The construction of the CPR with 7,600 men and 1,700 teams of horses proceeded west from the Manitoba border in 1882. They reached the settlement site of Moose Jaw in July of 1882. Once the end of the line was through Moose Jaw, population grew rapidly, and by the fall of 1882 there was a vibrant community with stores and saloons and dozens of shacks and canvass tents. By May of 1883 the population of Moose Jaw fluctuated between 2,000 and 3,000.
A major fire in 1891 destroyed the first block of Main Street however, this failed to dampen the zeal of the early pioneers. By 1903, Moose Jaw possessed all the basic essentials of a city and was incorporated as such November 20,1903.
The rapid settlement after the turn of the century brought Moose Jaw to prominence in Western Canada and ushered in a commercial and industrial boom period. The Town Council sought and gained City status in November, 1903. As the homesteads spread south and west, Moose Jaw became the wholesale distribution centre for a large trading area and began processing of agricultural products. The railway connections east, west and south drew numerous manufacturing industries and identified Moose Jaw as the leading industrial centre of the province.
Moose Jaw, which is located in the heart of the continents great wheat belt, was soon recognized as an important business educational and cultural center in 1903, In fact, it paved the way for a 10 year population explosion. By 1913 the population rose from 2,500 to 14,000.Bootlegging, gambling and prostitution were thriving, yet literally underground during the period , emanating from a network of tunnels linking many of the city's hotels and restaurants.
According to fact or fiction, tunnels were built from the former CP Rail station on Manitoba Street to the Cornerstone Inn across the street. A secret above-ground entrance behind the Cornerstone Inn was the hub of a network of tunnels that included one directly across Main Street to the former Exchange Cafe, once one of Saskatchewan's finest dining establishments. Other tunnel links went north up Main Street and west along River Street to the Royal and Brunswick Hotels.
By 1914, Moose Jaw was realizing an unpredictable boom, the city boasted electricity, paved streets, and a street railway. Moose Javians view their history with a mixture of pride, amusement and ambivalence. The Roaring Twenties brought a measure of notoriety to the city, with "celebrities" like Al Capone rumored to have stayed in downtown hotels. Getaway tunnels are said to exist under many of the downtown buildings. While the tunnels, of which only a few have been found, are generally associated with those heady days, they were actually built decades earlier for the Chinese railroad workers avoiding the "head tax" of the time
Moose Jaw is an urban center with historic charm in the heart of hard wheat country. This gateway to the Southwest Region of Saskatchewan has a colorful past and a wealth of heritage and culture.