Ghost Stories: Tales of Empty Towns


Incorporated in 1913 as a railroad town, Scotsguard was originally called Notukeu until it was discovered that there was somehow already another village by that name in Saskatchewan. It was known as "Little Chicago" because of the lively trade in bootlegged liquor and gambling during prohibition. It was a busy and thriving town during these early years, with a population of over 350 people that supported numerous grain elevators and other businesses in addition to three churches, a golf course, curling rink, and numerous other sports and leisure facilities. The Depression had a significant impact on the town, and larger neighbouring communities had the edge on local businesses struggling to stay afloat. The bank closed in 1934 and a fire in 1941 ravaged the downtown and destroyed 11 buildings in the financial core. In 1953, it was officially unincorporated. Today, only a few residents remain in what was once a busy little town.

Dana, SK

1906 - 1927 (unincorporated), post office closed 1970
Dana was known for its clear springs that were said to have healing properties. At its height, Dana's population reached 300 people and the town was home to a salt mine and nine businesses. However, the salt mine closed and a series of fires prompted the town's decline. An RCAF radar base was established near the town site in the 1960s, but it too closed in 1987.


Incorporated as a village in 1912, Expanse was founded as a railway town and named by the CPR. As many railway towns did in the early days of the railroad, Expanse experienced a boom for a few years and counted a population of 126 citizens at its peak. However, the town was hit by a devastating tornado in 1925, and in 1947 the sulphur plant in nearby Bishopric closed, resulting in the loss of employment for many residents. The village was unincorporated and remained an organized hamlet until 1965.


Axford began as the town of Forward, an end of the line railway town counting a population of 1,200 people from 1906 to 1911. When a CNR line crossed the CPR line near the town, community and business leaders proposed that residents should move three miles southwest, to the new intersection. The name of the town was changed when the move was accepted, and by 1913 the community has reestablished itself in the new location and continued to prosper from the strategic move. However, the town was competing with other prosperous towns along the line. As a result, Axford began to decline, and when fires devastated local businesses, there was no effort to rebuild. By 1949, the school had closed, and the store and post office were soon to follow in subsequent years. The last house on the site was removed in 1966, and today nothing but a memorial plaque remains to mark the place where this thriving town once stood.


Founded as the town of Lawrie in 1898, the community changed its name to Insinger in 1907. Populated primarily by people of Ukrainian descent, the townspeople built a beautiful Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church that still stands today. Insinger thrived throughout the early to mid 1900s, as the railway came through in 1903 and a railway station was built in 1920. Its decline began in the 1960s when the school closed. In 1981, less than 20 people remained, and the town's grain elevators were demolished in 1999.

Insinger from the ground in 1981