Pioneer Homes and Builders

When the Elk Point district was first settled during the pioneer years, most homes were crudely built using whatever building material that was available. There was nothing fancy about these early homes, they did, however, serve their purpose well ‑ that of providing a shelter for these early settlers.

Some of the very early homes were sod homes, while others were constructed of logs plastered with mud, which helped to keep the wind out during our long and severe winters. There were few set standards in home building during the pioneer years. Seldom were two homes built alike. Some were roofed with sod while others used home made shingles split by a shingle splitter.

In later years, saw mills were set up throughout the district making rough lumber available for home building. Supplies such as doors, windows, nails and hinges were purchased from building supply houses in Vermilion, St. Paul and Elk Point. Proper insulating material wasn't readily available during the early years and many homes were difficult to keep warm. Some did try using shavings or sawdust between their walls, however it was of little use. Once the shavings and sawdust settled between the walls. The upper part of the structure allowed the frost to penetrate causing uneven heating.

Many of our early settlers came from Europe. Many were poor but this didn't stop them from building a comfortable shelter. Our early Ukrainian settlers built homes similar to those they left behind when they came to Canada. Their homes were constructed of logs and had straw thatched roofs. The walls were sealed with mud plaster and later calsomined, giving these homes a clean, attractive appearance. Barns, as well as other farm buildings, were also constructed of logs or rough lumber.

Some even went to a lot of trouble building a root cellar. It was used for storing vegetables for long periods of time. A properly constructed root cellar had two doors ‑an inner and an outer door. It also had a floor vent as well as a ceiling vent. These vents helped to maintain proper ventilation throughout the underground structure ‑ without a proper ventilating system, stored vegetables would soon spoil.

Usually pioneer homes weren't big to start with. As the size of the pioneer's family increased, so did the size of his home.  Many early settlers were inexperienced when it came to home building and had to rely on their neighbors or hire an outside carpenter to do the work for them. The Elk Point district had a few home builders during the early years who could be depended on. One of the first was O.C. Haley who boarded with the J‑B‑Caskey family In 1909 he mailed out post cards to many settlers advising them he was available. His post card read: "O.C.Haley (Jack the House Carpenter) Contractor and Builder ‑ My personal attention given to all work entrusted to me. I am at Caskeyville" (5 miles southwest of Elk Point).

Another well known house builder was Helge Hesselgren. He was an exceptionally good finishing carpenter and was always in demand because of his skills. Hesselgren built many of our better homes and businesses during the many years he remained in our district. One of his show pieces was the P.J. Keitges residence. It was a massive home that had many rooms and was considered to be the finest home in the Elk Point district. This home is now owned by Cameron and Vi Isert. Other buildings constructed by Mr. Hesselgren were the MacDonald Drug Store, the C.A. Johnson Store the C.J. Markstad Store, Charles Hood's Post Office and Hardware Store, the J.B. Caskey Hotel as well as the Caskey Livery Barn. He also built many other structures in the Elk Point district. His business card read: "J. Hesselgren, Building Contractor  The Man Who Created Elk Point."

Other early carpenters in the Elk Point district were Jesse Pool, Leon Richter and William Lundquist.   In later years, when settlers acquired sufficient funds, they replaced many of these old homes with more modern ones which provided more comfort to them. Driving around today, we find very few of these early pioneer homes still standing. Many have deteriorated from neglect and have since fallen down and rotted away. These early homes are gone, but not forgotten.