It all began with the dream of a German Catholic settlement in the new land of Canada. German Catholics were encouraged to leave their homes across the border and settle in Saskatchewan where they would be under the spiritual leadership of the Benedictine monks. As early as 1903 settlers came and seven brothers by the name of Gerwing were among the first to arrive in our area.
George Gerwing had this to say about the early days:
“Hunting in those days was not a sport. It was an important factor in the livelihood of the common family. Ducks, geese, prairie chickens and rabbits were most plentiful. Eggs of those fowl as well as, at times, even crows’ eggs were staple food. After the first year or two chicken, pork, beef, vegetables and wild fruits were about as plentiful as they are today.
The hopeful settlers worked hard all day brushing the trees by hand and later pulling the stumps in order to prepare the soil for plowing and sowing their first crop. Many farmers used oxen to lighten their field work but even then they had to get up at three in the morning and work till eleven at night or until the oxen refused to move. Seeding was begun in May and finished late in June. The lateness of the season never worried those pioneer farmers and so work on Sunday was never found necessary.
In spite of all the work to be done, recreation was not neglected. The fun-loving settlers enjoyed ball and card games the same as we do now. Dances took place in homes. Meeting at various homes, families would gather to pass the long evenings in singing both German and English songs until their voice gave out. Then tables and chairs, which in many cases were just boxes and planks, were put aside while the merrymakers danced to quadrilles, polkas, waltzes and two-steps. At these small gatherings each man contributed $0.25 – $0.50 to pay the musician and to buy a small keg of beer.
There were no real houses to speak of – just a few logs with lime – but they were real homes. Everyone was most kind, charitable and generous. Literally, one gave ones shirt to help a neighbour in need.”
In 1905 Math Butala opened the first store to meet the needs of the settlers. Soon other establishments were open for business, such as the Bank of Montreal, a pool room owned by Math Glabus, and stores owned by Hamlin and Fitzpatrick and by Fred Riederer. When the CNR proposed rail service between Humboldt and Melfort, the track passed about one mile to the south of this business community. Undaunted, most businesses moved to the new location near the proposed railway. It took 24 teams to make the shift but from all accounts the bank continued to do business wherever it found itself during the southward trek.
The first telephone system was built in 1917 and 1918. The first home wired for electric lights was that of Herman Wesling Sr.
Records show the first train arrived from Humboldt on December 21, 1920, but had to return as the steel was still being layed north. An account states “Those here for that first winter had quite a time looking after their meals and washing. There was only one small cafe and one boarding place run by the only married couple in the new hamlet. Finally on a memorable day in the fall of 1921, a flag bedecked locomotive pulled into lake Lenore. Pupils of Taylor school two miles away (the nearest school at the time) were given a holiday, the band played lusty tunes on the platform, the population of the recently born village of Lake Lenore welcomed the first scheduled through train to Melfort”
Lake Lenore had been incorporated as a village in the spring of 1921. The first council included Herman Schmidtz as overseer, Mike Hopfner and Fred Riederer as councilors and Pete Gaetz as secretary – treasurer. Peter Wolsfeld was given the honour of naming the village as CNR chose Pete’s homestead for the site of its station. Peter picked Lenora Lake but due to a mix up somewhere the CNR called it Lake Lenore. It wasn’t until September 25, 1928 that the mix up was officially corrected and both became Lake Lenore.
Among the documents stored in the village office are many interesting letters covering a variety of topics. Fire protection was one of the primary concerns of the new officials. A letter dated June 1, 1921 is a reply to an inquiry about purchasing a fire engine. It appears the $700 price tag was too much as another letter indicates they purchased at least three 2 1/2 gallon rechargeable foamite extinguishers. Another letter of March, 1922 shows a active Board of Trade which was concerned about road conditions. This letterhead paper indicates J.A. Sterling was the president and Thomas Banting was the secretary – treasurer. The local businessmen were also concerned about store hours and petitioned the council to pass a bylaw to set the hours. On file are other letter which show the village purchased a generator which supplied the business sector with power as early as 1922. In 1949 Saskpower took over, and rewired the entire village, and furnished 29 street lights.
In 1926 the residents of the village and surrounding area unanimously decided to erect a community hall in the village. The actual construction didn’t begin until the spring of 1927 but when it was completed, it was a hall to be proud of! A frame building 70′ x 30′ with a high-grade hardwood floor, the hall was owned and operated under the name of “Lake Lenore Community Hall Co-operative Association” with 59 shareholders. Such names as Hauser, Hopfner, Glabus, Doyscher, Riederer, Hoffman & Downey are found in the records of the early years of operation. In 1974 an eastside addition became the seniors club. A new hall was built in 1980 – 81 close to the arena and it houses the regional library.
A booklet was published in 1929 n conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the village. A glance through the pages reveals the following business information: Jos Stangl of Lake Lenore shipped livestock; three oild companies were represented and delivered oil by truck to farmers: Imperial Oil – G. Prokosh, British American Oil – J. X. Ryan, Nortstar Oil – Hoenmans Bros.; two lumber companies: Beaver Lumber with Herman Michels as manager and Grace Michels as secretary, Empire Lumber with J. Kendall and Son; five implement dealers: IH – Mike Hopfner, Massey Harris – Louis Schober, John Deere and Cockshutt – Hoenmans Bros., JI Case – Jack’s Garage; General Merchants: Fred Riederer, Hoenmans Bros., and Dobrovitch Bros.; Hauser Hardware Co.; Lake Lenore Hotel – Sam Lee and Lee Hong Pin Props.; L. Lenore Meat Market – J. Ludwig; Lemke Drug Co. – Frank Lemke; J.M. MacGuire – Poolroom and Barber Shop; Math Glabus Poolroom; Thomas Rath – Barber; Jack’s Garage – J. Gorsalitz; L.Lenore Garage – J. Sarauer; L.Lenore Blacksmith Shop – L. Schober.
Eleven years later, 1941, the village with a population of 300, continued to support the following businesses: Bank of Montreal, one hotel with beer parlor, a beer store, two general stores, a grocery store and meat market, two hardwares, a drug store, four oil companies, two garages, a blacksmith shop, pol hall, lumber yard, beauty parlor and six machinery companies were represented. There was also a 24-hour service telephone exchange.
The village made sewer and water available to its residents with the construction of a huge resevoir in 1968. The resevoir covered 15 acres and held 185 acre feet of water it was located just west of the village. Lake Lenore’s current water supply comes from the Wakaw -Humboldt pipeline which draws water from the South Saskatchewan river. The village hooked up to the pipeline in 1997.
Throughout its history Lake Lenore has celebrated parish and village anniversaries including Canada’s Centennial in 1967, Lake Lenore homecoming 1971 and the Provincial Centennial and Homecoming in 2005. The many community organizations have assisted with plans and floats for parades and contests such as the beard growing contest to celebrate Canada’s centennial. The Board of Trade was the first civic organization, others have included the volunteer fire department, the Civic Defence Organization, Home and School – now School Community Council, Fish and Game League – nw Lake Lenore Wildlife Association, The Lions and Lioness clubs, The Catholic Womens League, The Knights of Columbus and various sports groups.
Throughout the history of the community many names are on record and among them are some who have served long and well. George Gerwing was postmaster for 32 years and was followed by his son, Syl, who served for 30 years. Mike Mehr was councilor for some 16 years and overseer 15 more. Theo Hoenmans served as secretary-treasurer for 25 years, Ozzie Yeager as fire chief for 20 years; Steve Varga was mayor for 15 years. Many others have given service in one capacity or another and to each and every one we are deeply grateful.
The years have come and gone. Many people have spent part of their lives here in the community; many others have known no other home.
We are all still proudly Lake Lenore!