In a small resort, called Hitchcock’s Hideaway, on the shores of Lake Diefenbaker there is a log cabin. It was built by Orville Arthur “Jack” Hitchcock over one hundred years ago.
Hitchcock was born near Voden Centre, Quebec in 1870. He was a machinist and steam engineer by trade. Apprenticing at the Fitchburg Steam Engine Company in Massachusetts for three years, he made only 6 cents and hour. His trade and a number of other factors soon led him west. He urged to travel, heard of the “Great West”, and he wanted to get away from the smog and smoke of the industrial East.
His first trip west was in 1894. He returned in 1903 and claimed to be the first white settler on the north side of Lake Diefenbaker. There were many Mexican natives and Metis in the area. Hitchcock and a friend began building his cabin in 1903 and completed it in the summer of 1904. It was built with logs, poles, mud, and sod local to the area. Jack lived there for the next sixty years.
Hitchcock was a conservationist rancher living off of wild game, fruits, fish, berries, cattle. The coulee provided natural springs for water. Jack also manufactured beds, chess sets, skis, tables, bow and arrows, chairs, and stools for himself. He had a compulsion for thrift reusing tin cans, fruit pits, caps, and wrappers.
Jack loved reading, carving, writing letters, and music. He was also know for his marksmanship and had a collection of over forty guns. Many are now on display at the F.T. Hill Museum in Riverhurst. At 93 Jack boasted that he was still one of the best shots in the country.
Hitchcock did marry and have a daughter, although I couldn’t find anymore information than that. One of his greatest accomplishments was riding his motorbike from Massachusetts to his homestead in 1924. The roads were not great and he slept in his sidecar for the trip.
In his older years Jack was a great storyteller and was admired by many locals. He continued living in the coulee in his old age. On occasion he lived with friends and finally a senior’s home in Saskatoon where he passed away in June of 1964.