A History of Bratt (Buck) Lake in Saskatchewan
The following is a history of the Buck Lake District as told by Will Bratt and written by C. T. E. Helstrom in 1944.
It is interesting to note that some of the land was homesteaded three times before someone finally proved up on it. No doubt mosquitoes, and the fact that no water wells were to be found, discouraged many homesteaders.
The Qu'Appelle-Wood Mountain Trail passed on the north side of the lake. Early travelers likely used this as a stopping place. The 1944 Lew Bratt history mentions that 50 to 75 Indians camped on the north side of the lake beside The Qu'Appelle-Wood Mountain Trail. He also related to his family that the Indians used survey markers as tethers for their horses. By the time the Bratt family came, many markers had disappeared.
The trail from Buck Lake to Regina led at an angle directly from the McGillivray place to the (Dave) Kirby buildings. This trail was already in use when Will Bratt came to the district.
The trail to Regina was first made in order to haul hay to the police barracks. The police used a great many more horses at that time than they do now. The men who hauled the hay would camp at Buck Lake while out here working, and they would load up their hay at the marshes adjoining to the east. Bratts hauled wheat over the trail to Regina for about ten years. Regina was the nearest post office at that time. The Soo line was built in 1893; but at that time there was no business to speak of for the railroad, and very few settlers came in for a time.
The trail to Moose Jaw Creek was plowed in 1889. "Plowing a trail" was done by hitching a plow to the one side of a wagon (not the middle) and one man would hold the handles of the plow to guide it, thus making a furrow for a mark of the trail; on the way home the wagon would follow the first furrow so that the returning trip would make a furrow for the other side of the trail. The furrows would be a mark of the trail to follow and at the same time the hummocks would be sliced off considerably so that the wagons could travel in the furrows and avoid a great deal of the bumpiness of an unplowed trail.
The way that Buck Lake got its name is interesting. The first man to settle near the lake was named Buck. Little is known about him, but he did the first plowing near the lake. He did not stay long, but the lake was named after him, and thus the district also got the name. He could not have had the proper amount of the pioneering spirit. He left the district and gave up his land, but after a few years he came back through the district selling sewing machines. He found that others had taken up farming where he left off and had succeeded.
A French-Canadian named Legare (pronounced le-gary) supervised the job of picking up the buffalo bones in the Buck Lake district. He had Indians and half-breeds doing the work. Legare had his tent pitched at the Jacobs' place. The "breeds" and Indians would haul the bones in carts and wagons. Legare ran a store in his tent, which was a large one. He brought out fifteen "Bain" wagons for the bone hauling contract, and his employees hauled the bones to Milestone. The whitened bones formed a huge pile at about the place where Fred Garratt's house now stands. Legare had been led to believe that the town site would be near the spot where he put the bones. Later when the town site was changed, his men had to haul the bones a little farther than he had expected to get them to the railway siding a little to the west.
The settlers north of Milestone used the "Milestone trail" for years, and then they "clubbed together" to plow it so that the government would grade it. There were six furrows in the grade, and horse outfits were used to do the grading. The grade was put up in 1900. It took one day each way to plow the roadway to Milestone. They went down one day and back the next. Hummocks were very hard to plow.
Grandfather (Jesse) Bratt was in the district for the first time in the year 1883. Then, the sloughs were full of water. At first when settlers came out into this district, the Indians roamed about the country and did not stay on their reserves very much of the time. However, after 1883, they had to get permits to go off their reserves When they were moving about the country, one of their band would be far ahead of the rest, perhaps several miles ahead of the main group. The one leading Indian would be an almost infallible sign that there would be a great many more following him at a distance. The Indians used to come through the Buck Lake district long after Bratts had settled here, but they had to travel on their permits.
In 1889 Robert Sinton came to the Yellow Grass marsh to put up hay, and for some reason a fire broke out and caused a big prairie fire that spread rapidly. It swept northwards and burned everything on the prairie right up to the Wascana creek in Regina, up to the site of the present Legislature. Bratts saw the fire coming from the south and they took the precaution to plow a fireguard to the north-east to protect the hay in the Buck Lake marshes. The fireguard went as far as the Hendrickson place SW 1/4 of sec. 13. After the plowing was done a back-fire was started which burned a strip to the southwards, thus making a fireguard that was much wider than the plowing alone. This fireguard saved the hay which homesteaders needed for feed. The main fire swept by burning everything before it, as had been stated above. It burned some crop for Craigie, in a part of a field where stooks had been set over on hayland. The fire burned the pasture land where the Legislature now stands. Sinton owned the land at that time. He is one of the few remaining pioneers still left alive and well to this day.
The first elevator was built in Regina in the fall of 1891, and was more like a warehouse than like the modern type of elevator. The men used to handle the wheat in bags, which were unloaded on one side of the warehouse, and were taken over to the other side of the building to be loaded into the boxcars. The floor of the elevator was on the level with the box car floor.
The wheat from the Buck Lake district was hauled to this elevator. Bratts usually hauled about three trips a week during the hauling season. They usually hauled about two thousand or three thousand bushels yearly. The same trail was used for sleds in winter time and for wagons in summertime. From the Kirby place to Regina, the trail went due north. It crossed the creek at the site of the Legislative buildings and went to about the place where the Trading Co. building now stands. The horses were put up in a feed barn which used to stand where the King's Hotel is now. In those times it was harder work to haul one hundred bushels than it is now to haul one thousand. Furthermore, wheat was less than fifty cents a bushel.
The first smut appeared in Buck Lake district in 1891. Bluestone was used for the treatment of smutty wheat after the first year of this wheat disease, and the bluestone method was followed for years. Threshing was not completed by February of 1892, and sometimes there were blizzards to delay the outfits still more. But as the grain had been put up in stacks in the fall, it was not so difficult to handle as if it had been still in the stook. The stacks could wait until the outfit could get there. The threshing outfits would take on jobs anywhere between the Buck Lake and Regina districts, and were on the route for a good part of the fall and winter. In the spring of 1892 there was still a great deal of threshing that had not been done. Sometimes the grain was not all threshed until June.
Among those who had threshing done by the Bratt outfit in the Regina district was Frank Darke. He had land in the vicinity of the present Market square, and some of his fields were just east of Halifax Street. The fields would be threshed during the day and at night the teams would be sheltered and fed in a barn that stood where the King's Hotel is now.
There are some interesting contrasts between the threshing outfit, with which Bratts threshed the Regina-Buck Lake districts, and the modern combines which now do the work in these same areas. In the first place, there was no engine to pull the separator or even to drive the belt. There was a horsepower "attachment" which supplied the power to the separator. Four two-horse teams were hitched to doubletrees which were attached to a revolving gear about four feet across and lying horizontally. This large gear was rotated at the speed of the horses walking around and around in a circle; and the larger gear supplied the power to smaller gears which were run at a greatly increased rate. Then the drive shaft to the separator was set to revolve just a little above the ground in such a way that the teams could step over it as they walked around the drive gear. This mechanical contrivance gave the power that drove the separator without any engine. A comparison may be drawn by looking at some of the horse-driven balers which are still used in some parts of the country. The "engineer" stood with a whip at the centre of the circle which the horses had to walk in, and the teams were kept moving with the smart sting of the lash to remind them that it was not time to stop to eat. All power was strictly "horse-power" in the severest sense of the word; the separator had to be moved from place to place with the horses, too. Of course there were no mechanical stook-loaders and no racks bringing in the sheaves from the field to the separator. The threshing was done at stacks which had been put up many months before, in the great majority of cases.
There seems to be about three stages of "power" in the earlier kinds of threshing machines. The first was as above, the horse-power outfits. The second was the portable steam engine which drove the separator. An Englishman, named Paxman, used to thresh in and around Buck Lake with one of these portable steamers. There were none of the tractor type of steam outfits, however, until some time later. The steam tractor outfit was the third stage, and although Bratts did not change to this type of power until 1910, there was a steam traction outfit belonging to a Mr. Barnes in the district for a few years previous to 1899. This man Barnes, by the way, had the bad luck to be killed in a threshing accident. The boiler blew out, and a fragment hit his head.
As the roads and trails were so very primitive for over ten years after Bratts came to the district, it is perhaps just as well that the steam outfits with tractor power did not come too soon, or they might have been practically shaken to pieces on the hummocky trails over which the separators sometimes had to be hauled. It was bad enough for the separators when they were hauled across country in the middle of winter when the bumps were both bad and frozen hard. Traction engines might often have been stuck on many of the worst of the hummocks, even if they could manage to travel about on the prairie without falling apart. It was better for tractors when they had fairly decent roads to follow in going about the country.
When Bratts threshed for the Kirbys most of the Kirby boys were on the gang. But there was also a fellow from Ontario; his name was Farrell. Thornton Carrothers was with the crew as well; he had been a lawyer for a long time. This gang was working in the 1892 season at the Kirby's. Bratt's threshing outfit was on its rounds in and around Regina in the fall of 1892, when they had the novel experience of threshing for the Governor of the N.W.T. (Governor Royal). How this happened is a rather amusing story. Bratt's outfit was moving along Dewdney in a pouring rain, when the gang noticed that there was a small stack or two put up at the Governor's barn. Someone called out to the Governor's hired man to ask whether they wanted any threshing done; secretly they wanted to get in out of the rain. The hired man asked the Governor about the matter, and sure enough, he did want "some threshing done". Thereupon the outfit pulled in to do the work, but here is where the Governor had the "wool pulled over his eyes"; for they could not start threshing until the weather had cleared. In the meantime, the crew had a good time staying at the Governor's expense. They had French servants to wait on them, and they got the best of service. Joe Royal liked to have Frenchspeaking servants, for he was French himself. When they finished threshing for the Governor, the outfit went on to Grand Coulee, where the men had to live in a sod barn. "Quite a contrast!" (end of quote)
George Morgan Bratt died December 28, 1890 and was the first to be buried at Buck Lake. Jesse Bratt donated property for a church and cemetery with the understanding that George McGillivray would supervise construction. Those interred in the cemetery:
There is believed to be several other unmarked graves of which there is no record.
In 1893 a 20' x 30' Methodist Church was built by the community. It served, not only as a church, but as a community centre. There was a debating society; picnics and ball games were held on or near the church site. Older residents of the community recall seeing 40 to 50 skaters on the lake. When the town of Gray came into existence in 1912, a church was built there and Bratt Lake Church was unable to carry on and closed in 1919. Wind blew the building off its foundation and destroyed the barn. It was sold in 1925, much to the consternation of the pioneers who had built it, and moved to Gray where it was used as the Masonic Temple. It still stands today in very good condition.
On September 2O, 1970 a service was held at Buck Lake Cemetery and a Cairn built by the community and a Plaque donated by the Provincial Government were dedicated. The Plaque reads.
Unveiling of the Cairn and Plaque. "Buck Lake Pioneers". Erected in memory of the pioneers of Buck Lake Community who settled here, starting in 1889. Before the Soo Line Railway was built in 1893 and the advent of the town of Milestone, their only market and source of supplies was Regina. A methodist Church was built ten rods north in 1893 and there was a post office nearby. This was the social centre for miles around and thrived as such till the Grand Trunk Railway came through and the village of Gray was built in 1912. The names of those interred here are on the file in the Municipal Office, Wilcox. (Lyle and Jesse Bratt, grandsons of Jesse Bratt one of the original pioneers).
The district's first mail was picked up in Regina until the Soo Line was built in 1893. Jesse Bratt was the postmaster and had a Post Office in his home, which opened May 1, 1906 and closed Oct. 1, 1912. At that time a letter could be mailed to Bratt Lake, Sask.
During the 1890's Buck Lake had a Justice of the Peace: two names appear in old records as J. P.'s&emdash;
John Carrothers and a Mr. Stemshorn.
In 1907, the "Buck Lake Farmers Mutual Telephone Company" was formed with central exchange office in Milestone. This line ran as far north, past Buck Lake, as the correction line and served most farms south to Milestone. In 1922 Gray Rural Telephone Company ran a line past Buck Lake and served several farms to the west. In 1928, the Regina Rural Telephone Company served the area a mile north of Buck Lake School. With three telephone companies, residents of the district had to call long distance to talk to their close neighbors.
The lake went dry in 1894 and was dry until almost 1900. It was dry in 1915 and again in 1921, at which time a road was graded through it and served for many years.
During the 1930's it was dry again and in 1939 the Rural Municipality of Bratt's Lake dug a dugout near the bottom of the lake to ensure a community water supply. This was done by pulling an elevating-grader with three farm tractors and filling dump wagons pulled by teams of horses. The lake was dry in 1949 and almost dry in 1969&emdash;except for the dugout. In 1956, after several very wet years and heavy snowfall from the winter of 1955-56, low land to the east of the lake, overflowed and the two joined together. That year water in the lake measured 16 l/2 feet deep.
R. M. of Bratt's Lake was named in honor of Jesse Bratt, the original homesteader, who filed and proved up on the south side of the lake, S1/4, 10, 14, 19, W2. He was chairman of The Local Improvement District during the years 1904, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1912. He was reeve of the new municipality during 1913, 1914, 1915.
Buck Lake has been officially named Bratt's Lake . . . For years there was a confusing double identity situation with the names Buck Lake and Bratt Lake, both being used in reference to this lake or slough. So in 1981, the R.M. Council requested that the name, Bratt's Lake, be adopted officially in referring to this body of water and as the name of the R.M. It was so registered.
Of the original pioneers who either homesteaded or bought and broke the land around the Buck/Bratt's Lake district, the Bratt, McGillivray, Helstrom, W. E. and E. C. Jones, Jasper, Husband and Kalina and Carrother families still have descendants living or farming in the area.
Picture captions... Lew Bratt and carload of neighbors at Buck Lake in Jesse Bratt seniors model T Ford. See blanket over the engine. Water in radiator in those days. (1912) L. to R.: Mrs. Tom Derrough, Alice and Ed Livingstone, Irene Rodgers, Mrs. Eph Bratt, Lulu Moats and Lew Bratt.
Tea party at Buck Lake School, June 30,1926. Standing, L. to R.: Mary Jasper, Mrs. Hannan, Mamie Jasper, Mrs. Wm. Bratt, Blanche McGillivray, Mrs. Colpitts, Mrs. Duffuss and Mina Husband. Front Row: Edna Cross, Tom Hannan, Elsie Colpitts, the Duffuss girl and ?.
A party at the bachelor home (one room shack) ot Tom Derrough. Back Row: ? Peterson, Tlla Staton, George Jasper, Clarence Gillis, Guy Temple and Wesley Staton. Front Row: Mary Jasper, Bertha Jasper, Tom Derrough, Betty Staton and Henry Jasper.
Buck Lake School Party, 1948. Back Row: George Jasper, Sid Cross, Frank Armstrong, Ken Bratt, Hugh McGillivray, Alfred Ohrt, ?, Pauline Bratt, Willis Clay, Anne Clay, Harold Knoke, Eleanor Leguee, Gordon Clay, Anne Husband, Mamie Kinvig, ?, Evelyn Knoke. Front Row: Marie Ohrt, Edna Cross, Mary Jasper, Pete Jasper, Walter Bratt, Lyle Bratt, Lyla Bratt, Adele Bratt, ?.
Gray Area Schools
Buck Lake School History by Anna Lou Husband
The first meeting of the ratepayers of Buck Lake School District No. 331 was held at the home of J. Carrothers on May 5, 1894. They elected a Board of Trustees: J. F. Stretten, G. W. McGillivray, and H. Molleken. On June 25, 1894, Austin Carrothers was paid $400.00 for "Building school house as per contract", on NE 1/4 16, 14, 19 W2.
This land was originally homesteaded by Walter Buck in 1883, but like so many homesteads, it was abandoned. However, the school carried his name.
The first teacher was S. R. Carrothers in 1894. He taught for a salary of $35.00 a month for six months. In 1895, R. J. Westgate became the second teacher, receiving a salary of $340.00 per year. Succeeding teachers were: .
More picture captions... Class of 1910. Back Row: Elsie Helstrom, Alex McGillivray, Mary Jasper, Helen Campbell, Mary McGillivray, David Helstrom, Florence Campbell, Wesley Staton, Ruth Worrell. Middle Row: Norman McGillivray, Rosie Jasper, Roy McGillivray, Orval Strenen. Front Row: Lorne Stretten, Lyle Bran, Steve Wilkinson (teacher), Mamie Jasper, Rachel Warrell.
Buck Lake School (1919). Top Row: Walter Bratt, Paul Helstrom, Blanche Watson (teacher), Gordon Stretten, Elwyn Bran. Middle Row: ? Tennyson, Verna Bran, Leona Bratt, Bessie Stretten, Fred Axford. Bottom Row: Doris Cross, Llewellyn Bran' Lois Cross, George Hannan.
Grades Seven and Eight, 1921. L. to R.: Elwyn Bratt, Verna Bran, Gordon Strenen, Adele Ashford, Fred Axford, Walter Bratt.
Buck Lake School. L-R: Dennis Husband, Tom Kinvig, Earl Kinvig, Helen Doege (teacher), Phyllis Kinvig, David Helstrom, sonnie sratt and Dale Husband.
The original school building was sold and moved away and a new one with a basement and furnace was erected in 1906. The teachers boarded with various families in the district, often driving to school, tending the cleaning up, stoves and whatever chores had to be done. During the first years, school was in session from Easter to Christmas, with a two-week break in the summer. The school was the center of social activities with the Christmas concert being the big event of the year. The students all had to do their part, no mattter how shy they were, and it must have been a great deal of work for the teacher at times.
In 1931, the school was once again forced to close, due to lack of students and lack of money. The school was reopened in 1936 after another slight face-lift with Doris Lafoy as the first teacher and five pupils: Lois Graham, Ron Hutchinson, Jean and Bob McGillivray, and Lyla Bratt. I remember well Doris' first Christmas concert with these five pupils and a little help from her friends.
During the first years of the school, the district had bought an old stove and the school was stocked, one way or another, with soup, cocoa or some other items to give the children at least one hot item at lunch. It was also an insurance in case they were storm stayed at the school at some time.
Albert Husband was in charge of the school in early years and made many trips to school to check the stove&emdash;boys had plugged stove pipes and filled the school with smoke, only to remove stuffing before he arrived. Albert and Mina boarded many teachers as well.
The district resumed activities at the school as well and had many great potluck suppers and card parties. This resulted in buying dishes for the suppers and cutlery and tables. Finally an old record player put in an appearance and dances were resumed with Ethel and Ron Hutchinson furnishing most of the music. These parties started out with only the district folks attending and when the dancing started, some of us worried about the old floor, but it held up. However, soon others were coming from the surrounding area and we had to stop our activities as the school was overflowing.
During the last years we also started having school picnics to celebrate the closing of the school year, and we had really good times with the ladies bringing all the food and everyone, old and young alike, taking part in the festivities.
In 1953 with only four students, the school closed again, and the children attended surrounding schools. In 1963, Buck Lake School District was served by bus to Milestone. The school was sold shortly after and now is located SW 1/4, 12, 15, 19 W2 near Estlin.
Bristol S.D. #1123 by Dean Boesch
A meeting of the resident ratepayers of the proposed Bristol School district was held at William Martin's on June 25, 1912. A poll sheet was in favour of the formation of a school district. The first trustees were Frank Hoover (Chairman), Dan B. English (Secretary Treasurer) and Lewis Clark.
At a trustees meeting, a motion was passed asking for debentures of $1500.00 over ten years at six percent in order to build a school house, barns, out buildings and furnishings for the school.
The Western Construction Company was contracted to build the school house, twenty-feet by twenty-six feet with an eleven foot ceiling. The foundation posts and gravel to be supplied by the trustee board. The building was to be painted white trimmed in green. The inside was to be golden oak with plastered walls.
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