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A labour of love

After 50,000 hours of research, writing and editing, a group of Saskatchewan volunteers has produced a 1,500-page history book that is unlike any other in the province.

The three-volume tome written about the history of Montmartre, Kendal, Candiac, Moffat, Mutrie and Carry the Kettle Reservation was released last spring after more than four years of volunteer work.

Frank Korvemaker, an appraisal archivist with the Saskatchewan Archives Board, said Montmartre: History of the Village and RM 126 is one of the most comprehensive Saskatchewan community history books he has ever read.

“They’re almost like an encyclopedia because you can thumb through and find all kinds of interesting things that you weren’t expecting.”

Korvemaker said the book set is also unique because of its extensive coverage of the Assiniboine Reserve No. 76 (Carry the Kettle First Nation). Of the hundreds of community history books Korvemaker has read, he has never witnessed one that has been so inclusive of a First Nation community.

“If you pick up this book, you’ll be able to read about First Nation’s history in a way that you just haven’t done before. It’s refreshing, and very surprising, to see that kind of story being told in a regional history book.”

Marianne Bast, a committee member, was responsible for researching and writing the Assiniboine Reserve section. She conducted interviews with elders and collected many personal photos in order to construct a history of the Assiniboine Indians that dates back to 1640.

The box set of three books takes readers back in time to 1893 when eight families from France established their homesteads in southeast Saskatchewan’s RM 126.

The history book committee was aided by community members who submitted family histories, as well as information about churches, schools, sports teams and businesses.

The committee included Marrianne Couckuyt (chair), Sandra Brown (vice-chair), Marianne Bast, Andre Perras, Gail Leippi, Wanda Eberle and Colleen Fink.

“We hope when people read the book that they have a sense of pride in all the things people endured and all the things that were accomplished,” said Couckuyt, a semi-retired farmwife who didn’t grow up in Montmartre, but adopted it as her home when she and her husband bought land in the area.

Brown researched every land title document for properties in the Village of Montmartre. This resulted in a supplemental book A Century of Ownership. Brown, a retired teacher who established roots in the community in 1975, said she appreciates all the work done by the committee members and community volunteers who dedicated thousands of hours to ensure the history of the area was as comprehensive and as accurate as possible.

“It was a labour of love,” she said.

Korvemaker said the book is one that should be read by anyone interested in Prairie history and everybody living in a 50-mile radius of the communities covered.

“It’s just a great book,” he said. “Even if you don’t read it from beginning to end, you can flip through over and over again and you can always find something interesting.”

For more information or to purchase a copy of Montmartre: History of the Village and RM 126, contact the Village of Montmartre office (306) 424-2040.

About the author

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Christalee Froese writes from Montmartre, Sask.

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