THE MUNICIPAL DISTRICT OF LINCOLN NO. 542 IS BORN:
A petition to form a municipal district in the area east of Elk Point was drawn up early in 1914. Meetings were held to permit expressions of opinion by all of the electorate, for not everyone favored the formation of such a district because some feared a rise in taxes. But the necessary six affirmative votes (there were ten electors in a township) were secured, and Lincoln Rural Municipality No.542 emerged on December 14, 1914. Records do not divulge reasons for the choice of name. One other name suggested was "Moose Mountain" and there may have been others. It can only be presumed that it was the U.S. background of the first settlers in the area that determined the name of "Lincoln".
The functions of the municipal district, as envisioned by the department, were to "provide for local public works and roads, public welfare, sanitation and health, and protection to persons and property". Taxes were to be levied on land only. The municipal district was to be governed by a council of six, headed by a reeve. The first council, elected effective December 22, 1914, consisted of Edward Kepke, Edward Smith, Fred Bowtell, John McCuen, John Hems and Henry Anderson.
The municipal district orginally included the following townships, or portions of them, north of the North Saskatchewan River: Townships 55, 56, 57 and 58 in Range 4: Townships 56, 57 and 58 in Range 5; and Townships 56, 57 and 58 in Range 6. The councillor, Mr. E. Smith, estimated the population in the following townships in 1914 as follows: T58 R6 W4 --54 persons T57 R6 W4 --170 persons Part T56 R6 W4 --94 persons (north of the river) Those figures are interesting because they indicate a population density that may exceed the density today.
At the first meeting of the council in January, 1915, Mr. Kepke was elected reeve, Mr. Bowtell deputy reeve, Mr. H. Ramsbottom was hired as secretary-treasurer at $275.00 per annum, Mr. W. Wolfe was appointed auditor. Mileage for councillors was set at 10~ a mile one way. Payment for meetings was set at $3.00 per diem for councillors and $3.50 for the reeve.
At other meetings that first year, land assessment was established at $6 an acre, municipal tax at 8 1/3 mills on the dollar, the rate of pay for roadwork was established at 25 cents an hour for the foreman, 20 cents an hour for a workman, and 40 cents an hour for a team of horses or oxen (the length of the day to be ten hours). Landholders could work the amount of $4.00 out in municipal taxes.
The first reported instance of pollution was dealt with at the June, 1915, meeting; fortunately the report of barnyard stream pollution was an error.
The potential need for enforcement of collection of arrears of taxes was discussed in that first year also; presumably such arrears must have accumulated on the books of the former territorial unit.
During 1916, the salary of secretary-assessor became $400.00, the municipal rate became 10 mills, land assessment was raised to $7.50 an acre, and the councillors voted to pay $15.00 an M. for tamarack plariks purchased for culvert construction, and $9.00 a day to themselves for road inspection.
The first seed grain advances appear to have been made in 1918, but they were necessary on a recurring basis over a period of the next twenty years. The 1918 and 1919 seasons were dry throughout the province and presumbaly here, too.
The first reference to rodents as a problem was made in 1918; gophers became numerous enough to pose a menace to crops. The municipal district purchased strychnine and resold it to farmers to ensure that a supply would be available to them.
In the fall of 1918, the excessive costs due to the flu epidemic were apparent, and correspondence had been forwarded to the department to request consideration from the government. Province-wide statistics indicated that one died for every nine who recovered from the disease. The local record is not known precisely, but it was indeed somber.
Welfare in the form of "relief' was extended to some worthy poor as early as 1919 and 1920. This assistance was not intended to be an outright grant, but, instead, was a form of credit to enable the purchase of food and domestic requirements. Interest was to be levied at 7 percent.
Inflation flared after World War I and undoubtedly contributed to the economic slowdown at the time. The cost of a binder, for example, increased from $275 in 1920, to $350 in 1921, equivalent to some 27 percent. Choice steers sold on the Calgary market at $7.00 to $8.25 per cwt., hogs were worth $14.50 per cwt., live, and creamery butter was priced at 53 to 58~ a pound.
An editorial in the St. Paul Star of January 20, 1921, portrayed optimism that the bottom of the post-war depression had been reached.
February, 1921, Dr. F. G. Miller approached the council to inform members of his plan to erect a private hospital in Elk Point. A sum (unreadable) was agreed upon to be paid by the municipal district for care per diem of each patient. This rate was 50 cents a patient day in 1923, with a maximum of $150 a year. The initiative and foresight indicated by both parties is most commendable. In 1925, Dr. Miller agreed to provide medical care at $1.00 a day for residents of the M.D. of Lincoln conditional upon receipt of a $400 grant. Fifty-eight such patients were treated in 1924 and 110 in 1926.
The rate was $2.50 a day otherwise. It was recorded in the minutes that the fee did not meet costs, therefore Dr. Miller was subsidizing the hospital's operation out of his own funds.
Concern over the damage caused by rodents by 1921 was illustrated in the council's decision to pay 2 cents a gopher tail delivered up to the end of May, and l cents a tail for any delivered thereafter. We must presume that, in order to secure the tail, a gopher must have been exterminated, and, secondly, that a tail in May might have been attached to a female gopher with motherhood in mind, hence the higher rate.
Tax rates were increasing, thus indicating an expansion in municipal services. The need for more and better roads was illustrated by the increased share of municipal taxes that a landholder could work out on the roads -- in 1923 the fraction was 2/3 of municipal taxes. Councillors were devoting more time to road inspections, as indicated by a total bill for all six of $168 in 1921.
The name of T.R. Johnson appeared in the records when he was appointed auditor in 1922 for a fee of $45.00. Mr. W. Wolfe, the first auditor, was followed by Albert Whitworth in 1918, and, subsequently, by Mr. T. Johnson. It is recorded that Mr. W. Chester was auditor from 1925 to 1929.
The first secretary, Mr. H. Ramsbottom, had been a teacher as well. Mr. Dan Groves was hired in his stead from January 3, 1916, until April 24, 1916, but on that latter date Mr. Rarusbottom was rehired. He served until he suffered a heart attack and passed away on October 9, 1923. Mr. T. R. Johnson was appointed secretary protem. On October 20, 1923, Mrs. Ramsbottom was appointed secretary by the council at an annual salary of $700. Upon her resignation, Mr. T.R. Johnson was appointed secretary, January 12, 1924, with the provision that Mrs. Ramsbottom act as his assistant until he returned from a visit to Ireland. Mr. Johnson was to ifil the position with dedication and excellence until his resignation in 1940.
Perusal of the correspondence of the early years directed to the department from residents indicated that some of the ratepayers were concerned over what they considered to be improprieties on the part of chairmen of the annual meetings, and over the pros and cons of permitting councillors to work out a share of their own municipal taxes. Another item involved livestock running at large and, most especially, livestock from other areas imposing on the municipal area; since many farmers depended upon pasturing open land, invasion by unwanted horses and cattle threatened that aspect of their livelihood.
Dr. Miller became Medical Officer of Health, replacing Dr. Gagnon.
In 1923, Mr. H. Smith was appointed Fire Guardian, an example of further proliferation of functions of the local government.
The council levied a $5.00 professional tax on teachers. However, they learned that this was uncollectable when the department judged that "A school teacher is merely an ordinary worker or laborer - - - - and is therefore not considered in a professional class".
At the annual meeting, February 18, 1928, Mr. O.J. Fish was elected a member of the Elk Point Hospital Board.
The municipal records indicate that, by 1928, the terms of sale of land which had reverted to the municipal district under the Tax Recovery Act, and which was sold under the terms of that act, were largely 20 percent down, and 20 percent a year, with interest at 8 percent.
It is interesting to note the air of optimism and development in 1928-29 just preceding the onset of the Great Depression. A resolution had been passed in October of 1928 supporting the St. Paul-North Battleford Railway Association in their efforts to effect the completion of the forty mile gap in the railway. In March,1929, Member of Parliament, Mr. Kellner, wrote to state that he had assurances from Sir Henry Thornton that the gap would be completed at an early date, and further assurances that funds would be provided when the next building program was put before parliament.
By then tractors must have appeared in the area because a rate of $2.00 an hour was approved for a tractor and operator for roadwork.
Some 1800 acres were estimated to have been broken in 1928, and eight additional families entered the municipal district.
Residents of Division 4 of the M.D. of Laurier, adjoining Elk Point on the west, indicated an interest in transferring to the M.D. of Lincoln. One of the difficulties inherent in this situation was the transfer of a share of the assets and/or liabilities from the M.D. of Laurier, and, as well, the disposition of arrears of taxes on the tax roll. Accordingly, it did not proceed.
A plan for the hamlet of Lindbergh, undoubtedly with expectations of considerable growth, was registered in 1929. This, of course, spelled the end of Mooswa, the site of the original telegraph station and businesses.
The roadwork allocation system was amended. Instead of every ratepayer automatically being accorded the right to work out a fixed portion of his municipal taxes, the counci -br was allocated a sum of money for his division, some of which was subsequently paid out in cash