“Minnedosa” is a Sioux word that translates as flowing water. Appropriately named, as the town of Minnedosa lies nestled in a valley carved on the prairie landscape some 13,000 years ago by the rushing melt waters of the last great ice age. For the last few thousand years before the arrival of European settlement the area was alternately occupied by Cree, Assiniboine, Sioux, and Ojibwa. Migrating herds of bison traversed the valley seeking the winter shelter of the Riding Mountain to the north and spring pasture of the southern plains. As the glacier continued to melt, water filled depressions were left in its wake. These potholes provide excellent breeding habitat for water fowl making the Minnedosa area the duck factory of North America. The area boasts the largest remaining concentrations of the Canvasback Duck.
John Tanner’s arrival in the area about 1869 set the wheels in motion for the birth of Minnedosa. Tanner operated a ferry to assist settlers cross the Little Saskatchewan River. The arrival of the railroad made the ferry obsolete, and the town of Minnedosa was born.
The site of the original Tanners Crossing is identified at the Centennial Park along the present day Beach Road. Tanner also operated the first post office in an unorganized manner. It was reported that as mail arrived, it was dumped out on the floor and rummaged through by all present who were expecting mail. J. S. Armitage arrived on the scene in 1877. He soon joined forces with John Tanner to lay out a town site. By 1880 he had established both a sawmill and gristmill. He and his wife would soon control 3,800 acres along the Little Saskatchewan River, as well as the town site in conjunction with Tanner. Before long Minnedosa would boast of a brickyard, two lime kilns, cheese factory, and creamery. H. G. Henderson established the first store in Minnedosa, followed shortly by P.J. McDermott who for 50 years remained the leading merchant.
The late 1870’s and early 1880’s saw a large influx of settlers arrive as homesteaders were enticed by settlement schemes backed by the Canadian Government and the North Western Railway. Homesteaders were allowed to acquire 160 acres for a $10.00 fee provided they met certain conditions. During the first year, 5 acres were to be cleared and broken. In the second year, five acres had to be cropped and a further 10 acres broken. During the second year, a dwelling was to be built and occupied by the end of the third year.
1883 was a banner year for the fledgling town of Minnedosa. On April 5 the first meeting of council of the newly incorporated town was held in a bar. The railway finally reached Minnedosa. On November 27, 1883 the first passenger train arrived from the east. Settlement of the area would now begin in earnest.
In 1885 John Tanner left Minnedosa for more open spaces near present day Prince Albert. He was reported to be running a post office. Today the Minnedosa elementary school and a small park on Main Street bear the name Tanner’s Crossing.
As Minnedosa grew so did its infrastructure. By 1889 Minnedosa had one phone and by 1900 had 33 subscribers. Electricity came to Minnedosa in 1903 when a factory engine in the Scott Brothers Sash and Door Factory generated enough electricity to supply 4 street lights.
1910-1912 saw the construction of a dam and powerhouse on the Little Saskatchewan River, which generated hydro power until 1933. The dam also created Minnedosa Lake, which has been and still is, one of the recreational highlights in the area.