Tuesday, July 5, 2011


 Xena (pronounced: ZEE-nah) is a village about a half hour east of River City.

That's not quite true. The last building there was demolished in the 1970s. So it's a ghost village, or a vacant site. But the name is still on the road signs.

Oh, how sadly fallen.

Xena, in its day, was on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (now the Canadian National Railway — except it's owned by Americans, like most other things here).

Grand Trunk had a habit of naming town sites alphabetically, as the rail line snaked across the central part of the Canadian prairies. There were towns like Raymore, Semans, Tate, Undora, Venn, Watrous, Xena, Young, Zelma, Allan, Bradwell, and Clavet. Then you come to Saskatoon, which existed before the railway got there.

For me, the interesting thing is that I've been in most of those places. Can't remember when for Tate and Udora, but I remember the rest. Sometimes a church service, or a burial after a Memorial Service, or travelling through the countryside on my way to a meeting.

But like Xena, there are lots ghost towns around here. Little places that thrived for half a century or more, then just faded away, as people moved to larger centres. They're like little east-coast fishing villages described by the late Stan Rogers:
Old houses stand empty
old nets hung to dry
are blown away,
lost, and forgotten.

Have you ever lived in a community which eventually disappeared, like Xena? Or have you passed through ghost towns? If so, what do you remember of the places?


Also brought to you by the letter X:
• x-ray
• xylophone
• xanthan
• xenon
• Xerxes

And from the New Phonetic Alphabet: X for the Spot


The Blog Fodder said...

Cavell was the largest town between Swift Current and Battleford in its day. Went to school there to Grade 7. Only thing left is a relatively new RM equipment shop and storage site built since the town disappeared. My grandparents house and an old church may still be left.

Leipzig was where I went to highschool. Once a thriving community, with large Catholic church and the Saskatchewan Mother-House of the Sisters of Notre Dame, there is little left of it now. The church still stands and is used on occasion. The convent was purchased and renovated and is occupied I think.

Saskatchewan had towns ever 7 or 8 miles in a grid which was supposedly maximum hauling distance for a team of horses pulling a grain wagon. They have been disappearing ever since they were created.

Rosaria Williams said...

Ghost towns, ah? No. I don't think of know any.

Golden Eagle said...

Finally, a Xena that has nothing to do with the Warrior Princess. :P

I've never passed through a ghost town. But it's sad to hear of communities that just fall apart over time, fading away until it's just old buildings or a sign by the road.

potsoc said...

Val Jalbert in Lac St-Jean area is just such a ghost town. Used to house a large paper mill and an hydroelectric barrage.
Labour troubles brought the closing of the paper mill and the barrage became useless. People trickled away and the village closed in the 30s.
But it refuses to die. Today it is a museum administered by a foundation. It's buildings are being slowly renovated and tourists come visiting. Some animation is planned in the not too distant future.

cheshire wife said...

Here in the UK, we seem to have the opposite of ghost towns as more and more of the countryside become built up.

Rob-bear said...

® Blog Fodder: Thanks for the history lesson.

® Rosaria: As the Blog Fodder said, we've got a lot of ghost towns. Probably more ghost towns than some communities have ghosts.

® Golden Eagle: Sad indeed. And a trend that is not, for the most part, being reversed.

® potsoc: Thanks for sharing you histoire du Québec (ou histoire québècois?) I cannot imagine a large community like that just disappearing. So sad.

® cheshire wife: I think that the difference between Britain and us across the pond is that we have a huge amount of land and (comparatively) few people. Around the outside of our city, for example, there are large acreages with houses popping up, on what was once productive farm land. But beyond that, you can travel a long way without seeing a town.

Natalie said...

My city has been on the endangered species list for years, due to poor planning. There are many vacant and dilapidated buildings and shops, and it is pitiful to see. Slowly, but surely she is clawing her way back from the brink by turning the disused buildings into apartments. It will never ever be the bustling place it was when I was a child, and that saddens me, but it is still exquisitely placed right on the ocean.

Frances said...

Bear, you can live in a city that doesn't acknowledge it might also be a ghost town.

In the 1970's, my then boyfriend and I became acquainted with a wonderful writer who knew New York City very well. We would go on walks together during which our older pal would tell us about ghosts who once reigned at various addresses. Since mosts of these ghosts were literary gods, I already knew of their NY areas, but had not known anyone who knew them. Magical tours.

Well. Decades later, I could conduct my very own ghost tours, and am beginning to get the feeling that any such future tours might be very limited. NY has become a city of consumers, not creators.

Wishing you well, dear Bear!

ain't for city gals said...

Lots of ghost towns along Route 66...the main thing I think of is all these empty buildings that could be put to such good use for people needing shelter. Catching up with your last posts...seems like things are looking up....wishing you joy in the little things in life!

Rob-bear said...

® Natalie: I can well understand your concerns. Our City Council has done some terrible planning over the last decade. But we aren't far enough "down the road" for the problems to have come back and bitten the business community. Only when that happens, I think, will Council consider change. It will of course be too late by then.
I hope your place "comes back."

® Frances: I suppose one could have "Ghost Neighbourhoods" within a large city — area which have shrunken to a shadow of their former glory.

® agcg: Good idea for the adaptive re-use of buildings, if they are structurally sound enough to be reused.

Shopgirl said...

Interesting! Some blogs I used to love have stopped posting and it made me said, though I don't know of a place that has disappeared personally. Does Pompeii(Italy) count?

Rob-bear said...

® Shopgirl: Hello, and welcome to the Bear's "world." Nice of you to come by.
Pompeii. Hmmmm.
Pompeii I think would fall in the category of natural disaster, not of abandonment, like others described.
But because it was abandoned, after the natural disaster, you could include it in the list of places abandoned.
I'm sure there are enough ghosts there that Pompeii could be considered a "ghost town."

J Cosmo Newbery said...

Too many small towns are disappearing. I can understand why but I still don't like it.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Much of the rural South has small farming communities that only consist of a few houses and perhaps a post office, now long closed. I have passed through these petite ghost towns but never one that was a thriving community.


Rob-bear said...

® J C Newberry: Welcome! Thank you so much for coming by this blog.
I'm with you; I really don't like this trend at all.

® Genie: Thank you for sharing your experience. When the rail lines went in, towns were put fairly close together for a specific reason, as The Blog Fodder explained.
Still, a disappearing town is a disappearing town, whatever its story.

® Golden Eagle: P.S. — I like to put a new twist on an old idea as often as I can. Hence this post, not about the Warrior Princess. Glad you enjoyed.

Gutsy Living said...

I visited a ghost town near Joshua Tree in the desert many years ago when my kids were small. It reminded me of a Hollywood movie set. A little spooky too. Interesting how you know all the names.

Laura said...

I've never been to a ghost town before. My sister in law was telling me about one that she visited in Quebec City though, and I would love to go and see it. :)


Rob-bear said...

® Gutsy Writer: Yes, ghost towns are a bit spooky, aren't they, Sonia. Who knows what "ghosts" might be waiting around the corner. You may need to be Gutsy to explore.

® Laura: I think there are fewer of those abandoned communities in the eastern (more established) parts of Canada. There are certainly lots more out west. But there are significant historic differences between those parts of the country.

About Last Weekend said...

Oh how funny, but sad because it's a ghost town. Xena Warrior Princess was a series made in New Zealand and employed about three quarters of the country(which totals 4m) in its time. The heroine Lucy Lawless can now be seen in the very racy new series about gladiators called Spartucus!

Rob-bear said...

® ALW: Thanks, Jody, for supplying important information about the other Xena. When she has time off from making her next shows, do you think she'll be able to visit our Xena?
One can only hope.
(Sorry, Golden Eagle.)