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Village of Keeler ends more than a century of existence

The village has petitioned to become part of the Rural Municipality of Marquis
map of saskatchewan getty images
Map of Saskatchewan. (Getty Images)

The Village of Keeler, located northwest of Moose Jaw on Highway 42, is no longer.

After 115 years the village petitioned to become part of the Rural Municipality of Marquis.

Reasons for ending the village given in an advertisement included lack of voters willing to stand for council and low assessment on which to collect property taxes.

Assessment in the village of 15 residents is listed at just over $1 million in the Saskatchewan Municipal Directory.

That directory lists Duncan Keeler as mayor. Keeler has been a long time mayor of the village named for his family.

The village phone has been disconnected and Mayor Keeler was unavailable.

In recent years the village and the mayor received some notoriety from a dispute with Saskatchewan Environment over water quality.

A 2006 court case ruled in favour of Saskatchewan Environment and found the village guilty of violating a provincial order to chlorinate water from the village well. No penalty was assessed.

Keeler supplied its then population of eight with bottled water.

Once a bustling little town, Keeler’s hotel along Highway 42 was the only watering hole between Moose Jaw and Central Butte on the highway. The hotel was closed in the 1980s when the owners stripped it of furnishings and left. The vacant building was destroyed by fire a few years ago.

According to the community history, Our Heritage, the place once had four grain elevators, several general stores, two implement dealers, several garages, lumber yard, hardware store, hotel, restaurants, boarding house, a pool hall and churches.      

The Bank of Hamilton, later Bank of Montreal, had a branch and the Security Bank which closed in 1956 was the last privately owned bank in Saskatchewan.

The development of better roads and the loss of small farmers gradually caused decline in the community.

In 1899, during the Yukon Gold Rush, Joseph Keeler rented a buckboard and team of horses in Winnipeg to tour the Prairies.

Keeler returned in 1902 to homestead in the district then known as Rutland. The place was renamed Keelerville in his honour.

In 1905 the town was moved five miles south to the present site and re-named Keeler.

Joseph Keeler and residents from Keelerville, Eskbank and Brownlee met to lobby for a railway connection. Residents complained that construction had come to a standstill because of the 30-mile trip by horse and wagon to Moose Jaw lumberyards.

CP Rail had no interest in building a line but reversed itself when the Grand Trunk railway (now CNR) started building a line from Moose Jaw.

Keeler grew into a busy town with population peaking at 115 in 1926.

Ron Walter can be reached at ronjoy@sasktel.net



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