HISTORY OF NIPAWIN
Situated on the Saskatchewan River, between two man-made lakes, Tobin and Codette Lake, Nipawin’s Roots and history has clear and direct connections to the fur trade as far back as 1670. The highways were the waterways, and the vehicle was the canoe, or on foot. Nipawin’s history has clear links to the early explorers such as Henry Kelsey, Laverendrye, Francois LeBlanc and James Finlay. Remnants of, and commemorations to the pas remain part of Nipawin’s Charm and attraction, even today.
Nipawin got its name from the word “nipawewin” meaning “waiting place.” Since only physically vigorous young men were deemed capable of making the voyages by canoe over the hundred of miles of terrifying waters, the women and children would watch their fathers and husbands paddle away. The paddlers addressing their families saying “Nipawi”, meaning (you) stand and (wait.)
Those were the days when the voyagers mad long and difficult journeys to deliver the cargoes to the posts and to return the vessels laden with furs. Forts, such as Fort a la Corne, were established by La Verendyre and sons and others in about 1748. In about 1774, up the river, the first permanent settlement in Saskatchewan was established at Cumberland House (2 hours by road from Nipawin).
Prior to 1928, there was really very little way of having contact with the “other side of the river” but in 1928 the CPR built a million-dollar bridge over the Saskatchewan River. The train still travels over the bridge and became known as Nipawin’s crooked bridge. The town got a new bridge in 1973, and the old bridge still stands, however is only for spectators to view. History abounds and is celebrated across the northeast area.
In 1967, and again 50 years later in 2017, the Town of Nipawin hosted a re-enactment of the voyageur canoes as they made their way down the Saskatchewan River to commemorate the people and the fur trade of the past and to celebrate the people of the future.
THE NAME NIPAWIN:
It is also recorded that Nipawin’s name is derived from the Cree word “nipawin” which meant “a bed, or a resting place” which was originally applied to an area along the river now flooded under Codette Lake. The flats were the site where the trading post constructed by Francois and Finlay was situated (Lower-Nipowewin).
Nipawin Established as a Trading Post
By 1748, LaVerendrye and his sons had established a line of trading posts between Montreal and the forks of the Saskatchewan River, and Chevalier de la Corne had built a trading post at a site upstream from Nipowewin. These two waiting places became differentiated as “Upper-Nipowewin” (Fort a la Corne) and “Lower-Nipowewin” (Nipawin). At the latter site two Canadians, Francois LeBlanc and James Finlay, carried on a brisk trade with the First Nations of the area
Like all commercial enterprises based on fashion, the fur trade was doomed as the styles of Europe changed, and men yearned for the challenge of virgin land.
The first homestead filed: settlers begin to make homes
In 1906, the first homestead was filed in the Lost River district, followed by settlers near the Lower Nipowewin site.
Lumber mills are Established
Lumber mills dotted the forests and great spring river runs of logs glided down the Carrot and Saskatchewan Rivers to The Pas for processing.
Trading Post Was Established
The site of the old Nipawin saw activity for the first time in 1910 with the establishment of a trading post. The CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) located four miles northwest of this settlement at a place called Ravine Bank. The immense advantages of a railroad link with the outside to receive and dispatch goods, grain, livestock, lumber, mail, passengers and the potential for a thriving distribution centre in the north was immediately recognized.
Town of Ravine Bank Became Nipawin
In 1924, the Town of Ravine Bank moved all the buildings 4 miles closer to the CPR Station known as Nipawin.
Therefore, with the advent of the railway in 1924 and through a feat of incredible resourcefulness and endurance the men of Ravine Bank moved every building with teams of horses to the carefully laid-out town site in the jack pines adjacent to the station which bore the name NIPAWIN.
Nipawin held its first village election on June 2, 1925. On May 1, 1937, Nipawin formally received town status.
… in 1928, the CPR built a bridge across the Saskatchewan River
The CPR Railway built a million dollar bridge over the Saskatchewan River in 1928, and the bridge which is still in use, is now known as Nipawin’s crooked bridge.
First Hydro Dam
Nipawin soon became a bustling community and grew to be one of the major trading centres in the northeast. Diversification in lumber, agriculture, trapping, business, and recreation enabled the economy to grow by leaps and bounds.
In 1963, SaskPower completed the construction of the first of two hydro dams on the Saskatchewan River (E.B. Campbell).
A new bridge was constructed in 1974 providing modern day access on Highway 55.
In 1986, just 5 kilometres upstream from the Town of Nipawin, the second hydroelectric dam was completed. Francois-Finlay Dam placed Nipawin as the “Town on Two Lakes”: Tobin Lake & Codette Lake