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Sayers Brothers Freighting reigned from 1882 to 1890

Bresaylor Happenings: During the winter of 1885, the Sayers brothers hauled seven loads of freight from Prince Albert to the McKay Store in Battleford.
Bresaylor Museum
Bresaylor Heritage Museum is providing this column for the summer season for our readers' interest.

Prior to arriving at the Bresaylor Settlement in 1882, the Sayers brothers, Henry, Cleophas and Joseph, had been involved in freighting, especially Henry. Henry had equipment and manpower. He had been married twice and had 21 children. All his sons freighted as they were growing up, transporting goods from the railhead at Swift Current to Battleford or Bresaylor and then freighting to Prince Albert, Green Lake, Onion Lake, Fort Pitt, Frog Lake, Cold Lake and any other location freight needed to go.

The train of freight would be led by a wagon pulled by a horse or horses. An ox pulling a cart would be tethered to one back corner of the wagon, walking in the wagon rut ahead. Another ox would be tethered to the corner of that cart, with as many as 12 carts used. This spread out the ruts, lessening the chance of sinking in the mud. The horse in the front set the pace, being easier to control than an ox. Each cart carried approximately 1,000 pounds of payload. Only two men were needed, with one man driving the horse in the front wagon and the other man keeping the oxen and carts following each other.

In 1965, a reporter interviewed Henry’s son Joe, who was then 95 years old. Joe reminisced about his freighting days. He recalled that a round trip to Swift Current took 20 days, eight days going down empty and 12 days coming back loaded. He charged $2.50 per hundred pounds of freight. The best haul he ever made was handled by two men and netted him $1,700.

In November 1882, the Sayers brothers made a trip to Swift Current loaded with furniture from the old Government house in Battleford. They returned to Battleford loaded with more freight.

The year 1884 was a freighter’s paradise. Four hundred cartloads of freight arrived in Battleford during a two-week period. There was a shortage of freighters to haul all the freight from Swift Current that year.

In 1885, Inspector Frances Dickens of the North-West Mounted Police at Fort Pitt recorded that on Feb. 10 the Sayers brothers arrived with freight for the Indian Department. On Feb.16, he recorded them returning from Frog Lake where they had delivered two large millstones as well as other machinery for a mill that was to be built there. The millstones are still lying where they were unloaded, as the mill’s owners and workers were killed during the Frog Lake massacre.

During the winter of 1885, the Sayers brothers hauled seven loads of freight from Prince Albert to the McKay Store in Battleford.

The Sayers brothers also did some freighting on the North Saskatchewan River. In 1883 they arrived in Battleford with a raft of 150 building logs.

Freighting started to decline in 1890 when Saskatoon became the railhead for the area, a shorter distance to haul goods than Swift Current. Freighting continued to decrease when the railroad was built through Bresaylor in 1905. There was still some freighting to points north until the railroad was built north of the North Saskatchewan River through Edam and Turtleford.

The Bresaylor Heritage Museum is open again for the summer by appointment only from June 30 to Aug. 31. Please phone Enola at 306-893-8002 or Bob at 306-895-2075 to arrange a guided tour by one of our volunteer staff. Check out the Bresaylor Heritage Museum Facebook page for more information.