Adapted from the Leader history book “Pages of the Past”
The opening of Western Canada to settlement depended on the construction of railway branch lines so that people could move their goods in and out, and so that towns could be established. The Town of Leader was to be one of these.
The railway survey crew selected a site for such a town on the proposed branch line out of Swift Current, which is on the C.P.R. main line, around the year 1910. This site was on the north west quarter of section 21, township 22, range 26, west of the 3rd meridian. In 1912 the railway grade was built as far as this point, and in 1913 the steel rails were laid. Now trains could run and towns would develop.
The Town of Leader had its beginning on September 13, 1913 when the Minister of Municipal Affairs sent the following letter. “I do Hereby Declare that portion of the Province of Saskatchewan described as follows: – The North East quarter of Section Twenty One (21) Township Twenty Two (22) Range Twenty Six (26) West of the Third Meridian to be erected a village under the Village Act and do assign to the same the mane of ‘Prussia”’.
Nominations for a council were to be held on September 27 at two o’clock at Alfred F. Schefter’s office and elections were set for October 4. With this the Town of Leader was born.
Early records show that the village had a population of 250 in 1914. This number was swelling fast and the original fourteen blocks were not enough. On February 12, 1914 application was made to take in more land. This new area was called the Gill subdivision.
The first years were very busy ones. The first thing the village did was to join the Union of Saskatchewan Municipalities with a membership fee of $10.00. Next they asked for some land on which to build a cemetery and another place for a nuisance ground. A telephone company was interested in serving the village, and numerous companies wanted to sell the village a fire engine. A constable was appointed and a set of handcuffs ordered. When the handcuffs arrived there was only one key. The clerk wrote to ask for a second key, stating the following: “as in case of this one being lost or broken it might place us in a very awkward position.” Water for the new village became a problem, so the village asked for authorization to borrow $500 to drill a well on Lot 29 & 30, Block 1. Growth of the village continued, and on June 8, 1915 they applied to the Government for Town status.
The site on the rail line designated by the C.P.R. for a town was initially occupied by business men, many of whom came directly from cities in Germany. When the need for a name arose they chose Prussia, as it was the area some of them had come from. The streets and avenues were also named after German cities and after notable people. With the outbreak of war in 1914 anti-German sentiment rose to the point where they felt the names should be changed. In 1917 the name of Leader officially replaced Prussia, and the streets and avenues were numbered instead of named. A contest for a new name brought out some of the following: Tipperary, Rialto, Wheaton, Roberts, Edvell, Edvic, Devonshire.
The young town struggled through the W.W. I years trying to develop and also help with the war effort. They had to deal with such things as a “Patriotic Tax,” Red Cross contributions and a soldier resettlement program.
The post war years were the years of real development. There was a list of twenty one dairies in town, ensuring a good supply of fresh milk and cream. A Chatauqua got permission one summer to set up its tent and bring a small bit bf city to the rural people. A lighting plant was built, and now even the streets were lit up, even if it was only until 10:30 or 11:00 at night when the plant shut down for the night. A curling rink and a tennis court got permission to build their facilities. Even a Provincial Liquor Board Store was opened, but only for beer and wine. The C. P. R. agreed to let the town connect up to their pipeline to the river, which supplied the town with soft clean water all year round. During this time six churches were built to serve the spiritual needs of the people.
The years of prosperity gave way to the years of depression. This was a very unhappy time. The Town correspondence files are filled with letters written, often on scraps of paper and even old envelopes, saying that they were out of coal or out of food and would the town please give them some. Many letters instructed the Town to apply the wages for work they had done for the Town against their taxes. There were also some letters requesting the Town to give an employee’s wages to them instead of to the employee, as he owed him the money. Even the Town felt the severe pressure. Taxes weren’t coming in and the Town was out of money and couldn’t pay the secretary. A plea was made for people to pay their taxes as the Town had no intention of giving a discount as a current rumor had it.
The depression years ended suddenly with the outbreak of war again. As the war progressed the town slowed down. The war effort required all but the most essential material and so town development ceased. The military-age men and women all left to go either into the Armed Forces or work in munitions plants. The Victory Loans and War Bonds drew all the spare money out of the community and most unessential events and activities ceased.
The Second World War finally ended and things could return to normal. A few of the people who had left returned and the Town started to rebuild. Progress was slow and little change took place until near the end of the Fifties. A new spirit suddenly came over the Town. The Town embarked on a sewer and water program that saw the entire town serviced. No sooner was the water flowing than all of the streets were paved, but before paving went in, the entire town was serviced with gas. With all these improvements there was a rush to tidy up the old yards. The nuisance ground grew daily with all the old fences and broken sidewalks and old trees. In their place block after block of manicured lawns and gardens appeared. The Town now annexed some more land and filled in the remaining empty spaces.
Improved country roads and faster half-ton trucks brought a new development in the make-up of the Town population. Instead of only business people and professionals in town, now half of the population was farmers who commuted daily to their farms. The farmers quickly embraced the urban lifestyle of living and soon there was a smooth flowing community.