Saskatoon has long been an educational and commercial hub for the province of Saskatchewan. The city is located along a bend in the South Saskatchewan River and is central Saskatchewan’s great crossroad. The Saskatoon area has been inhabited for approximately 8,000 years, but the first European settlers arrived in 1690.
Temperance Colony Settlement
While Henry Kelsey arrived in Saskatoon in 1690, the European settlement of the area did not start until 1881. The Temperance Colonization Society worked with the idea of creating an agricultural colony in the area dedicated to the Temperance Movement. At the same time, the Canadian government was looking to increase settlement in the prairies through the offering of blocks of land to colonization companies.
The Temperance colony received a land grant of 313,000 acres which extended along both sides of the South Saskatchewan River. The colony had to include one centrally-located town which would act as a service center for the farms. The first settlers arrived in 1882 by train from Ontario to Moose Jaw then made the 160 mile trip to Saskatoon in horse carts.
From Village To City
The growth of Saskatoon was slow because there was no railway and the river was too full of sandbars and too shallow for navigation. The sensationalized newspaper articles about the North-West Rebellion in 1885 also helped to discourage settlers. Between 1885 and 1890, less than a dozen new settlers would arrive each year and the Temperance Society became wracked with lawsuits and internal issues.
The railway arrived in 1890, snaking up from the south and following the course of the now Idylwyld Freeway. A new settlement soon developed on the west side of the river close to the rail station. In 1906, there was a promise of a traffic bridge and civic improvements to the settlement. This increased the number of immigrants arriving in Saskatoon and it became the fastest growing city in Canada.
From Boom To Depression
By 1911, the population of the city had doubled and Saskatoon became what it is today. In the years leading to the First World War, the economy was booming, the population exploded and there was construction everywhere. However, the boom for the city ended in 1913 followed by a declaration of war with Germany in 1914.
The next 30 years marked political and economic upheaval for the city. After the Second World War, Saskatoon underwent a housing crisis. By the late 1940’s, everything settled down and the city entered a period of prosperity which still lasts today.