Prior to the arrival of Europeans, this area was part of the hunting territory of up to four nomadic First Nations groups. Numerous gravesites and teepee rings are still identifiable on unbroken prairie hilltops. According to local memory, visitations by native groups to the medicine wheel located on the highest promontory south of Elrose occurred up to around 1920. Other ancient sites of archeological interest are located within the R.M. (see Sites of Interest).
Previous to the building of railroads, many travelers through the area followed the Battleford Trail. This winding cart trail connected Fort Battleford on the North Saskatchewan River with the Saskatchewan Landing, a natural crossing on the South Saskatchewan River. During the Northwest Rebellion in 1885, Colonel W.D. Otter marched up the trail with relief troops heading for Fort Battleford. Beginning their journey at Fort Qu’Appelle, they traveled by train to Swift Current, then north to the Saskatchewan Landing and onward, following the trail through the district. A spring-fed watering hole, historically well used by travelers and near to a still visible remnant of the Battleford Trail, bears the name Otter Springs in memory of the colonel’s campsite there.
After the disappearance of the bison herds, but before railroads were laid through the district, the grasslands were used by various ranching operations. The largest of these was the Matador Land and Cattle Company. With operations on several continents, this was the largest ranching enterprise in the world. It bred cattle on breeding ranches in Texas and Oklahoma and shipped young animals north to its ranches in South Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan. In its local operations, it grazed cattle on 140,000 acres in the Coteau Hills just to the south of the future R.M. of Monet. After the railways passed through the district in 1913-14, cattle were shipped to Winnipeg from loading yards in Hughton. However, with the rails came a tide of farmers, and increasing settlement put an end to the ranching era. A last great cattle drive in 1921 saw 3,500 animals driven 350 miles to Montana, signaling the end of Matador’s Canadian operations. Stan Graber, a former resident of Elrose, worked as a cowboy on the Matador Ranch. His memoirs, The Last Roundup, published in 1995, combine local history with fascinating details of life as a ranch hand in this era.
Some homesteaders and other settlers were established in the area before the arrival of the railroads, but the majority of newcomers arrived by rail later. In 1909, the R.M. of Monet #257 was organized. It was named after a local farmer, Fortunat Monet (pronounced and origionally spelled Monette), who farmed north of the hamlet of Forgan. He acted as returning officer for the organizing vote and lent his name to the newly formed municipality. After the railway arrived in 1913, the countryside quickly filled with people. Schools and grain elevators were built, hamlets and towns grew as more people arrived, and prairie sod was turned under to sow crops. The newly tilled land was rich, agriculture was profitable, and communities thrived.
This photo was sent to me by Pierre Monette, Grandson of Fort Monet, on April 8, 2009:
April 13, 2009
The little house was on Fort Monette land (SW 1-27-13-3). The photo was taken in spring 1909, my father was born in June the same year. The tree was brought from Montana according to my aunt Alexandrine, the oldest of the family.
I saw that you are celebrating the centennial of the R.M. of Monet this year, I would like to know the date and the program or festivities, if any. If you need a better photo I could send you by mail.
Have a nice day.
April 4, 2009
Hope you are all well. I have been looking at your site and was very happy of the work. You see I am the grandson of Fortunat Monette and it was with great joy to find out that he had something to do with your town.
Jacques Fortunat Monette
When the challenging Dirty Thirties arrived, drought, grasshoppers and unenlightened agronomic practices drove many people from the area. Those who remained learned to conserve soil moisture and fertility. Driftdirt ridges still mark the locations of fence lines or field edges buried beneath tons of wind-blown soil. Some areas with lighter textured soils were severely degraded by the drought conditions and deemed unsuitable for further tillage. Large tracts located in two ranges of hills within the R.M. were purchased and reseeded to grass by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act (P.F.R.A.) creating the Monet and Fairview community pastures.
In 1966 the neighboring R.M. of Fairview #258 was disbanded to join adjacent municipalities. The western half of Fairview was amalgamated with the R.M. of Snipe Lake # 259, and the eastern half was joined to the R.M. of Monet #257 to form larger, more financially viable municipal entities. The Monet municipal headquarters were moved from the hamlet of Hughton to their present location in Elrose.
The small communities of Greenan, Wartime, Hughton, and Forgan exist as unorganized hamlets (without their own governing councils) within the R.M. Two hamlets, Gunnworth and Chipperfield, have ceased to exist, having no buildings remaining on their sites. Local community clubs have marked a number of former rural schools sites with roadside monuments and memorial plaques (see Sites of Interest).
A more complete rendering of the history of the R.M. can be found in the community history book entitled Prairie To Wheat Fields published in 2005.