The Rural Municipality of Frenchman Butte No. 501 was incorporated in 1954 with the amalgamation of the R.M. of Paradise Hill, the R.M. of North Star, L.I.D. No. 532 and L.I.D. No. 562. The municipality consists of 26 townships and encompasses the Village of Paradise Hill, the Town of St. Walburg and the Hamlet of Frenchman Butte. The R.M. is experiencing an upgrowth in population currently in excess of 1438 people.
The Rural Municipality of Frenchman Butte No. 501 is one of the largest municipalities in the Province of Saskatchewan having a geographical area of about 1,928.32 square kilometers. The R.M. has been traditionally recognized as an agricultural based municipality, supporting both the cattle and grain industries, but in recent years, the oil & gas industry has been developing in the area at a rapid pace and changing the dynamics of the R.M. of Frenchman Butte. Employment opportunities in the oilpatch are allowing our young people to stay in their home communities, while attracting a significant influx of new people into these same communities. It is indeed an exciting time to be a part of the R.M. of Frenchman Butte No. 501.
Canada's only border city, Lloydminster, is a short one hour drive, from either Paradise Hill or St. Walburg, west on Hwy #3 and south on Hwy #17 . Both communities are also within a three or four hour drive from the major cities of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to our East and Edmonton, Alberta, to our west. Both of these cities are located on the Yellowhead Highway (#16).
History and General Interest
The R.M. of Frenchman Butte is steeped in a rich history. We are home to the Frenchman Butte Museum, a historical museum located in the Hamlet of Frenchman Butte, which houses artifacts and items dating back to the 1885 Northwest Rebellion. The Fort Pitt National Historic Site is located approximately 15 km west of the Hamlet of Frenchman Butte. The Cree Rifle Pits, the site of the battle in 1885 between the Cree and Major General T.B. Strange and his troops, are located approximately 5 km NE of the Hamlet of Frenchman Butte.
The historical Carlton Trail cuts through our municipality, extending from the south east corner on through to the North West corner. This route was travelled mainly by the use of oxen drawn Red River Carts, and ruts cut by the wheels of these large two wheeled carts can still be viewed northeast of Paradise Hill. These ruts are somewhat unique in that in most other areas of the trail, the marks have been long ago hidden by cultivation and regrowth.
The Village of Paradise Hill, a cozy and picturesque village nestled against beautifully treed and gently rolling hills, is situated a short drive east of the Hamlet of Frenchman Butte office on Highway #3. Located at the entrance to Paradise Hill and welcoming all is a twice life-sized ox and cart monument commemorating the famous Carlton Trail. Within the Village of Paradise Hill one will find Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, home to many original paintings by internationally renowned artist Count Berthold von Imhoff. For more information about the Village of Paradise Hill, visit their website at www.paradisehill.ca.
The Town of St. Walburg is approximately another 30 kilometres east of Paradise Hill on Hwy #3 and 3 kilometres north on Highway #26. St. Walburg stepped onto the world stage in 2007 and 2008, winning a number of LivCom awards and achieving international recognition as one of the world's most livable and sustainable communities. The Town also boasts a life-sized bronzed statue of Count Berthold von Imhoff, and his homestead and studio, which houses in excess of 200 of his paintings, are located just south of St. Walburg. The studio was declared a Provincial Heritage Site in 2005. For more information about the Town of St. Walburg, visit their website at www.stwalburg.com.
Within easy driving distance of both Paradise Hill and St. Walburg are the North Saskatchewan River, several resorts and lakes, and the Bronson Provincial Forest, offering summer recreational activities including swimming, fishing, boating, hunting and ATV trail riding. There are also seasonal campsite facilities located in both communities providing hot showers and washrooms.
It is also noteworthy to mention that the Bright Sand Lake Regional Park, while not located within the Rural Municipality of Frenchman Butte, is just a short 27 kilometre drive east of St. Walburg. You can find out more about this beautiful Regional Park by visiting the Saskatchewan Regional Parks website at www.saskregionalparks.ca.
History of Frenchman Butte
The very high hill north of the North Saskatchewan River, today known as Frenchman Butte, was a prominent landmark to the Indians long before the arrival of the white man. What did they call it? Certainly nothing about a Frenchman. So how did the word "Frenchman" become attached to it? Since there doesn't appear to be any official documentation we need to listen to "oral" history.
The trouble with oral histroy is that it leads to speculation and variations in the telling. Therefore we must look at the facts of the circumstances.
We need to go back to fur trade days when the Hudson's Bay Company first brought white men to the west. For many years these men went no further than the posts on the Bay. They depended on the Indians bringing their furs to them. By the mid1700's French traders and explorers sponsored by Montreal merchants had reached the western interior. The Indians were easily persuaded to trade with them instead of making the long journey to the Bay. Thus the HBC was forced to set up inland posts. Trading posts, large and small, leap frogged up the rivers ever further westward. In this lawless land competition became vicious and violent. At greatest risk were men, not connected with any company, going it alone in temporary shelters. They were known as "free traders".
Such a "free trader" was a certain Frenchman who arrived here in the early 1800's. HIs choice for a post: a well known native gathering place near a very high hill, close to the main river highway. He must have been there for a few years; his method of baling and binding his fur packs became known to at least one other trader further west. When one of his packs was presented at that post it was recognized and aroused suspicion. A visit to his cabin revealed two murdered bodies. Since he was not connected to any company there was no investigation. That leaves many unanswered questions.
Who was this man? Who was his companion? Why were they killed? Who was the killer?
Although the "very high butte" has become a federal historic site it is not because of the above incident. Rather, it commemorates the spot where, some 70 years later, the second last skirmish of the Northwest Rebellion occurred. Numerous rifle pits dug by warriors and hostages can be seen there.
In 1928 the railway came to the little settlement between the hill and the river. It seems only natural that the station was called Frenchman Butte. Homesteaders during the early 1900's led the economy from fur to farming. Eventually the area became part of the Rural Municipality of Frenchman Butte #501.
- Submitted by Gertie Preece