Celestial Blue Saskatchewan in 1921 and the 1921 census in 2013

Saskatchewan in 1921 and the 1921 Census. The Forgotten Depression.

1921, an era of transition and change begins. Evolution of a community happens over the course of considerable years. It does not happen, no, that an entire province of people rush out on June 1, 1921 to all buy tractors all at once, and leave Daisy nibbling in the field. The transition from horse and plough to tractor began in a farm here and there, and slowly more and more farmers owned tractor, farm truck and automobile. The 1921 census tells a story of people, and their land, the successes and failures of immigration schemes and homesteading ventures and how life was changing.

History "conjures up feelings of what it was like in a day and age not our own," speaks John C. Charyk. The first two decades of the 1900s brought with them a huge wave of people to the plains of Saskatchewan. By 1921, these pioneer settlers were proud to call Saskatchewan their home. The early pioneer had divested their time, energy and blood into the land because they had "faith in the possibilities of the country, stood by that faith, and made a success of their undertaking.[1]"

"The unorganized territories of British North America had been ceded to the Dominion soon after Confederation, and the West had been tapped and traversed by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the eighties and nineties," documented the Yearbook of Canada 1922/1923. The 1926 Financial Post reported that there were 6,268.72 miles of railway stretching across the province by 1922 serving "2,139 elevators, 896 loading platforms, 554 stockyards, in addition to depots, warehouses, etc." The yearbook continues, "but though western population doubled with each of these decades, it was only with the launching of a large scale immigration movement after 1900 that western settlement and production became a first-rate economic factor." In the two decades 1901-1911 and 1911-1921, the census returns showed over 1,800,000 immigrant arrivals to Canada in each of the decades, over 3,600,000 persons in twenty years.

As W.G. Cates, points out, "the 1921 census, as it shows a much lower rate of increase in population during the 1911-1921 period than that of 1901-1911, is naturally disappointing; but the returns must be considered in the light of the Great War...tens of thousands went overseas to their native land to fight; while other tens of thousands went to the United States in order to escape military service." Some 60,000 militia gave the supreme sacrifice in the theatre of war, and 20,000 Canadians who served remained in the United Kingdom following their term of service. Of these 60,000 Canadians 6,428 were Saskatchewan boys according to the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial. The mass exodus of citizens, the loss of life, accompanied by the tens of thousands of Saskatchewan personnel serving in the armed forces overseas, might lead one to predict a drop in population, however the 1921 census still showed a population increase.

In the early days of the war we were much comforted by the fact that men and women were ready to make sacrifices for this, the greatest cause of all. In Canada, and I am sure elsewhere throughout the Empire, there has been manifest a spirit of co-operation, of mutual helpfulness, of a desire to assist, of self-sacrifice which is most comforting to those who have at heart the welfare of our Empire in years to come. So I am sure it will be in the future. The influence of a spirit of helpfulness and self-sacrifice, which we see everywhere throughout the world, and within our Empire, is one for which I give thanks and am most grateful." ~ August 14, 1915. Right Honourable Sir Robert Laird Borden, G.C.M.G., M.P. eighth Prime Minister of Canada

The population of Canada was recorded at 7,206,643 in 1911, and according to the Canada Year book 1922-1923, it rose to 8,788,483 in 1921. (Saskatchewan was 757,510.) If the trend of the first decade had continued, it was estimated that the population should have reached 10,100,000. There were at least a couple of factors at work towards the increase of population. "It should also be taken into account that the returns for the western provinces include about 25,000 returned men, who have been placed on farms through the Soldier Settlement Scheme" noted Cote in his census analysis. The 1921 census showed that not only is there immigration from Europe and the United States, but there is a definite migration from East to West.

70 per cent of the arable farm land was in farms by 1921, and the settlement pattern was established. Professor W.B. Baker chairman of the Royal Commission on Agriculture and Rural Life looks at it this way, "in 1901, 96 per cent of our farmers were owners and 61 per cent of the 13,445 farms were under 200 acres in size. The average size of farm was 285 acres. In 1921, 76.7 per cent of 119,451 farms were owner-operated and 32.5 per cent were under 200 acres while the average size of farm had increased to 369 acres." In Saskatchewan, 71 per cent of the population was rural, and the remainder urban. The Morning Leader relates that, "more people means more schools and better schools; more roads and better roads; better medical services; more enjoyable community life with all the advantages which must follow."

However, James Thomas Milton Anderson speaks of the immigration "problem" in the book "The education of the new-Canadian: A treatise on Canada's greatest educational problem." He writes in 1918 following the war years "throughout the prairie provinces great stretches of land have been settled by immigrants from European countries. The language of the home is German, Ruthenian, Hungarian, Bohemian, or Polish, as the case may be. In the villages where they trade they have their own merchants, speaking their own language. In these settlements there is but one force at work to Canadianize their children—the public school." Dr. Harold W. Foght Specialist in Rural School Practice, summed up the post war hysteria, "Are we to be a homogeneous people on these plains or are we to repeat the tragic sufferings of polyglot Austria" He goes on to discuss "the process of making one Canadian-speaking and thinking people" in A Survey of Education. In 1919, a new school act was passed permitting English as the only language of instruction.

The war had a devastating effect on the peace of mind of the community. Settlers looked at neighbours knowing now who had served for Canada during the Great War, who had deserted, those who chose not to serve, those who left to serve their ancestral lands and those who had lost sons and daughters overseas. Saskatchewan, the great melting pot of immigrants began to give rise to division looking at those who had served with the allies and which communities may have a different allegiance. Saskatchewan peoples along with the rest of Canada sought for a Canadian identity, what it meant to be truly Canadian.

In Western Canada there is to be seen to-day that most fascinating of all human phenomena, the making of a nation. Out of breeds diverse in traditions, in ideals, in speech, and in manner of life, Saxon and Slav, Teuton, Celt and Gaul, one people is being made. The blood strains of great races will mingle in the blood of a race greater than the greatest of them all.

It would be our wisdom to grip these peoples to us with living hooks of justice and charity till all lines of national cleavage disappear, and in the Entity of our Canadian national life, and in the Unity of our world-wide Empire, we fuse into a people whose strength will endure the slow shock of time for the honour of our name, for the good of mankind, and for the glory of Almighty God."
~ Rev. Dr. Charles William Gordon

Anderson, beginning as inspector of schools around Yorkton between 1911-1918, was appointed director of Education 1918-1922. The Morning Leader reported that "the School Attendance Act was rigidly enforced...a larger percentage of pupils passed their examinations and a great percentage of children made better progress because of regular attendance." It was to this end that school room classes were awarded $3 a day if an average of 15 pupils attended during the school year, and if the schools offered classes beyond grade 7. During the settlement era, 1901-1921, the Department of Education boasted that a new school district was organised every day of the year, however in 1921 only 100 school districts were formed. The department and community both recognised the benefits of consolidated school districts, however the cost of conveying rural children to a consolidated school placed such a transition on hold in 1921.

So what was life like in Saskatchewan in 1921? Saskatchewan men who had served with the military in the Great War (1914-1918) were beginning to return home. This marked great happiness for families with returned love ones, and a time of grief and sadness mourning those who would never come home. However, not only did the communities have the economic transition of the discharged soldiers entering the work place, but the Spanish influenza set in. About 5,000 lives were lost in Saskatchewan alone from this epidemic.

The war time population in 1916 of 647,835 had grown in five years to 757,510. The Model T automobile began to replace the horse and buggy across the prairies, by 1921 there were 34,085 cars. Dotting farms as well, tractors were commencing to replace horse and plough. In 1921, 19,243 tractors were counted in the census returns on 17,523 farms across the province.

With the increase in mechanized travel, the Department of Highways commenced a project in 1920 of laying better roads and bridges. These early roads followed the surveyed township roads, and travel could be done "on the square", it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that highways were "straightened".

Families would have no televisions, nor computers nor video games. "The school children are actively engaged in eliminating Mr. Gopher, and in some cases some ingenious methods of capturing and killing have been invented by the school boys of the province."Source" Children would receive two cents bounty or thrift stamps on delivery of gopher tails to their school teacher. By May 1 of 1917, 514,000 gophers had been taken care of by the "Junior Agricultural Service League of Saskatchewan" that spring alone.

1921 was the year before the first Saskatchewan radio station was established, there was no widespread electricity available. Rather than having a television agricultural forum or radio call in "talk show" to catch up on the latest news, farm families could just pick up the telephone and listen in to the "party line" which was often connected to about eight other neighbourly homes. Central exchanges connected various party lines, and in the coldest of winters, without roads, and snow blowers neighbours could catch up on the latest gossip, sales, funerals and chat back and forth.

The high influx of settlers, meant pasture land was being taken up by homesteaders, and the era of the great ranches drew to a close around 1921. The last round up for the Matador ranch was 1921 when 3,400 head of cattle would be taken from the ranch near Saskatchewan Landing (Moose Jaw area) to Waldeck and on to Chicago for sale. No longer would the spring cattle trek see yearlings and two year olds arrive from Texas to the Matador ranch. The ranchers would work long hours, before sun up and after sun down even during the months of long summer days, the treks gave the ranch hands and the settlers an event, and the cowboys had their "semi annual trip to town."Source Gone now were the days when "One arriving in town, the first thought was for a drink. In the old days the men would ride right into the building and up to the bar."

"Come alive you fellers," hear the foreman shout.
    "Drop your books and banjos, fetch your saddles out...
Shake that squeaky fiddle, Red, go and get your hoss,
    "Dutch, ain't you got duties, as the chuck-wagon boss?
"Range is gettin' grassy, winter draws its claws,
    "Calved are fat an' sassy, teasin' of their maws,
"Loafin' days are over, dreamin' time is gone,
    No more life in clover, for the round-up's on."
~ Folksong.

1921 was a year of a severe economic depression, Saskatchewan farmers were still reeling from the drought of 1920. Prairie farmers were also hit by the international wheat market collapse of 1921. The growing season of 1921 looked promising showing 14 bushels to the acre as compared to 11 bushels of 1920. Farmers, and communities were very optimistic. The rains came during harvest season and No. 1 Northern Wheat was reduced to No. 4. Despite their threshing efforts, it cost more to take off the crop quickly, and the market price was low. The price for a bushel of wheat brought $1.50, compared to $0.76 in 1921, wheat fell a whopping 50 per cent. During the Great War, the Dominion government "controlled the sale and pricing of wheat" through the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) in 1917, "wheat prices rose to $2.21 a bushel and then $2.62 by 1919." This same year (1919) that the CWB was dismantled.

The Soldier's Settlement Act provided for land and loans set at 5% as assistance to erect buildings, purchase livestock, implements and equipment. Though the prices were excellent in 1918 when the soldiers returned home, the growing season was affected by drought, hail and grasshopper infestations. The year of 1919 proved challenging, grasshoppers remained prevalent, wheat was affected by a fungal disease called rust and some areas were hard hit by drought. Returning servicemen on their new Soldier's Grants were tasked with clearing the land on their newly allocated quarter sections. However, these quarters were not the "best of the best" sections of land, those had already been taken for homestead settlement. The only land which was left were areas which had been already abandoned by homesteader or Indian reserve, forest reserves, and unused school lands.

The drought of 1920 affected the livestock industry of 1921, as there was a shortage of feed, and the market had taken a downward trend. During the "depression in 1921...thousands of farmers and ranchers were ruined....the average dept-ridden farmer of today cannot possibly pay taxes, interest and carry on farm operation on the proceeds of the present prices on farm products," reported the Calgary Herald. The Minister of Agriculture, Honourable C.M. Hamilton testified "that the average Saskatchewan farm of a half-section worth $12,000, had a mortgage on it of $5,000." Without tax payments, the school districts had no ability to pay their teachers, Austin F. Cross recalls months of despair and agony which culminated in a turning point in his life when the bank relented to loaning the school trustees money.

Saskatchewan, the land of snow,
Where winds are always on the blow,
Where people sit with frozen toes--
And why we stay here, no one knows.

Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan,
There's no place like Saskatchewan.
We sit and gaze across the plains,
And wonder why it never rains,
Till Gabriel doth his trumpet sound,
And says the rain has gone around.

~ William W. Smith

The government under William Melville Martin, second premier of Saskatchewan The provincial government supported railway freight rate reductions, and rail branch line construction. Although the government coffers were drained from the wartime effort, Martin established $5 million available to farmers through a mortgage lending organization through the sale of government bonds.

As of June 1, 2013 92 years will have elapsed since 1921 when the census enumerators went out door to door on June 1, 1921. So, according to Library and Archives Canada, the census should be released from Statistics Canada and transferred over to Library and Archives Canada LAC for public usage. According to the LAC, "The 1921 Census was taken on June 1st, which means that it will be in the custody of Library and Archives Canada on June 1, 2013. Our intention is to make it available to researchers online, in the same format as previous censuses, as soon as possible after that date.Source"

The Canadian Century Research Infrastructure CCRI is currently creating a 4% sampling of the 1921 Census of Canada in conjunction with Statistics Canada. Currently the instructions to enumerators is available as a pdf file. The CCRI will also look towards establishing databases for the 1911, 1921, 1931, 1941 and 1951 census as well.

The lure of love and the west.
If you've heard the wild goose honking, if you've seen the sunlit plain,
If you've breathed the smell of ripe grain, dewy, wet,
You may go away and leave it, say you will not come again,
But it's in your blood, you never can forget.

~Nellie McClung.

~ Article written by J. Adamson

Population of Canada by Provinces and Territories in the Census Years 1871 to 1921


from the Canada Year Book 1922/1923  
Province or Territory 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 2011
Prince Edward Island 94,021 108,891 109,078 103,259 93,728 88,615 140,204
Nova Scotia 387,800 440,572 450,396 459,574 492,338 523,837 921,727
New Brunswick 285,594 321,233 321,263 331,120 351,889 387,876 751,171
Quebec 1,191,516 1,359,027 1,488,535 4,648,898 2,005,776 2,361,199 7,903,001
Ontario 1,620,851 1,926,922 2,114,321 2,182,947 2,527,292 2,933,622 12,851,821
Manitoba 25,228 62,260 152,506 255,211 461,394 610,118 1,208,268
Saskatchewan 91,279 492,432 757,510 1,033,381
Alberta 73,022 374,295 588,454 3,645,257
British Columbia 36,247 49,459 98,173 178,657 392,480 524,582 4,400,057
Yukon Territory 27,219 8,512 4,157 33,897
Northwest Territories 48,000 56,446 98,173 178,657 392,480 524,582 41,462
Royal Canadian Navy 485
Newfoundland and Labrador 514,536
Nunavut 31,906
Total 3,689,257 4,324,810 4,833,239 5,371,315 7,206,643 8,788,483 33,476,688

Population and dwelling counts, for Canada and federal electoral districts (2003 Representation Order), 2011 and 2006 censuses Statistics Canada. Government of Canada.
Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, 2011 and 2006 censuses
2011 Census Profiles

The Canadian boundaries after 1891 show a boundary change most evident in the statistics of the Northwest Territories. So, although Saskatchewan and Alberta became provinces in 1905, the population count for the Northwest Territory has decreased, and population counts have been provided for Alberta, Saskatchewan. In 1898, the Yukon territory was formed, It was not until 1912 that Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec extended their boundaries to form the present day provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949 and at that time was named Newfoundland. Nunavut became a distinct territory separate from the Northwest Territories in 1999.

Area and Population by Provinces and Electoral Districts, 1921, 1911 and 1901

Provinces and Districts

Land area in sq.miles [1921]




Assiniboia 5,850.86 9,053 31,978 34,789
Battleford 6,651.96 1,355 21,667 33,642
Humboldt 8,320.95 1,652 36,617 55,225
Kindersley 11,264.30 31 22,229 44,772
Last Mountain 7,085.51 1,575 33,093 50,055
Mackenzie 5,856.34 11,984 36,940 55,629
Maple Creek 15,149.09 1,473 19,730 56,064
Moose Jaw 15,149 1,473 19,730 50,064
North Battleford 72,000.00 4,579 24,330 47,381
Prince Albert 76,499 16,644 35,839 56,829
Qu'Appalle 4,458.06 17,133 30,470 34,836
Regina 2,063.25 6,581 44,202 49,977
Saltcoats 4,554.69 10,874 32,313 43,795
Saskatoon 3,453.38 2,964 31,633 55,151
Swift Current 7,958.48 484 28,691 53,275
Weyburn 6,051.89 1,172 31,081 15,862
Saskatchewan 243,381.00 91,279 492,432 757,510

Population for Saskatchewan federal electoral districts 2011 census

Geographic Name Population 2011 Land area in square kilometers 2011
Battlefords-Lloydminster 76,295 32,130.72
Blackstrap 85,541 10,921.10
Cypress Hills - Grasslands 60,983 73,267.33
Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill 71,376 309,072.37
Palliser 68,544 7,486.76
Prince Albert 74,228 14,827.91
Regina - Qu'Appelle 71,219 12,345.76
Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre 70,276 14,067.68
Saskatoon - Humboldt 82,743 11,664.04
Saskatoon - Rosetown -Biggar 72,893 10,935.79
Saskatoon-Wanuskewin 82,553 10,233.82
Souris - Moose Mountain 68,013 39,823.70
Wascana 82,241 3,826.43
Yorkton - Melville 66,476 37,635.82
Saskatchewan 1,033,381 588,239.21

Population of Saskatchewan Towns 1911, 1921 and 2011 with their rail location in 1921

Sk Town 1911 1921 2011 1921 Location
Alameda 282 208 342 CPR Estevan branch
Alsask 175 360 131 CNR midpoint Saskatoon and Calgary
Arcola 794 605 649 CPR line south of Regina
Asquith 199 311 603 CPR and GTP 28 miles west of Saskatoon
Assiniboia 1006 2,418 CPR Divisional point west of Weyburn
Balgonia (Balgonie 2011) 368 204 1,625 CPR line 18 miles east of Regina
Battleford 1,335 1,229 4,065 CNR line 90 miles west of Saskatoon
Biggar 1,351 1,535 2,161 GTP Divisional point 60 miles west of Saskatoon
Bredenbury 102 290 364 CPR Saskatoon Edmonton branch line
Broadview 702 839 574 CPR between Regina and Brandon, MB
Cabri 532 399 CPR midpoint Empress and Swift Current
Canora 435 1,230 2,219 CNR main line
Carlyle 358 394 1,441 CPR Arcola branch line 123 miles south east of Regina
Carnduff 469 494 1,126 CPR Estevan branch 106 miles southwest of Brandon MB
Caron 222 243 139 CPR main line 16 miles west of Moose Jaw
Craik 435 570 453 CNR Regina -Prince Albert branch
Davidson 389 652 1,025 CNR Regina -Prince Albert branch
Delisle 234 273 975 CNR Goose Lake branch line
Duck Lake 379 437 577 CNR Prince Albert - Saskatoon branch line
East End (Eastend 2011) 427 527
Estevan 1,981 2,290 11,054 CPR and CNR 145 miles south east of Moose Jaw
Fleming 270 263 83
Francis 263 173 176 CPR Arcola branch line 123 miles south east of Regina
Govan 390 495 216 CPR line 70 miles south-east of Saskatoon
Gravelbourg 1,106 1,116 CPR main line
Grenfell 709 765 1,049
Gull Lake 606 783 989 CPR main line 144 miles out of Moose Jaw
Hanley 381 312 522 Regina -Prince Albert Line
Herbert 559 827 759 CPR line 90 miles west of Moose Jaw
Humboldt 859 1,822 5,678 CNR Divisional Point
Indian Head 1,285 1,439 1,815 CPR main line 40 miles east of Regina
Kamsack 473 2002 1,825 CNR divisional Point on the main line
Kerrobert 320 785 1,061 CNR
Kindersley 456 1,003 4,678 CNR Saskatoon - Calgary line
Langham 389 430 1,290 CPR
Lanigan 392 426 1,390 CPR line 70 miles east of Saskatoon
Leader 765 821
Lemberg 303 472 274 CPR Brandon - Saskatoon branch line
Lloydminster 441 469 SK - 9,772
Ab - 18,032
CNR main line 170 miles east of Edmonton
Lumsden 695 498 1,631 CNR line 20 miles north - west of Regina
Macklin 322 364 1,415 CPR Edmonton - Winnipeg line
Maple Creek 936 1,002 2,176 CPR Edmonton - Winnipeg line
Melfort 599 1,746 5,576 CNR 100 miles north east of Saskatoon
Melville 1,816 2,808 4,517 GTP Divisional point
Milestone 436 472 618 CPR 54 miles south east of Moose Jaw
Moosomin 1,143 1,099 2,485 CPR main line 87 miles west of Brandon
Morse 290 559 240 CPR 71 miles west of Moose Jaw
Mortlach 219 398 289 CPR 25 miles west of Moose Jaw
Nokomis 374 547 397 GTP and CPR junction
Ogema 171 345 368 CPR line 52 miles west of Weyburn
Outlook 685 704 2,204 120 miles north west of Moose Jaw
Oxbow 630 602 1,285 On Souris River 41 miles out of Estevan
Qu'Appelle 851 683 668
Radisson 305 431 505 CNR line between Humboldt and Edmonton
Radville 233 883 860
Rosetown 317 865 2,317 CNR line 72 miles west of Saskatoon
Rosthern 1,172 1,074 1,572 CNR 40 miles north of Saskatoon
Rouleau 679 590 453 CPR line 35 miles south east of Moose Jaw
Saltcoats 432 479 474 CPR line 17 miles south east of York-town
Scott 420 236 75 GTP 103 miles west of Saskatoon
Shaunavon 1,146 1,756 CPR Weyburn - Lethbridge line
Sintaluta 391 320 120 CPR 53 miles east of Regina
Strasburg (Strasbourg 2011) 811 514 752 CPR 51 miles north west of Regina
Sutherland (Saskatoon 2011) 421 961 222,189 CPR two miles east of Saskatoon
Star City 132 591 460
Tisdale 250 783 3,180 Near Melfort
Unity 149 611 2,389
Vonda 268 383 353 CNR 35 miles east of Saskatoon
Wadena 255 544 1,306 CNR 139 miles east of Saskatoon
Wapella 485 401 333 CPR 110 miles east of Regina
Watrous 781 1,101 1,857 GTP 64 miles east of Saskatoon
Watson 211 396 777 CNR main line
Whitewood 447 499 950 CPR main line
Wilkie 537 778 1,301 CPR 100 miles out of Saskatoon
Wolseley 961 956 864 CPR line between Regina and Brandon, MB
Wynyard 515 849 1,767 CPR Line 100 miles east of Saskatoon
Yellow Grass 459 465 440 CPR line 70 miles south east of Moose Jaw
Yorktown (Yorkton 2011) 2,809 5,151 15,669 CPR
Zealandia 264 345 80 CNR 60 miles south west of Saskatoon

NOte: The GTP or Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, was a subsidiary of the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR), in 1923 was completely absorbed into the CNR.

Figures for town populations 1911 and 1921 from the June 29, 1923 Financial Post 2011 town figures from Statistics Canada Census Profile Place Name Search Results


Related posts:

Saskatchewan Census News Release

Why were Canadian "Last Best West" homesteads created?

The Era of Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouses

How did pioneers travel to their prairie homesteads?

Where were Saskatchewan Homesteads Located?

How do I locate my ancstor's home town in Saskatchewan? Have you ever visited your ancestral home?


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The Matador ~ Famous Saskatchewan Ranch Saskatoon Star Phoenix - Google News Archives Search May 5, 1945.

[1] Turner, Allan R. Pioneer Farming Experiences Saskatchewan History Volume VIII. Spring 1955. Number 2. Saskatchewan Archives Board. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 1955. Page 55.

What to Search Topics ~ Genealogy and Family History Library and Archives Canada. Government of Canada. 2010.

Further Information:

Census Information

Saskatchewan History and Ethnic Roots

1919 Alberta, Saskatchewan Manitoba Waghorn's Guide

1925 Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba Waghorn's Guide

Gazetteer of U.S. and Canadian Railroads 1922

Saskatchewan Highway Map 1925

Rand McNally 1924 Indexed Pocket Map

Saskatchewan Wheat Pool Maps 1924


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