After leaving Parkbeg, Saskatchewan, the next place on my list was the former St. Joseph’s church in tiny Courval, an unincorporated hamlet about 55 kilometers southwest of Moose Jaw, on the west end of Old Wives lake in southern Saskatchewan.
It was on the drive from Parkbeg to Courval that I recognized the undeniable truth of how remote some of these communities are. The roads can be very rough in places, there’s barely a powerline to be seen, and the wildlife is everywhere.
Just a few kilometers outside of Parkbeg, I passed by this old place. An old country school, perhaps?
Some of the scenery from the drive to Courval.
As you drive toward Courval from Parkbeg, you leave the dirt roads and join Highway 363, and it is one of the rare paved highways where I would rather go back and drive on the gravel. It is in terrible condition, to the degree that little red reflectors have been placed along the road in places to alert drivers of a particularly bad pothole or gravel patch. I recall thinking that the road might actually better in the winter, because the potholes would be full of snow, frozen hard like concrete. If you drive this highway between Courval and Neidpath, I would strongly recommend carrying a jack and functional spare, because a blowout is a real possibility.
I finally arrived in Courval and I was not disappointed to have made the drive. St. Jospeh’s Catholic Church, built in 1928, is still there and in fairly good shape save for some peeling paint on the outside and a few spots where the shingles are gone and the roof is exposed to the elements.
The population of Courval was most recently reported as 5, and it is clearly one of those places that has fallen victim to time and outmigration. In addition to this old church, there are one or two occupied homes, and an abandoned structure or two. As the older generation passes on, fewer and fewer young people remain as they head off to nearby population centers to make their living in fields beyond agriculture. For now, Courval is holding onto its last few residents, lest someone turn out the lights for the last time and brand this place a ghost town.
The church was padlocked tight, so I wasn’t able to go inside for photos. There’s also a nearby cemetery for this church, and it has been catalogued by the Saskatchewan Cemeteries Project.
There’s a memorial outside, dedicated to the pioneer settlers of the area.
Behind the church there’s a fairly elaborate grotto complex that looks like it has been erected in stages over the years, with one of the grottos a little older than the other.
This grotto was erected in 1962 and looked like it was newer than the other, but I could be wrong.
The construction of this area looked like it was no small feat. The stone pillars held together with mortar and topped by ornamental metal caps would have been labor intensive.
What do you know about Courval, Saskatchewan and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church? Please leave a comment below.
Photos by Troy Larson, content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media