It has been a great challenge to gather and compile the information in this book. Our purpose has been to try to preserve, to the best of our knowledge, the history of Big River and Districts. No doubt we have missed some people and important events that should have been mentioned and we are sorry if this has happened.
Information used in our book has been for the most part submitted by pioneer residents of this district. The Saskatchewan Archives has been another very helpful source, so between actual facts and vivid memory, we present Timber Trails and trust you will find it enjoyable.
Often we think that historical records must contain all the firsts and biggest things; while these are important, our real aim has been to try to tell about the people and their everyday way of life as it was.
The story of Big River and District is one that rises out of the ashes all too often. Like the Phoenix, a mythical bird, which at death burst into flames and then came to life again out of it's own ashes, so it is with Big River. Suffering near defeat from one fire after another in the early years of its history, the people have always been able to "come back", to start over with new faith and determination. This is what makes their story worth telling and re-telling.
As we began compiling information for this book, we met and talked with many of the pioneer people of the district. It took a little prompting on our part to get them started talking about the old days. They seemed eager to co-operate. Their eyes took on a new sparkle as they took us back over the years to another way of life that seems almost foreign to our generation.
They talked about the town in it's formative years, of the mill workers cutting thousands of feet of lumber a day. They talked of forest fires, fishing and freighting, the hardships of the depression and the struggles of the homesteaders. Their stories and enthusiasm have been an inspiration to all of us.
We hope that "Timber Trails" will revive some of the atmosphere that prevailed in the early years of our town and district. As a dedication to the pioneers, we hope that this book will bring them forward to the place of prominence they rightfully deserve.
We dedicate this book to the Pioneers of Big River and District for their courage, dedication and faith.
But yet the highlights linger still
Of all the pleasant hours we've known
Within the cottage on the hill.
Though life was hard, with heavy load
And not all "milk and honey"
The milk of human kindness flowed
In spite of lack of money.
Through winter wind and summer sun
For over thirty years it stood,
And friends dropped in when work was done
And strangers found its shelter good.
But thirty years are quickly gone,
Soon numbered with the past
And worldly things as time rolls on
Are not the things that last.
How fleeting are the works of men,
Of metal, wood or stone,
But love and kindness will survive
To reach the mighty throne.
So we will have another home
Not built by mortal hands
And there we'll dwell in harmony
With friends from other lands.
A unique landmark, dear to the hearts of all true Big River people, is the old burner. Tall and stately it stood, a relic from the earliest mill days, towering over this community with the quiet dignity for over fifty years. Few people who lived under the shadow of the burner could admit they didn't feel a certain pride and affection for this old friend. The very sight of it spelled Big River and home. Built in 1909 by the Big River Lumber Company, it served its purpose well, not only playing its necessary role in the continuing process of ridding the mill of its waste material, but also as a welcome beacon to all travelers of land or air. Its billowing smoke and charred dome could be seen for miles. It was a sad day when the burner was declared unsafe, and sadder still the day, after a long hard struggle, wrecking crews finally toppled it to the ground. The burner didn't die easily! Today the sky is empty, never again will the big burner stand majestically above our town with its dark bulk silhouetted against the sunset.