In the early 1870s, the area of Grenfell was open prairie, with a few missionaries and fur traders passing through every so often. This week, we present the story of three early settlers of Grenfell.
Norman McLeod had been working with the CPR in Rat Portage in 1874 when he was sent to take a message to Moose Jaw, 500 miles away. He is considered to be the first of the future settlers of Grenfell to come through the area. On the trip he heard about the beautiful Qu’Appelle Valley and upon visiting he made the decision to make it his home. The land had not been surveyed so he returned to Rat Portage and kept working with the CPR until 1882 when he took up a homestead in a valley to the north of Grenfell.
McLeod had been born in Europe in 1855 and came to Canada when he was only eight years old, with his family. Settling in Lucknow, Ontario, he came west in 1872 but returned to Ontario for the winter. Returning the following year, he began working with the CPR in Kenora and eventually made his way to his future home in the valley.
In 1888, he was supervising the grading of the north and south hills at Hyde Crossing so that European immigrants could have an easier route. The new road also proved to be a huge benefit to those hauling grain.
In 1926, McLeod retired and died at the age of 92. His two sons Donald and Rod farmed in the valley before retiring into Grenfell themselves.
James Sutherland was an NWMP member on his way west with the force in 1874. After three years with the force he moved to homestead in the area of Ellisboro, before travelling to the Crooked Lake Indian Reserve to be a farm instructor. He remained there for the next 28 years. Eventually, he moved to Grenfell and opened up a blacksmith shop that proved to be a popular spot for the town. He also served in the First World War as a drill inspector at the armoury. When he died at the age of 85 on the coast, the members of the RCMP carried him to his last resting place.
Coming to Winnipeg in 1876, McEwen’s first job was cutting fence poles for the CPR. Eventually, he he would help to ballast the road bed for the company in the areas they worked. One winter, he took a job taking mail from Winnipeg to North Battleford. He would carry a grain sack of one-dollar bills, two thousand in all, to pay government officials. At night, he would throw a buffalo robe over the sack to hide it. This journey would show him the area he would eventually fall in love with. In 1881, he moved to Brandon and in 1882, he walked to Grenfell to take up a homestead. He did the filing and then walked back to Brandon. In 1883, he returned again on foot and in 1886, he built a feed and livery stable in town that operated until 1937. Two years later, McEwen passed away.