Tuesday, January 22, 2019
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Greystone - Scapa - Dowling

Edmonton versus Hanna, 1938 Edmonton versus Hanna, 1938


When the area to the north of Hanna was first settled, Castor and Stettler were the nearest trading centers. Wagon trails that eventually cut deep into the sod wound across the prairie to these towns, as lumber and supplies were hauled by the homesteaders in horse or ox drawn wagons. Mail was also picked up in Castor, until the Garden Plain Post Office opened in 1910, and a couple of years later the Greystone Post Office opened, serving what later became the Scapa-Dowling district. Greystone P.O. was situated fourteen miles north of Hanna and was operated by Mr. and Mrs. A English. The mail was brought twice weekly from the Garden Plain P.O. to Greystone by Mr. English and Lizzie Hillis, his spinster sister-in-law who homesteaded a quarter to the north of them. Her antics in what was then a male dominated society, always made good story telling among the neighbors. Sometime during the early twenties, without a word to anyone the Englishes packed some of their belongings into a wagon and left the country. From then until 1925, a mail-route out of Hanna served the area. A whole new era evolved at that time, with the construction of the Hanna - Warden railway line and the birth of two hamlets along it, to provide much needed services.

Scapa, the most northerly of the two hamlets was named after Scapa Flow in Scotland, by J.B. MacKenzie, the first post master. A general store opened by Ellis Malm in 1925, was the first business venture, and ironically it was that store that was the last to go out of business in 1978. Scapa soon became a thriving, busy little town with eight business places and three elevators. The country side was well populated and the C.N. stationed two section crews there. One maintained the main line and the other worked the Scapa - Spondin Sub line. This track was put in from 1929 to 1931 and never did prove to be practical. By the fifties only a couple of trains a year were going to Garden Plain and Spondin to move out grain. During the sixties the line was abandoned. The Hanna - Warden line became the main artery of communication and transportation for everyone along its route. Much could be said about the benefits the railway brought with it. That is why, sixty years later, even the younger generation were saddened by the abandonment and removal of the Hanna-Warden rail line in 1983.

Scapa will have a small niche in history for several incidents. Part of a tragic event happened in the immediate vicinity, during the bad winter of 1906-07, Lee Brainard, enroute to the Hunt Ranch with a large herd of cattle and horses, got caught in a sudden blizzard at the south end of Sullivan Lake. He lost his son, hired man and most of his livestock. Lee himself made it to the Hunts. Another story (never proven true or false) has it that a horse thief on the run, was apprehended in about the same area, hung and buried on the spot. For celebrities there is Dave Ruhl, a native son who did very well in the wrestling profession. He was in professional competition from 1951 to 1973, retiring with the Canadian Championship.

Text courtesy of The Hanna Herald