A committee of community residents have begun fundraising efforts in order to put up a statue in honour of pioneer women who helped settle the Weyburn region over a century ago.
“Weyburn needs another statue, one that tells about people whose story has never been told,” said Ross McMurtry, who had the idea come to him some time ago that this statue was needed for the community.
Other members of the committee include Isabelle Butters, Mayvis Goranson, Stan Runne, Heather van der Breggen, Leo Leydon and Jan Linnell.
McMurtry convened a group of supporters for the statue project at the Public Library on Saturday, explaining the details as they are currently determined, before people went out to ask family and friends to contribute towards this project.
The statue itself will cost a total of around $120,000, taxes included, of which the group has just over $21,000 raised as of Saturday morning. Runne said the group needs at least $25,000 before they will place the order with the sculptors to begin the work, with a current goal to have the funds raised and the statue installed by this fall.
The sculptors are Shirley and Don Begg of Cochrane, who own their own foundry and studio, and said they will assist with the installation of the statue once it’s completed.
In addition to the funds being collected towards the statue, the committee is also asking Weyburn and area residents to submit their stories of the pioneer women in their families who helped settle this region, stories that talk about what they endured to be able to establish a new life in the region with their family.
McMurtry has already begun talking to area municipal councils about the project, including the City of Weyburn and six RMs in the area.
He told the group of supporters that the city will take possession of the statue, and will determine a location for it, will install it and will provide perpetual maintenance of the site.
Asked what sites are being considered, McMurtry said most likely it will be along the boardwalk area near the Souris River, but apart from the Tommy Douglas statue, which is located between Third Street and Government Road along the boardwalk.
One suggestion from a supporter was to place it in front of the Wheatland Seniors Centre, which McMurtry acknowledged had been made, but noted the boardwalk location was suggested so the donations could be made as contributions to the Tatagwa Parkway system.
In describing pioneer women, McMurtry said, “They came from settled areas to a land with no schools, no churches, no hospitals and no amenities like the community from which they came.”
He said the women came with their men, “not knowing what to expect.”
They had no doctors to help with child birth, and often had no neighbours close enough to call on in an emergency, or who could provide comfort or companionship on the prairies.
“We have our Wall of Fame, where those who are well-known are preserved for generations yet to come. This is as it should be,” said McMurtry, adding of the pioneer women, “their names are not known. They are like the stones in a foundation of a building, hidden and unseen, without which the building wouldn’t stand the test of time.”
He admitted he has had people ask him why there should be another statue, and he said it’s “to help us and future generations to never forget the pioneer women who came and locked their dreams away so we wouldn’t have to dream of a better future.”
The stories the committee wants people to send will be bound up in a book which will be placed in the museum and library to help future generations remember who the pioneer women of this region were.
The stories can be sent to Jan Linnell, Mayvis Goranson or Isabelle Butters, or can be sent to the Facebook page, Pioneer Women Sculpture.
Charitable receipts will be issued by the City for all donations that are over $20.
“We want to be clear we’re not asking this of everybody; let people make their response according to their ability,” said McMurtry, adding, “It’s for education as much or more than collecting money for the statue.”