VICEROY: 100 years of spirit

Kathy Gudnason
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VICEROY: 100 years of spirit

Although the hamlet of Viceroy may be small in number, it more than makes up for size in spirit. On July 7th and 8, 2012 Viceroy will be celebrating its centennial. Those from the hamlet, surrounding area and those who once called Viceroy home will gather for a full day of activities on July 7th and finish up on July 8th with a pancake breakfast.

Today, the hamlet of Viceroy has a population on 25 residents with 18 households. The numbers are deceptive. When one takes a drive through the hamlet, mature trees line the streets, an indication of the time and dedication of those who came before. The houses are scattered throughout the hamlet on both sides of Main Street. The school and rink still stand as well as an old church, used now for storage. There are other buildings such as the former RM office, a garage and what were likely stores on the main drag. The RM of Excel No. 71 office and Bengough Credit Union share a building, and the Co-op, lifeblood of this community, resides northeast of the Elevator.

Viceroy still has the feeling of home with its tree-lined streets, trim yards and maintained appearance. There are signs of growth with a new home having been built and all vacant lots being sold.

As it was with many prairie towns, the railway played a significant role in Viceroy’s development. The Canadian Pacific Railway was pushing westward from Weyburn to Assiniboia. The line came to Viceroy in 1911 and into Assiniboia the following year.

To build a village one needed capital. The Union Bank of Canada opened a branch in the fall of 1911. It remained until 1925, when it was taken over by the Royal Bank of Canada. The RBC stayed part of the community for another 17 years, closing its doors in 1943.

The Village of Viceroy was incorporated on April 1, 1912. Council was not large in number with T.G. Ross, Pearson, E.R. White along with T.E. Bailey, Bank manager being appointed as Secretary-Treasurer.

It is said the young settlement received its name from the title, “Viceroy of India” as attested by the name of its streets: Connaught Street (Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Governor General of Canada, Viceroy of India 1910-1916); Cromer Street (Private Secretary to Lord Northbrook, Viceroy of India 1872-1876); Landsdown Street (Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Landsdowne 1888-1894); Dufferin Street (Viceroy of India 1884-1888); Curzon Street (Viceroy of India 1899-1905) and Minto Street (Governor General of Canada 1898 and Viceroy of India 1905-1910).

While the British ruled India, the head of the British administration in India was the Governor General and Viceroy of India. To reflect the Governor General’s role as representative from the monarch to the feudal rulers of the princely states, the term Viceroy of India was applied to him. The title remained in existence from 1858 to 1947 when India became independent.

In November 1913, a school was erected, opening its doors to 30 students with Carry Moffet as teacher. As the village grew so did the school. Soon Miss Margaret Smith was hired to teach Grades 1, 2 and 3, with Miss Moffet teaching the senior students in Grade 4 through 7. Miss Moffet became Principal in 1922 when Grade 8 and 9 were added. A change in Principal occurred with the addition of Grade 11 in 1927. Mr. Vale became the man in charge. As of 1932, Grade 12 was introduced and Mr. Richardson became teacher and Principal. High School continued to be taught in Viceroy until 1965 when the decision was made to bus students to Assiniboia. The school was closed at a later date when numbers declined.

Church played a central role in the lives of settlers and a Methodist congregation was established in 1912. This would later become part of the United Church of Canada. Reverend A. F. Lavender was the first minister for the Viceroy Mission, established in 1913. T.J. Jordan and W.F. Jordan were local elders for the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints built in 1918. In the 1950s, Father Blanchard of Willow Bunch ministered to the Roman Catholic members using a local hall for worship. The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah Witness was erected in 1955 with 39 publishers. Today, no churches remain open in the hamlet.

The Post Office, manned by Post Master, Dr. J. B. Patterson opened in May 1912. In 1913, Robert Rogers took over the position and it went on to change hands many times on the history of Viceroy.

Dr. Culham was appointed as the first medical health officer for Viceroy and held that position until he went to serve in WWI. The first drug store was operated by Dr. Patterson until it burned in the 1914 fire. In the 1920s, Dr. Kenny was resident doctor. Come 1939, Dr. C. W. Forsyth was hired as a municipal doctor by the RM of Excel and he located in Viceroy. Until his return from war in 1943 Dr. Jacks served the community. At this time a cottage hospital was established and remained until 1947 when services of a doctor were not able to be secured.

As Viceroy grew, so did the farms of the area. The Saskatchewan Co-op Elevator was built in 1913. The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool took it over in 1925. The North Star Elevator was built in 1912, to later become the Alliance, then Weyburn Flour and finally Inter Ocean Grain. Today, the Saskatchewan Pool Elevator remains a sentinel to the past.

Viceroy offered a unique service to local farmers. It developed a ferry service across Willow Bunch Lake to assist farmers in bringing their grain to market. Grain Elevators subsidized this service which was run locally. Eventually roads made the ferry obsolete and it was abandoned.

Fire struck the village in 1914 and destroyed a section on the west side of Main Street. The general store, drug store, hardware, and machine business were lost. The village was able to weather this set back, rebuilding what was burned.

Some of the businesses to call Viceroy home over the years include Butcher shops, General Merchant, General store, Hardware store, Credit Union office, Bank, Grocery store, Implement dealer, Creamery, Café, Coffee shop, a Hotel and bar built in 1912, the Olympia hall, Bake shop, RM office, Drug store, Lumber yards, Bowling alley, Paint shop, Blacksmith shop, Harness maker, and Dray and Transfer service. Viceroy had a jail, fire hall, Ladies Restroom, and Laundry service. It has also been home to a Real Estate and Insurance business, the British American Oil Co. (BA) and the Viceroy Co-op, established on October 25, 1935. The Co-op remains a vital part of the community today.

A print shop opened and the Viceroy Citizen was produced by W. L. Gray. W. Stephen Sr. changed the publications name to Viceroy News and it continued until his death in 1929.

The first light plant appeared about 1925 with power being supplied from dusk till midnight by Delco D.C. electricity. In 1943, A.C. service came with a new plant and power was extended to Monday mornings for washing. In 1950 the Saskatchewan Power lines reached Viceroy bringing with it modern electricity.

Viceroy has also enjoyed both recreational and cultural activities through the years. In 1931, the Twin Vees (Viceroy and Verwood) Baseball team won the Saskatchewan Junior Baseball Championship. Viceroy Grain Growers hosted the first Viceroy Fair in 1918 which included events such as livestock judging, horse races, garden produce, baking and a school competition. Traveling shows stopped in Viceroy; the Richard Kent Stock Co. in the latter 1910s and the Chautauqua would come to entertain for 3 or 4 days at a time. Dances would be held in the hall on Saturday night with the Bernard Mossing Orchestra supplying the music.

Adults and children alike played baseball in summer. There was also a golf course built on the south end of town. Volunteers erected a curling rink in the late 1920s. An indoor skating rink went up with the help of the community in 1953. This allowed for indoor hockey, recreational skating and lessons to be taught without worry of weather conditions.

The Viceroy Jubilee Band, provincial winners in their class, was formed in 1935 with W.R. Serbert as leader. Oliver Mossing would continue as leader when Serbert passed on.

Viceroy 4-H existed for a number of years teaching children skills they would use for a life time.

Viceroy’s population remained steady into the 1930s. Employment was tough to find during the years of drought, grasshoppers and poor crops.

Fire again ravaged Main Street in 1941, this time on the east side of Main Street. Bateson store, the old Post Office building, a restaurant, McKague’s Store, E.R. Sauter Machine Agency and Viceroy Hardware were all destroyed. The fire did not much more than hinder the populace of the day, and businesses were soon rebuilt.

During the late ‘40s and into the 1950s, the Village of Viceroy enjoyed its peak growth and prosperity, with approximately 250 residents. With the centralization of services in larger points (school for example), many rural towns began to decline in number. This was the case for Viceroy which went from a bustling village in the 1950s to be restructured as a hamlet under the jurisdiction of the RM of Excel on May 10, 2002. It is good to be able to report that vacant lots have been purchased, a new home has been built and a renewed interest in the pretty tree-lined hamlet is occurring.

Viceroy is truly a place of ‘spirit’! Congratulations on your 100th Anniversary.

Organizations: Royal Bank of Canada, Bengough Credit Union, British American Oil Co. Canadian Pacific Railway Union Bank of Canada Connaught and Strathearn Viceroy of India 1910-1916 India 1899-1905 Post Office Viceroy of India 1905-1910 United Church of Canada Saskatchewan Co-op Elevator Saskatchewan Wheat Pool The North Star Elevator Alliance Real Estate and Insurance BA Viceroy Citizen Viceroy News Viceroy Fair Richard Kent Stock Co. Bernard Mossing Orchestra E.R. Sauter Machine Agency

Geographic location: Village of Viceroy, India, Assiniboia Weyburn Connaught Street Canada Cromer Street Landsdown Street Willow Bunch Lake Dufferin Street Curzon Street Minto Street Kingdom Hall WWI Delco D.C. Verwood Saskatchewan Chautauqua McKague

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  • Donna Gordon
    July 28, 2013 - 12:36

    Thank you for your detailed information about Viceroy. As you seem to have have access to documents about Viceroy, I was hoping you might be able to help me locate some information about my great grandfather, William Merriam. I have been told that he died in a fire at Viceroy around 1930. I was hoping there might be a newspaper report or some other source about this event that would help me to nail down the date so that I might obtain the death certificate from the Sask government. Do you know of any such documentation? Thank you