Branch - for the financial support. The Credit Union extended an operating line of credit (at cost) for the financing of this project and to:
West Cowan Apiaries - who guaranteed the loan.
Panter Agencies Ltd. and the Big River Lumber Corporation - for supplying the computers and some of the other office supplies necessary for the compiling of the data.
Saskatchewan Archives (both Regina and Saskatoon), Parkland School Division and the Big River Museum - for the use of informational materials.
Timber Trails - (1979), for filling in the holes of history and supplying us with a base to start.
Selmer Ausland - for the use of his website, https://www.jkcc.com so we were able to download the required parts of Timber Trails (1979) and save us a great amount of time typing.
Big River High School, Big River Housing Authority and Wendy and Wally Wilson - for the use of office space, meeting rooms and a place (Wendy and Wally's basement) to spread things out.
Saskatchewan Community Initiative Fund, Out of Ink (Poetry Group) and Timber Trails Committee - for their financial contributions.
Friesens - for printing the book.
You, The People - who supplied us with information and purchased the product. To all that are mentioned above, the Committee would like to express their sincere gratitude.