Back to the Land in Trampling
100 Years, 100 Towns: Celebrating Saskatchewan’s
Centennial 1905 – 2005
Wilson, Peter. "Back to the Land in Trampling Lake." StarPhoenix, 16 August 2005, C5.
Trampling Lake – The lone sod shack stands out like a Prairie
sentinel, as an echo of the hardship and perseverance of the early
pioneers who settled this part of west-central Saskatchewan.
The “soddy” as they were ruefully called by the pioneers
who by necessity had to live in them, is Mike Jahner’s personal
salute to his grandparents. The local farmer decided to construct
the structure on the site where his ancestors, who had originally
moved from Russia to North Dakota, put down permanent Prairie roots
back in 1905.
Mike Jahner built a sod house as a
centennial project on his farmland near Trampling Lake
Building the “soddy” was the way Jahner chose on join
in the province’s centennial while celebrating 100 years of
his own family’s life in Saskatchewan. Constructing a sod
shack similar to what his grandparents lived in for eight years
during the 20th century’s infancy was an ambition he’d
held for the past few years. Jahner’s farmhouse stands on
the homestead his father once operated, and his farm includes the
original land for which his grandfather took out homesteading rights
back in 1905.
A history lover, Jahner is particularly passionate about local
history and his construction project was a way of expressing pride
in his ancestry, he says.
“It was quite a dream of mine for quite a while, and the
province’s centennial provided me with the right amount of
encouragement to get things moving,” he said, peering into
the dark interior of the shack and looking over the pioneer furnishings
he has on display.
Jahner began his historical construction project on the anniversary
date that his grandparents took out the deeds on their homestead
– June 8. While the march of time has removed virtually all
evidence of the original building, the impressions of the original
sod house are still visible as faded outlines near his new shack.
Mike Jahner (right) demonstrates the
two-bottom plough he used as a child to his daughter and son-in-law
Wendy Jahner and Sean Elliot who were visiting from Kansas City
Cutting the tree branches from a nearby black poplar bluff, which
was probably the same copse his granddad used to cut his lumber,
Jahner, with the help of a few family members, began the job of
making supporting and framing timbers for the sod house. They carved
out of the prairie grass with a breaking plough and built windows
and a door out of old, savaged farm wood.
Individual sods measured an average of about two feet by one foot
with a thickness of about three inches. Each sod weighed in at about
40 kilograms, so Jahner was glad to accept the help of younger arms
when it came to installing the roof portion of the home.
With his wife, June, providing a continuing meal service, the small
work crew slowly brought this legacy of the past to life. With a
weekend family reunion planned for mid-July, construction of the
sod house took on some urgency. However, the project was completed
in time for the gathering, which brought together more than 180
people, some from as far away as Vancouver, Ontario and the United
Like many people living in the province’s farming communities,
Jahner is no stranger to serving on the boards, councils and committees
that form in the backdrop to the sense of community inherent across
rural Saskatchewan. For his contributions over the past 50 years
to the town and district, it’s a fitting tribute that the
unassuming farmer from Trampling Lake is being given the Saskatchewan
Centennial Medal from the province’s lieutenant governor.
Jahner will receive the honour at a special ceremony in Saskatoon
“This land means a lot to me and this will probably be my
last year farming before I hand the reigns over to the younger folks.
I guess the sod project pays tribute our family’s contribution
to settling the part of the country,” he says.
The townsite for Trampling Lake was laid out in 1911 and in 1913
the CRP began this portion of the Redford subdivision from the Kerrobert
to Brass. The arrival of the rail spurred on the fledging community’s
development and all the trappings of a growing town started to appear.
A Chinese laundry was established and a hardware store opened its
doors. Later, a flurry of elevator construction followed to handle
the rapidly expanding agricultural output of the district.
Lumber yards, a local electric plant, several grocery stores, cafes,
schools, a hotel and a rush of residential construction became a
reflection of a community on the move. Trampling Lake’s population
would peak at around 240, and then began a slow decline like so
many other rural towns.
Now, with just 67 residents, Trampling Lake has certainly known
better days. Its school closed about five years ago and out of the
six once proud elevators that stood along the track, only a single
A post office, Credit Union and a co-operative store are left to
serve the people of the town and area. One of the architectural
gems still functioning in town is St. Michael’s Catholic Church,
an elegant monument to faith that is still very much alive.
Anne Bohn knows all about the part the church has played in the
“I was baptized, christened and was married in this church,
so it’s played an important role in my life over the years,”
says Bohn, as she walks through the ornate interior.
Anne Bohn of Trampling Lake still attends
the impressive 83-year-old church of St. Michael’s
Built in 1922, the church is still a vibrant part of the district’s
social and religious landscape. While the town no longer has a resident
priest, mass is till held every Saturday evening, the priest traveling
the 50 or so kilometers from Unity for the service. A large hall
in the church basement continues to serve as a gathering spot for
social functions, although it no longer brings Hollywood into the
lives of the town’s residents.
“Through the `40s and `50s, we had movies shown in here every
Sunday night and it was a great social occasion for the entire town
and for local farmers,” explains Bohn. “We didn’t
have popcorn then, but there was more than enough sunflower seeds
flying threw the air when the lights were out,” she laughs.
Along Main Street, Mike Jahner points at the old building that
once served as the town’s pool hall. Closed now and in dire
need of a few coats of paint, the tired building holds many memories
for the soon to be retired farmer.
“I spent a lot of time here, probably more than I should
have, but they were good times,” he says. “They’d
also run poker games up there and I’d watch my older brother
playing,” he says, pointing up to the second storey. “They’d
play for money and put down a cloth on the card table to cut out
the sound the coins would make. That way visiting strangers wouldn’t
know what was going on. They were good times, real good times,”