Home Town or Home Community:
The Village of Theodore is located approximately 40 km north west of Yorkton on the yellowhead highway #16. It is located in the northeast area of the province known as the parkland region. The community from the early days has always been strongly agricultural based in the production of grain, beef and pork. The first settlers in the area came from Scandinavia, Great Britain, Central Europe and the USA. The first settlers were predominately Danish and the district became known as “Little Denmark”. These pioneers came in hopes of becoming owners of 160 acres of wooded farmland for the sum of $10.00. The Homestead Act required that they clear at least 10 acres of land each year for 3 years. If this were accomplished, a clear title of this homestead would be theirs. With primitive equipment such as a grub axe, breaking plough, and a team of oxen, this was a difficult task.
The first settlers arrived in what was then known as the Northwest Territories, and settled on the east Shore of Theodore Lake. In April 1891 these settlers were Sorn Peter Sorensen and Ole Frederickson. They arrived in Yorkton by train and were met by a representative from the Lands Branch who brought them to their designated homesteads. In October 1891 the first white child in this area, Annie Catherina Sorensen was born in a shelter of reeds, as the family home had not yet been completed.
In 1892 Richard Seeman from London England acquired a homestead just east of the present town site. In 1903 Mr. Seeman gave the North West Railway (now CPR) $80,000 to extend the rail line to Sheho, about 20 miles west. In turn Mr. Seeman acquired a generous amount of land and a spur line to his property. Mrs. Seeman visited the newly acquired property but found things quite different from their palatial home in London. She made a hurried decision to leave one afternoon, and in order to make train connections with the last boat of the season, orders were given to hitch the fast black mare, and the 25 miles to Yorkton was covered in 2 hours. The Theodore CPR station, one of the original “Pratt Designs”, a type 9 station was built in 1902 at a cost of $4000.00. This station was listed in the CPR records as No. 6579, and was located at mile 50.9 on the Wynyard sub division. The station survived a train wreck in 1956, and was used until the mid-1970’s when it was sold to the Village for $100.00. It was moved from it’s original location to its present site, which was previously A.A. Brown’s garage, the location of Theodore’s first power plant. The Ostapovich family donated the 5 lots where the station is presently located. It has functioned over the years as a senior citizen’s drop in center, and after being declared a municipal heritage site, it was developed into a museum in 2000. The Village of Theodore presently owns the building and contents.
On June 13, 1904 the extension of the railway brought merchants, wagon builders, harness makers and blacksmiths to the area. Early records indicate that Richard Seeman applied for a post office and requested the name be Theodora in honor of his sister. The name in transcript was accepted as Theodore. The post office was granted and on December 1, 1893 a mail route was established to service about 200 people. The route was from Yorkton to Sheho via Ebenezer and White Sand. The service operated once weekly by courier, Mr. Lamport, for which he received $350.00 per annum. In 1900 the mail route was operated by Henry William from Yorkton to Fishing Lake, serving Willowbrook, Beaverdale and Foam Lake. The post masters then travelled to those centers to transport mail to designated post offices (often a settler’s home) for distribution. On July 12, 1904 mail service started by rail. A.C. Tracy was the courier and delivered mail 4 times a week. By 1909 he made 6 weekly deliveries, and by 1910 he was making 12 deliveries. This was the only contact these settlers had with their homeland and the outside world. It was therefore a very important service.
- Seeman 1893-1894
G.J. Mitchell 1894-1895
W.W. Watt 1896-1898
Alva J.C. Tracy 1898-1912
Louis Kelson 1913-1919
Richard Mercer 1919-1965
Fred Mellen 1965-1986
Leroy Charbonneau 1986-1999
Christine Kotzer 1999-Present
Basically, the Village became a self-contained community, and because of the common problems these pioneers faced with their differences in language and religion, there has always been and remains to this day a strong sense of community. Some of the first buildings were Tracy’s Post Office, three Wylie homes, George Yemen’s Blacksmith Shop, McDougal’s General Store, Wylie’s General Store, A.D. Tracy’s Harness Shop and William Wylie’s Blacksmith Shop.
The first school was a lean-to built on Vickstrom’s home in 1893. Approximately 8 children attended this school with Mr. McCullach as teacher. The following year the settlers erected a log building, donating their time, talent and building supplies. School was held for approximately 6 months during the summer months to avoid the necessity of heating. The first teacher in this school was Mr. MacDonald, followed by Jessie Anderson, Mrs. A.C. Tracy, Miss Underdust and Alice Gillis. The first school board members were: Hans Svendsen, Carl Erickson and P. Sorensen. Secretary Treasurer was C.H. Willis. The Theodore School District was incorporated in 1901 under the name of Theodore Public School District #253 of the North West Territories.
In 1904 a new school was erected at the present school site. About 23 families with about 35 children attended this school, with Peter Yemen being the teacher. In 1919 a four-room brick structure provided adequate space until 1927 when an auxiliary building was added to accommodate 191 students from grades 1-12. This school was used until 1961, at which time it was demolished. In 1965 the enrollment peaked at 358. An additional facility had been constructed in 1956 with additions made in 1959, 1970 and 1981, and is still used today. In 2002 the Yorkdale School Board closed the complete school. After much negotiating the facilities were set up to operate as a separate school board, run by the Catholic School Board. The school was renamed St. Theodore School and continues to operate today from K-8, serving the students of Theodore and area.
In 1908 the Theodore Springside Beaverdale Telephone Company was formed with money raised by shares sold at $25.00 each. The first telephone office was a switchboard owned and operated by G.S. Brown, who was paid an annual rental fee of $15.00 per annum. The Union Bank of Canada opened on October 6, 1908. Mr. W.A. Tripp was manager for 5 years. In 1925 the Royal Bank established a branch, closing December 31, 1935. In 1948 the Theodore Credit Union became a reality when a group of businessmen discussed the need for a financial institution. It has continued to operate in that capacity until November of 2004. At that time by a decisive vote of the membership, it was decided to join with the Cornerstone Credit Union in Yorkton. On January 1ST. of 2005 this amalgamation became official, thus ending 57 years of local banking control. The branch continues to operate at this time with various expanded services, and remains a full service outlet.
A number of religious affiliations are represented in the Theodore area. The first church built in Theodore was the present United Church. It was first built with a Presbyterian and Methodist congregation in 1907. The Anglican Church was built in 1912, and is presently a Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Elim Lutheran Church was built in 1916, and in the 1980’s it was declared a heritage site. The original pump organ, which is in working condition, is housed in the Theodore Historical Museum, along with other church artifacts. In 1939 a Roman Catholic Church was built and due to declining membership over the years, most of the congregation go to Yorkton for worship services. At this time the only church, which operates on a regular basis, is the United Church.
The Village was incorporated in 1907. The first overseer was appointed in 1908 and in 1909 the first council was elected with Allan David Tracy as overseer and Alfred Wylie and Frank Reese as councilors. A.E. Brown was appointed Secretary-Treasurer at $40.00 per annum, and A. Tripp was appointed assessor at a salary of $10.00 per annum. Around 1954 the Sask. Power utility came to Theodore and the old power plant and the old street lamps became part of history. In 1964-1966 a municipal water and sewer system was installed, with its source of water from a well 3 miles from town. In 1967-1968 natural gas came to the Village, which helped to modernize this prosperous community. A volunteer fire brigade, along with 2 fire trucks that serve the Village and surrounding area, provides fire protection.
At a meeting on January 14, 1924 a committee was formed consisting of about 28 people, and it was called the Theodore Community Club.
The first curling rink in Theodore was built in 1927, and after suffering demolition twice by wind, it was therefore not rebuilt for a few years. This resulted in people having to use open air facilities. In 1945 the Community Club decided it was time to build a new rink, and fund raising was started. When they raised $1000.00 they ordered a carload of lumber from Harvey Frederickson. They then decided to sell shares in the memorial rink, and each share cost $2.00. A new executive was formed with a 6 man building committee and an 18-man board of directors. The curling rink was built in 1948, and it took 2 more years before they could raise enough money to buy lumber for the skating rink. In 1951 Max Steiner and Clyde Brown spent the winter building the arches for the skating rink. The following summer the arches were raised with volunteer labor, and the building sheeted. When the lumber started to deteriorate they had to raise more money to purchase tin to sheet the rink. They decided to raffle a car and after spending the summer going to sports days then managed to raise $5,000.00 for the tin. Chris Bates and a few helpers were the thrust behind this fund raising project. The senior hockey league, which operated out of this rink in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, was named the Bates League in honor of Chris Bates for his dedication. This was later changed to the Fishing Lake League, which is still in operation today. The memorial skating rink was completed in 1957, and was demolished around 1980. On October 17, 1967 the former Memorial Rink Association and the Community Club amalgamated to form the Theodore and District Recreation Association, who at the present time still operates the recreation facilities in the community.
In 1968 the old curling rink was torn down and a new one was built mainly with the use of volunteer labor. In the mid 1970’s an ice plant was installed in the rink and the 3 sheets of artificial ice hosted many bonspiels and curling competitions. The ice was quite crooked and full of runs with the new ice plant, so in the summer of 1979 a renovation project was undertaken. The freezing pipes were removed and 3” of styrofoam insulation and poly were installed underneath the freezing pipes. From that point on Theodore’s curling ice went from the most crooked ice in the area to the straightest ice around. Around 1998 curling interest fell off and it was decided not to start up curling the following year. At this time an ice plant was installed in the new arena, and since this had enough capacity to run the curling rink as well, the old ice plant was removed. In the fall of 2005 another renovation project was undertaken where the old freezing pipes were replaced. Plans to start curling back up again for the 2004-2005 winter are underway.
The history of the present Theodore Recreation Complex is an overwhelming success story in itself, and one of the most outstanding achievements for a community of this size. The total cost including the existing curling rink facilities was in the vicinity of $1,000,000.00 and the duration of the project was about 14 years including about 4 years of planning and fund raising and 10 continuous years of construction. The most amazing feat was that the majority of the project was constructed with volunteer labor.
Planning for this facility first began in 1977 by the Recreation Board. At that time the board appointed one of its members, Bruce Frederickson, to start the planning process for a new arena in the community. Fund raising started full time in 1978 and the first major project was a 24-hour curl-a thon by 24 curlers who raised $8,500.00. In the spring of 1979 a building committee was formed with Bruce Frederickson as chairman along with 3 members from the recreation board and 17 members at large from the community. After much consultation a proposed site was agreed upon, and in the fall of 1979 Ground Engineering of Regina was hired to do a geotechnical study. In the spring of 1980 local farmers with tractors and scrapers did excavation on the site. The approximately 4000 cubic yards of granular fill for the ice surface was donated by the Ostapovitch family of Theodore and Harvey Polegi of Jedburgh was contracted to haul and place the granular fill. Fund raising continued during 1980, and as well a lot of time was spent on researching data on various arena-building systems. During the winter of 1980-1981 a financing plan was agreed upon between the recreation board and Village council. Funding for the initial phase consisted of a $25,000.00 Culture and Youth Grant, a $40,000.00 Community Capital Fund Grant, $70,000.00 of co-signed loans by individuals, $10,000.00 from the recreation board, and $65,000.00 from fund raising and donations. In March of 1981 a contract was signed with Deneschuk Construction of Yorkton for the construction of the metal building shell at a cost of $207,650.00. Due to a lack of funds the construction came to a standstill over the next 2 years, and the previously large building committee dwindled to a few dedicated individuals. In March of 1983 Village Council acting on the advice of a previous inspection of 1979, decided to close the old arena due to structural problems. The old arena was sold to Joe Bozek of Theodore for the sum of $1.00. Before the end of the year Joe and his wife managed to dismantle and remove the complete structure, including every nail. Mr Bozek was around 80 years of age at the time.
The community was now faced with an urgent situation, there would be no place to play hockey and skate for the upcoming season. This prompted the citizens of this community to rally together again. In the fall of 1983 a new building committee was formed to construct phase 2 of the project, which was to complete the ice area of the arena. Jerry Kuziak was appointed chairman and the other members were Bruce Frederickson, Clark Anderson, Brian Hansen, John Simpson, Ed Skehar and Bruce Hansen. As this phase of construction involved designing the interior of the building, the new committee spent numerous hours analyzing community surveys to determine what the public wanted in the new facility. The building committee then visited several arena projects in the area such as Lestock, Kelliher and Kelvington to talk to the committee members to determine the good and bad points of their particular projects, and to gather data for ours. Finally after several more meetings the building committee came up with a tentative floor plan for the facility.
By the end of the calendar year an interior design was done by W.T. McGinn of Regina and with the help of a large group of volunteers, the boards and tractor room were built and the interior of the arena sheeted with plywood. Funding for phase 2 of this project consisted of culture and youth grants, along with fund raising and donations. After a great deal of effort the hockey season continued as usual for the winter of 1983-1984. With the help of a $50,000.00 Federal Constituency Grant the concrete floor for the lobby area was poured in December of 1984.
At the end of 1984 Jerry Kuziak retired as chairman of the building committee, and again due to lack of funds, interest in the construction phase fell off. Bruce Frederickson continued as acting chairman supervising the slow pace of construction. In late 1986 Village Council appointed a new building committee consisting of Bruce Frederickson as chairman, and members Bill Sander, Clark Anderson, Bruce Hansen, Jerrold Malinowski, Ed Skehar, John Simpson and Evan Simpson. This same building committee remained intact to complete the project in 1990-1991.
A great amount of time has elapsed since the beginning of the project, and this has displayed the true determination and community spirit, which has always been present in Theodore. After spending almost $750,000.00 there was only $40,000.00 in loans remaining at the completion of the project. Volunteer labor, which numbered over 20,000 man-hours, had constructed everything on the project except the building shell, concrete floor slab, electrical wiring, and the installation of the hardwood floor in the new hall. Energy efficiency was maintained in the building construction with the use of fluorescent and HPS sodium lighting, high efficiency heating and hot water tanks and insulated walls and roof in the arena.
The completed project consisted of a 3 sheet-curling rink with artificial ice, a curling lobby, a hockey arena with lobby and dressing rooms, kitchen, washrooms and meeting room. On the mezzanine area is a full size community hall overlooking the arena ice surface with a seating capacity of up to 350 people. The hall includes a stage, bar, kitchen and washrooms.
The highlight of the project was the grand opening, which was attended by a long list of special guests, including a presentation by Grant Devine, the Premier of Saskatchewan. At the end of the 1990’s artificial ice was installed in the arena, thus completing it as a multi-use year round facility.
Another important project that was accomplished in this community was the construction of the Theodore Union Hospital in 1947. In 1946 the planning for this facility started, and a committee was formed to carry out the project. This committee consisted of John Herasymiuk, Tom Sanders, and A.P. Swallow who was the local MLA at the time. The area covered by this hospital board was the Village of Theodore, Village of Insinger, RM of Garry, and portions of the RM of Good Lake and Orkney. A vote was taken in the area and it passed with an 85% majority. The estimated cost of the facility was $60,000.00 and with a $20,000.00 cost overrun the final total was $80,000.00. The money was raised through fund raising, debentures, grants and tax assessments. The building was 100’ x 43’ was a storey and a half high with a full basement. The exterior brick came from the Estevan brick plant. Before power arrived in the Village, it was supplied by 2 five thousand watt generators. The hospital originally started out as a 30 bed unit, and near the end was reduced to a 13 bed facility. The original health staff consisted of one doctor, Ben Schwartz, 4 nurses and 3 nurses’ aides. The official opening took place on December 17, 1947 with Hon. T.C. Douglas Premier and Health Minister officiating. In it’s time it was considered one of the finest small hospitals in the west. Many people in the community still believe that the reason Theodore remains strong and viable is because our pioneers had the foresight to acquire the original hospital. The old hospital and the nurse’s residence were demolished in the late 1980’s to make way for the new hospital. In 1989 a 20 bed long term care facility was erected, and it is still around today functioning as a nursing home complete with medical lab and administrative office. In 1985 Southview Manor was erected, which is a 10 unit subsidized senior housing project. Four of the units have 2 bedrooms and laundry facilities. On Christopher Street we have 6 semi-detached subsidized seniors housing units.
In 2007 the Village of Theodore will have been around for 100 years, and as we are on the eve of venturing into our second century, Theodore continues to be a strong and viable community. Population figures have remained constant over the years 1950-1990 at around 500 people, and at present time have declined to around 380. Population figures have appeared to stabilize over recent years, and the influx from out of province residents moving in to settle here has been growing steadily.
Theodore has always enjoyed a strong business community, starting in the early 1900’s with general stores, blacksmith shops, livery stables and pool room and barber shops. At the present time these have been replaced with more modern operations which continue to remain prosperous. The number of businesses in the community peaked in the 1950’s and 1960’s with around 35 different enterprises. At present day we are still blessed with around 20 businesses which continue to serve Theodore and surrounding area.
The community has always been fortunate from the early days to the present time to have a wide and varied number of active groups and organizations in the village. Some of the more common early ones were: Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Aurora Lodge, C.G.I.T., I.O.D.E., Community Club, etc. There are a number of active organizations operating today and these are: Heritage Society, Recreation Association, Figure Skating Club, Community Park Group, Buffalo Senior Hockey Club, Canadian Legion, Home and School Association, Complex Catering, Senior Citizen’s Club, Volunteer Fire Brigade, Free Press Paper, Housing Authority Board, Recreation Hockey Club, Regional Library Board, Creekside Women’s Guild, Whitesand Regional Park Authority, Whitesand Wildlife Federation. Theodore is fortunate to have a local paper, which has been published in the community for close to 25 years now. It is published monthly and is run by a dedicated group of volunteers who produce over 700 copies every month. There are presently subscribers all across Canada and around the world.
Theodore is a determined community, which continues to struggle to keep the village a viable entity. The progress past and present is because of the committed citizens of the village and rural areas. We are thankful to the dedicated pioneers who so courageously persevered to make this community a great place to reside.