I recently heard from a resident of Silton who mentioned to me that they were celebrating their 100th anniversary this year on Aug. 2, 2014. As a result, I have decided to devote some columns this the unique community of Silton, beginning with this one. Today, I am delving into the history of the community by looking at one of its most important figures; C. Benjafield.
One of the earliest residents to the Long Lake District, his parents had settled in the Nebraska area during the early 1870s when there was nothing but wilderness around them. The family had originally come from Silton in England, which would be the name Charles would choose for the post office in 1888. When the railroad came through, it took the name Silton, and a community was born.
Going back slightly, Charles had settled in the area in 1883 and built his home in 1884 with the help of Frank Binnie and John Shearer. From what I found, the home was still standing and occupied as of 1972, and may still be occupied today.
In 1885, when the Northwest Rebellion was raging, settlers and pioneers gathered at the home of Benjafield for safety. Despite the worry, the native people of the area showed nothing but friendship and kindness to the pioneers of the area.
Charles’ home would often serve as a meeting place, including during the early years of the Longlaketon School Division.
Charles was often called Captain Benjafield, due to the fact that he had the first steamboat on the lake, which was built in July of 1890. That steamboat would eventually sale the Kootenay Lakes in British Columbia, and Charles would operate a steamship business there at a later date. The steamboat he built was named Myrtle and he would make regular trips up and down the lake, taking friends and family out during the summer. Over the years, he would bring in other boats and barges, including a barge powered by a donkey steam engine, named Julia, which was very difficult to control. He also had a passenger boat, powered by gasoline, in use in 1905. It could hold 20 passengers and was used to transport people to his resort at the south end of the lake.
Charles farmed in the area of Silton for many years before getting into the real estate business with his brother-in-law J.L. McKillop. He would eventually move to Lumsden, then on to Regina but the firm of McKillop and Benjafield would be well-known in the area and was associated with some of the most important transactions in the area.
During his later years, Charles continued to keep busy by working with mine-broking. When he did pass away though, he was buried in Silton, where many of his family still live.
Information for this column came from From Buffalo Grass To Wheat: A History of Long Lake District