Mountain, SK: Our History
For detailed historical records please contact the Wood Mountain
Historical Society or the Rodeo Ranch Museum.
Wood Mountain's first European settlers came in
the 1870's, when about 35 Metis families moved here after the failure
the Red River Rebellion. Boundary Commission survey teams came
shortly after to mark the 49th parallel. They built the cabins
in 1874 became the first Wood Mountain North-West
Mounted Police (NWMP) post. Chasing out the whiskey traders
long, and the post was closed the next year.
Today Wood Mountain is a peaceful area, but during
the days of Sitting Bull and James Walsh this was one of the most
volatile spots in North America. The famous Sioux medicine man Sitting
Bull and as many as 5000 of his Sioux (Lakota) followers took refuge
U.S. Army after the battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. General
George Custer and his Seventh Cavalry were virtually wiped out when
foolishly attacked the Sioux, and the Canadian government was concerned
that Sitting Bull might attack Canadians.
NWMP Superintendent James Walsh, commanding officer
Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills, was sent to lay down the
law to the
Walsh earned Sitting Bull's respect when he rode into the intimidating
camp, with only a handful of constables. Sitting Bull agreed to
Canadian laws and within months of that agreement, a new Wood Mountain
detachment was constructed for 22 NWMP officers. Walsh had a home
for himself built nearby and spent most of his time in the Wood
region until he was transferred to Fort Qu'Appelle in 1880. The
kept their promise to abide by Canadian law, but the Canadian
never granted them permanent status. By 1879 the Sioux were
to starve because of fires set in the U.S. that kept the buffalo south
of the border. The U.S. government offered amnesty and food to
Sioux, so many of them left while only a few hundred remained in Canada
with Sitting Bull. Jean-Louis Legare, a trader from the Willow
area, spent a great deal of effort and supplies to feed the starving
After Legare's effort was exhausted, Sitting Bull
realized he had been defeated and returned to the U.S. with a few more
of his people. Not all of the Sioux left though, and their
still live in the area to this day. After returning to the
Sitting Bull appeared in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show.
Sitting Bull was guaranteed by the U.S. government that he would not be
harmed, in 1890 he was arrested on a trumped-up charge. His
tried to rescue him and shooting ensued. Sitting Bull was wounded
twice before he was fatally clubbed by soldiers and police.
A monument to Sitting Bull has been placed at the top of a hill in the
The Wood Mountain
First Nations Reservation is located 3 miles south-west of the
village. For information
about the Reservation, you can request it from:
William Goodtrack Wood Mountain, SKS0H 4L0 CANADA
Saskatchewan may not be well know for its hills, but it does have them.
In fact the Wood Mountain Hills 20 km south of the village, known
as the Bench, are the second highest area in western Canada
east of the Rockies (First are
the Cypress Hills). The Badlands, which are south-east of Wood Mountain
and near the town of Rockglen, were a hideout for many famous horse and
cattle thieves and rum-runners, before the NWMP started patrolling and
securing the Canada / U.S.A. border along the 49th parallel.
Comedian Tom Green toured the Badlands around Big Beaver for a TV show
As more people moved onto the prairies at the turn
of the 20th century, farming and ranching changed the landscape.
Where there once were buffalo, cattle became the dominant grazing
and cereal grains were grown where once short grass prairie was all the
eye could see. Farming and ranching play a big roll in the lives
of the residents here, and across the world as well because
agriculture feeds a large portion of the world.
town moved 8km north from the site of the two police posts, as the
railway spread through the province. Several grain elevators were
built to store the crops being grown: Federal, Reliance (Pioneer), and
There is only one elevator
left in Wood Mountain today, and it is not in operation. The
Pioneer elevator, which was built by the Saskatchewan Pool in 1928, is
one of Saskatchewan's oldest wooden elevators standing today. The
Village of Wood Mountain hopes to eventually purchase the elevator,
turn the elevator into a working museum. The operation of the elevator
is preserved on film by the National Film Board's "Grain
(1981) and again on "Death of a Skyline".
On July 31st, 1997 the last orange Pioneer
in town was struck twice by lightning. Fire fighting crews
not get their equipment up the narrow opening to the top of the
so the fire spread. Ironically, the elevator was scheduled to
permanently, on the day it burned down. Fire fighting crews were
called in from neighboring towns by the Wood Mountain
Fire Department and the RCMP. They helped save a house that had
debris dropping onto it. The fire burned for hours, and the grain
smoldered for days which gave the town an aroma of burnt bread for a
Strangely, on the same day as the fire in Wood Mountain a brand new
in Brooks, Alberta met the same fiery fate.
More recently, Wood Mountain has hosted several
successful Country and Rock music events, continued its annual
Stampede, and have made improvements to the Regional and Provincial
Historic Parks. The Wood Mountain Farmer's Market started by Judy
Mergel, has been held in August since 2004.
In July 2005, the Village celebrated its 75th
year. A monument to local organizations was erected beside the
Hotel building, and the MLA and Mayor were on hand to present local
citizens with awards. Among them was Robert Shields, Wood
Mountain's centenarian (seen in the old photo below). Bob spent
the last 6 years of his life in Rockglen, turning 105
in October 2009, and passed away not long after.