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Your Neighbourhood: Bottling boon and bust in Silverwood – Saskatoon

Watch above: For Billy Silverwood, bottling water back in the day proved to be both a boon and a bust. Meaghan Craig takes a look at the history of the namesake of Silverwood Heights in this week’s Your Neighbourhood feature.

SASKATOON – In 1911, the City of Saskatoon went from a mere 12,000 residents to 28,000 by the end of 1912. This would be the height of its speculative boom early on as settlers came flooding in, including William Silverwood.

He was a livestock dealer who arrived in Saskatoon in 1907.

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“The next year after he was here there was a big typhoid fever epidemic and it was because of bad water,” said Joan Champ, CEO of the Western Development Museum.

“During those days it was all horse drawn vehicles and the run off in the spring from horse manure and everything into the people’s wells … drinking water made them sick.”

READ MORE: Pioneer Cemetery sheds light on Saskatoon’s first residents

Silverwood would soon find a silver lining in the situation – one that would line his own pockets after discovering natural springs along the South Saskatchewan River. He had a bottling plant built and began selling water to ward off Saskatoon’s public health problems.

“He sold up to 120,000 gallons of bottled water into the Saskatoon market every year,” said Jeff O’Brien, City of Saskatoon archivist.

The land surrounding the springs was subdivided and for a short time, known as Factoria.

“Factoria lasted only about two years in its hay day from 1912-14 but it grew by leaps and bounds,” said Champ.

“Catastrophically, Saskatoon and the rest of the world went into a deep recession in 1913-1915 and we had a war in 1914 and that kind of put an end to the dream of Factoria,” said O’Brien.

As for Silverwood, his lucky streak ran out after he built a barn to accommodate up to 400 horses at a cost of $20,000 – uphill from the springs.

“The bottling plant was just down the hill from the horse barn but the runoff from the barn eventually contaminated the natural spring water which destroyed his business for bottled water,” said Champ.

In 1951, the barn burnt to the ground after it was struck by lightning. All that remains today are the stairs to Silverwood’s home, standing near the Meewasin Trail in the north end of the city.

Developed as a residential neighbourhood in the 1970s – the reality is, Silverwood Heights has a rich history.