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Insinger

Through hardships and trials the village struggled on

Insinger business districtInsinger business district

When the first settlers came to an east-central region of Saskatchewan they would later call Insinger in the late 19th century, living was initially hard.

Settlers lived in a hole dug about a metre deep in the ground and covered them with branches, sod, grass and any other materials immediately available. For tools they had knives, wooden spoons, hammers, axes, chisels, scythes and flails - all brought with them from the old country.

They used a hearth for their baking and candles for lights. Women used grind stones for gristing flour. Grind stones also gristed sunflower and hemp sod. All the furniture was homemade. Bed mattresses were stuffed with grass or straw. They used benches for chairs.

The first settlers arrived in 1891, led by a rancher named Fredrik Robert Insinger. It was after his name the municipality and village would later be called. Insinger was later the region's representative to parliament in Ottawa when the vast land of the west was still known as the Northwest Territories.

In 1897, a group of Ukrainians known as the Central European Immigrants first came to the area from Winnipeg and then Yorkton. From the latter community, they either walked to the Insinger area along the old Lawrie Trail, or travelled by horse and oxen. Homesteads had been purchased for $10 a quarter section.

Settlers soon found the land was fertile for ground wheat. The first school in the area - Lawrie School No. 494 - was built in 1898. A school was later built in the village in 1921. It closed in 1967.

Citizens built their first church, the St. Mary's Church of Ukrainian Greek Orthodox, in 1905 out of logs and mud.

Hardships for the early settlers remained for many years with men often being forced to leave their families to seek employment in nearby cities, or even as far away as Manitoba. The nearest market centre was Yorkton, 68 kilometres southeast of Insinger, and it was not uncommon for settlers to carry loads of provisions on their backs all the way home to their acreages.

The first general store at Insinger was opened by Metro Sharek in 1903. At about the same time, the tiny new community had its first post office. A year later, the railroad arrived in Insinger.

The Rural Municipality of Insinger was first incorporated in 1913. The first elected reeve was Fred Mason of Theodore. The village of Insinger later had its own local government, with a mayor and two councilors. The first meeting of the Village of Insinger was held on June 6, 1921.

The little community, which grew to a peak population of about 100 citizens, once had four thriving general stores, a blacksmith shop, two garages, a hotel and a café. Citizens of the village had an active social life, holding dances on Sunday afternoons, dinner parties and weddings - some lasting an entire week.

However, over the ensuring decades, many residents opted to leave the community for the larger centres and by 1979 the population had dwindled to 25. In 1999, Insinger's two elevators were demolished, and the only businesses remaining were the rural municipality office and post office. The population had shrunk again to less than 20.

But through the years of decline the citizens remained proud, and the community celebrated the 75th anniversary of the municipality in 1988, hosted a school reunion in 1998, and a homecoming in 2000.