Back in 1906, the community of Chaplin was little more than a stopping point for the CPR. At that time, it was just the water and coal point for the main line. The entire community was made up of a coal chute, water tank and a box car where the CPR agent worked.
Things began to change when W.J. Burroughs came out to the area to homestead, joining four other men who had squatted in the district. Their names were Robert McLeod, Jim Cook who was the CPR agent, Harry Foster and George Moore.
With Burroughs becoming the first homesteader for the area, two more men quickly followed, their names being Robert Scarf and Josh Evoy. In the year Burroughs arrived, 1906, he had started up a store and opened a lumber yard where the CPR station was. Evoy built the first livery barn that year, and Burroughs bought it the next year. For this reason, Burroughs is considered to be the father of the village of Chaplin. In 1907, he opened the first post office.
By 1910, Burroughs had a firm hold on building Chaplin thanks to being the postmaster and the owner of the general store, livery barn, coal business and lumber yard. In addition, he was also the Justice of the Peace for the entire area.
That same year, Chaplin had grown immensely to 100 people and business was booming. There were now three stores, employing nearly 20 people in total.
During this time, the community’s focus for social occasions was the school built in 1908. Many events were held there, as well as church services. The first couple to be married in the community where Mr. and Mrs. Albert, who were married by M.L. Leitch, who was also the first member of the Saskatchewan Legislature for the Morse constituency that was created in 1912.
One of the biggest events for Chaplin each year was the stampede. The event was becoming quite large and by 1916, people were coming from all over the area and was so popular that it was performed twice in 1916. Once in Chaplin itself, and then again in Moose Jaw later.
Ironically, while Lake Chaplin is a huge resource for the area today, it was considered to be a nuisance in the early years of the community due to the difficulties it caused with transportation and the need for bridges to be built and a highway to run through.
Thanks to that lake, the community would grow from 165 people in 1944, the year the sodium sulphate plant was built, to 600 people during its construct, and then to around 300 to 400 people after.
From a stopping point to an important industry centre of the area, Chaplin has had an impact on southwest Saskatchewan.
Suggestions for columns or questions? E-mail Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to his podcast by searching for “Canadian History Ehx” on your podcast platform. Find his show on YouTube by searching for “Canadian History Ehx”.
Information for this column comes from Chaplin Homecoming