Majestic hills rising from rich, flat farmland are spectacular landscapes common throughout the Rural Municipality of Monet No. 257. The towering Coteau Hills are visible for miles and dominate the southern horizon, sprawling across the municipality’s boundaries. To the west, the Greenan Hills are of lesser height with farms tucked into picturesque nooks. Straddling the R.M. boundaries to the northwest, the Bad Hills stretch into the distance. From several flat glacial basins of heavy clay deposits located mainly in the centre and northeast of the municipality, the surrounding hills provide an inspiring backdrop to rural life.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, this area was part of the hunting territory of up to four nomadic First Nations groups. Numerous grave sites and teepee rings are still identifiable on unbroken prairie hilltops. According to local memory, visitations by native groups to the medicine wheel located on the highest promontory south of Elrose occurred up to around 1920. Other ancient sites of archeological interest are located within the R.M. (see Sites of Interest).
Previous to the building of railroads, many travelers through the area followed the Battleford Trail. This winding cart trail connected Fort Battleford on the North Saskatchewan River with the Saskatchewan Landing, a natural crossing on the South Saskatchewan River. During the Northwest Rebellion in 1885, Colonel W.D. Otter marched up the trail with relief troops heading for Fort Battleford. Beginning their journey at Fort Qu’Appelle, they traveled by train to Swift Current, then north to the Saskatchewan Landing and onward, following the trail through the district. A spring-fed watering hole, historically well used by travelers and near to a still visible remnant of the Battleford Trail, bears the name Otter Springs in memory of the colonel’s campsite there.
After the disappearance of the bison herds, but before railroads were laid through the district, the grasslands were used by various ranching operations. The largest of these was the Matador Land and Cattle Company. With operations on several continents, this was the largest ranching enterprise in the world. It bred cattle on breeding ranches in Texas and Oklahoma and shipped young animals north to its ranches in South Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan. In its local operations, it grazed cattle on 140,000 acres in the Coteau Hills just to the south of the future R.M. of Monet. After the railways passed through the district in 1913-14, cattle were shipped to Winnipeg from loading yards in Hughton. However, with the rails came a tide of farmers, and increasing settlement put an end to the ranching era. A last great cattle drive in 1921 saw 3,500 animals driven 350 miles to Montana, signaling the end of Matador’s Canadian operations. Stan Graber, a former resident of Elrose, worked as a cowboy on the Matador Ranch. His memoirs, The Last Roundup, published in 1995, combine local history with fascinating details of life as a ranch hand in this era.
Some homesteaders and other settlers were established in the area before the arrival of the railroads, but the majority of newcomers arrived by rail later.
On December 13, 1909, the R.M. of Monet #257 was incorporated. It was named after a local farmer, Fortunat Monet (pronounced and originally spelled Monette), who farmed north of the hamlet of Forgan. He acted as returning officer for the organizing vote and lent his name to the newly formed municipality. After the railway arrived in 1913, the countryside quickly filled with people. Schools and grain elevators were built, hamlets and towns grew as more people arrived, and prairie sod was turned under to sow crops. The newly tilled land was rich, agriculture was profitable, and communities thrived.
When the challenging Dirty Thirties arrived, drought, grasshoppers and unenlightened agronomic practices drove many people from the area. Those who remained learned to conserve soil moisture and fertility. Driftdirt ridges still mark the locations of fence lines or field edges buried beneath tons of wind-blown soil. Some areas with lighter textured soils were severely degraded by the drought conditions and deemed unsuitable for further tillage. Large tracts located in two ranges of hills within the R.M. were purchased and reseeded to grass by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act (P.F.R.A.) creating the Monet and Fairview community pastures.
In 1966 the neighboring R.M. of Fairview #258 was disbanded to join adjacent municipalities. The western half of Fairview was amalgamated with the R.M. of Snipe Lake # 259, and the eastern half was joined to the R.M. of Monet #257 to form larger, more financially viable municipal entities. The Monet municipal headquarters were moved from the hamlet of Hughton to their present location in Elrose.
The small communities of Greenan, Wartime, Hughton, and Forgan exist as unorganized hamlets (without their own governing councils) within the R.M. Two hamlets, Gunnworth and Chipperfield, have ceased to exist, having no buildings remaining on their sites. Local community clubs have marked a number of former rural school sites with roadside monuments and memorial plaques (see Sites of Interest).
A more complete rendering of the history of the R.M. can be found in the community history book entitled Prairie To Wheat Fields published in 2005. Copies can still be purchased at the Museum.
Jean Monette & Andre Monette
Decendants of Fortunat Monette, Returning Officer for the organization of and namesake of the R.M. of Monet No. 257, arrived in Elrose on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. Jean Monette on the left(grandson) and Andre Monette on the right (great-grandson). In the picture on the left they are standing on the homestead of Fortunat at SW 01-27-13-3. Jean and Andre (father/son) travelled here all the way from New Brunswick where the Monette family has lived since they left our area. When Fortunat completed the Returning Officer’s Statement on October 4, 1909 he shortended his name to Fort Monet. On this Statement he reported that on September 1, 1909: 36 people voted for the organization of the proposed R.M. of Monet and none voted against the Municipality.
This photo was sent to Lori McDonald by Pierre Monette, Grandson of Fort Monet, on April 8, 2009:
April 13, 2009
The little house was on Fort Monette land (SW 1-27-13-3). The photo was taken in spring 1909, my father was born in June the same year. The tree was brought from Montana according to my aunt Alexandrine, the oldest of the family.
I saw that you are celebrating the centennial of the R.M. of Monet this year, I would like to know the date and the program or festivities, if any. If you need a better photo I could send you by mail.
Have a nice day.
April 4, 2009
Hope you are all well. I have been looking at your site and was very happy of the work. You see I am the grandson of Fortunat Monette and it was with great joy to find out that he had something to do with your town.
Jacques Fortunat Monette
According to the 2016 census, the population of Monet is 445, still higher than the 2006 census with a population of 479, but down from 2011 at 495. Declining population and increasing farm size have been trends for several decades and are typical of many municipalities in the region. It is nice to see so many young families moving back to live and work in the R.M.
Climate & Ecology
This part of Saskatchewan lies within an area referred to as the Palliser Triangle. Captain John Palliser, a nineteenth century explorer and surveyor, considered this region too dry for agriculture. As a continuation of the semi-arid central plain of the United States, the triangle extends from southwestern Manitoba, includes most of southern Saskatchewan, and reaches northwest to the mountains in Alberta. With annual precipitation averaging only 352 mm, July mean temperatures of 18.9 degrees C., and January mean temperatures of –12 degrees C., this territory presented itself to early European travelers as a semi-arid desert of mixed short-grass prairie, few wetlands, and little or no tree cover.
A variety of field crops is grown in this municipality, providing many rotational options in cropping practices. Spring wheat, durum wheat and barley, traditionally widely grown, are presently of reduced importance as many other crops have proved profitable.
A local farmer, Don Tait, was one of the earliest innovators to introduce green lentil production to the province.
In 2002 Don was inducted into the Saskatchewan Agriculture Hall of Fame. Read more about Don’s induction here.
Bill & Alma Copeland have also been recognized as leaders in pulse production and promotion in our province. Alma was inducted into the Agriculture Hall Fame in 2007 for her lifelong successes promoting lentils and other pulse crops as a home economist. Read more about Alma’s induction here.
As a pioneer in the production of pulse crops, particularly lentils, Bill has been a leader in adopting new farming practices. Bill was inducted into the Saskatchewan Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2008. Read more about Bill’s induction here.
Bill has also been awarded the Pulse Legacy Award by the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) for his contributions to the pulse industry as an early lentil adopter and an entrepreneur in pulse processing. View Sask Pulse article here.
Today, several other types of lentils, peas and chickpeas are widely grown as the benefits of pulses in crop rotations are recognized. Many other types of hard and soft wheats, canary seed, flax, canola, mustard and a number of “specialty” crops have become important as farmers attempt to adapt to world markets and weather conditions.
Agriculture and related businesses dominant the local economy. A number of plants within the R.M. provide seed-cleaning services to farmers and enterprises cleaning pulses for export. Equipment and truck repair businesses, metal fabricators and machinists work out of shops located on farms. Several trucking companies haul farm products and farm inputs.
A number of farmers offer equipment rentals. Others use their equipment to do custom fieldwork including soil testing, seeding, swathing, harvesting and baling. Several part-time custom operators with high clearance sprayers apply chemicals and fertilizers.
Oil development has become a major player in local economy as well. Oil companies now make up over half of the tax base in the RM. Locals are employed by many different oil companies directly and some are hired as contractors. There are also local businesses specifically for oilfield services.