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St. Boswells

Only the sidewalks speak

BatemanAbandoned road

Looking down Main Street from east to west, and starting on the north side of the street, was Elmer Moulton's garage, which served St. Boswells from 1919 to 1948. It started as a Model T Ford dealership when it opened. It also held the town's lighting plant, as well as a electrical business. Next to the garage was the Union Cafe, Brown's Butcher Shop, a hardware store, the fire station (using hand-pumped equipment and a water tank), Wing's Laundry.

There were many other businesses during this time, a boom era from 1919 to 1929 which saw the town's population mushroom to between 300 and 350 residents. But in that latter year, the stock market crashed and like scores of other pioneer prairie communities, St. Boswells began its painful decline. The following year, the droughts came, soon ending any hope of renewed prosperity. One by one, businesses and residents packed up and left. When Perry Lindsay's store and post office closed in 1960, it was the last business to shut its doors. It was the official end of St. Boswells. For many years after, the only reminders of St. Boswells' boom days were the town's central water well, and the empty and silent cement sidewalks.

A few times every year or so, former residents will head out on the dusty rural road that approaches the now fenced-in former townsite. They will scan the empty field, reflect as they recall the lively chatter of pioneer folk walking proudly along those same sidewalks.

In the early 1990s, Ruby Davies of Calgary, Alberta drove through the dusty gravel Saskatchewan backroads to St. Boswells with her mother Jean Coote and other relatives to rekindle memories of the pioneer community. In 1920, Davies' mother was the first baby born in St. Boswells. But as she and her family toured the townsite, only prairie ghosts were there to greet the saddened entourage.

"As we drove through the streets one or another of them would comment, 'There is Dow's store'; 'There is Pop's garage'; 'There is the dance hall'; 'There is the post office', and on it went," said Davies, who lived in Bateman from 1948 to 1966. "It seemed like they really could see those buildings."

"I didn't remember any of those buildings but I did remember the United Church, and the school that were across the street from my grandparents' house, " added Davies.

"My husband Jack began to laugh. There was not a single building anywhere. There were sidewalks, a few trees and the old well that was claimed to have 'the best water in the country' but not a single building. The memories live on now with a few people but in a few years they too will be gone."