Delaronde Lake lies approximately seven miles north east of Big River. Indians were the first people to inhabit the area surrounding this thirty-five mile lake.
The lake was first known as Stoney Lake, later changed to Delaronde in honour of Alex Delaronde, a fur trader. Delaronde established a trading post and stopping place, at the south end of the lake, in the early 1900s.
Some of the old trails, made by the Indians, are still discernible. These trails converge on the lake from outlying areas. Some come from as far away as Waskesiu in the Prince Albert National Park.
The Indians used these trails to transport their furs to the trading post. Some Indians made their homes near the lake, congregating in an area on the east side of the lake near Grassy Island. This settlement became known as the Indian Village. An old graveyard attests to the fact that this particular area has long been a favourite camping ground for several generations of Indians.
This area has never been officially set aside as an Indian Reserve.
White men began coming into the district as early as 1913. One of the first to claim homestead rights was a French-Canadian by the name of Arelle Morin. During the next few years, several French families moved into the district.
These people, wanting to maintain their own customs and language, wished to have a separate school for their children. After waiting an appropriate length of time, and seeing that a school was not forthcoming, they became disillusioned and moved to nearby districts such as Debden, Victoire and Shell River. These areas were more heavily populated with French-Canadians, therefore, they had a better chance for their voices to be heard.
Not all families moved away, some families preferred to remain in the district. The well known names of some of these people are - Michel, Boisvert, Chenard, Gallant, and Caisse.
As a consequence of some families moving away, the land they left behind became available. This land was eagerly sought after, by other families moving into the district, as the primary work had already been done on the land.
In the thirties, a new group of people came into the district as the drought in the southern part of the prairies made it impossible for them to make a living. The Government sanctioned this move and encouraged the people to start a new life in the northern regions where conditions were not so harsh. The Government supported these people in their new endevour by providing some of the basic essentials needed, such as: a team of horses, a cow and some farm implements. These people received little income from their farms, however, but supplemented their livlihood by fishing, trapping, bush work, or by working in lumber mills.
Before we continue any further, let us go back for a moment and take a look at the progressive growth of the settlement before the arrival of these newcomers.
The twenties and thirties were boom years for the fishing industry. Thus, fishing and the hauling of fish provided work for a number of local residents.
Fish hauled with horses and sleighs following one behind the other in long processions known as, "freight swings". The slow progress of these freight swings made it necessary to have stopping places at frequent intervals along the way where men and horses could stop for rest and food before continuing on their journey.
A stopping place located at the end of the lake could accommodate forty teams of horses. This place was owned by Big River Consolidated Fisheries. The man in charge was Mr. Jack Rae. Mr. Rae hired a cook to do the cooking and together they ran this place for several years. Mr. Rae later married the cook.
Continuing further up the lake the next stopping place was Joe Sheppard's (he was an uncle of Jim Young). Mr. Sheppard ran this place alone for several years.
Johnny Olsen had a stopping place at the Narrows, while a stopping place at the north end of the lake was owned by Willie Tongue.
During this period of time, small private sawmills began to appear on the scene. George Anderson set up a mill at the landing in 1922. This mill operated almost continuously until 1947.
Ellis and Pinkerton Mill at North End Stoney.
A man by the name of Ellis operated a mill at the north end of Delaronde during the winter of 1936 - 37. In the spring, he moved the mill to a location south of the landing and sold to Mr. Pinkerton and Mr. Boyd. The next year, Mr. Pinkerton left and Mr. Boyd ran the mill alone for the next four or five years. Operations were discontinued at this time and the mill was dismantled.
An interesting note here about Mr. Boyd's mill. A horse drawn buggy was used to haul the lumber away from the mill. The buggy ran on tracks, this made it easier for one horse to haul heavy loads. The lumber was piled in a slanted position to ensure proper run off of rain. The mill was run by two steam engines. A third engine was used as a spare, thus greatly reducing costly shut-downs.
Harry Boyd's sawmill, Stoney Lake.
Harry Boyd's sawmill at Stoney Lake.
The south end of the lake seemed to be a favourite place for mills throughout the succeeding years, several mills dominated this area.
Most of the mill sites were situated on the west side of the lake with the exception of a mill and box factory owned by Mike Thibeault. The mill was situated on the east side of the lake near Grassy Island. Mike ran this mill from 1935 to 1955. Some of the other well known operators were Mr. Rizer, Oscar Eikel, and Rider Lomsness, Joe Friedman and Andy Sundby.
J.K. Johnson's Steam Engine - Delaronde.
Small communities soon sprang up around the mill sites. Families lived in temporary homes, mainly cabooses that were once used on the fish hauls or used in lumber camps.
These small mills gradually phased out with the advent of a large government mill which came into production in 1951, in the nearby town of Big River. Mr. Sundby's mill continued until the early sixties when it's doors were finally closed, bringing to an end one stage in the development of the district. Old sawdust piles can still be found in the area, mute evidence of a once active enterprise.
Mills were already established at the time people started coming in from the prairies in the thirties.
Although there were different types of work available to these people, money was in short supply as this was a period of economic depression throughout the country.
The Depression, as in other great disasters, tended to bring people closer together. They willingly helped each other when help was needed. They joined together in community activities and always found time to visit a friend. This community spirit sustained them throughout the hard times.
Soon after the arrival of these newcomers, the need for a school became apparent as there were approximately twenty-seven children of school age.
Delaronde School - also used as the church. H.S. Blezard and congregation - 1935.
In March 1933, Arvid Erickson wrote a letter to the Minister of Education requesting permission to build a log school in the Delaronde area. Several sites for the school were suggested. After much controversy over location and boundaries, permission to build a school was finally granted. The site chosen by the Department was the south-east corner of Section 4, Township 57, Range 7. Two acres of this land was donated by Sid Holmes. A grant not to exceed two hundred dollars was given by the Department to defray cost of doors, windows and hardware. Mr. Bale gave permission for logs to be cut on his land. The building of the school got underway with voluntary labour. The school was opened in March, 1935 and although it was substantial, the unpainted interior was dark and gloomy. The desks were factory made. The library consisted of those books provided by the Department.
The first teacher was Mrs. H. Gran, who stayed until November, at which time Mr. Alexander Reed was hired at a monthly salary of thirty dollars. Teachers were hard to secure and rarely stayed more than one term. The names of teachers from 1935 to 1950 are as follows: Mr. Reed, 1935 - 1937; Jacob Ulmer, 1937 - 1938; Mr. Donahue, 1938 - 1939; Mrs. Blanche McCowan, 1938 - 1939; Mrs. Croteau, 1938 - 1940; Mrs. Nettie Harrower, 1940 - 1942; Mr. Harry Charles Barry, 1942 - 1943; Irine Stein, 1943 - 1944; and Miss Elsie Swales, 1944 - 1946.
In 1945, application was made for a grant to build a new school. The school was built with a total expenditure of three thousand and seventy-six dollars. Mr. Erwin Lundy was contractor. Much of the labour was voluntary. Teachers in the new school were the following: Mrs. Vera Orange, 1946 - 1947; Mrs. J.M. Sunberg, 1947 - 1948; Mrs C. Doin, 1948 - 1949; Miss Barbara Davidson, 1949 - 1950; Helen Reed, 1950 - 1951. The school inspector was Mr. R.H. Ferris, From 1952 onward, children were transported by bus to schools in Big River.
Meanwhile, at the south end of the lake there were enough children of school age to warrant having a school in that area. They were not successful in obtaining permission to build a school. For a period of eleven years there wasn't any school.
In 1942, permission to build was finally granted, but with most able-bodied men away in the Services, building of the school had to be postponed. A hall of log construction, owned by Andrew Millikin, was rented at the rate of fifteen dollars a month.
In 1944, a ratepayers meeting was held and it was proposed that they should buy the school from Andrew Millikin for the sum of five hundred dollars.
School opened on January 14, 1943. The school district No. was 5175. The teacher was Miss M.M. Potie. District Administered by R.H. Ferris, Official Trustee. Secretary; A. Millikin, Treasurer, R.H. Ferris. Some of the teachers were: A.M. Schmidt, 1944; Miss Doris Hopkins, 1946; R.B. Kalthoff and Miss Georgina Elliott, 1947; Anthony Zericha, 1948 - 1949; 1950 was Margaret Cramer. Trustees and Officials included A. Pukanski, D. Klassen was Chairman, A. Millikin - Secretary Treasurer. In 1948, the Trustee was Leslie Bovil. Mr. Tom Young was Official Trustee.
School was open eighty days in the spring and fifty days in the fall - a total of one hundred and thirty days a year.
Most of the old timers who once lived in the district are gone now, but many of their descendants still live in the Delaronde district or in the town of Big River.
The family names of the people who are no longer in the district include: Erickson, Clement, Pelltier, Crouteau, St. Jeans, O'Conner, Bovil, Patrick, Lions, Griefenburger, Riley, Huxted, Hutt.
The names of the families who have descendants in the district are as follows: Bradley, Milligan, Roth, Halsall, Scrimshaw, Gallant, Martin, Colby, Thompson, Millikin, Michel, Klassen, Caissie, Dunbar, Swanson, Dunn, Christenson, Nicholson, Thibeault, Sweeney, Leach, Pukanski, Olsen, Chenard, Pister and Schmidt.
On the dock at Delaronde - a group of district people.
Hauling lumber from Pinkerton Mills - North End Stoney.
Today in 1978, Tom Michel has a vacation area at the lake. Cabins and boats are available throughout the tourist season. Edwin Olsen, who has had a mink ranch near the lake for many years, still carries on with business today. Chris Christenson, a fisherman for many years, still makes his home in the district.
The last remaining old time Indian, Joe Smallboy, also lives at the Narrows. Any other comments about these people will be found in the family history section of this book.
Logging - Ellis and Pinkerton's Mill - East Bay, Stoney.
Greenmantle is the farming community south west of Big River, west of Bodmin, or east of Timberlost.
No one seems to know when this district was first settled, but as early as 1931, some families moved into this area - they being the Reeds and the Reillys. A family named Cronks owned a dog team, and later hauled wood to Bodmin with a horse and bull team, and later on again, Mr. Reilly and a Mr. Atkinson each owned a team of oxen. Some of the families living in this area in the early days were: Ivan Leach, Watsons, Cooks, Burts, Skopyks, Shinkaruks, Boychuks, Ragowskis, who came from either Blaine Lake or Marcelin, Hansons, Websters, McConkeys, Vermettes, La Fontaines, Pembruns, Rodrick Ormand, Steve Kereluk, Cornwaites, Days, Chubs (he was a shoemaker), and John Coughlin, John and Jim Sandrey, Mel Alcocks, Pete Olenchuks (who moved in from Timberlost where they had been homesteading; they are now retired and live in Big River and Pete Olenchuk, Junior has taken over the family farm), Stub Andersons, Laplantes, the late John Beebe, Clarence Beebe, Jim Delere, Albert Neilson, John Claire, Louis Cronk, Elmer Cronk.
Farming in the Greenmantle area is much the same as West Cowan. Farmers seem to kept lots of cattle to compensate for the loss of grain growing, due to earlier than usual frosts, or land being dried out or the reverse, rained out.
Mike Skopyk was the first in this district to own a car - a Model T Ford.
Greenmantle was a school district in 1939. The entry in their minute book reads: "Notice is hereby given in the Saskatchewan Gazette May 15th, 1939, that Greenmantle school district No. 5157, has been erected." At that time, Mike Skopyk was board chairman and the late Mr. Ronald Burt was secretary. Not too many residents seemed to attend the meeting. One must suppose, with no rural telephones as yet installed, it was hard to notify all the area residents concerned.
Some of the former teachers were: Misses Zunti, Herdman, Barnscott, Chalifour, Mary Gerow and Mrs. Burt.
About the year 1953, Greenmantle School was closed and all the children were bused into Big River schools.
A few years later, 1957 to be exact, Greenmantle School with its many memories as the 'little old schoolhouse' was sold to the Evangelical Church board of Big River, and moved into Big River, and has stood since then on the corner of Second Avenue and Highway No. 55.
The first couple to be married in the new church were Tom and Lorraine Miller (nee Carter) who were married there on August 1, 1958.
Residents of Greenmantle District: Irvine Cronk, Ivan Leach family, the Reed family, Reilly family, Watson, Cook, Elmer Cronk, Jim Delere, Burt family, Atkinsons, Skopyks, John Sandrys, Chubs, Shinkaruk family, Boychuks, Rowgowski, Hansons, Webster family, McConkey, John Coughlin, Vermette family, LaFontaines, Pembrun, Roderick Omand, Steve Kereluk, Cornwaites, Days, John Claire, Albert Neilson, John Beebe family, Clarence and Vivian Beebe, Earl and Shirley Beebe and family, Peter and Madge Olenchuk and family, Roy and Shirley Sharp and family, Mrs. Clara Anderson and Hercules LaPlante and family.