Spotlight on the Orkney Settlement, 6 miles west (9.6 kilometers) of Yorkton, within Townships 26, Range 4 and 5
A most scenic spot in Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands, of northern Scotland, was the home of William Rendall who was a pioneer of the Orkney settlement. Photo: Permission to publish, Helen Norman of the historical committee, publishers of the book ORKNEY STONES 1989
The Orkney Islands are a group forming a county of Scotland, separated from the north coast of the mainland by the Pentland Firth. There are about 70 islands; most except for Ward Hill which lies 1,562 feet above sea level are low and treeless. What vastly different scenery than the wooded prairie of the Orkney settlement of the District of Assiniboia, North West Territories that was founded by the Orkney pioneers in 1882!
Kirkwall is the largest centre and capital of Orkney. The name Kirkwall comes from the Norse name Kirkjuvagr (Church Bay) and over time changed to Kirkwall.
The York Farmers Colonization Company and its settlers not only established farms but also social centers within the boundaries of the 8 townships assigned to the company. In 1882 York City was established and renamed Yorkton on January 1, 1884, which was to be the commercial and social capital of the whole settlement. The choice of the word "City" tells us that the founders truly believed that at least one centre would achieve city status in the not too distant future; because of course a major railway line was surveyed to pass through the area. Another center, Wallace, north and east of Yorkton was established as a district and a post office very early in 1883, and became a constituency of the Territorial Government. Armstrong Lake located south of old and present day Yorkton on SW12-T25 Range 3 West of the 2nd Meridian was established as a post office in 1884, it being on the shores of of the lake with the same name. We know that the settlers of that area held parties and meetings in homes and by 1883 had established a local lodge of the Orange Order. The other important rural community was the Orkney district, settled in great majority by people from Scotland, many from the Orkney Islands.
My research has not revealed the official reasons why Orkney had no post office, but if one looks at the mail stagecoach route, we can surmise that the Orkney colony was located somewhat too far off from the beaten track. For convenience, the trail from Broadview on the mainline of the Canadian Pacific Railway to York City/Yorkton had to be as straight a route as possible, and the western reaches of the Orkney district were about 10 miles (16 kilomters) to the west of Yorkton. Therefore, folks from the Orkney district then travelled to Yorkton for their mail until later in 1903 when the rails were extended westward, and Orcadia became a station on the CPR line. The other community centre was Boakeview post office on NW Section 16 Township 22 Range 2 W of the 2nd Meridian, named in honour of early settler Charles Edgar Boake. There were several brothers from this Irish family who settled in York colony; Albert Ephraim, Edward Warren, John, and Benjamin Norman.
If we look at the whole of the York Colony's history during the first dozen or so years and consider the buildings that had been erected—the Company's brick Land Office building, the Livingstone store, Joel Reaman's store and hotel, Thornton's Store, the very impressive stone flour mill, Fort Watson; post offices buildings at Armstrong Lake, Boakeview and Wallace, none remain except for the stone church and stone school at Orkney. This church is located on the south west corner of Section 19, township 26, Range 4, West of the Second Meridian—land donated by the York Farmers Colonization Company. The school is at the south east corner of Section 24, Township 26 Range 5—across the road from the church, on land donated by Robert Sinclair. The only remnant of York City left is part of the stone foundation of the old mill.
Before the stone buildings were erected and still during the years that the York Farmers Colonization Company was in charge of settlement, the Orkney colonists after forming a school district in the winter of 1888 drew up plans to erect a log school house. An article in the Manitoba Free Press of February 13, 1888 tells us that the logs for the school house were now on the spot, and it was expected that the school would open in the spring.
In the next couple weeks, we will feature the history of some Orkney Colony settlers and the history of the log school, the stone church and the stone school.
Terri Lefebvre Prince,
City of Yorkton Archives,
City of Yorkton, Box 400,
37 Third Avenue North,
Yorkton, Sask. S3N 2W3