Town of Canora the First of Many Namesakes

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of two articles written by former Canora resident Johnathan Kalmakoff of Regina, relating to the Canora name and how the town was named but also how it was the first of many namesakes to share the name.)

 

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As many Canora residents are probably aware, the town was named after the Canadian Northern Railway on which it was founded by combining the first two letters of each word of the company name. What most Canorians may not know, however, is that it was the first of many namesakes across Canada sharing historic ties with the railway. The following examines the various places and things named Canora along the Canadian Northern transcontinental line.        

The Canadian Northern Railway

The Canadian Northern was formed in 1899 by William Mackenzie and Donald Mann.  It began as a small Manitoba branch line with 100 miles of track. It soon acquired other branch lines, combining them to form a sizeable network throughout the province. By 1902, it boasted 1,200 miles of line extending from Port Arthur on Lake Superior to Erwood in northeast Saskatchewan. 

In 1903, the federal government approached the railway, seeking its co-operation in building a second transcontinental line across Canada and offering generous subsidies and loan guarantees as incentives.

The Canadian Northern expanded west, arriving at Kamsack in 1903, Humboldt in 1904, North Battleford and later Edmonton in 1905. It also built hundreds of miles of branch lines, arriving at Brandon in 1904, Calgary in 1905, Prince Alberta in 1906, Regina in 1908 and The Pas in 1910.

Extending east, it purchased Great Lakes steamships, built a line from Capreol to Parry Sound in northern Ontario to Toronto and acquired a network of Nova Scotia branch lines in 1906. In 1908, it laid track between Capreol, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec. In 1910, a direct Toronto-Montreal line was built.  

From 1910 to 1915, the railway crossed the Rockies into British Columbia, following the Thompson River to Kamloops and Ashcroft and the Fraser River to Hell’s Gate, Hope, Chilliwack and Vancouver. By 1916, it built a line from Victoria to Patricia Bay, and by 1918, from Victoria to Sooke on Vancouver Island.  

By 1918, the Canadian Northern spanned coast to coast with 10,000 miles of track. However, its rapid expansion left it riddled with construction costs. Facing fierce competition and difficulty making profits, it sought federal aid to pay off its debts. The government obliged in exchange for a controlling interest in the company, then merged it with its Canadian Government Railway to form Canadian National Railway. 

Canora

Hundreds of new towns and villages sprung up along the Canadian Northern line, attracting tens of thousands of settlers and spurring the development of agriculture, lumbering, mining and other industries and commerce throughout the surrounding areas. One such settlement was Canora, Saskatchewan.  

In 1903, the Canadian Northern’s Kamsack to Humboldt extension was surveyed and a stake planted three miles west of the Whitesand River marking where a station would be built. By July 1904, steel was laid, a station built and a townsite surveyed there. However, contrary to popular belief, it was not the railway that coined the name of the new rail point. At time of construction, it simply designated it Siding No. 14.   

Credit for the Canora name actually goes to Wilson C. Allen.  Following the railway survey, Allen recognized the area’s settlement potential and petitioned the Postal Department for a post office, suggesting the name as an acronym for the railway. The Canora Post Office subsequently opened in April 1904 with Allen briefly serving as first postmaster before resigning to open a general store at the townsite.  

In August 1904, townsite lots were opened for sale and the Hamlet of Canora was organized. By October, the railway followed suit, officially naming its facility Canora Station. In December, Canora School Division No. 1152 was formed at the settlement. And in May 1905, residents voted to incorporate as the Village of Canora. Five years later, in November 1910, it was gazetted as the Town of Canora.

In the ensuing decades, dozens of local businesses and organizations incorporated ‘Canora’ into their names. The name is also perpetuated through the town streets. Canora Avenue runs east of Highway No. 9, while Canora Street runs west of Pacific Street.

Canora Beach

While not directly associated with the Canadian Northern, this beach merits special mention.  Located on Devil’s (now Good Spirit) Lake, 12 miles southeast of Canora, it has been a popular fishing, boating, camping and leisure spot for Canorians for as long as the railway centre has been in existence. Since at least 1929, it has been known as Canora Beach after the town. In 1982, it was subdivided and is now a popular resort community as well as one of Saskatchewan’s largest private campgrounds.

Canora Street, Warman

In the fall of 1904, the Canadian Northern’s Humboldt to North Battleford extension intersected with the Canadian Pacific line running from Prince Albert to Regina. A hamlet formed, originally called Diamond for the shape of the rail junction. In 1905, it was renamed after journalist Cy Warman, who followed and recorded the Canadian Northern Railway construction.  In 1906, Warman incorporated as a village but reverted to hamlet status in 1927. It re-incorporated as a village in 1961 and four years later as a town. By the 80s, it was a bedroom community for Saskatoon and officially became a city in 2012.  

In 1978, a new residential subdivision was developed at Warman’s south end. To commemorate the railway to which the community owed its existence, a subdivision road was named Canora Street, an anagram of the company name. It runs east from Prairie Oasis Park to the east city limits. 

Canora Street, Lloydminster, Alta.

Lloydminster was founded in 1903 by Barr Colonists who arrived from Britain to form a colony.  It was named for colony leader George Lloyd. Located on the 4th Meridian, it was split in two when the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan formed in July 1905 and the Meridian became the interprovincial border. That month, the Canadian Northern’s North Battleford to Edmonton extension arrived through the divided colony. The Alberta portion incorporated as a village in 1906 while the Saskatchewan portion became a town in 1907. In 1930, the two communities merged as a single town and became a city in 1958.    

In 1906, the Canadian Northern built a station just west of the Meridian border to serve Lloydminster train crews and passengers. It operated for 85 years until it was demolished in 1991 after a fire. The city then named the station alleyway Canora Street to commemorate the railway’s contribution to its early development. The street runs between the rail line and 51st Street, and 52nd and 53rd Avenues.