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Bill Barry

There have been many hundreds of local histories written about one part of Saskatchewan or another over the years - and I've read at least part of almost all of them. Rarely have I come across one so focused and well prepared as that for the Spring Creek district just southwest of Moosomin.

Spring Creek was founded by Claud Henry Manners (1856-1913), the son of Baron John Thomas Manners and Lady Lydia Sophia. He was "to the manor born" in the sense that his family was part of the landed English aristocracy, yet he knew the drudgery of slopping hogs and picking rocks in Saskatchewan.

St. Peter's Anglican Church, Spring Creek.
St. Peter's Anglican Church, Spring Creek.

What made him come? Why did he stay? He was trained as an engineer/surveyor, and his family's wealth meant he could have led the life of a comfortable English gentleman. He was also part of a business syndicate with land and other interests in places as far flung as Edmonton and California's Sacramento valley. At one time he and his associates were working on a proposal to build a major bridge at Montréal. So why the Pipestone valley?

Manners came by steamboat from Winnipeg to Fort Ellice in June, 1882. He and his party then travelled overland to Spring Creek (crossing the roadbed of the CPR, which was then under construction), where Claud homesteaded SW34-12-32-W1. He got his own farm established and assisted his neighbours in myriad ways, not least by helping to organize their first school, SPRING CREEK No. 169, in 1890. He donated part of his homestead as the site for the beautiful fieldstone St. Peters Anglican Church, which opened in 1893 and still stands today. The neighbourhood store was located on his land, as was the district hall. For a time in the 1890s, a cheese plant partly financed by Manners sold its products along the CPR main line.

Claud Manners
16th Light Horse at Camp Shilo in 1913. Claud Manners is second from the right.

Manners organized the Spring Creek Hunt Club and loved to play cricket. He was devoted to the ponies and liked to attend the races at Cannington Manor and elsewhere. He was known to dance till dawn. He also practiced his faith - although quietly. Many of his outstanding acts of generosity to his neighbours - especially the less fortunate among them - only came to light after his death. He kept voluminous diaries (which provide an invaluable record of the settlement era) in which Manners was prone to worry about his own shortcomings, but which nowhere contain an unkind word about another human being.

The Moosomin Armoury
The Moosomin Armoury, to which Manners devoted so much effort, under construction in 1913.

He was also a devoted military man, having belonged to the Kent Imperial Yeomanry in England. He served during the North West Rebellion and during the South African (Boer) War, and became known far and wide for his recruitment activities. He was instrumental in having an armoury built at Moosomin, and took particular pride in his "A" Squadron of the 16th Light Horse, a Spring Creek based outfit. Indeed, Manners died unexpectedly on the very day he and his troop returned from their annual training at Camp Shilo, Manitoba, in 1913.

What makes Claud Manners' story so intriguing is that being an English aristocrat was no ticket to respect in the Canadian west. The stories of idle English remittance men are legion, the scions of wealthy families exiled to the prairies and living off regular monetary remittances from their families. Yet, as his Anglican pastor, Rev. Herbert L. Gwyer, wrote in his eulogy, " the west a man is judged on his own merits, and it is striking testimony that never did I hear anyone refer to him by any name but Mr. Manners."

Bill Barry
Bill Barry, Saskatchewan's place name expert

Claud Manners never married and left no heirs. For all his life his business interests took him across the continent and to Britain most winters. Yet seeding time found him back at Manton Farm, Spring Creek, which he consistently referred to as his home. He laboured in the fields with the best of them, earning the unanimous respect of his contemporaries. The very well done Spring Creek History 1882-1990 bears testament that the same respect lingers today.

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