Free Sod To Turn and Till: History of Kronau

It was armed with the information below, along with other doctored descriptions of the Great White North, that European immigrants set out to find the newly created Dominion of Canada. Desperate to escape economic and political turmoil in their home country, many Europeans clung to the hope that Canada was all it boasted to be.

“Very mistaken ideas prevail in the Old Country as to the climate of the Canadian North-West. Every extreme of hardship is associated with it by many people. Nothing is further from the fact. No doubt there are conditions of decided heat in the Summer and cold in Winter. The thermometer will sometimes range 100 in the shade in Summer and 30 below zero in Winter. But these extremes will continue for only a few days at a time out of 365… The winter is considered most enjoyable, though each season has its pleasures, and it is this variety, combined with the sunny sky and pure healthy air which constitutes the great charm of the climate.”

— The Canada North-West Land Company Ltd.’s “A Practical Hand-Book for Manitoba And the North-West Territories Containing Important Information for Intending Settlers,” compiled by W. B. MacDougall (1883).

Kronau was only one of many areas settled during the government-stimulated wave of western expansion in the late 1800s. Between the Homestead Act, which sold quarters of land to immigrant farmers for $10, the completion of the transcontinental railway at Regina in 1883, and the 1897 Crow’s Nest Pass (which established low freight rates), Saskatchewan was the fastest-growing province by the turn of the twentieth century.

As was the case with Kronau, the first settlers oriented themselves near the track and those who followed would venture farther out. Major immigration to Richardson began in 1882 and St. Joseph’s Colony was established in 1886.

These settlers were predominantly European immigrants from the Black Sea area of what was then southern Russia. Today, this area is recognized as Ukraine. Specifically, these first pioneers came from the district of Cherson and the city of Odessa. Immigrants had left both Roman Catholic and Lutheran villages back home, so after arriving in North America, they aligned themselves along similar religious lines.

The first record of settlers near Kronau was taken in 1880, when a wave of Catholics moved into the area. More arrived in 1891 and 1892 before a period characterized only by its lack of immigration began in 1894.

The first Lutheran family in the area was that of Michael Bühler in 1891. During the fall following his immigration, several more families settled the area southeast of Kronau’s current location. They named this settlement Kronau after the region in which they had lived in Russia. A document dated October 1898 lists 116 persons registered at the settlement. Lists of the founding families of these areas can be found in our “Free Sod to Turn and Till” exhibit.

The Lutherans also established a colony that was about two miles southeast of the current Kronau hamlet in approximately 1897. The surveyed plans indicate that there were more than forty lots. More details about the Kronau Colony can be found in the history book, Leippi Lineage at Kronau Museum.

However, this colony did not last long due to the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1903, whose surveyors named the northwest quarter of Section 33 as Kronau’s town site. The store, which had been built in the colony, was moved to the new location and soon, business began to flourish. By then, English and Scottish immigrants had joined the mostly German Roman Catholic and Lutheran population.

At the turn of the twentieth century, people from the United States began to move west of Kronau, toward Estlin and Gray. Rather than settling the area south of Wascana Creek – because of the creek, the land’s heavy soil, and its distance to the railroad – the pioneers settled in the area of what is today Riceton. They’d arrive in Kronau via train, then cross the Wascana in early fall and winter. With them came farming equipment, and granaries were built near elevators around Kronau so that their grain could be sold. The railroad line (CNR) was completed at Riceton and Gray in 1912.

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