Gerwing Photo Gallery


Early CNR Crew


Workers repose

My grandfather John Gerwing and his ten brothers came to Canada from Minnesota in 1902-3 to take homesteads in a block settlement called St, Peter’s Colony, in a part of the North-West Territories that in 1905 became the province of Saskatchewan. The colony was organized by a group of Benedictine monks who set up an abbey near what is now the village of Muenster.  They attracted mainly German-Catholic settlers from the United States.

My great-grandfather Henry Gerwing had eleven sons, one of them a stepson -- many boys to try to set up in farming! The vast Canadian prairies, and offers of free or cheap land, were irresistible. All the brothers applied for homesteads, although two went back to the United States, and one died young of pneumonia after getting a chill while hunting. The eight men who stayed raised big families with lots of descendants, many of whom are still farmers in the area north of Humboldt, Saskatchewan.

To support the development of their homesteads, many young men worked in the winter. While the land was considered free, they had to pay a ten-dollar fee to register their homestead, and within three years they had to cultivate at least 15 acres (about six hectares) and build a habitable house.

Rail lines offered one of the best ways to earn some extra cash, and this photo of a work gang was taken in 1904 on the CNR line between Kamsack and Saskatoon. The men are in a canvas tent held up by a log, sitting on cots that were made from rough-cut logs. They had the luxury of a small mirror hanging on the log post, but life in a tent during winter must have been cold.

John Gerwing, twenty-one years old at the time, is at the left in the back row. His brother Joe, then twenty, is beside him in the suspenders and light shirt. John and Joe both raised large families in the Lake Lenore area of Saskatchewan, and their descendants are part of the fabric of Western Canada today.

Submitted by Connie Gerwing of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the grand-daughter of John Gerwing.


   Webmaster’s note: The above photo and article appeared in “Canada’s History” magazine AUG-SEPT 2020 edition page 66.