MOOSE JAW, Sask. — The band played, horses and wagons pulled people around the grounds and somewhere in the crowd, someone was keeping a happy and satisfying secret.
More than 1,100 people gathered Sept. 7 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Mawer, Sask., grain elevator and its grand opening at its new home at the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village and Museum south of Moose Jaw.
One of them, organizers hoped, was the anonymous donor of $30,000 to help move the facility.
Museum president Gord Ross said the donation — the largest to the cause — had come with a note saying the donor would be there when the elevator was officially opened.
“If he is standing in the crowd, I would like to say thank you on behalf of the organization,” Ross said.
The donation was key to the project, which began in 2006 when the three owners of the Mawer elevator decided to donate it to the museum. One of the three, Larry Small, lived about four kilometres south of the elevator and believes he was the last to deliver grain there with horses.
“It’s quite an honour to be part of a historic achievement like this,” he said.
The Warner Grain Co. opened the elevator in Mawer, near Central Butte, Sask., in 1913, said Frank Lloyd, chair of the museum’s elevator committee.
The 30,000 bushel facility operated on a single cylinder Fairbanks engine located in the adjacent office. Lloyd said the engine is running, but the elevator isn’t operational.
“Our mandate is to make it run,” he said. “We want to make the belts work and then slow it down so people can see it working.”
The Victoria Elevator Co., a subsidiary of McCabe, took over in about 1923, and the McCabe name went on the building in the late 1920s when the company amalgamated its holdings.
The elevator became part of Sask-atchewan Wheat Pool’s vast network in 1968 and closed in 1994.
Small said the partners decided to donate the elevator because there were two elevators side by side.
“The bigger one was newer and better and we used it for storage,” he said.
“Frank and his dad said they could use one (at the museum).”
The Mawer elevator was structurally sound, unlike another facility the museum committee was considering.
However, moving the building 150 kilometres was going to cost a lot of money that the committee didn’t have. A fundraising drive began, and while every donation was valuable, the $30,000 was critical.
The museum hired Wiebe Movers from Saskatoon.
“It was the 367th elevator they moved, and it was their last move,” said Lloyd.
The building crossed the Canadian Pacific Railway line at Mortlach, Sask., and arrived at its new home Aug. 29, 2007.
Ross said workers have since spent about $100,000 to paint and refurbish the elevator.
It’s a highlight of the museum, along with a ship built by Tom Suk-anen that inspired the museum, but there are acres of buildings and antiques to see.
Lloyd said the last event for this year will be the haunted museum to celebrate Halloween.