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History: Robert Sinton, Pioneer

Reprinted from the August 1952 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Robert Sinton.

Robert Sinton, Pioneer
By May Neal, Regina, Sask.

The long, long life of Robert Sinton, Regina’s Grand Old Pioneer, parallels the development of the Western Livestock Industry from its beginning.

He was born in Quebec in May 1854 of parents who immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1830.

In 1878, when Sinton was 24 years of age, he traveled by rail, lake, rail-and-river to Fort Garry where he joined a party of young British immigrants headed for the ox-cart trail of the West. They plodded West to Portage La Prairie and Northwest to Rapid City, rumored to be a future metropolis. Here they decided to locate and filed on land.

Rapid City grew and land values boomed — until the survey for the mooted railway changed. Mr. Sinton succeeded in selling his proven homestead for a satisfactory figure in 1882 and decided to move on to the Great Open Spaces.

His trek took him through the Qu’Appelle Valley where he contemplated settling, but persistent rumor favored the flatter plains of the westward Pile of Bones area as the new future capital of the North West Territories. Confirmed in his own opinion by the Mounted Police taking position on the creek bank where the RCMP barracks now stand, he filed on the closest homestead available three miles due south of the barracks.

Robert Sinton’s business activities through the years immediately following, hauling lumber, conveying supplies for the Mounted Police to their Prince Albert post and transport work during the Riel uprising confirmed the drastic need for horses in the expanding West.

To implement this idea, Mr. Sinton, with two other men and a guide, set out in the spring of 1886 toward Fort Benton on the Missouri River from where great horse-drawn caravans operated up-country to Fort Helena. From there they procured a hundred horses.

This treacherous journey was repeated more times than Mr. Sinton could, in later years, tabulate. During these busy summers of herding horses Mr. Sinton continued his farming operations with other lands, in town and surrounding the property on which the Saskatchewan Legislature Buildings now stand.

Cattle in the Assiniboia area, now southern Saskatchewan, in the early ’90s were range-bred. A higher standard was conclusively necessary if, and the possibility was foreseeable by 1890, the West could attain and hold its place as a cattle exporter. Mr. Sinton established his own business for buying and selling cattle. From this he became acutely aware of the desirability for better stock. Importing his first small herd of Herefords from Manitoba, he later added stock from Illinois and Kansas, thus pioneering his vast pedigreed stock importations. He gradually increased the number of purebred Herefords until he had a herd of about 200 ranged on the new Legislative Buildings grounds.

In 1905 in Regina during the Spring Fair, livestock men gathered in the J.I. Case Building next to the Show Grounds and organized the first Provincial Livestock Breeders Association representing breeders of horses, cattle, sheep and swine. Mr. Sinton accepted the Presidency and succeeded in persuading the Regina City Council, of which he was a member, to erect the Winter Fair Building and stable at a cost of $20,000. The Winter Fair Association was consequently organized and Mr. Sinton was elected President of that Association also.

In 1905 the Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were formed. Having derived a considerable sum from the sale of his south lake property to realtors, who in turn sold it for the Saskatchewan Legislative Buildings grounds, and the sale of his Hereford herd, Mr. Sinton considered retiring. Fortunately he decided that since his “keenest interests” had a leaning towards the horse division of the industry he would visit Scotland, the world’s nursery for the famous Clydesdale breed. In all he made 10 more trips abroad to procure pedigreed horses.

In 1908 Dr. Rutherford, Dominion Livestock Commissioner, called a Convention of National Livestock Associations in Ontario at which Mr. Sinton presented an address titled “The Passing of the Range” expounding the theory that in southern Saskatchewan where agriculture and open-range development threatened to overlap, a system of extensive mixed farming should be introduced and proposed the idea of municipal ranges.

Development to 1909 justified the Sask­atchewan Stock Breeder’s Association reorganizing into four livestock associations, namely horse, cattle, sheep and swine, thus creating the need for the Provincial Livestock Board comprised of the executive of the four associations. Robert Sinton was unanimously elected President of this board which also carried with it a place on the Advisory Board of the University of Sask­atchewan College of Agriculture.

Apart from his official efforts in the promotion of animal husbandry, Mr. Sinton’s contributions in purebred animals numbered about 450 Herefords and 300 Clydesdales. In 1927 the Saskatchewan Agricultural Societies Association presented an honorable life membership to Robert Sinton in recognition of his outstanding services.

He remained active into his 90s, walking miles every day, until his passing in 1952 at the age of 98.

‘Our History’ is curated by Gren Winslow.

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