THE LEGEND OF LAST MOUNTAIN
When the Great Chief of the world completed the building of all the hills, he found he had a little material left over and he looked about to see where he should put it. He saw that the prairie lay smooth and level and for many days journey, unbroken by mountain, lake or stream.
“What fitter place than this to lay good soil?” he said, and in the midst of the prairie he built a mound with what dirt remained and, scooping a hollow with his hand, he made the water left over from the rivers a long lake. And he breathed on it so that the grass and trees grew, and the birds and buffalo came to rest in the shade.
All that was wanting was a name, so the Great Chief lifted up his voice and summoned all his braves and they came on wings like the eagle, greeting their chief with a shout like thunder booming among the hills. Then from their ranks steeped Cheewana, daughter of the great chieftain, beautiful as the summer morning, wise as a beaver and she bent at his feet.
And she said, “Because this mountain was the last of thy making and this lake is the last of thy filling, I offer you for the one the name of Last Mountain and for the other that of Last Mountain Lake.”
Published by William Pearson Publishing Company Ltd. Of Winnipeg in the approximate year of 1911.
Exerted from a pamphlet called “Last Mountain Lake Saskatchewan’s Summer Resort”
At the turn of the century, the area now covered by the town of Govan, Saskatchewan was a virgin plain. Apart from the surveyors and the early explorers, few white men, if any, had passed over the land and none had stopped to build a home.
In 1902, a few men came looking about and departed, dreaming dreams of coming back and homesteading. William Pearson (author of Last Mountain Lake Saskatchewan’s Summer Resort) a businessman from Winnipeg paid a visit to Last Mountain Valley that summer. He realized the importance of the area and, upon his return to Winnipeg, lost no time in sending out descriptive literature and enticing propaganda to other parts of Canada, the neighboring States, and England.
The land along the main line of the CPR was fairly well settled by 1903. The occupied areas were reaching farther and farther out. More and more, settlers were coming to Saskatchewan; and in 1903 they became interested in that portion of the Last Mountain Valley lying north of Last Mountain and eastward from Long Lake (Last Mountain Lake).
The first settlers were perhaps those who made their homes along the shores of Long Lake, at such places as McKillops’s Landing, Arlington Beach, and Taylorboro. At this time, some people had great plans for using the waters of Long Lake as a means of transportation. All the supplies for the farmers would be brought up the lake and all the grain would be taken down the lake in boats, then stored in elevators at the East End. The early extension of C.P.R. Kirkella branch from Bulyea to Lanigan and on to Saskatoon took all-important transportation from the lake, opening up more of the country to the settlers. The dreams of the lake as an important means of transportation faded.
The first house to be built within a five-mile radius of Govan was erected in 1903 by Oscar Landstrom, on the southeast quarter of Section 32, Township 27, Range 22 west of the second meridian. With him came his wife and children, as well as his father-in-law, John Sundwall, and Mr. Sundwall’s son Emil, on Mr. Landstrom’s return trip of May 9, 1904.
Before this date a few settlers had made their homes near Long Lake, in what was called the Arlington Beach District. Among these early arrivals were Peter Roland, Sr., A.A. Downey, P.J. Curtin, C.J. Turnbull, and L.S. Boice – who landed on his claim on April 24, 1903, put up his tent, and started homesteading.
During the summer of 1904, other settlers, including a great number of bachelors, entered the Govan district. This was the beginning of the flood of settlers who were, in the next two years, to take up all available homesteads in the Govan area.
One of the early settlers told of the arriving on his homestead and pitching his tent at 2 am on July 1, 1905. When he got up and looked over the countryside one solitary hut and a few patches of breaking were all he could see. By September of that year, from year the upper window of a two-story house, he was able to count 51 buildings and as many patches of breaking.
Some of the settlers came north from Craven, through Bulyea and Strasbourg districts. Others came up the waters on Long Lake.
One adventurous trip up the lake was made by a group of nine men. During a bad flood at Lumsden in 1904, they built a scow approximately four feet wide and twenty-four feet long on top of a lumber pile. About May 17, it was launched from the pile into the floodwaters, well laden with supplies. The nine homesteaders began a hazardous sail up the waterway from Lumsden, then into and up Long Lake, reaching Knute Hagen’s Beach after seven or eight days. This young and courageous group of Scandinavians, like the hardy Vikings of old, was in its glory sailing the scow up the flooded waterway.
“Hard Times,” exclaimed one of them recently with a touch of scorn,” why I was young and strong, and when I got on my quarter section of land I was sitting on top of the world.” This was indeed the spirit of the pioneers and of the early days.
Exerted from “Last Mountain Echoes” (published by Govan & District Local history association)
& also from “Govan’s Beginnings” (originally written by Rev. T. L. Parker, 1955)