The settlement of the Pense district began in 1881, before the C.P.R. came through Saskatchewan. Settlement first followed the coulees and those areas where water was obtainable from wells. Lack of wood for fuel also influenced the settlement, causing the people to settle nearer the Qu'Appelle valley. It was not until after 1900 that the heavier land adjacent to Pense was settled. Thus the settlement of the district can be divided into two periods, those who homesteaded before 1900 experiencing all the hardships of the earlier days, and those who came toward the turn of the century, when their effects were shipped by rail to Pense.
The following is a summary of a letter written by Mr. L.E. Weaver of Regina:
The party that followed the laying of steel across the prairie during the construction of the main line of the C.P.R. in 1882, which "brought up" at Pense, was organized by the Canadian Press Association of the period. Mr. Pense, Editor of the Kingston Whig, the president of the organization, and Mr. John King, the father of the long time Prime Minister, the legal adviser of the body, were of the party. Others were: Mrs. King, Dr. Newell, Miss Phoebe Weaver, Thomas Hilliard, President of the Dominion Life.
The members of the party were feted for several days in Winnipeg, and hospitably entertained all along the route. At Qu'Appelle, they were met by a party of Mounted Police. They were present at the christening of Regina on August 23rd, 1882. That ceremony took place just west of Pasqua Street where headquarters of construction was located. Mr. Weaver states that his aunt, who was with the party, had her attention directed to a large heap of buffalo and deer bones and horns piled up close to the track. This story of the buffalo bones I am inclined to think was just some "window dressing" because at that period there had been no commercial gathering of buffalo bones.
The Press people were entertained in the tent used by the contractors for a horse stable and, although it had been cleaned up, the horse odors exceeded the savory scents of the meat served for dinner.
The ladies of the party were driven in a wagon to see a large heap of buffalo bones that were said to have been erected by the Indians who had stampeded a large herd of buffalo over a high bank of the Wascana Valley, at a place known as "The Old Crossing."
The party spent the night on the train and expected to return to Winnipeg the following morning. They could not expect to continue their westward journey, as the bridge across the Wascana was not completed. However, this work was finished during the night and the track extended some distance west of the present village of Grand Coulee, and consequently the party was carried to the end of steel. There the passengers were transferred to wagons and carried on to the present site of Pense, where the christening of the place was performed. Ties and rails were placed on the grade and the ladies of the party hammered at the spikes and a bottle of champagne was then poured on the ground. A French member of the party expressed disapproval at such a waste of good wine.
The place was named in honour of Mr. Pense, Editor of the Kingston Whig, doyen of the party. After the ceremony, the members of this expedition returned to the place where they had left the train near Grand Coulee, and continued East.