The Turtle Mountain Souris Plains Heritage Association (TMSPHA) is delving into another project that brings history to life; that being the 140-year-old bank vault constructed in Old Deloraine made of area field stone.

But first, a little bit of history ....

The first Land Titles Office in the Turtle Mountain area was a solitary tent that was set up at the edge of the Turtle Mountains in August of 1880. This was soon followed by a two-storey building, situated beside the Boundary Commission Trail and on the bank of Turtlehead Creek (formerly known as Whitewater Creek).

The establishment of the Land Titles Office ushered in a new settlement built about 2 kms north where the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was predicted to pass through.  John Cavers and AP Stuart opened a general store and post office in March of 1882 at this site, newly named Deloraine by John Cavers after his hometown in Scotland. 

Shortly after AP Stuart and his brother built a bank, and with that a bank vault to store valuables such as homestead deeds. The bank vault was constructed by George Rickard, a pioneer and stonemason from the area who used native granite fieldstone, reinforced by mortar and iron rods. 

In 1883 the population of the village was a total of 50 people, 32 of whom were engaged in businesses or professions of some sort, including an agricultural implement store, blacksmith, mill, hotel, a doctor's office, barrister at law office and three members of the clergy.  A schoolhouse opened in 1884.

However, in 1886 the CPR constructors favored the flat prairie several miles to the north and the town of Deloraine was completely bypassed, much to the shock and dismay of these pioneer entrepreneurs!

That winter, in 1886-1887 the settlement picked up and moved to a location five miles to the northwest, to the current location of Deloraine in order to be positioned alongside the rail line.   The buildings were placed on skids and hauled over the snow to their new townsite,

The only remaining evidence to show there ever was a town at that site (now known as Old Deloraine) is the sturdily built fieldstone bank vault which stands in a pasture owned by Deloraine area famers, the Bell family.

The Bell family has now reached out to TMSPHA to help protect this historical landmark, and the Heritage Society is thrilled to embrace this project.

Chairperson, Jan McClelland, says they're wanting to upgrade the site and make it more accessible to the public. She adds the project is still under discussion and it looks like, dollar-wise, this could be their largest project to date.

"That's pretty amazing, and it's the last piece of our earliest settlement history, that exists today," she adds. "So, it's pretty important to be able to keep that in one piece, and not just a pile of stones."

McClelland notes it is a major dollar project for a small group like the TMSPHA, estimated at $38,000, so the Heritage Society will be looking at grants and fundraising initiatives to get this project underway.

Please listen to Jan McClelland as she shares more on the history of the Old Deloraine Bank Vault below!

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