Long before Europeans arrived in the area of Langham, it was the land occupied by primarily the Stoney Cree people, as well as the northern reaches of the Sioux and the eastern reaches of the Blackfoot.
The area was highly sought after by the Indigenous as it had a great deal of flora and fauna that helped the Indigenous throughout the seasons. It was also the northern reaches of the bison, who migrated to the area in the summer.
Eventually, the Metis would begin to arrive from the east as European settlers started to push in from the east during the 19th century.
Today, Langham sits on Treaty 6 land.
The Town of Langham was first settled in 1904 when the Canadian Northern Railway was built through, running from Saskatoon to Edmonton. This helped spur on development in the area as new Canadians began to arrive to take up homesteads in the area. The area was primarily settled by Mennonites and the community would be named for E. Langham, who was a purchasing agent for the railway company.
A long bridge was built across the nearby North Saskatchewan River in the winter of 1904-05, helping settlers cross the river without crossing the ice, or using the ferry in the spring.
The community quickly started to grow and in 1906, it was declared a village. One year later, it was incorporated as a town. The first mayor of the community was A.C. Adamson.
Langham was described as the first point of importance on the Winnipeg to Vancouver Yellow Trail after leaving Saskatoon. By the mid-1920s, the production of crops in the area amounted to an excellent 1.2 million bushels of wheat, and a slightly smaller amount of grains, oats and barley. The prosperity of the community was shown in the fact that there were already 115 cars in the community.
In 1921, a four-room school was built in Langham at a cost of $33,000, amount to $520,000 today. This school was needed due to the rising population of children. It was also built with all the modern conveniences, with brick and tile to ensure proper fireproof construction. It also had steam heat and electric lighting with a full-sized basement.
An interesting fact about Langham is that it has one of the highest number of churches, per capita, in all of Canada. Within the community of 1,500 people, there is a Catholic Church, a United Church, a Mennonite church, a Evangelical Bible church, a Lutheran church and a country church.
There is a unique story related to one person from Langham. The first Allied soldier to cross the Bonn Bridge into Germany after the Armistice of November 1918 would be Garnet Durham of Regina, a member of the Canadian Cyclist Battalion. Another cyclist received the surrender from the German Imperial family. Although, if that happened, is up for debate. According to the story, a group of cyclists were in Mons when Prince Frederick arrived as part of the treaty signing party. He saw Jock Farquhar from Langham and mistook him for an Allied official. He handed over his sword as a symbolic sign of surrender. Did it happen? Who knows, but it makes a good story.
In 1925, the Halcyonia School was built as a one-room schoolhouse to replace the school that had burned to the ground earlier in the year. This new school would become an important gathering place, as well as a school, and many meetings and picnics would be held there. The school would be closed in 1967, but the building would not be torn down or moved. Instead, it would become a community centre, lasting until the early-1990s when the cooperative that ran the centre was dissolved due to declining membership. Since then, the school has become a place where artifacts from the schooling history of the community are now on display.
In the original school that burned down, John Diefenbaker attended grade seven. His uncle, Edward Diefenbaker, was also the teacher at the school. Diefenbaker would of course go on to serve in Parliament from 1940 to 1979, during which time he was the Prime Minister of Canada from 1957 to 1963.
On March 15, 1933, Langham became famous for the Aerosled. This “Snowbird” as it was nicknamed, was designed by J.F. Hawkins of Langham, who made a trip to Saskatoon in the machine, which garnered a lot of local interest. The machine had been built in the garage of C.P. Epp and it used a 60 horsepower motor from a Ford A engine, mounted high on the back of a three-runner sled with a six-foot airplane propeller attached to a crankshaft.
While the snow was six feet deep in the area of Langham during that winter, the machine was able to travel at 65 kilometres per hour over the snow, reaching Saskatoon in an hour and a half.
Hawkins was a pilot for Great West Airways and had been interested in designing his own plane which led to the creation of the Snowbird. He enjoyed travelling over unbroken snow, and that inspired him to create the device. The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix wrote quote:
“Although apparently bulky, the aerosled can turn in its own length and picks up speed quickly. It is driven in the same way as a car but travels more speedily on packed snow. It can travel on loose snow though at a considerably reduced speed.”
In July 1933, Five Doukhobour women, who were members of the Sons of Freedom, disrobed near the Ceepee Ferry to the west of Langham as a protest demonstration. The incident naturally caused a stir in the community and the women were promptly arrested by the RCMP and held at Langham town hall. At the same time the women conducted their nude protest, a morning march by the Doukhobours in the community was held.
Held in the town hall, the women sang through the night. The Saskatoon Star Phoenix reported quote:
“Throughout the night, the five entertained or otherwise the residents of Langham with their singing, striking the organ effect of minor harmony which is peculiar to the sect.”
Langham made nationwide news in July 1961 when a mystery erupted following a barn fire. Fire crews were going through the rubble of the barn fire and were surprised to find a body amid the rubble. An investigation was launched and it was believed it was James Morton Simpson, a 32-year-old man who worked at the local service station and had been missing since around the time of the fire. A farmer who passed the area also saw Simpson’s car near the barn. A shotgun was also found near the body in the barn. An autopsy was conducted but it was inconclusive if the body was that of Simpson. After an inquest and more investigation was conducted, it was determined that the body was that of James Simpson, who had died by suicide. The gunshot likely caused the fire in the barn as well.
Langham, like many other communities across Canada during our Centennial Year in 1967, decided to spend money on a centennial project. For Langham, the community decided to spend $30,000 to build a new community arena. It was the hope that building a new arena would make Langham a winter sports centre for the area. The rink was badly needed as Langham only had an open air skating rink and a curling rink, and nothing else for winter sports.
If you would like to learn more about the history of Langham, then you should visit the Langham and District Heritage Village and Museum. Occupying the former CNR station that served the community for so many decades, the museum is full of artifacts from the towns history. There is also the Peace Pole, which is outside the building and has writing in English, Norwegian and Cree. The museum is also home to Buttercup Betty, which was a wooden milking cow used to demonstrate how to milk cows by hand to early pioneers to the area.