R. M. 45 : the social history of a rural municipality
Peel, Bruce Braden
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This thesis was designed as an exploratory work to discover what types of materials were available for the writing of local histories in Saskatchewan. The Rural Municipality of Mankota, No. 45, was a test area. The sources utilized in writing the social history of the municipality are cited in footnotes throughout the text, and collected in the bibliography. The latter is followed by a discussion of the more important sources in an appendix entitled "Collecting Local History." This thesis narrates the story of the development of an agricultural community from its beginning until it became fully institutionalized with the coming of the railway and the urban market centres in 1928. Part one of the thesis gives the setting of the municipality. The introductory chapter sets forth the physical environment; the second and third chapters give the historical environment. Part two is the story of the settlement of the municipality. This part is more anecdotal than the succeeding part because the absence of institutions on the homestead frontier made the history of the period largely the experiences of individuals. Part three is the history of the establishment of institutions, the establishment of wheat farming as the sole type of agriculture, for improved transportation and market facilities. Part four, the period of drouth and recovery, is added as a supplement to bring the story of Mankota up to date. The decade of the 1930's was known as the "dry" thirties," and brought about a certain social disintegration. As the history of those years is a study in itself, in this thesis only a summary of the period is attempted. The importance of agriculture in the lives of the people of the municipality warranted the devotion of a long chapter to agricultural developments. In chapter nine the crop history of the area is set down as annals. This form is suggestive of the rhythm of wheat farmers' lives; the planting, the anxiety over weather, the harvesting, and the season of quiescence; year-in and year-out, this is the rhythm. The period covered in the main body of the thesis, from 1908 to 1929, was too brief for a local history of a new agricultural community. The institutionalization of the community was completed only at the end of the period under survey. Hence many of the institutions had not been in existence long enough to enable the historian to draw conclusions as to their importance or effectiveness. It is hoped that this thesis will provide other students with clues for the writing of better local histories. A plan to collect local history throughout the province would be timely. The generation which homesteaded the province is reaching the eve of life. Much of our early history was never recorded on paper. With the passing of an "old timer" a bit of oral history is often lost. For instance, in the Rural Municipality of Mankota many farmers have retired in the past six years. Local officials are retiring and often rid the records of non-current files. In the municipal office at Mankota the secretary-treasurer was preparing to retire after thirty-one years of service. When I was working in the office, I saw a large file of correspondence dealing with relief. Some of the letters were invaluable social documents of the drouth years. After an absence of a week I returned to the office and found all the correspondence destroyed. Not a letter had been saved as an example of the petitions for relief.