By 1882, the Town of Whitewood, Assiniboia, was a major stop on the new CPR. The Town, named for the clumps of white poplar in the area grew steadily and was officially incorporated in 1892. Located at the mid-point of the CPR line between Brandon and Regina, Whitewood was a major stopping point for settlement in the region.
Settlers from many lands made their homes in this area and the multi-national character the of the community is visible in the community to this day. The first Finnish settlement in the west is located here and Hungarians, Swedes, Germans, Poles Russians and Czechs made Whitewood their destination. It was said that we needed to know 11 languages to do business in Whitewood. The Whitewood Flag Garden was established to recognize these different nationalities.
One of the most unusual and glamorous settments was that of the French Counts of St. Hubert, founded by Dr. Rudolph Meyer. The goal of the group of 14 French and Belgian aristocrats was to build a life on the Canadian prairies in the style of the French nobility in Europe. Even though the settlement failed, many Whitewood residents trace their roots to the workers and homesteaders brought here to the most romantic settlement in the West. Today Whitewood is referred to the as the French Count Capital of North America.
Whitewood also became known as the “Crossroads Community” because of its location at the corner of two major highways, the Trans-Canada #1 and Saskatchewan Provincial #9 Highway.
Throughout its life, Whitewood has been a historical community in the shaping of Canada. It was in this very Town that the first sitting of the Supreme Court of Eastern Assiniboia was held, as well as the first secret ballot election of the Northwest Territories. Whitewood resident R.S. Park travelled to Winnipeg with Louis Riel and a delegation of natives in 1883 to protest the seizure of lands and ask for support from Archbishop Tache at Saint Boniface. This predated the uprising in 1885. Another Whitewood resident, Francis Cosgrave served on the jury at Riel’s trial.
In 1893, pupils from Whitewood won a certificate and bronze medal for their art and handiwork at the Chicago World’s Fair.
The first secret-ballot election in the Northwest Territories was held in Whitewood in 1894.
The first sitting of the Supreme Court of Eastern Assiniboia was held here before Saskatchewan became a province.
Whitewood is the site of the first successful Finnish settlement in all of Canada.
The first flour mill in Regina was operated by a former Whitewood resident named James Saunders.
Whitewood was the distribution center for mail to the entire region. The oldest remaining building in the Northwest Territories to house a post office still stands and can be found on the Whitewood Heritage Walking Tour.
Whitewood resident J.F. Guerin was the first dentist to set up shop in the Northwest Territories. He was also an amateur actor, and he and his beautiful wife formed a travelling theatrical company which performed throughout the region.
Whitewood resident A.B. Gillis was the last Speaker of the House for the Government of the Northwest Territories, which was disbanded when the province of Saskatchewan was formed.
Whitewood resident John Hawkes, was appointed as the first Legislative Librarian for the province in 1907. He went on to found the Saskatchewan Travelling Library system and later wrote a book, the impressive 3-volume “Saskatchewan and its People.” His wife, Elizabeth Hawkes, was the first woman in Saskatchewan to publish a newspaper, the Broadview Express.
Counts and countesses, senators, prime ministers and poor pioneers socialized at functions in the community. Authors and actresses, outlaws and bureaucrats all crossed paths in this community and many went on to make significant contributions to the history and culture of our province and Canada.