Joel Reaman was born at Woodbridge, Ontario, June 9, 1841. He was of Swiss German origin, originally from Pennsylvania, but referred to himself as a United Empire Loyalist. In his home town, he held positions of importance, that is, Court Clerk of Vaughan Township and then postmaster for 7 years. He married Eliza Jane Franks of Woodbridge around 1859.
In 1883 the Reamans and their four children came to settle at York City. Joel became both a businessman and a homesteader making entry on NE Section 22 Township 26 Range 4 West of the Second Meridian. They set up a large tent which became the first Queen's Hotel on the York City site. Soon a large two-storey log building was erected for a store and an adjoining building was a stopping place — the actual Queen's Hotel, at #27 Fourth Avenue. His place housed the family residence, hall and a general place of rendezvous. Mr. Reaman organized a weekly mail service from Whitewood in 1883. He was named postmaster when the first official post office was opened for Yorkton on January 1, 1884. He also was appointed Justice of the Peace, Land Agent, and Immigration Agent. He served as the first Secretary Treasurer for the Agricultural Society.
In 1888, he was elected Yorkton's representative in the Electoral Division of Wallace as member of the First Legislature of the North West Territories. In 1891, he built a brick house on his homestead. Shortly after he was re-elected to the Legislature in 1892, he died after contracting typhoid fever while attending a meeting in Regina on October 3 of that year.
At the time of his death, there was no official burial ground in York Colony, so he was buried on his land. In 1901, his coffin was exhumed and buried in the first Yorkton Cemetery by the Cottage Hospital, and later again moved to the present Yorkton cemetery. Eliza Jane died Feb. 8, 1908 at age 68. Their children were: Minnie, Annie, Ida, Katherine, William and Frank.
Reaman was a busy man. He worked his land and obtained title to it. He welcomed newly arrived settlers and provided emergency shelter and meals. In his role of representative with the territorial government, he travelled his constituency for meetings, keeping people informed of the latest developments in the region and elsewhere in the West. The Leader of Regina, October 6, 1892 says this about Mr. Reaman: "He was the oldest man in the Assembly and he was one of the hardest working members. He was a farmer, a Conservative in Dominion politics and a man holding moderate and reasonable views on all questions."
Apart from all the work this man and his wife did, they were remembered by the pioneers for their special hospitality and for the social events — concerts and dances that the Reamans held at their hotel. Mail arrived with the stage coach on Saturdays, and that was when many pioneers and their families met for the social activities. Members of the community were asked to contribute a song, a recitation or a story. Here is an example of what a concert consisted of:
Italy, France and Spain by T.H. Garry
Brooklyn Theatre on Fire by Joseph Sanderson
The Ship that Never Returned by Mr. Nepvue
It Was the Bonnie Bunch of Roses by Mr. George Seatter
Didn't She Cut a Swell by William Reckie
The Wife's First Attempt at Making a Shirt by Joel Reaman
Annie Laurie by Mrs. Wrixon
Paddy's Courtship by G.J. McFarline
Nancy Lee by W.P. Hopkins
Home Sweet Home –William Reaman
He Was so Volatile Mr. Bolton
Never Forget we're Irishmen by Richard Thompson
The Island of Jersey by Edward Hopkins
The Bear Came Over the Mountain (about twenty stanzas and chorus) with John Flanagan
Reaman was often the chairman at those concerts and Master of Ceremonies at the dances. The only instrument the settlers had at first was a drum presented to James Sharpe by the York Farmers Colonization Company and was played by Richard Thompson. Another early instrument would have been the bagpipes.
All of these recent columns are written to celebrate Yorkton's 130 years of history. It concentrates on the beginning few decades. This column pays tribute to Joel Reaman, homesteader, pioneer businessman, and pioneer legislator of the North West Territories.
Terri Lefebvre Prince,
City of Yorkton Archives,
City of Yorkton,
37 Third Avenue North,