As the railway was built across the prairies, more and more settlers arrived. Communities sprang up along the train tracks and crossroads to provide services for the settlers. People with special talents or interests began offering their services to others by setting up shops. Going to town to shop gave people an opportunity to meet others. Shops were often set up in people's homes. The owners would live upstairs.

Some of the businesses and services:
  • general store
  • harness shop
  • blacksmith shop
  • livery stable (barn)
  • grain elevator
  • carpentry shop
  • inn (hotel)
  • train station
  • land titles office/law office
  • printing shop (newspaper)
  • bank
  • barber shop
  • dress shop
  • doctor, dentist, druggist
  • churches
  • school
shop shop hotel shop house

The general store was often the first business in a community. People needed food which they could not produce and supplies which they could not make themselves. The general store sold goods ranging from food to farming supplies. The store became a popular meeting place where people could hear the latest news. The storekeeper knew everyone in the community and knew everything that went on in that community.
( more about the general store )


The first post office in a community was often set up in one corner of the general store. The homesteader looked forward to a trip into town to pick up groceries and mail. Once the mail order catalogues arrived the post office served as a delivery place for the items that people ordered from the catalogue.

train station

The growth of prairie communities depended greatly on the railway. The railway brought many people to the prairies. Supplies and machinery were transported by train. Farm produce was shipped away by train.


Most of the settlers got their hair cut at home. If someone was good with scissors and had handclippers that person might have set up a small barber shop in his home. Later a shop might have opened on the main street of the town. At the barbershop men could get a shave, shampoo and haircut. This was a popular meeting place for men.


The blacksmith shaped metals into different pieces of equipment. He repaired broken machinery (ploughshares, rims of wagon wheels) and was responsible for shoeing the horses. (more about the blacksmith)


People who did not own a horse could come to the livery stable to rent one. Buggies, wagons and sleighs could also be rented. When someone came to town and planned to stay for awhile, the livery stable was the place to leave the horses. Horses would get food and water.


This type of shop was run by a person who worked with leather and had a heavy-duty sewing machine. The shop owner would repair and also make and sell harness equipment, saddles, shoes and boots.

DRESS SHOP (and hat shop)

In the community there might have been a lady who was talented in sewing. She usually worked out of her home, sewing clothing to earn some money. Most of the woman made their own clothes but the dressmaker (seamstress) could sew special outfits. A lady was very fortunate to own a sewing machine. If business was good a dress shop might be set up on the main street of town. Hats and material were also sold at the dress shop. Later clothing was also bought through mail order catalogues.


The homesteaders would come here to get their deeds of ownership for their land. The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 offered homesteads of 160 acres for $10. The settler had to live on the homestead for at least six months each year for three years, build a home, break some land and seed at least 20 acres.


Attending church services was one ways that people were able to meet their neighbors . It was the church that helped to create a sense of community among the settlers. Before an actual church was built, people would often gather at someone's home for services (or in the school). The early churches were very cold in the winter with a small stove providing the only heat.


The one room school was one of the first services in a community. The school was not only a place for education. The building also served as a place for religious services until a church could be built. Dances, concerts and plays were held at the schoolhouse.


The doctor in a small prairie town had many duties. The doctor fixed broken limbs, diagnosed and treated many illnesses, delivered babies, and pulled teeth if there was no dentist in town. The doctor sometimes travelled to the patient's home if the person was unable to come to town.

house house house house
As more people moved into the communities people would get together for sports - baseball and football in the summer; curling, skating and hockey in the winter.

Everyone looked forward to a community picnic It was a day filled with fun. Families would arrive in the morning with their baskets of food. During the day there were races and games. Lunch was a time to share food with others. Picnic baskets were filled with plenty of sandwiches, ham, chicken, salads, cakes, pies and cookies. Activities included ball games, singing and maybe even dancing. At the end of the day everyone got back on their wagons and headed for home.

| Early days - an introduction | Coming to Canada | Building a home |
| Survival - food & clothing | School, general store, blacksmith |
| Inside a settler's home | Transportation | Fun & games | Pioneer communities |
| Links | Canada | Web Pages for Students |

web page by J. Giannetta
2004 (updated 2011)

graphics - credits