The Indigenous lived around the Tisdale area for centuries, with the most recent cultures being the Cree and Blackfoot, followed by the Metis as they moved from the east.
The Indigenous primarily moved through the area following game, which could include bison in its northern reaches. The Carrot River not only provided ample game and water for the Indigenous of the area, but also a form of highway to travel through the area in order to trade with other Indigenous bands.
Today, Tisdale sits on Treaty 4 land.
The first European to arrive in the area was explorer Henry Kelsey, who came through during his exploration of the Carrot River in 1690.
While Kelsey was the first European, it would be another two centuries before there was any settlement of note in the area that would become Tisdale.
As the land was being opened up by the federal government with the signing of treaties with the Indigenous and the laying down of tracks for the railroad, an increasing number of settlers came to the area to own their own land.
As they settled, they began to want a link to the outside world and that was where the post office came in. The post office would be set up, one year before Saskatchewan became a province, on Feb. 1, 1904. A name had to be chosen as well, and the decision was made to honour F.W. Tisdale, an employee of the Canadian Northern Railway.
The same year the post office was established, the Canadian National Railway came though, which greatly spurred on development in the area.
In 1913, the Leather River Bridge was built to the northwest of Tisdale. A steel truss bridge, it crosses the Leather River and has been in continued use for almost 110 years. The bridge today is an example of a type of bridge construction called a pony truss, which was common in steel truss construction. There are no overhead top chords due the short height of the parallel chords along the side of the bridge. This type of bridge was often used on shorter bridges.
You can visit the bridge to this day for great picture opportunities. In 1987, it was made a Municipal Heritage Property.
In September 1920, the largest gun fight in the history of Western Canada would occur near Tisdale. It all started on Sept. 17, when four men held up a poker game at Red Deer Lumber Mills, which resulted in the police being called. This was followed by a short gun fight. Two days later, Constable Ives and a posse he had organized dropped on two of the men who were eating dinner in a section house thanks to a tip from the telegrapher. Both men were captured without a shot being fired. The two men were then taken to Tisdale where they were placed under guard before being transported to Prince Albert. As for the other two men, the two captured robbers stated they made their way towards Prince Albert and that they would shoot any policeman who stood in their way.
Two days later on Sept. 26, police followed footprints that led them to a large hay stack. It was at that hay stack that the largest gun battle in the history of Western Canada would occur. Over the next five hours, the two men and police fired 500 shots at each other. Seeing no signs that the men were going to surrender, the police brought in 500 yards of binder twine and some waste to create a fire ball to throw at the hay stack. At 3 p.m. on that day, the burning ball was thrown into the hay stack and immediately set the entire stack on fire. The police immediately approached, stating that the stack was on fire and that they should come out. In response, the bandits fired three shots out of the hay stack. One constable attempted to climb on a portion of the stack to pull the men out before the fire reached them but he was unable to as the entire stack was quickly ablaze. Five more shots from the men fired out of the stack. The men never emerged from the stack, and after the fire was put out, their partially-burned bodies were pulled out.
In 1924, the Canadian Pacific Railway would arrive in the area, connecting Tisdale to the two main railway systems in Canada.
Arguably the worst disaster to ever hit Tisdale came on Feb. 9, 1933 when a fire erupted in the Imperial Hotel. Unlike other fires I have covered on this podcast in small towns, this fire did not destroy multiple buildings or entire blocks. This fire was confined to the hotel, but it would see the death of eight people.
At the time, Tisdale was going through a cold spell and homes, along with businesses and the hotel, were doing what they could to keep the indoors warm. This would put an extra pressure on the heating equipment in buildings such as stoves and furnaces.
The Imperial Hotel in Tisdale would see a fire suddenly erupt after someone threw a cigarette stub or match into a wood box.
Sandy MacPherson, the manager of the hotel, woke to the flames and quickly became a hero when he ran through the building waking everyone by screaming “Fire”.
Risking his own life, he was only wearing a nightgown as he woke everyone up. Once he had spread the alarm of the fire, he ran to through a wall of flames to the street, in his bare feet. The sidewalk was so cold that the flesh from his feet was torn off as he ran to the Tisdale Hotel a block away. His face was badly cut and burned, in areas almost to the bone, and his hair was burned off his head.
Firefighters did what they could to put the fire out using a single pump engine and hose. Due to the cold, which included a deep wind chill, the firefighter’s cheeks froze stuff and they had to build fires under the pump engine to keep it running.
Due to their efforts, only the Imperial Hotel and the two adjoining buildings fell prey to the flames.
J.L. Tennant, who was staying at the hotel, was forced to run through flames in order to escape the inferno. He would say after, quote:
“It was the luckiest break in my life. Two seconds more and I’d have been there yet.”
As it turned out, Tennant was supposed to stay in Room 17 on the second floor but he had a sudden impulse to change his room and he was put in Room 6 instead. That decision would save his life.
The fire would result in $50,000, almost $1 million in today’s funds. Among the dead were two travelers, the proprietress of the hotel and her three daughters and a maid.
On Feb. 13, 1933, the man who was called the Hero of Tisdale, Sandy McPherson, died from his injuries.
Small town community theatres are rare these days. With large megaplexes being built, many of these small town theatres can’t survive. That isn’t the case for Tisdale though, which has the Falkon Theatre, which was built in 1935 and continues to this very day showcases the newest movies for its residents. When the theatre opened, the number one movie in the world was Mutiny on the Bounty, and it continues to operate now, showing the latest Marvel movies on the largest cinema screen in the northern grain belt.
In 1938, Tisdale was continuing to grow and boasted a population of 1,300 people, a testament to its growing importance in that area of Saskatchewan.
On Feb. 3, 1950, a special meeting in town hall was being held at town hall to discuss the provincial approval of the application to raise an extra $10,000 in debentures for the new schools that had been built in the community. It was then that the members of council heard fire sirens blasting in the town. As they went out to see what was going on, they discovered that their new six-room school was burning to the ground. The high school, which had only opened a month previous, was not hit by the fire thankfully.
By the next day, only the foundation of the new school for elementary students was left, resulting in damages of $50,000. Students from that school would attend school at the high school until a new school could be built for the students.
If you stop near Tisdale, one thing you will notice is a very large bee. Not the largest bee statue in the world, it is the second-largest after the bee statue in Falher, Alberta. Still, it is quite impressive to see. It stands at 6 feet 11 inches in height, and 16 feet long with a wingspan of 11 feet. Not only does the Tisdale region produce 25 per cent of the canola in Saskatchewan, but it also produces 10 per cent of the honey.
In 1966, a young man named Brent Butt was born in the community. He would grow up in the community and by 1988, began to perform stand-up comedy in a Saskatoon comedy club, before moving on to Yuk Yuk’s through Western Canada. In 1989, he would move to Toronto. After several years performing stand-up on CTV, CBC and the Comedy Network, Butt would develop the show Corner Gas, set in Saskatchewan. The show, which ran from 2004 to 2009 proved to be one of the most popular shows in Canadian history. Running for 107 episodes, the show averaged one million viewers an episode and received six Gemini Awards, while being nominated for nearly 70 other awards. It would go on to air in 26 other countries and add the term staycation into the English language. On April 13, 2009, Corner Gas Day was declared in Saskatchewan.
The show would spawn Corner Gas: The Movie, and an animated series of four seasons.
After Corner Gas ended, Butt would create the show Hiccups, which starred his wife Nancy Robertson, who also played Wanda on Corner Gas. He would also write and produce, while starring in, the movie No Clue in 2013.
If you would like to learn more about the history of Tisdale, you can visit the Tisdale and District Museum. Located in Henry Hamilton Park, the museum features a Heritage Centre, a replica train station and Doghide village. It also has 16 different vehicles from the past of the community, a 1920 Pearse House with original furniture, and the Doghide Village features the old fire hall, CPR building, log barn, milk house, general store, teacherage and church. A permanent display in the station house also highlights the history of beekeeping in the area. There are also artifacts from the biggest shoot-out in the history of Western Canada that I talked about earlier.
Information from Macleans, Wikipedia,