HistoryarowWood 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 of the Red River Rebellion.  Boundary Commission survey teams came through shortly after to mark the 49th parallel.  They built the cabins that in 1874 became the first Wood Mountain North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) post.  Chasing out the whiskey traders didn't take 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 politically volatile spots in North America. The famous Sioux medicine man Sitting Bull and as many as 5000 of his Sioux (Lakota) followers took refuge here from the U.S. Army after the battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.  General George Custer and his Seventh Cavalry were virtually wiped out when they foolishly attacked the Sioux, and the Canadian government was concerned that Sitting Bull might attack Canadians.adobe shed at Rodeo Ranch Museum

    NWMP Superintendent James Walsh, commanding officer of Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills, was sent to lay down the law to the Sioux.  Walsh earned Sitting Bull's respect when he rode into the intimidating camp, with only a handful of constables.  Sitting Bull agreed to respect 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 Mountain region until he was transferred to Fort Qu'Appelle in 1880.  The Sioux kept their promise to abide by Canadian law, but the Canadian government never granted them permanent status.  By 1879 the Sioux were beginning 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 the 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 Bunch area, spent a great deal of effort and supplies to feed the starving Sioux.

    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 decedents still live in the area to this day.  After returning to the States, Sitting Bull appeared in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show.  Although 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 followers 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 Regional Park

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, SK  S0H 4L0

hills    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 locally 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 in 2007.

    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 animal, 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 Saskatchewan agriculture feeds a large portion of the world.

    Pool/Pioneer ElevatorThe town moved 8km north from the site of the two police posts, as the branch line railway spread through the province.  Several grain elevators were built to store the crops being grown: Federal, Reliance (Pioneer), and Pool.  There is only one elevator left in Wood Mountain today, and it is not in operation.  The brown 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, and turn the elevator into a working museum. The operation of the elevator is preserved on film by the National Film Board's "Grain Elevator" (1981) and again on "Death of a Skyline".

   On July 31st, 1997 the last orange Pioneer elevator in town was struck twice by lightning.  Fire fighting crews could not get their equipment up the narrow opening to the top of the elevator, so the fire spread.  Ironically, the elevator was scheduled to close permanently, on the day it burned down.  Fire fighting crews were called in from neighboring towns by the Wood Mountain Volunteer Fire Department and the RCMP.  They helped save a house that had burning 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 while.  Strangely, on the same day as the fire in Wood Mountain a brand new elevator 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.
Bob with his truck