History of Condie Nature Refuge

History of Condie 

Human History

Before European settlement of the park and surrounding area, Cree, Assiniboine, and Saulteaux tribes utilized the area for camping. It is not sure how extensively the area was used by the tribes, but since there were buffalo in the area, it can be assumed that it was frequented often. The buffalo wallows that have been pawed out by these great beasts are evidence that they grazed on the slopes. Boggy Creek was a source of water for the herds, which in turn were a source of livelihood for the Indian tribes.

The arrival of the railway to the area brought European settlement. At the same time, the nomadic First Nations way of life was disappearing from the plains. The roaming herds of bison were replaced by the settlers’ domestic herds of cattle and the breaking of the sod and cultivation followed. In the Boggy Creek area, the European settlers actually preceded the railway. The first settlers to arrive in the Condie area in the spring of 1882 came by Canadian Pacific Railway to Brandon, Manitoba. From there they used ox carts to travel the remaining distance. In this same year, when the first owner sold the homestead property to another pioneer, 30 acres of land were broken bordering the creek. The heavy surface gumbo left by the glacial deposits of Regina Lake was ideal for producing high yield grain crops. The grassy depression of the creek was used for grazing cattle.

Robert Condie, was one of the first settlers and for whom the town of Condie was named and hence, Condie Nature Refuge. John Dougan, who was born in Condie in 1884, recalls the “old swimming hole”, as the depression in Boggy Creek was then called. At that time his father owned the land where the locals used to go for a dip on hot summer days. It was then just a 30 yard long, seven yard wide and eight foot deep hole.

Other settlers included George Burns, Thomas Cullum, Adam Traynor, W.C. and C.E. Michael, G.W. and Thomas Brown, Thomas Bredin, Sylvester Conn, and Russell and Len Purdy. The offspring of some of these families still reside in the Regina area. In fact, much of the present acreage of the refuge was purchased from the Pearce family, one of the original families. A son of the Pearce family still lives nearby.

The first crops harvested by these settlers had to be hauled by wagons to Regina, some 15 miles away. The C.P.R. had reached Regina by 1882. By 1885 a private firm, the Qu’Appelle-Long Lake Sask. Railway and Steamboat Company, had plans to load the trains onto barges to transport grain and goods to the northern end of Long Lake and then by rail. Many difficulties were encountered and finally the line was leased to the C.P.R. Then the C.P.R. extended a line as far as the hamlet of Condie, which became the first point on a rail line that later extended as far as Saskatoon. The Condie farmers built a grade and had the C.P.R. build loading platforms at Condie. It should be noted that Condie siding was about two miles from the present Refuge.

During the decade and a half from 1895 to 1910, Condie attained its peak as a commercial and grain shipment point. Wagonloads of wheat were no longer bagged but unloaded at four crude elevators. The hamlet also boasted a station, store, restaurant, church, skating rink, and sports field which serviced the whole area.

Practically all the virgin prairie was brought under the plow during this period. During one year over one million bushels of grain were shipped from Condie – surpassed in the province only by Indian Head. Proof of the richness of the area is indicated by the fact that as the automobile began to make an appearance, around 1908, practically every farmer in the Condie area bought one of these ‘contraptions’. Since this enabled them to go further afield to larger centers for goods and services, it heralded the beginning of the decline of the hamlet of Condie.

This was also about the time that the steam locomotive began to bring changes to the area. The most lastingly significant of these changes was that in 1924 the C.N.R. built a dam on Boggy Creek to provide water for their engines. Gravel was taken from the creek bank for construction of the dam known as the Condie Reservoir.  The water was piped by the C.N.R. into storage tanks in Regina. As the steam locomotive was replaced by the diesel engine in 1958 the reservoir was no longer needed. However, it remained although no longer serving its original purpose. It became a haven for water fowl and many other forms of wildlife.

Park Establishment

The reservoir and the surrounding lands remained in this state until it caught the attention of Dr. Fred Bard, then director of the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History (Royal Sask. Museum). To most people this area represented only a swamp or mosquito-ridden marsh. But Dr. Bard knew and understood nature and her beauty. He appreciated the peace of mind that nature could offer to those willing to observe her. However, his efforts to have a refuge established through government sponsorship met with some opposition and a certain amount of controversy. It was questioned whether the area was large enough for a refuge and whether it was worth the purchase price and expense of maintenance and development. Dr. Bard persisted in his efforts and it is largely through his instigation that the refuge was finally established in its initial stages.

In 1961, the Department of Agriculture purchased 287 acres from the C.N.R. for the Department of Natural Resources. Additional acreage was purchased from the surrounding farmers. The Refuge was established by Order-in-Council in July, 1963.

Historical account courtesy Regina Public Schools Outdoor Education Program (http://outdoored.rbe.sk.ca).

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