Homesteading in Saskatchewan

After discovering that Bernhardt Hjalmer Borresen homesteaded in Saskatchewan, Canada, I wondered what I’d learn if I sent for a copy of the homestead papers held in the provincial archives. What I received was a pleasant surprise! (Remember that Bernhardt is a first cousin to our grandfather Emil Borreson.)

“Benjamin Borresen” was the name on the papers filed for a quarter section of land in southern Saskatchewan in October 1908. I even wondered this was the right person until I came across an “Instrument of Cancellation” which established that Benjamin Borresen was in fact corrected to be Bernhardt Hjalmer Borresen. Good. (I think he’d been signing his name as Ben and perhaps an official assumed this was short for Benjamin.)

When Bernhardt filed for his quarter section, he was a single man who had come from Sawyer, North Dakota. That was Ward County where three of his four sisters had settled, meaning much of Bernt’s family from the La Crosse, Wisconsin area ended up within an hour of Minot, North Dakota, at least for a time.

The address for this quarter section was Notre Dame D’Auvergne, a French Catholic settlement later named Ponteix (pronounced pon’-tex). In fact, Bernhardt arrived in 1908, the year this little town was founded.  But of course he had been a farmer in North Dakota, and that’s what he would be in Canada as well.

Homestead west of Moose Jaw

A homestead west of Moose Jaw

The patent for Bernhardt’s claim was issued March 29, 1912, by which time he had spent about three years on his homestead. In fact, by the third summer he was there, 1911, he was cropping 116 acres. On this property he had a lumber house 10 feet by 12 feet in size (value $80) and a granary (worth $350). No land was fenced.

In 1914 a law was passed allowing homesteaders to acquire a second quarter section of land. By 1918 Bernhardt filed and acquired his quarter section immediately south and adjacent to what he already owned.

His living circumstances had changed by then. Not only was he now a naturalized British subject (that’s the language of the papers), but he was married too. There’s nothing here about his wife, but the two reside in a 16’x24′ frame house worth $600. Additionally he had a 28’x32′ barn worth $350, three granaries worth $600, a blacksmith shop $100, and a well $100.

Bernhardt had no livestock, so it appears he was into grain farming. Between 1912 and 1917, his acres under cultivation varied from a low as 118 to as high as 202. After 1914 the homestead law required a certain amount of fencing and he had 55 acres fenced (value $150). The 1924 wheat pool map below shows an elevator at Ponteix (upper right), where Bernhardt likely brought his crop.

A 1924 Saskatchewan Wheat Pool map showing elevators

A 1924 Saskatchewan Wheat Pool map showing elevators

The papers required Bernhardt to show that he was a resident on this land, and the first two or three winters he did not stay there. Here there seems a discrepancy, or least a question. In a form he completed, he indicated he was guest of friends in Wisconsin. On sworn forms from two Saskatchewan neighbors from Bourgogne who knew him, he was said to winter in Minot, North Dakota. With sisters in this area, that would make sense.

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