Clayton McLain was a local farmer who had always been interested in the history of the area and was especially fascinated with First Nations’ culture and the events of 1885. There came a point when he realized only a few individuals from that era were left living, which prompted him to seek out and record their stories. He was also fortunate to collect many items that related to this critical period in Canada’s history.
The public eventually became interested in McLain’s growing collection of historical artifacts. He decided to organize them for viewing on his farm and would, occasionally, haul them around the region to attend different events. McLain took many photos to document his findings and, although he considered these activities a hobby, he also dreamed of, one day, having a real museum in which to display his items. Clayton McLain was diagnosed with cancer in 1967 and passed away in 1968 without seeing his dream become reality.
It was then that the local chapter of Oddfellows approached his widow, Elizabeth, and offered to assist her with establishing a museum in Cut Knife. A building from Cloan, Saskatchewan (east of Cut Knife), with a notable history of its own, was relocated to Cut Knife. Once a school, then re-purposed to serve as a church, the Ovenstown building was the original home of Clayton’s Collection and was eventually joined by other collections, donated over time. The Museum opened in 1971.
Since then, a total of thirteen display buildings have been relocated to the museum site with the stories of the surrounding communities enhanced by over 20,000 artifacts. The buildings are as follows: Gallivan School, CPR Station, Medical Building, the Esso Building, Raymond’s Store, Exhibits Building, Carruthers Church, Clayton’s Van, Bert Martin’s Log Cabin, Duvall House, Fire Hall, Armstrong Building and Ovenstown.
Elizabeth McLain was the original Curator and volunteered from 1971 to her passing in 2001. Lucille Bullerwell, our current Curator, volunteered alongside Elizabeth for many years and will soon retire after 15 years. With guidance from the Museums Association of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists, Lucille has worked hard to implement the professional standards under which we operate today.