Almost a Ghost: Near Ghost Town Courval, Saskatchewan

Almost a Ghost: Near Ghost Town Courval, Saskatchewan

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.

Courval, 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.

Courval, Saskatchewan

Just a few kilometers outside of Parkbeg, I passed by this old place. An old country school, perhaps?

Courval, Saskatchewan

Some of the scenery from the drive to Courval.

Courval, Saskatchewan

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.

Courval, Saskatchewan

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.

Courval, Saskatchewan

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.

Courval, Saskatchewan

Courval, Saskatchewan

There’s a memorial outside, dedicated to the pioneer settlers of the area.

Courval, Saskatchewan

Courval, Saskatchewan

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.

Courval, Saskatchewan

Courval, Saskatchewan

This grotto was erected in 1962 and looked like it was newer than the other, but I could be wrong.

Courval, Saskatchewan

Courval, Saskatchewan

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.

Courval, Saskatchewan

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

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13 thoughts on “Almost a Ghost: Near Ghost Town Courval, Saskatchewan

  1. I have always loved desolate places–Saskatchewan sure seems to fit the bill. Love the old church. I had a chuckle, though, upon reading the date the grotto was erected. I thought my gosh, that isn’t old at all, until I realized that yea, it was 53 years old. Even worse, that’s how old I am. Must check mirror–I might be decrepit too!!! Hmmmmmm.

  2. Our family lived in Courval for several years (65 to 71?) when Courval had a population of 52, including the 6 of us. When we first moved there, the elevator put us in an old shack, which I believe was the old manse for the Protestant Church. Eventually, the constructed a brand new house for us in about 1967.

    My dad bought grain at the Federal Grain elevator, and I was in the last class (grade 4?) at the 2-room (IIRC) schoolhouse. When it closed, we were bussed to Coderre and attended school there.

    There was a general store operated by O’Neil Brin and his wife. They also had a hardware store, just to the west, which was normally closed, but they would open it if there was something you needed. They also had a gas pump.

    There was a hand-pump well across the street, with some of the best drinking water I’ve ever had. It was my job to go and pump a pail of drinking water every day. There were days when it was SO cold that you had to thaw the pump with granular salt, and not stop pumping until you cleared the salt and got the pail back under it.

    Courval was very remote, but I did have a few friends that lived in town … and we ALWAYS found things to do. Buying a snowmobile made a huge difference, and we drove it everywhere.

    We had Aunts, Uncles, and cousins in Moose Jaw, and were usually in for a visit with them a couple of times per month.
    Federal Grain sold out to Sask Wheat Pool, so we moved to Moosomin while I was in Grade 9.
    Many fond memories of Courval !

    Don Leverton

    1. Hi there Don!

      My name is Sarah Barrett and I work for La Société historique de la Saskatchewan. Right now we are working on a project that has to do with small french communities and ghost towns from around the province and we are searching for people who might have memories or information about the towns. Courval is actually one that we are interested in! I read over your comment and I was wondering if I might be able to get in contact with you as it seems that you have lot’s to share! I am very interested in talking with you about your community! Please let me know if you are interested in helping us with our research ! Feel free to email me at: Thank you so much! I look forward to hearing from you!

    2. Don my name is Barry Hopkins. I also grew up in Courval and find it very interesting your dad bought grain for Federal. My dad was the grain buyer for Searle and then Federal bought them and then Pool. He was there from 1946-1965 right after ww2. Bought the hotel and bought grain so your dad took over from him. George Hopkins. We left for Pense sask. I have a book with the entire Courval history. 2 room school went to it also and then bussed to coderre.

      1. Wow, that’s cool to know! We lived in that old hotel for a couple of years, too, until Federal built us a pre-fab Nelson home in 1967 if I recall correctly. It was just west of the RM building.

    3. I bought some vintage items, one of which is a 7″ x 7″ picture of ducks entitled “Up and Away” and in the corner there is a stamp. “Compliments of O. Brin General Merchant Phone 1 Courval, Sask.” It would be nice to find relatives or a historical society to pass this on.

      1. Hi Kim
        My name is Ricky Marcil , I now go by my given name Ricardo Marcil. I grew up in Courval SK and my family still owns property there. All the people your talking to are the same people I grew up with. I,m a collector of Ducks unlimited art. I have never seen the piece your discussing. If you are interested in selling it I would be interested in it.
        Your can contact me through E mail or direct phone if you choose.

        Ricardo Marcil

    4. Hi Donny

      Ricky here from the past life in Courval drop me a line I would love to catch up.

      Your old buddy

      Ricky Marcil

      1. Hi Ricardo.
        I just had to look you up in the 70-71 CHS yearbook.

        You were in the Grade 2 & 3 group photo with Sr.Alice.

        My brother Ken was in Grade 1, and brother Dave was in Grade 4&5 group photo.

        I was in Grade 8 (17 of us with individual pictures)

  3. Thank you for the article on Courval. Please note that the church is privately owned and would ask people to respect that and do not try to enter the church. Feel free to take pictures in and around the land but respect private property and stay out of the church.

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