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Home base for a booming pioneer prohibition booze trade

GovenlockGovenlock ruins

Spirits were always high at the end of the Canadian Pacific Railway line at Govenlock in the far southwest corner of Saskatchewan. The trains went no further - until well after the First World War when the line linked up with Manyberries in southeast Alberta.

Farmers cheerfully brought their grain to the station. Grateful bootleggers and local liquor warehouse businessmen eagerly picked their stock up at the station.

In Govenlock's pioneer days, scores of thirsty Americans from Montana eagerly, and repeatedly, met the incoming trains after a long arduous journey across the border, and north up the dusty trails following their state's prohibition declaration in 1919. Often braving rumrunning outlaws - some who didn't think twice of hijacking their valuable stock, the Montana booze traders headed back across the border to Havre, particularly to the "underground mall" where prohibition had sent good times down below the streets. The turn-of-the-century honky tonk speakeasies were packed with wild cowboys and thirsty miners, letting loose with good old-fashioned frontier rot-gut from north of the border, and maybe a further trip to an opium den and bordello.

For a few years, Govenlock was the important link for the revelry south of the border. The town boomed while fueling the whiskey trade. But the good times were not to last.

Govenlock's humble beginnings began in 1910 when Moose Jaw resident William Govenlock applied for a homestead in the area. When he moved his family, they became one of the district's first pioneer families.

In 1913, William Govenlock negotiated a land sale agreement with the CPR for the construction of a townsite. It was agreed by most settlers in the area that the name of the new settlement should be called Govenlock. The new country post office in the town was operated by Govenlock's wife, Bessie.

Even without the steady flow of liquor, Govenlock's early beginnings looked promising. The town boasted its impressive CPR station, section house, grain elevators, two general stores, blacksmith shops, a livery barn, two machine agencies, pool room, laundry, school, meant shop, a service station selling Model T Fords, and a hotel. Most of these businesses were connected by wooden sidewalks, a common feature in the pioneer prairie days.