Source: Google Earth
Crichton is a hamlet in the southwest region of Saskatchewan, Canada, and is located between Admiral and Cadillac on the Red Coat Trail also known as highway 13, like so many towns along the Red Coat Trail, Crichton has become a ghost town with only one family remaining and many empty buildings scattered throughout the town site. On July 25 to 29, 1913 a survey began by a man named David Townsend of from Calgary, Alberta plotting out the new hamlet. Residents of the hamlet decided that the name of their community should be named after "Crichton" a Scottish poet and scholar, Robert Crichton born in Perthshire in 1560. During its day as an incorporated settlement, Crichton had three grain elevators all have been torn down, a school that has been moved to a nearby bible camp, a café and pool hall, a garage that still stand on main street, boarding house, a blacksmith shop, lumberyard, post office, livery barn, water tower torn down in the 1960s, and a large warehouse attached to the general store. There was even a golf course and tennis courts built for the community, as well as a baseball diamond near the school site. Today Crichton has one resident, and a few scattered buildings sitting abandoned.
As with most good folks in Saskatchewan, hospitality and good manners are important to Crichton citizens - now just one family.
However few are their numbers, good graces and courtesy are extended to anyone who happens to pass through Crichton, a former hamlet located behind a bluff along Hwy. 13 - Saskatchewan's Red Coat Trail - between Admiral and Cadillac.
Aime Lacelle, whose family roots in Crichton go back to the 1940s, recalls a fellow who was recently walking along the rail line, and who decided to check out the town, staggering up the winding road leading up to the hamlet. The man wasn't exactly dressed like a suave world traveler but that was okay with Aime. Visitors are always welcome in Crichton. Aimee remembers the man taking quite a liking to his dogs in his backyard, snapping photograph after photograph. When Aimee approached him, the man never moved, except to take several more pictures.
"I stood right beside him and he never even noticed me. I followed him a bit as he did move about to take a few more photos but he still didn't pay any attention to me," said Aimee.
The fellow kept at it, but Aimee just let him have his way. He didn't kick him out of town, nor call the cops. Eventually, the man finished his business and walked north up Main Street; veered into the sunset, and down below the bluff, and back towards the rail line to continue his solitary journey.
The rail line is now long gone and so too are any road signs along the highway to mark Crichton. But there is a cairn on a natural bench above the highway, honoring the hundreds of residents who lived in or near Crichton from 1909 to 1982.
The settlement was first surveyed between July 25 and 29, 1913 by Calgary's David Townsend. The small scattering of locals chose the name Crichton, after the Scottish poet and scholar born in Perthshire in 1560, the son of Scotland's Lord Advocate Robert Crichton. He was, according to Scottish legend, the original boy wonder - dubbed "Admirable" for his brilliant intellect - whose name became a byword for complete accomplishment - handsome, exceptional writer and artist, a superb horseman and fencer, and accomplished in all social graces. He died at the age of 22 in a street brawl in Italy, killed by his pupil. Coincidently, the first town to the west of Crichton is Admiral, now a near-ghost town with magnificent pioneer churches.
The history of Saskatchewan's Crichton - its beginnings and ultimate doom - is not as romantic as its Scot namesake, but it was a memorable prairie home for almost 90 families who lived in the hamlet since the first decade of the 20th century.
Old-timers marvel that the hamlet's first and last official residents were women - Granny Westlake, a midwife, being the original trailblazer because of the land's good water - and Anne Covlin, a school teacher, being the "official" final resident.
However, Aime Lacelle, whose family first came to Crichton in the 1940s, returned to the dying town in the mid-1980s after working in Alberta and northeastern Saskatchewan. Since his return, Aime and his wife Brenda have raised four children at the hamlet.
"I am not unhappy. Crichton has been good for us," said Aime, who raises sheep - and lovingly cares for his collection of dogs on his acreage.
Over the decades, Crichton enjoyed periods of modest prosperity; the site of three grain elevators, a school, a café and pool hall, garage, boarding house, a blacksmith shop, lumberyard, post office, livery barn, water tower, and a large warehouse attached to the general store - owned for many years by Abraham Gibbs. The warehouse also served as the hamlet's community centre, dance hall, theatre and auditorium. There was even a golf course and tennis courts built for the settlement, as well as a ball diamond near the school site.
"Although Crichton was the smallest community in the area, there was more activity here than in Admiral or Cadillac," said Aime, whose father Emile operated the general store after Gibbs died in 1942. "Traveling artists and entertainers would get off the train and put on shows in the warehouse."
Because of its central location in the area, Crichton also laid claim to be the busiest shipping point of hatching eggs in Saskatchewan between 1930 and 1940.
But like most small pioneer communities along the Red Coat Trail, Crichton could not sustain itself over the 20th century decades, and one by one, families and businesses left, never to be replaced. The water tower and CPR section house were closed and torn down in the early 1960s. The last of the three grain elevators was burned to the ground in 1985. The general store, which included the post office, was closed for the last time in 1970 and moved to a nearby farm. In 2000, the school was transported to a nearby Bible camp.
There are a few buildings still left along Main Street, as well as a few houses in the adjacent field to the east of the townsite, but they stand today only in quiet abandonment, except for the home of Aime Lacelle and his family.
For several years after he returned to Crichton, Lacelle would welcome visitors to the ghost town, many of them intrigued by the historical cairn down below near the highway. But nowadays, the curious are fewer and fewer.
"This summer (2002) has been the least number of visitors. Usually, there are some who come in and who slowly drive by to see things," said Aime. "The last guy was the fellow who was walking along the track."
UPDATE: Sept 26, 2012 - Deb McGonigal emailed us to let us know that her Mom and Dad have moved a house into the town and the total residents in town now total 3!
|Land Location||NW S08 T09 R14 W3M|
|Rural Municipality||77 - Wise Creek|
|GPS Location||49° 43' 25.82" N, 107° 52' 26.64" W|