City of Saskatoon skyline skyline 2
Search the Website
City Council Departments Forum Community Links Quick Facts Find a Service
Mayor's Message
Ward Councillors
City History
City Clerk's Office

The original Temperance Colony Survey, July 1883
The original Temperance Colony Survey, July 1883
(Courtesy University of Saskatchewan Libraries)

Saskatoon’s founders dreamed of creating a temperance colony in the great North-West. John A. Macdonald’s government, in a hurry to develop the country, was offering large locks of land to colonization companies. Many in Toronto’s Methodist community saw this as a golden opportunity to escape the evils of the liquor traffic. They formed the Temperance Colonization Society (TCS) in 1881 and signed up 3,100 would-be colonists for more than two million acres. By June 1882 John Lake, a Methodist minister turned entrepreneur, was looking for a colony site on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.

The government grant to the TCS was actually 313,000 acres. It ran from Clark’s Crossing (now Clarkboro) on the South Saskatchewan, about 20 km downstream from today’s Saskatoon, to the Moose Woods Reserve, about 45 km upstream. On the advice of Moose Woods Chief White Cap, Lake chose a place in the middle of the TCS grant, called Minnetonka, where a ferry could cross the river. In 1883 the first streets of Saskatoon were surveyed on the east bank of the river, just above Minnetonka. In spite of this hopeful start, Saskatoon grew slowly. The river was too shallow and too full of shifting sandbars for easy navigation. As well, fear of native hostility caused by reports of the North-West Rebellion in 1885 discouraged settlement.

John N. Lake, first commissioner of the Temperance Colonization Society
John N. Lake, first commissioner of the Temperance Colonization Society. Photo about 1925.
(Courtesy of Saskatoon Public Library - Local History Room.
[LH 5383])

In 1890 the Qu’Appelle, Long Lake and Saskatchewan Railway Company bridged the river at Saskatoon and built a line to Prince Albert. A new settlement soon developed on the west side of the river around the railway station. In 1901 when this tiny settlement incorporated as a village, it kept the name of Saskatoon. The name of the original settlement on the east side changed to Nutana. A third settlement, Riversdale, developed west of the railway tracks. In 1906 with the promise of a traffic bridge and other civic improvements, the three settlements amalgamated to form a city. The trickle of immigrants was becoming a flood and Saskatoon became the fastest growing city in Canada.

Saskatoon became the central city of central Saskatchewan because a small group of pioneer businessmen tirelessly lobbied to make sure the railways came to their town. By 1908 three railway bridges and a traffic bridge crossed the South Saskatchewan and Saskatoon was the hub of a transportation network. Today five of the city’s seven bridges are motor vehicle bridges and only two carry rail traffic. But Saskatoon remains the place where many trails cross.

All images are copyrighted and may not be copied, duplicated, or downloaded for any purpose without the written permission of the respective owner.


  • Ruth and everyone at the Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library, for all of their hard work in finding the majority of these images
  • Glen and everyone at the Meewasin Valley Authority for donating the text for these pages.
  • Jeff and everyone at Gibson's Photo for donating pictures for this page.

These pages are based on the "Walking Tour" pamphlets made by the Meewasin Valley Authority. You can find these guides at the office in Saskatoon to experience the tour "live".

Meewasin Valley

Click on the logo to visit their site.

Also check out these other sites for more on the history of Saskatoon:

City Archives
Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee
The Saskatoon Heritage Society

City of Saskatoon / 222 3rd Ave. North / Saskatoon, Saskatchewan / S7K 0J5
 Privacy Statement Comments about the website?