Elbow was incorporated as a Village in 1909. " A typical prairie village", wrote author Farley Mowat about a 1934 visit, "with an unpaved main street as wide as the average Ontario farm".
That same wide main street has been paved since then. There have been other changes too, many of them associated with the village's proximity to the lake. A well-manicured 18-hole golf course and a deep-water marina are the two major attractions, bringing thousands of visitors each summer.
In the early 1900's, the river was not a lake, but rather a highway for travellers. The old Indian and Metis trails wound along the Saskatchewan River and Qu'Appelle valleys, bringing families from eastern Canada, United States & Europe. These pioneers, in a few decades, changed the open prairie into settled farmland.
The first known settler was James Middaugh, who arrived in 1898. His log cabin & ranch had no neighbours until 1903, when the Carey's homesteaded nearby. Soon there was an influx of settlers, both farmers & business people. By 1909 boardwalks and false fronted stores proclaimed a cocky optimism. A favourite slogan: "Fifty years ago Palliser slept here. Nobody is asleep here now!"
The boomtown of the early days developed into a staid little prairie town, with a business district serving the surrounding farming community. The "Dirty Thirties" took their toll on both the farms and businesses, but the following decades saw a return of modest prosperity.
The 1960's saw another boom, with the building of the dams on the South Saskatchewan River, bringing in an influx of workers. The changes brought by the dams to both the countryside and the town has proven to be a mixed blessing. Some farms and pastures were flooded. Neighbours (and customers) across the river suddenly became almost like strangers across the lake. Beautiful picnic and camping areas disappeared under deep water.
However, Lake Diefenbaker made irrigation a new agricultural option. The arrival of tourists, especially with the development of beautiful Douglas Park, replaced the customers at the general store. New camping and picnic spots were developed, such as "Tufts Bay" at the edge of Elbow. And with the development of Harbor Golf and Lakeside Marina, golfing and sailing soon became part of everyday life in Elbow.
With all the changes, Elbow is still essentially a quiet prairie Village, where neighbours value each other and extend friendly greetings to strangers, rightly assuming that they are likely "just neighbours they have not met yet".
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