Multimedia > Multimedia essays

Ratcliffe, SK

In this photo essay, I have tried to imagine the sounds of the time - the laughter of children in the schoolhouse, the sounds of nature, the activity of a home, the stillness of the land. I hope I was able to capture even just a glimmer of this beautiful place.

Ratcliffe, Sastatchewan, was situated like most small towns at the turn of the 20th century in southern Saskatchewan, amidst a vast prairie plane that suffered through droughts as well as the progress of the larger communities. Now it is simply a few empty structures. But there was a time when Ratcliffe, though always very small, was essential to the community.

In 1908 the only service in the Ratcliffe area was a post office which Joseph Ratcliffe ran out of his home. It wasn’t until 1926 that Canadian Pacific Railway laid the tracks and by 1929 Ratcliffe had a school house, a store, a hotel and cafe, a grain elevator and a few various other services a small town needs.

The schoolhouse was built in 1929 and children were taught here until 1958 when it officially closed. During this time, 28 teachers taught in the small schoolhouse, four of which were men. Behind the schoolhouse you will see another small building; this was the teacher’s home. It was typical for communities to build a teacher’s home behind the schoolhouse.

The abandoned home appears to have been lived in up through the 1970's based on the furnishings, however, these homes have also been known to attract squatters, hunters and wayward individuals, so it is unclear what went on in the home once the original owners vacated.

The area of Ratcliffe is still a farming community though the town and its services no longer exist. Once the railway was closed and transportation became easier, bigger communities began to thrive and small towns like Ratcliffe were no longer useful. These service buildings are the only pieces left of the Town of Ratcliffe.