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The Town of Bienfait, incorporated in 1912, is located 10 kilometres (kms) east of the City of Estevan. The majority of the people who live within the community, work in or around the City of Estevan. The population of the town is approximately 986 residents.

Bienfait got its name from the railroad. According to the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) files Bienfait was named after Antoine Charles Bienfait of the Dutch banking firm, Adolphe Boissevain & Co., based in Amsterdam, Holland in the early 1900s. The town's name translated from French is 'well done'.


History

People began arriving in the area in the 1890s. The first viable coal mine was established a few kilometres south of the Bienfait town site at Roche Percée in 1891. Although the Palliser-Hind Expeditions noted coal along the Souris River in 1857, quantities had been thought too insubstantial to warrant development. It was decades before the extent of the coal beds was realized and the first lignite in the area was mined by individual entrepreneurs and small-time operators. In the early 1900s, the CPR started Bienfait Mines Ltd. and soon more mines were opened in the area. Many local farmers used coal mining income to help them establish their farms.


The population grew rapidly in the early 1900s as people of many diverse nationalities flocked to the area: from 245 in 1916, to well over 500 in 1931. That same year, Bienfait coal miners joined the Mine Worker’s Union of Canada and went on strike to try to force mine owners to recognize their union and to restore wages that had been cut.


The Depression years hit the coal Mining industry hard, but another development which was to affect miners significantly was the beginning of surface “strip” mining by electric shovels. Originally, all mining operations had been underground, but by 1956 a six-decade era of underground coal mining had come to an end. Today, some of the world's largest mining equipment is operated in the Bienfait area. The coal mining industry and its role in the development of Bienfait have been commemorated in a museum, formerly the CPR station built in 1907. A vintage steam locomotive used by the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Coal Company is also displayed at the north end of the town's main street.


Attractions

  • Skating Rink
  • Curling Rink – the rink has three sheets of ice and an active curling club.
  • Swimming Pool – a covered swimming pool within the community that is operational during the summer months.
  • Baseball and Soccer fields
  • School – Grades K to 9. Grades 10 to 12 are bused into Estevan.
  • Museum

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