History of Mortlach


How Mortlach got its name. George Stephen chose the name Mortlach in Saskatchewan. He emigrated to Canada when he was 21 years old from Scotland. He was the first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1880 and he named a few communities from his Scottish Roots along the track. The name of some of these communities were Parkbeg, Estevan, Mortlach. He was from the parish of Mortlach Scotland. This was later changed to Dufftown in Branffshire, Scotland which has origins dating back to 525AD. Duffftown was built on seven stills and one of the stills was called Mortlach, founded in 1823 which is why Dufftown was originally called Mortlach. This was the epicentre of Scottish Whiskey in Scotland. Apparently the mash from the stills was spread over the fields and they had very content cows. (which they called coos). This information came from Vivian who travelled there. She is Beatrice's oldest granddaughter and Myrtle's oldest daughter.

Mortlach is located 40km west of Moosejaw on Hwy 1. Within a couple of years of the Canadian Pacific Railway coming through the Mortlach area in 1882, Ranching operations began to develop, but it was not until the early 1900s that significant areas of land began to be broken and fenced with the arrival of homesteaders. With the re-routing of the CPR mainland somewhat south of its original course in 1904, Mortlach came into being. The town site was established on land originally homesteaded in 1902 by Khamis Michael, who came to Canada from what is now known as Iraq.

A building boom ensued, as people from Eastern Canada, the United States, and overseas began pouring into the area. A good number of them were Scottish, English, Norwegian, and Swedish origins. Then in 1905 the post office was established, a member of the Royal North West Mounted Police was stationed in the young community, a school was under construction, and the business district was developing.

In the year of 1906 Mortlach was incorporated as a village, and in 1913 the community attained town status. Then in 1916 the community had a peak population of 456, but in the decades following, Mortlach's numbers steadily declined, falling to 218 by 1951. The 1930s had been particularly hard on the community, and on January 1st 1949 Mortlach reverted to village status.

Then in 1954, a landmark archaeological excavating was undertaken in the Mortlach area. On the heels of amateur arrowhead collectors and diggers, Boyd Wettlaufer, with the Museum of Natural History in Regina, conducted the first scientific archaeological dig in Saskatchewan, at what came to be known as the Mortlach site. Wettlaufer was the first in Canada to use radiocarbon dating, and he established that several cultures had occupied the Mortlach area dating back to 1445 BC, roughly 3,500 years. The work established a chronological framework for archaeology, not only in Saskatchewan, but across the Great Plains.

Excerpts from the book “Our Towns” in Saskatchewan Communities from Abbey to Zenon Park written by David Mclennan. Some information from online sources.

March 24, 2018 | Village Office