The Deep South Pioneer Museum (DSPM) is one of the largest community owned museums in western Canada, boasting hundreds of thousands of artifacts and 31 buildings. Its grounds encompass ten acres of space. The collection is mostly comprised of artifacts related to the pioneer past in southern Saskatchewan – from delicate china tea cups to giant threshing machines. The DSPM also hosts a small display of archaeological and geological artifacts found in the area which speak of the pre-settlement past. There is always something new to be discovered at the DSPM.
The DSPM is home to a unique collection of historic buildings, creating a pioneer village on the museum grounds. Many of the buildings were moved to the DSPM from Ogema and from surrounding towns in the R.M. of Key West No. 70 which are no longer functioning. These buildings have a new life at the DSPM, all the while preserving memories of ghost towns like Dahinda and Edgeworth.
The buildings represent an almost complete picture of what many prairie towns looked like in the early twentieth century, demonstrating how thriving these communities once were, and how everyone’s needs could be met in their own town without having to drive far distances for many services and amenities, as has become the reality in most of rural Saskatchewan in the 21st century.
Each of the buildings is furnished with genuine pioneer artifacts, many of which are original to the buildings themselves, allowing a further glimpse into a past way of life.
Many of the buildings have false fronts, sometimes referred to in Saskatchewan as “boomtown” fronts or façades. The addition of several feet of lumber to extend the top and/or side of a building’s façade was a purely aesthetic feature, since it served no practical purpose and added significant cost to the building. It was done to promote a sense of prosperity on Main Streets in new towns, to create the impression of a much more substantial building.
The DSPM boasts an impressive collection of pioneer artifacts, perhaps numbered over a million if every last silver spoon and glass bottle were to be counted. These artifacts, kept by previous generations out of necessity or nostalgia, have a permanent home at the DSPM where they are carefully preserved and displayed. Younger generations learn how things were produced in the “olden days” – how did farm families make butter? What did telephones look like before cellular devices and wireless handhelds? Older generations reminisce about a time when life was simpler and much of what a family needed was produced right at home. Some of the uses of these objects have been lost to time, but often museum visitors will reveal the long-lost secrets of artifacts. In this way, the DSPM’s collection is imbued with vitality. The past lives on through the stories of its artifacts.
Antique Tractors & Machinery
It was tractors and farm machinery that provided the engine that got the DSPM going. The founding members of the museum were farmers, and their desire was to save old, unused machinery from rusting away in junk piles, their previous importance to the running of the family farm all but forgotten. Museum members worked hard to not only seek out machinery, but to lovingly restore them to their original glory, some of them back to working order. If parts were obsolete, new ones were handmade. Today the DSPM is home to more than 150 pieces of vintage farm machinery, a testimony to how the land was worked in days gone by. These machines provide a timeline of the evolution of farming in Saskatchewan – from horse drawn sulky ploughs, to threshing machines powered by steam engines, to diesel-powered tractors.
The history of the Deep South region is relatively new – just over a century of settlement. Though the people who call this place home have deep roots here, they were not the first to live under these vast prairie skies. Preceding European settlement, there is thousands of years of human habitation on the plains, and before that, millions of years of geological and paleontological eras. This past, lost to history, emerges from the soil in the form of stone artifacts. The DSPM has a small collection of these treasures. Hammerheads speak of a past when First Nations lived from what the Earth provided them, following the vast herds of bison and spinning their stories beneath the endless sky. Before them, the glaciers created the landscape now so dearly beloved to those who dwell here, and there are tantalizing clues of this time in the form of omar rocks.
In the summer of 2015, an archaeological survey is planned in the Ogema area to attempt to uncover more secrets of the ancient past.