Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Shellbrook Hotel

Shellbrook Hotel, c. 1912. Image source

On a crisp September day in 1912, a shooting party had just returned to Shellbrook. Mrs. J. B. Stirton, wife of the proprietor of the Shellbrook Hotel, had been out with the party. The group was taking their guns out of their car when a .22 calibre rifle accidentally discharged. Mrs. Stirton was shot through the heart and killed instantly. She had been standing on the running board of the automobile when the gun went off. Click here for story.

George Stalker
Not long afterwards, the Shellbrook Hotel was taken over by George Stalker, originally from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. His father Robert Stalker was the founder of Great West Saddlery Company. In 1896, Stalker came to Prince Albert where he worked in for a time the harness-making business. He married Alice Oram in 1897 in Prince Albert. Two of their three children died in childhood. After Alice died, Stalker married Anna Stewart in 1913 and they had one daughter. 

In the early 1900s, Stalker got into the hotel business. He and W. E. Gladstone took over the Queen’s Hotel in Prince Albert; he later acquired the Royal Hotel in that city. In 1905, Stalker and another partner by the name of Hudson spared no expense building the grand three-storey Kinistino Hotel.  Later he acquired hotel in Shellbrook and eventually disposed of all his hotel interests except the Shellbrook Hotel. Stalker served as the overseer of the village of Shellbrook since its incorporation in 1909. He died in 1931 at age 56, and his widow, Anne Stalker, continued to run the hotel until 1941 when she sold it to James Bowles of Netherhill, Saskatchewan. 

Shellbrook Hotel, c. 1920. Image source
In March of 1935, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reported that the “commodious” Shellbrook Hotel was well known for its general comforts and conveniences. ”The hotel is operated on the American plan [meaning that meals were included in the room rate] and has some 30 guest rooms, well-furnished and lighted, warm and scrupulously clean. … The meals and dining room service are all that could be desired. A specialty is the steam-heated bath. There are also sample rooms for commercials. Mrs. Stalker and assistants do everything to make the hotel ‘a real home away from home.’” Star-Phoenix, March 9, 1935, page 6.

Main Street, Shellbrook, c. 1945.  Hotel on right. Image source
Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King stayed at the Shellbrook Hotel during the May 1945 federal election campaign. King recounted his stay at the hotel in his diary:  “After dinner I went to my room and prepared the outline of a speech … It was like old times to look out of the window and to see motor cars ranged on both sides of the road on which the hall was situated. To hear a band strike up in the distance. I rested a few minutes on my back then went on to the hall, shaking hands with many people on the way.” Click here to read the diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King, May 21, 1945, Library and Archives Canada.   

Hon. Mackenzie King with children in Ottawa, 1942. Image source
Across the street from the Shellbrook Hotel, little Bobbie George, age 4 1/2, took in all the excitement with eyes agog. Bobbie, son of RCAF Sgt. Douglas George, wandered over just as King was turning to re-enter the hotel. “Hello,” said Bobbie with his big eyes. The Regina Leader-Post reported that the prime minister smiled down and asked: “Have we shaken hands?” Bobbie shook his head, and Mr. King shook his hand. “Now you turn around here and make a speech,” Mr. King said. Standing behind Bobbie, the prime minister took the little boy’s arms and waved them to the small crowd on the Shellbrook street corner, saying, “I want you all to go home and tell your parents to vote for Mackenzie King.” The Leader-Post concluded, “Bobbie made a record Monday afternoon for Canadian youngsters – he became the youngest campaigner for Prime Minister Mackenzie King.” Click for story

Shellbrook Hotel, c. 1965. Image source
Shellbrook Hotel, May 2011. Joan Champ photo
In 2011, the Shellbrook Hotel was owned by Lucien (Lou) and Donna Dupuis. The hotel featured Luigi's Steak Pit & Ribs restaurant as well as a beverage room on the main floor. Accommodation included four double rooms with bath in the rooms, ranging from $34.20 & $38.20 per night and two single rooms with a bath in the rooms, for $30.20 per night. 

Shellbrook Hotel, April 2006. Joan Champ photo
© Joan Champ 2011

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  1. My mother was born in the Shellbrook Hotel in July 11, 1912

    1. Wow! I have come across several stories of babies being born in Saskatchewan hotels. I'm thinking of writing a new blog post on this topic. Would you mind sharing the story of your mother's birth in the Shellbrook Hotel with me? If so, please email me at

      Thanks, Joan

  2. It's amazing how main street used to look like before, it looks like a completely different town!

  3. Dupuis is spelled -uis. I know this because Donna and Lou are my great aunt and uncle.

    1. Thanks for catching that spelling error. Its corrected now.

  4. My hometown is shellbrook and I remember being young and running around town,not knowing the history. But now being 20 it's a real eye opener to see how much history shellbrook really has. 100% impressed by this blog