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Doctor A. S. Shadd: One of Saskatchewan’s Earliest African-Canadian Residents

Doctor A. S. Shadd
Dr. Alfred Schmitz Shadd. Original image housed in
The Melfort & District Museum

As Saskatchewan celebrates African-Canadian Black History Month in February, Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan looks back to the amazing story of Alfred Schmitz Shadd, one of Saskatchewan’s first African-Canadian residents. He was a doctor, farmer, educator, journalist and activist.

Born in 1870 in Ontario, A. S. Shadd came from a family of prominent community activists. He began studying medicine at the University of Toronto, but he temporarily withdrew from his studies for financial reasons and took a teaching post in Kinistino, Northwest Territories, in 1897.  He taught for one year before returning to his studies, graduating with honours in 1898, and then he returned to Kinistino as a doctor. Dr. Shadd was well known throughout the area for his tireless dedication to his patients. Eventually he relocated his practice to Melfort in 1904. 

Beyond his medical practice, Dr. Shadd was an active participant in his community. He opened a pharmacy in Melfort, was instrumental in the construction of a community hospital, and was one of the first coroners in Saskatchewan. He was an owner and editor of the Carrot River Journal from 1908 to 1912 and served on the Melfort town council and school board. He also made two runs for the territorial and provincial government, first in 1902 and again in 1905. Dr. Shadd lost both votes; however, his 1905 election run was a nail-biter. He campaigned for Saskatchewan’s first legislative assembly as part of the Provincial Rights party, and he lost by only 53 votes!

Dr. Shadd was also an enthusiastic agriculturalist. He took a homestead at SW-30-45-22-W2, applying for patent in 1905. He grew the first crab apple trees in the area and also owned a prize-winning bull named Bandsman’s Choice. Ever the community organizer, Dr. Shadd founded the Melfort Agricultural Society, serving as its first president, and he helped organize the local elevator company.

A pillar of his community, Dr. Shadd passed away at the early age of 45 due to appendicitis. In a testament to his popularity, so many people attended his funeral that the town hall was opened as an overflow area and hundreds still couldn’t fit. In the words of Dr. Shadd’s close friend Reginald Beatty, “Costly monuments have been erected in the past to men who have done far less for humanity than Dr. Shadd, but his record will be an enduring one as it is written in the hearts of his patients and friends throughout this vast district.”

A variety of records related to Dr. Shadd’s life and work can be found at the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan. Visit in person at the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan, 2440 Broad Street, to see a small exhibit about Dr. Shadd, or view the virtual exhibit on the Archives website. More information about Dr. Shadd and other African-Canadians from Saskatchewan is available at the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum.

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