The beauty of abandoned Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan youth go exploring history
“My grandpa’s homestead was located about a few kilometres from our current place. I can remember Dad taking me there, and telling me stories of how they used to farm when he was a kid. It was an amazing reminder of how far we’ve advanced in our farming practices and technology, as well as where our roots started. Grandpa always said ‘take care of the land and the land will take care of you,’” wrote an anonymous farmer.
The countryside of Saskatchewan is often described as a flat, yellow sea of canola; a quiet place where you can see your dog running away for two days. It’s likely that if you’ve lived here for a while, this fact is nothing new. Although there’s one thing that often breaks up these oceans of yellow: abandoned homesteads, churches, and schools.
So, why are there so many abandoned buildings in Saskatchewan? There are many stories to answer this question, and it all depends on the age of the property. Some are left because the economy dried up, others because their owners moved to better houses in the city or on their farm, the possibilities are endless. Many of them simply have no value in the housing market due to quality or location, and it’s easier to let them sit abandoned. Due to people leaving their houses, churches and schools were also abandoned as the small towns dried up. To many rural people, these properties hold significant value to the local area, causing groups to band together to transform these places into historical sites.
Many people living in rural Saskatchewan have dedicated their time to the upkeep of sentimental or historical abandoned property. I was able to see an example of this dedication when I had the privilege of exploring the Thingvalla church, which sits northeast of the town of Churchbridge. This church is full of history, as it is one of the few Icelandic churches in Canada. Thingvalla church was built in 1889, and is considered a unique site because of its original artifacts, such as a pump organ and original benches. Thanks to the committee of people who are willing to upkeep the church, it has transformed itself from ‘abandoned’ to a historical site.
Due to the number of abandoned places around Saskatchewan, a new hobby among the Saskatchewan youth was born: abandoned and historical property exploration. The internet has made it easy to find archives of where abandoned places are located, and exploring them is often intriguing for many people. Though unfortunately, with lots of interest comes unwanted attention for these pieces of history.
“Lots of times, homesteads get abused and vandalized by strangers and become unsafe to visit. This leads to a disconnect from our history and can affect local people. These places teach people the effort and importance of agriculture. It’s sad to see.” said the farmer.
So, what should people know when visiting abandoned places?
When visiting a place, it’s smart to stay outside, unless you have consent from the owner. Additionally, these places may not be structurally sound, and you can risk getting hurt by going inside. Never go onto the property if there is a “no trespassing” sign.
Don’t steal items or property off of the land, such as debris or pieces of the building. This is disrespectful as well as damaging to the building. Avoid putting yourself in situations where you could damage the property itself, and do not purposely vandalize anything.
Do some research on the place you are visiting. Your adventure will be much more rich if you know the history, and when or why the place was abandoned. If you post pictures online about the place, it’s thoughtful to include some information about the place so others can learn too. Although, I would recommend not sharing the exact coordinates, as to ensure the property is not widely advertised. Abandoned and historical sites bring a new kind of richness and history to the Saskatchewan prairies. While some may call them eyesores, it’s easy to peek behind the curtains and see the value they carry within their walls. Next time you take a trip down the highway, keep an eye out for abandoned property – it just may have an interesting story to tell you.