Vanishing Sentinels: A map into the history of grain elevators in Canada
Jim Pearson can remember going to the grain elevator in his hometown of Delia, Alberta with his Dad and a load of grain
from the family farm when he was a kid and marveling at the magnificent structures.
In the early 2000’s, he started noticing a lot of them were being torn down and made it his mission to make sure they would be highlighted and remembered.
“I thought maybe I should start up a map or something like that, showing where all the elevators were and it just kept going and going and going until I basically I had mapped out every grain elevator in western Canada and then I started to do the railroads in eastern Canada and got that finished a couple of months ago,” said Pearson.
As their numbers dwindle, Pearson says a piece of Canadian history is being lost.
“This was a part of western Canadian heritage because without them a lot of these towns wouldn’t exist because they were the main social part of the community, you would come in, you would deliver your grain or you would pick up stuff for your farm, like salt licks or fertilizer or things like that. Sometimes they were the only place in the community in the early days, in the early 20th century and late 19th-century, that had a telephone or a telegraph.”
He says in many cases when the small towns lost their elevator, the town disappeared.
“They were a huge tax base for the community and once they were gone, they lost a lot of tax income, in Saskatchewan especially a lot of towns just disappeared off the map.”
Pearson says the ‘Vanishing Sentinels’ community has grown as they flock to the websites and Facebook page to read about elevators long since gone and those that are still standing.
On top of the recent elevator lost in the tragic fire in Crystal City, Manitoba, several were also lost in Saskatchewan.
“There was Simmie, Wilcox, Coderre and Indian Head, the old Parrish and Heimbecker (were torn down).”
Pearson vows to continue his work, which has garnered him the titled of ‘Vatarologist’.
To see a complete map of all the grain elevators past and present in Alberta click here.
To see a complete map of all the grain elevators past and present in Saskatchewan click here.