Settlement of Esterhazy-Kaposvar

Roman Catholic Church in Saskatchewan, near Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, 1912. © Canada. Dept. of Mines and Technical Surveys / Library and Archives Canada / PA-019361

For the Week of Monday July 6, 2020.

On July 9, 1902, the former Hungarian special immigration agent of the Dominion of Canada, Paul Oskar Esterhazy, travelled to Esterhaz in the southeastern region of what became Saskatchewan in 1905. He was there to investigate the progress of Hungarian settlements he was instrumental in founding. 

In 1885, Paul Esterhazy approached the federal government with plans for Hungarian immigration to the North-West Territories (1870–1905)—a vast area of land, stretching to the west and the north of central Canada, which became part of the dominion in 1870. His scheme began later that year, when the first 38 families—among them Hungarians—left Pennsylvania for the New Hungary Colony (later Hun’s Valley, now Polonia, Manitoba) on the promise of 160 acres of land and freedom from exploitation in the mining towns of the northeastern United States. 

A second settlement began in 1886, when 35 Hungarian families left Pennsylvania for Esterhaz, one of the earliest ethnic block settlements in the Canadian West. This colony was settled on lands within the boundaries of Treaty 4 (Qu’Appelle Treaty), signed by the Cree, the Saulteaux, the Assiniboine, and the Crown in 1874. The Hungarian community persisted despite a harsh first winter where many settlers returned to the United States, problems with payment and suspension of government support. Esterhaz grew when 20 more families arrived from Hungary in 1888. In time, a new post office (Kaposvar) became the focal point of Hungarian settlement. Named after a city in Hungary, Kaposvar gradually became the dominant name of the ethnic bloc settlement. A new railway station, six kilometres north of Kaposvar, was named in honour of Paul Esterhazy in 1902, laying the foundations for the village (1903) and eventually the adjacent town of Esterhazy.

In the years that followed his employment as special immigration agent, Paul Esterhazy encouraged immigration to both Canada and the United States from Hungary, where farming families struggled to survive on small agricultural homesteads. In 1902, he travelled to Esterhazy-Kaposvar from his home in New York to publish a history of the community for an illustrated pamphlet promoting the North-West Territories to Hungarian immigrants. Thanks in part to his efforts, southeastern Saskatchewan remained the heart of Hungarian life in Canada for generations.

Arrival and Settlement of Hungarians at Esterhazy-Kaposvar is a designated national historic event. The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) advises the Government of Canada on the commemoration of National Historic Events, which evoke significant moments, episodes, movements, or experiences in the history of Canada. /p>


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