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Saskatchewan in 1921 and the 1921 Census.

6 Feb

Celestial Blue

Saskatchewan in 1921 and the 1921 Census.

1921, an era of transition and change begins. Evolution of a community happens over the course of considerable years. It does not happen, no, that an entire province of people rush out on June 1, 1921 to all buy tractors all at once, and leave Daisy nibbling in the field. The transition from horse and plough to tractor began in a farm here and there, and slowly more and more farmers owned tractor, farm truck and automobile. The 1921 census tells a story of people, and their land, the successes and failures of immigration schemes and homesteading ventures and how life was changing.

History “conjures up feelings of what it was like in a day and age not our own,” speaks John C. Charyk. The first two decades of the 1900s brought with them a huge wave of people to the plains of Saskatchewan. By 1921, these pioneer settlers were proud to call Saskatchewan their home. The early pioneer had divested their time, energy and blood into the land because they had “faith in the possibilities of the country, stood by that faith, and made a success of their undertaking.[1]

“The unorganized territories of British North America had been ceded to the Dominion soon after Confederation, and the West had been tapped and traversed by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the eighties and nineties,” documented the Yearbook of Canada 1922/1923. The 1926 Financial Post reported that there were 6,268.72 miles of railway stretching across the province by 1922 serving “2,139 elevators, 896 loading platforms, 554 stockyards, in addition to depots, warehouses, etc.” The yearbook continues, “but though western population doubled with each of these decades, it was only with the launching of a large scale immigration movement after 1900 that western settlement and production became a first-rate economic factor.” In the two decades 1901-1911 and 1911-1921, the census returns showed over 1,800,000 immigrant arrivals to Canada in each of the decades, over 3,600,000 persons in twenty years.

As W.G. Cates, points out, “the 1921 census, as it shows a much lower rate of increase in population during the 1911-1921 period than that of 1901-1911, is naturally disappointing; but the returns must be considered in the light of the Great War…tens of thousands went overseas to their native land to fight; while other tens of thousands went to the United States in order to escape military service.” Some 60,000 militia gave the supreme sacrifice in the theatre of war, and 20,000 Canadians who served remained in the United Kingdom following their term of service. Of these 60,000 Canadians 6,428 were Saskatchewan boys according to the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial. The mass exodus of citizens, the loss of life, accompanied by the tens of thousands of Saskatchewan personnel serving in the armed forces overseas, might lead one to predict a drop in population, however the 1921 census still showed a population increase.

  • In the early days of the war we were much comforted by the fact that men and women were ready to make sacrifices for this, the greatest cause of all. In Canada, and I am sure elsewhere throughout the Empire, there has been manifest a spirit of co-operation, of mutual helpfulness, of a desire to assist, of self-sacrifice which is most comforting to those who have at heart the welfare of our Empire in years to come. So I am sure it will be in the future. The influence of a spirit of helpfulness and self-sacrifice, which we see everywhere throughout the world, and within our Empire, is one for which I give thanks and am most grateful.” ~ August 14, 1915. Right Honourable Sir Robert Laird Borden, G.C.M.G., M.P. eighth Prime Minister of Canada

The population of Canada was recorded at 7,206,643 in 1911, and according to the Canada Year book 1922-1923, it rose to 8,788,483 in 1921. (Saskatchewan was 757,510.)
If the trend of the first decade had continued, it was estimated that the population should have reached 10,100,000. There were at least a couple of factors at work towards the increase of population. “It should also be taken into account that the returns for the western provinces include about 25,000 returned men, who have been placed on farms through the Soldier Settlement Scheme” noted Cote in his census analysis. The 1921 census showed that not only is there immigration from Europe and the United States, but there is a definite migration from East to West.

70 per cent of the arable farm land was in farms by 1921, and the settlement pattern was established. Professor W.B. Baker chairman of the Royal Commission on Agriculture and Rural Life looks at it this way, “in 1901, 96 per cent of our farmers were owners and 61 per cent of the 13,445 farms were under 200 acres in size. The average size of farm was 285 acres. In 1921, 76.7 per cent of 119,451 farms were owner-operated and 32.5 per cent were under 200 acres while the average size of farm had increased to 369 acres.” In Saskatchewan, 71 per cent of the population was rural, and the remainder urban. The Morning Leader relates that, “more people means more schools and better schools; more roads and better roads; better medical services; more enjoyable community life with all the advantages which must follow.”

However, James Thomas Milton Anderson speaks of the immigration “problem” in the book “The education of the new-Canadian: A treatise on Canada’s greatest educational problem.”  He writes in 1918 following the war years “throughout the prairie provinces great stretches of land have been settled by immigrants from European countries. The language of the home is German, Ruthenian, Hungarian, Bohemian, or Polish, as the case may be. In the villages where they trade they have their own merchants, speaking their own language. In these settlements there is but one force at work to Canadianize their children—the public school.” Dr. Harold W. Foght Specialist in Rural School Practice, summed up the post war hysteria, “Are we to be a homogeneous people on these plains or are we to repeat the tragic sufferings of polyglot Austria” He goes on to discuss “the process of making one Canadian-speaking and thinking people” in A Survey of Education. In 1919, a new school act was passed permitting English as the only language of instruction.

The war had a devastating effect on the peace of mind of the community. Settlers looked at neighbours knowing now who had served for Canada during the Great War, who had deserted, those who chose not to serve, those who left to serve their ancestral lands and those who had lost sons and daughters overseas. Saskatchewan, the great melting pot of immigrants began to give rise to division looking at those who had served with the allies and which communities may have a different allegiance. Saskatchewan peoples along with the rest of Canada sought for a Canadian identity, what it meant to be truly Canadian.

  • In Western Canada there is to be seen to-day that most fascinating of all human phenomena, the making of a nation. Out of breeds diverse in traditions, in ideals, in speech, and in manner of life, Saxon and Slav, Teuton, Celt and Gaul, one people is being made. The blood strains of great races will mingle in the blood of a race greater than the greatest of them all.
    It would be our wisdom to grip these peoples to us with living hooks of justice and charity till all lines of national cleavage disappear, and in the Entity of our Canadian national life, and in the Unity of our world-wide Empire, we fuse into a people whose strength will endure the slow shock of time for the honour of our name, for the good of mankind, and for the glory of Almighty God.” ~ Rev. Dr. Charles William Gordon

Anderson, beginning as inspector of schools around Yorkton between 1911-1918, was appointed director of Education 1918-1922. The Morning Leader reported that “the School Attendance Act was rigidly enforced…a larger percentage of pupils passed their examinations and a great percentage of children made better progress because of regular attendance.” It was to this end that school room classes were awarded $3 a day if an average of 15 pupils attended during the school year, and if the schools offered classes beyond grade 7. During the settlement era, 1901-1921, the Department of Education boasted that a new school district was organised every day of the year, however in 1921 only 100 school districts were formed. The department and community both recognised the benefits of consolidated school districts, however the cost of conveying rural children to a consolidated school placed such a transition on hold in 1921.

So what was life like in Saskatchewan in 1921? Saskatchewan men who had served with the military in the Great War (1914-1918) were beginning to return home. This marked great happiness for families with returned love ones, and a time of grief and sadness mourning those who would never come home. However, not only did the communities have the economic transition of the discharged soldiers entering the work place, but the Spanish influenza set in. About 5,000 lives were lost in Saskatchewan alone from this epidemic.

The war time population in 1916 of 647,835 had grown in five years to 757,510. The Model T automobile began to replace the horse and buggy across the prairies, by 1921 there were 34,085 cars. Dotting farms as well, tractors were commencing to replace horse and plough. In 1921, 19,243 tractors were counted in the census returns on 17,523 farms across the province.

With the increase in mechanized travel, the Department of Highways commenced a project in 1920 of laying better roads and bridges. These early roads followed the surveyed township roads, and travel could be done “on the square”, it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that highways were “straightened”.

Families would have no televisions, nor computers nor video games. “The school children are actively engaged in eliminating Mr. Gopher, and in some cases some ingenious methods of capturing and killing have been invented by the school boys of the province.”Source” Children would receive two cents bounty or thrift stamps on delivery of gopher tails to their school teacher. By May 1 of 1917, 514,000 gophers had been taken care of by the “Junior Agricultural Service League of Saskatchewan” that spring alone.

1921 was the year before the first Saskatchewan radio station was established, there was no widespread electricity available. Rather than having a television agricultural forum or radio call in “talk show” to catch up on the latest news, farm families could just pick up the telephone and listen in to the “party line” which was often connected to about eight other neighbourly homes. Central exchanges connected various party lines, and in the coldest of winters, without roads, and snow blowers neighbours could catch up on the latest gossip, sales, funerals and chat back and forth.

The high influx of settlers, meant pasture land was being taken up by homesteaders, and the era of the great ranches drew to a close around 1921. The last round up for the Matador ranch was 1921 when 3,400 head of cattle would be taken from the ranch near Saskatchewan Landing (Moose Jaw area) to Waldeck and on to Chicago for sale. No longer would the spring cattle trek see yearlings and two year olds arrive from Texas to the Matador ranch. The ranchers would work long hours, before sun up and after sun down even during the months of long summer days, the treks gave the ranch hands and the settlers an event, and the cowboys had their “semi annual trip to town.”Source Gone now were the days when “One arriving in town, the first thought was for a drink. In the old days the men would ride right into the building and up to the bar.”

  • Come alive you fellers,” hear the foreman shout .“Drop your books and banjos, fetch your saddles out…

    Shake that squeaky fiddle, Red, go and get your hoss,

    “Dutch, ain’t you got duties, as the chuck-wagon boss?

    “Range is gettin’ grassy, winter draws its claws,

    “Calved are fat an’ sassy, teasin’ of their maws,

    “Loafin’ days are over, dreamin’ time is gone,

    No more life in clover, for the round-up’s on.”

    ~ Folksong

1921 was a year of a severe economic depression, Saskatchewan farmers were still reeling from the drought of 1920. Prairie farmers were also hit by the international wheat market collapse of 1921. The growing season of 1921 looked promising showing 14 bushels to the acre as compared to 11 bushels of 1920. Farmers, and communities were very optimistic. The rains came during harvest season and No. 1 Northern Wheat was reduced to No. 4. Despite their threshing efforts, it cost more to take off the crop quickly, and the market price was low. The price for a bushel of wheat brought $1.50, compared to $0.76 in 1921, wheat fell a whopping 50 per cent. During the Great War, the Dominion government “controlled the sale and pricing of wheat” through the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) in 1917, “wheat prices rose to $2.21 a bushel and then $2.62 by 1919.” This same year (1919) that the CWB was dismantled.

The Soldier’s Settlement Act provided for land and loans set at 5% as assistance to erect buildings, purchase livestock, implements and equipment. Though the prices were excellent in 1918 when the soldiers returned home, the growing season was affected by drought, hail and grasshopper infestations. The year of 1919 proved challenging, grasshoppers remained prevalent, wheat was affected by a fungal disease called rust and some areas were hard hit by drought. Returning servicemen on their new Soldier’s Grants were tasked with clearing the land on their newly allocated quarter sections. However, these quarters were not the “best of the best” sections of land, those had already been taken for homestead settlement. The only land which was left were areas which had been already abandoned by homesteader or Indian reserve, forest reserves, and unused school lands.

The drought of 1920 affected the livestock industry of 1921, as there was a shortage of feed, and the market had taken a downward trend. During the “depression in 1921…thousands of farmers and ranchers were ruined….the average dept-ridden farmer of today cannot possibly pay taxes, interest and carry on farm operation on the proceeds of the present prices on farm products,” reported the Calgary Herald. The Minister of Agriculture, Honourable C.M. Hamilton testified “that the average Saskatchewan farm of a half-section worth $12,000, had a mortgage on it of $5,000.” Without tax payments, the school districts had no ability to pay their teachers, Austin F. Cross recalls months of despair and agony which culminated in a turning point in his life when the bank relented to loaning the school trustees money.


  • Saskatchewan, the land of snow,
    Where winds are always on the blow,

    Where people sit with frozen toes–

    And why we stay here, no one knows.

    Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan,

    There’s no place like Saskatchewan.

    We sit and gaze across the plains,

    And wonder why it never rains,

    Till Gabriel doth his trumpet sound,

    And says the rain has gone around.

    ~ William W. Smith

The government under William Melville Martin, second premier of Saskatchewan The provincial government supported railway freight rate reductions, and rail branch line construction. Although the government coffers were drained from the wartime effort, Martin established $5 million available to farmers through a mortgage lending organization through the sale of government bonds.

As of June 1, 2013 92 years will have elapsed since 1921 when the census enumerators went out door to door on June 1, 1921. So, according to Library and Archives Canada, the census should be released from Statistics Canada and transferred over to Library and Archives Canada LAC for public usage. According to the LAC, “The 1921 Census was taken on June 1st, which means that it will be in the custody of Library and Archives Canada on June 1, 2013. Our intention is to make it available to researchers online, in the same format as previous censuses, as soon as possible after that date.Source“//

The Canadian Century Research Infrastructure CCRI is currently creating a 4% sampling of the 1921 Census of Canada in conjunction with Statistics Canada. Currently the instructions to enumerators is available as a pdf file. The CCRI will also look towards establishing databases for the 1911, 1921, 1931, 1941 and 1951 census as well.

  • The lure of love and the west.If you’ve heard the wild goose honking, if you’ve seen the sunlit plain,

    If you’ve breathed the smell of ripe grain, dewy, wet,

    You may go away and leave it, say you will not come again,

    But it’s in your blood, you never can forget.

    ~Nellie McClung

~ Article written by J. Adamson

Further Information:

Census Information

Saskatchewan History and Ethnic Roots

1919 Alberta, Saskatchewan Manitoba Waghorn’s Guide

1925 Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba Waghorn’s Guide

Gazetteer of U.S. and Canadian Railroads 1922

Saskatchewan Highway Map 1925

Rand McNally 1924 Indexed Pocket Map

Saskatchewan Wheat Pool Maps 1924

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Related posts:

Saskatchewan Census News Release

Why were Canadian “Last Best West” homesteads created?

The Era of Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouses

How did pioneers travel to their prairie homesteads?

Where were Saskatchewan Homesteads Located?

How do I locate my ancstor’s home town in Saskatchewan? Have you ever visited your ancestral home?

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Thank you for stopping by, your comments are much appreciated. All rights reserved. Images copyright © Aum Kleem; Article copyright © J Adamson. All my images and text are protected under international authors copyright laws and Canadian photography laws and may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without my written explicit permission. They may be licensed through Getty images. Peace and love be with you. Namaste.

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William Wallace Gibson ~ First Flight of a Canadian Airplane

22 Nov

Shadow Dancing - Explore

William Wallace (Billy) GIBSON (March 28, 1876 – November 25, 1965)

Nothing ever built arose to touch the skies unless some man dreamed that it should, some man believed that it could, and some man willed that it must.

~Charles Kettering

William Wallace (Billy) GIBSON was born March 28, 1876 in Dellmellington, East Ayrshire, Scotland to William GIBSON and Margaret LEES. W.W. Gibson or Billy arrived in Canada on June 20, 1883 when he was just seven years old. His kites flew across the prairies as GIBSON learned the basic principals of aerodynamics succeeding at launching a craft heavier than air into flight ~ detailed crafts carried aloft behind a galloping pony ridden by a young boy with a dream.

These kites, powered by wind were instrumental in the research and development of airplane design. The GIBSON Twin Plane and GIBSON Multi Plane pioneer aircraft to come utilized both motor and propellor for their propulsion system. Without formal schooling, without a team of engineers, Gibson mastered lift, aspect ratio, stability and construction flying his gopher piloted kites – his initial tethered aircrafts before launching the first successful all Canadian airplane.

“Man must rise above the Earth—to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives,”

~ Socrates.

LOGANSTON

“Dreams do come true, if we only wish hard enough.You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”

James Matthew Barrie

His father, William Gibson born February 14, 1847 in Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland, was one of three stonemasons who arrived in the Moffat area of Saskatchewan June 1, 1883, and erected a fine stone house over the years 1884 to 1885, naming it Loganston, the very first stone house of the district. This stone mason, noticed the limestone and granite stones across his field, and decided to erect a kiln, and as Haensel wrote in Western People, Loganston house is still standing. The family followed these two years of hard labour with more, constructing as well a fine barn. Moffat, Assiniboia, North West Territories is reminiscent of the historic romance movie Brigadoon according to author Kay Parley of They cast a long shadow: the story of Moffat, Saskatchewan.

Forty families left from the shores of the Bonnie Doon river, and re-located near Wolseley on the banks of Wolf Creek. As William Gibson said of the Canadian North West, “Strawberry, raspberry, brambleberry, gooseberry, black currant, cherry, cranberry, saskatoon berry, and others. Mrs. Gibson has made over 100 lbs of jelly this summer from wild fruit” He also spoke of fertilizers, “I have used manure to a few potatoes to try the effect it had along with others planted without manure, and they did no better with it.” in the book “What settlers say of the Canadian North-West a plain document of the experiences of farmers residing in the country; The Canadian Pacific Railway Manitoba, the Canadian north-west testimony of actual settlers. GIBSON’s father also wrote a journal, which was published in the Ayrshire post from which the early experiences of these hardworking Scottish pioneer families is recorded and known.

BILLY GIBSON CHILDHOOD YEARS

“Pale Face Jumping Deer”

Oh, oh, oh!
Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Let’s go fly a kite!

— from “Mary Poppins” Written by Robert B. Sherman

Kites were always a passion, and gophers were his first pilots as they flew above the prairie fields. Known as the Bird Man of Balgonie GIBSON spent years on his hobby experimenting with flight. His power plant propelling his kites from the spring end of the window blinds encouraged to go further. One of his kites measured in at seven feet (2.1 meters) and carried a basket packed full of nine gophers. Just imagine GIBSON galloping across the Saskatchewan prairies on his little pony flying his elaborately designed kite in his wake, learning and studying the principals of aerodynamics.

In 1883, a small seven year old is often found playing with the grandson of the great Chief Piapot, the Cree Indian Reserve of Piapot being 25 miles northwest of Regina was near the Loganston Farm of Moffat. The book Silver Cloud by GIBSON reminisces about the friendship that had developed amongst these friends. Little Billy Gibson soon became friends with the children of Grey Eagle, and Billy received the name “Pale Face Jumping Deer” as he could outjump his playmates from page 22 of Canada’s flying heritage by Frank Henry Ellis (1896-1979.

GIBSON attended the Abbotsford School as a child, and the first school classes were held in the attic of Loganston house for the first month which began approximately the spring of 1886 under Andrew T. Fotheringham. The classes then took place in the abandoned Robert Yule log home under Mr. Argue, a University student. By December 18, 1885, the Abbotsford Protestant School District #37 was organized. The school building was erected in 1888, and classes began May 6, 1889. At the age of 13, (1889) he left school to assist the family on the farm located at the SE quarter of section 4 township 16 range 10 west of the 2nd meridian. The family adopted one of the many British Home Children, Johnny Vipond another 13 year old arriving in Canada from the Dr. Bernardo Home in the spring of 1889.

BIRD MAN OF BALGONIE

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

~Leonardo Da Vinci.

It was in 1900, when he set out on his own starting up a blacksmith in Wolseley. Purchasing hardware dry goods in Regina, he re-located to Balgonie and started a hardware venture there about a year later which had become quite prosperous. The very first automobile in Saskatchewan was owned by GIBSON IN 1902. Around 1903, at the age of 27, GIBSON blossomed. He invested in a railway construction venture. He accepts a contract to construct 42 miles of right-of-way; 20 miles north of Wolseley, and another 22 miles west of the Touchwood Hills. As a railway contractor, he completed 40 miles of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.[4]

GIBSON also founded a hardware business in Craven, Saskatchewan with a partner, Olin Abner Beach (1882-1966) in 1904, Beach and Gibson Hardware Store. Business warranted another hardware and implement business in Cupar, Saskatchewan.[1][2]

News of the Wright brother’s success in 1903 spurred GIBSON onward. During these years GIBSON had switched from flying kites to experimenting with model airplanes. The spring in a Venetian blind roller powered his model airplanes. He launched a large paper glider from the roof top of his hardware store in Balgonie using it as a prototype model for a man carrying aeroplane with engine.

Privacy was a determining Scottish trait inherited by the young inventor. He tested out aviation engines in the early hours of daybreak to avoid scepticism and mockery as well thus protecting his credit rating. It was in this time he developed a four cylinder air cooled engine, testing this aeroplane engine at Balgonie, Saskatchewan June 19, 1904.

The railroad fever had the potential for a large payoff, however GIBSON’s gamble failed. The Railway venture caused GIBSON to loose $40,0000 within a year and a half. To make ends meet, he was required to sell off his chain of hardware stores which had arisen in Balgonie, Cupar and Craven. William Gibson, his father, began employment with the Forestry Division of British Columbia’s Department of Education. GIBSON also left for British Columbia with his family in 1906.[3]

GIBSON, an adventurous soul, had traveled to Victoria seeking fortune in the gold rush. Around and about 1908, he meets Lucky Grant who had his gold mine prospect up for sale. GIBSON purchased a 17 foot boat and set sail up the ocean coast, arriving in Clayoquot eight days later. Here He re-united with Grant and they traversed overland to the Leora Mine. Immediately GIBSON purchased the prospect selling Locky, his boat, camera, rifle, field glasses and some cash. GIBSON knew what was required to mine this spot, and traveled back to Victoria for a water wheel driven small stamp-mill. The mining venture at the Blackpearl Mine was productive, and GIBSON was able to flip the mine for $10,000 cash early in 1910.

FIRST SUCCESSFUL CANADIAN AIRPLANE ENGINE

GIBSON TWIN PLANE

“”This plane can teach you more things and give you more gifts than I ever could. It won’t get you a better job, a faster car, or a bigger house. But if you treat it with respect and keep your eyes open, it may remind you of some things you used to know — that life is in the moment, joy matters more than money, the world is a beautiful place, and that dreams really, truly are possible.”

~ Lane Wallace

He was now financed for the era of “aeromania” fueled by the Wright Brother’s flight in North Carolina. Tristan Hopper of the British Columbia Magazine, relates that France’s Louis Blériot was embarking on his dream to fly cross the English Channel, Magician Harry Houdini was working upon a French biplane in Australia. Even the Canadian inventor Alexander Graham Bell assembled together an American engineering team and embarked on a mission to build a flying machine.

Now GIBSON had the means to return to his aviation hobby and settle in at Victoria B.C. He purchased a large home on 146 Clarence Street in the James Bay region of Victoria. He was able to make use of Beacon Hill for test flights. Neighbors would flap their arms and just at his experiments, so again he took to the early morning hours, and night time trial runs. His initial hand built engine did not take to the air, however GIBSON persevered. In an interview with the Victoria Colonist July 1909, GIBSON states, “The machine is [intended to be] 65 feet long and 14 feet width at its widest part. There it differs radically from all the machines hitherto made. They all present their widest part to the wind, proceeding, so to speak, sideways. I go straight ahead, like a steamboat or a fish.” Gibson was convinced that a long, narrow air craft was the best design promoting flight and diminishing the risk of capsizing in the air.

On the other side of the world, Bleriot was undertaking a flight across the English Channel, July 25, 1909. And coincidentally, GIBSON make a wager of $1000 that he would achieve a flight to Seattle or Vancouver before the end of the year crossing the Gulf of Georgia.

Working in a local machine shop, and partnering with the Hutchinson Brothers, he soon had a six cylinder, air cooled 40-60 horsepower aircraft engine weighing in at 210 pounds constructed. With the aid of Tom Pimley of the Plimley Bicycle Company, a four wheel undercarriage was fashioned from bicycle tires. Fred Jeune proprietor of Jeune brothers supplied the blue silk to cover the 20 foot wings which were mounted lengthwise providing 330 square feet of lifting surface area. The monoplane designed by Blériot had only 160 square feet. The plane is twenty feet long, and eight feet wide. GIBSON fashioned two propellers and mounted a saddle in front of the engine. The entire craft was 54 feet in length with contra propellers before and aft of the engine. Ahead of his time, GIBSON’s use of gull wings, baffle plates within the fuel tanks, and the direct drive contra-rotating propellers are innovations used in contemporary aeronautical design.

At Tolmie, Victoria, on September 8, 1910, GIBSON set off on his inaugural flight in the GIBSON twin plane on the Dean Farm, now the locality of the Victoria Landsdowne Airport. He reached a height of about 20 feet and a distance of 200 feet! As pilot of this craft, GIBSON cut short the flight early as he needed to cut the engine to avoid the trees at the far end of the runway. The landing completely broke the riding wheels.

GIBSON survived, having been thrown from the plane, but the aircraft hit the trees. GIBSON surpassed the initial flight record of the Wright Brothers which had maintained a distance of only 120 feet. Aviation pioneer A.V. Roe in England also did not meet this achievement with his inaugural flight of 100 feet.

“His flight this week was seen by several people who wondered what the enormous moving thing in the air could be as they saw it sailing across fields towards Mount Tolmie,” was the extent of the September 9, 1910 Daily Times newspaper write up. However this great feat is now reported thusly, “in 1910, William Wiallace Gibson of Victoria, without formal training, designed and built the first successful Canadian aircraft engine,” recognizing the contributions GIBSON made to aviation in British Columbia, GIBSON was inducted into The British Columbia Aviation Hall of Fame.

The first flight was followed by another on September 24, 1910. This flight recorded in the article Pioneer Flying in British Columbia, 1910-1911 by Frank H. Ellis in the The British Columbia Historical Quarterly, October 1939 related that the plane rose about fifty feet, “passing the shelter of a clump of trees a strong cross wind was encountered with the result that the aeroplane was drifted dangerously near some trees, Mr Gibson not using his rudder. He shut off his engine to avoid collision and came down, but unfortunately his wheels were not equipped with brakes and the momentum drove the aeroplane into an oak tree at the rate of about 25 miles an hour….on discussing the flight, Mr. Gibson said he was under the disadvantage of having to learn the art of aviation by experience, there being no “flying schools” in British Columbia” The National Aeronautical Museum in Ottawa has preserved this engine which powered his twin plane.[3] The Twin plane was re-built to size and is on display in the British Columbia Aviation Museum near Victoria.

GIBSON MULTI PLANE ~ THE FLYING VENETIAN BLIND

To most people, the sky is the limit. To those who love aviation, the sky is home.

– anonymous

GIBSON sold his home for $14,000 to continue financing his aviation hobby. GIBSON honestly came by a true Scottish character, a “tenacious nature”, with a “willful stubbornness” and very patient to achieve his long term goal. Lieutenant Governor Thomas Wilson Paterson (1851-1921 Lt Gov 1909-1914) offered the use of the Paterson Ranch located near Ladner, British Columbia in the Fraser River delta providing a flat surface. It is here that GIBSON made test flights in his multi plane. The new design incorporated forty planes of Spruce wood which gave rise to the name; the flying Venetian Blind. Again, the craft had two propellers, and a new 60 horse power engine invented entirely by GIBSON. It was reported in the 1952 edition of The Beaver that this airship could bear the weight of twelve men.

GIBSON’s wife, now worried about his safely, made him promise to take no more test flights. On May 31, Paterson, joined by Frank J. McKenzie, M.L.A. and other residents were present at the Paterson Farm to watch the first attempt. J.B. Woods of the Western Motor and Supply Company in Victoria is to be the “demonstrator”.[5] In an unfortunate twist of fate, the day was calm resulting in a failed flight due to the lack of wind.

GIBSON tested his craft around Kamloops, B.C. before trying the drier air in Alberta, near Calgary. Partnering now with Alex Japp, GIBSON tries again. A new 6 cylinder air cooled, 2 cycle engine is developed producing 40 horsepower on a tandem, gull-wing monoplane. The flight on September 8, 1910, the landing gear is needing repairs. The on September 24, another flight, and a side wind took the plane resulting in a landing without power crashing into an oak tree.

The book Artificial and natural flight was published in 1908 by Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, (1840-1916). Following his father’s dream to conquer the air, Maxim chose to construct an airplane rather than a helicopter. Maxim’s first attempt at flight was made August 31, 1894. Conveyed along railway tracks like a roller coaster, it did not lift off, and crashed at the end of the line. His next models were all tested in wind tunnels, but did not become successful.

Japp reads Maxim’s book, and makes design changes to GIBSON’s multi plane incorporating ailerons amongst other tweaks. on August 12, 1911 completing a flight of one mile in the GIBSON multi plane. He used Spruce for the wings, and tried it out on the flat plains near Calgary. Here GIBSON made successful test flights, and to settle his wife’s fears while she is abroad on vacation, Alex Japp became the pilot. Japp steers the aeroplane trying to avoid the badger holes on the runway upon landing, ditching the plane into a swamp, and the craft is destroyed. In honor of his flying feat, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington built a model of his airplane for display.[3]

Following these aeronautical experiments, GIBSON returned to gold mining along the Kennedy river Leora Gold Mine inventing his own mill and mining machinery. GIBSON was able to produce $20,000 worth of gold from a mine which was most active between the years 1902 and 1915.

GIBSON MILLS MANUFACTURING COMPANY ENTERPRENEUR

Genius is the gold in the mine; talent is the miner who works and brings it out.”

~ Marguerite Blessington

Gibson abandoned the mine in 1933, embarking on the GIBSON MILLS manufacturing company in San Francisco. A successful inventor, GIBSONs mining machines were successful and in demand internationally.

GIBSON RETIRES WITH JESSIE

In 1940 he was 64 and living in the Oakland Judicial Township, Alameda, California with his wife Jessie P, born in Michigan, 1895. Here GIBSON retires, and yet to quote Seneca, “many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come . . . . Our universe is a sorry little affair unless it has in it something for every age to investigate.”

INDUCTION INTO THE CREE TRIBE AS A GREAT CHIEF

Kisikaw Wawasam ~ “Flash in the Sky Boy” ~ Great Chief Piapot

Name bestowed upon William Wallace Gibson

The traditions of our people are handed down from father to son. The Chief is considered to be the most learned, and the leader of the tribe.

~ Sarah Winnemucca Paiute

It was Thursday, July 15, 1948, when over 600 First Nations people were present at a large dramatic ceremony. GIBSON, now a resident of San Fransisco, was present, fulfilling the prophecy told to him in 1883, some sixty five years earlier. Now at 72 years of age, GIBSON received the name “Kisikaw Wawasam“, the name of the Great Chief Piapot which translated literally to English means “Flash in the sky boy.”

GIBSON was thus inducted as a great chief of the Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, the prophecy told to the seven year old boy, “Pale Face Jumping Deer” was now complete. First Nations of the Piapot Reserve, the Qu’Appelle and Crooked Lake Indian agencies unveiled a memorial cairn to Chief Piapot at the ceremonies.

This induction honour had only been bestowed twice earlier, upon John Phillip Sosa, the American band leader, and upon D.C. Coleman president of the Canadian Pacific Railway who had both been previously inducted as a chief of the tribe. GIBSON traveled to Ottawa on his trip to Canada, where he took in the Dominion Archives display of his first airplane engine assembled in British Columbia before returning home.

OTHER HONOURS

Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision.

~ Ayn Rand

A commemorative cairn was erected on Richmond Road. According to Bill Irvine, the locations is ” former site of Landsdowne Airfield (Victoria’s first airstrip), beside Knox Presbyterian Church 2964 Richmond Road, Victoria BC, Canada” and it reads:

HONOURING

WILLIAM WALLACE GIBSON

WHO DESIGNED AND BUILT AND

FLEW THE FIRST ALL

CANADIAN AIRCRAFT AT THIS

SITE ON SEPTEMBER 8th 1910

*

ERECTED BY : EXPERIMENTAL AIRCRAFT ASSOCIATION

CHAPTER 142

CORPORATION OF THE DISTRICT OF SAANICH

8 SEPTEMBER 1985

PUBLICATIONS

Authored by William Wallace Gibson

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.”

~ Carl Jung

He wrote several books:

Title The Birdmen
Author William Wallace Gibson
Published 1923 republished 1942
Length 23 pages

Title Flash-in-the-sky-boy: From the Letters, Manuscripts, and Published Works of William Wallace Gibson
Author William Gibson
Editor with additions by Kay Parley
Published 1967

Title: Silver Cloud OR the Last Buffalo
by W.W. Gibson
It is the “story of the love affair of a young Indian girl and a white settler boy.”
The pamphlet has a photo showing Gibson attired in full Cree regalia
published 1900, and c1905
Regina Saskatchewan
Re-published c 1940 California

WILLIAM WALLACE GIBSON FAMILY TREE

All successful people men and women are big dreamers. They imagine what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and then they work every day toward their distant vision, that goal or purpose.

~ Brian Tracy

The tombstone for William Wallace GIBSON’s parents is in the Ross Bay Cemetery

Erected
by
Margaret Gibson
In memory of
Her husband
WILLIAM GIBSON
Born
Auchinleck, Scotland
Aug. 23, 1847
Died at Victoria
July 11, 1918
MARGARET GIBSON
Born at Patna
Scotland
March 22, 1849
Died April 13, 1940

[Margaret – daughter of James F. Lees & Margaret McConnachie]

On the sides of this stone are entries for both – Margaret & Jean Gibson – their daughters –

Jean Wilson GIBSON
Ross Bay Cemetery
Vancouver Island Region, British Columbia

Also their daughter
Margaret
M. C. GIBSON
Born at Dalmellington
Scotland
July 18, 1874
Died April 9, 1921
Jean W. GIBSON
Born at Wolseley, SK
Sept. 8, 1886

[Daughters of William & Margaret McConnachie Gibson – their details on side of this stone. Jean died 16 Mar. 1973, aged 86. Both single & died in Victoria]

Photos of the Gibson family; Mrs. William Gibson, William Gibson, Hugh Gibson and William Wallace Gibson.

Parents:

WM Gibson 1847-1918 Margaret (Maggie) Mcconnachie Lees 1874-1940

  • Gibson William
    Head born Auguest 27 1847 Patna Ayrshire, Scotland died July 11, 1918 Victoria, British Columbia
  • Gibson Margaret McConnachie
    Wife born March 22 1849 Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland died April 13, 1940 Victoria, British Columbia Parents James Lees, Margaret Mcconnachie

Married April 6, 1871 in Straiton,Ayrshire,Scotland
emigrated to Canada June 1, 1883 settled on SE quarter of section 4 township 16 range 10 west of the 2nd meridian homestead in Moffatt, Assiniboia, North West Territories. (location changed names to Moffatt region near Wolseley, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1905)

Family Siblings

  • Gibson John Son born June 29, 1871 Dalmellington, Ayrshire, Scotland died November 22, 1954 Victoria, British Columbia
  • Gibson Jas James Lees Son born November 11, 1872 Dellmellington, East Ayrshire, Scotland died September 10, 1924 Essondale, British Columbia married to Maggie Campbell died 1903
  • Gibson Margaret McConnachie Daughter born July 18 1874 Dellmellington, East Ayrshire, Scotland April 9, 1921 Victoria, British Columbia age 45
  • Gibson William Wallace Son March 28 1876 Dellmellington, East Ayrshire, Scotland died November 25, 1965 Oakland, Alameda, California married to Jessie P died 1978
    • Lived in Dellmellington, East Ayrshire, Scotland 1881 to June 1, 1883>>Winnpeg, MB June 1 1883-June 20, 1883>> Moffatt, Assiniboia, Northwest Territories (later Saskatchewan) June 20, 1883 to 1901 >>Wolseley, Saskatchewan >> Balgonie, Saskatchewan (with ties to Craven, Saskatchewan and Cupar, Saskatchewan)>> Victoria, British Columbia >> Kennedy river region, British Columbia >>San Fransisco, California>> Oakland, Alameda, California
  • Gibson Hugh Wilson Son March 7 1881 Dellmellington, East Ayrshire, Scotland died September 10, 1964 Victoria, British Columbia married Edna Catherine Robinson
  • Lees Thomas Nephew April 25 1884
  • Gibson Jeanie Jean Wilaon Daughter September 8 1886 Moffatt, Assiniboia, North West Territories (later province of Saskatchewan) died March 16, 1973 Ross Bay
    Vancouver Island Region, British Columbia

Grandchild of Wm and Maggie:

  • James Gordon Gibson born January 8, 1906 Craik, Saskatchewan died March 7 1969 Victoria, British Columbia s/o John Gibson and Jane Paul Loree married on June 10, 1927 in Craik Saskatchewan to Bessie Loree age 23 b1904 London England d/o John E. Loree and Alice Baldwin.
  • Baby Gibson died December 18, 1934 at Victoria, British Columbia c/o Hugh Wilson Gibson and Edna Catherine Robinson.
  • Margaret Gibson d/o James Lees Gibson and Maggie Campbell daughter Margaret was raised by wife Maggie’s parents Donald Campbell and his wife Helen Cameron; this family left the Moffat, Saskatchewan area in 1916

Family of Margaret Gibson nee Lees wife of William Gibson

William Wallace Gibson Maternal Ancestry

Lees, John Head married June 29, 1838, Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland
married McConnachie, Margaret

  • Lees James born May 1, 1840, Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland
  • Lees Jean born June 15, 1842, Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland
  • Lees Thomas born Oct 21, 1844, Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland
  • Lees Mary born Dec 22 1846, Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland
  • Lees Mcconnachie, Margaret born March 22 1849 Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland died April 13, 1940 Victoria, British Columbia
  • Lees John born May 10 1851, Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland
  • Lees William born March 22, 1856, Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland
  • Lees Janet Born August 29, 1858, Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland

BIBLIOGRAPHY

“No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”

~
Calvin Coolidge

[1] Title: Beach in Canada, A Pictorial Genealogy

Abbrev: Beach in Canada

Author: Mahlon W. Beach

Publication: Privately published, December 1978

[2] Title: A Brief History of David Beach and Phoebe Daniels Beach and their Descendants

Abbrev: Brief History

Author: Wilfred Warren Beach

Publication: Unpublished manuscript, Chicago, 1932

[3] Bridging the Past.
Wolseley and District. 1880-1980.

Wolseley and District History Book Committee.

ISBN 0-88925+27+0

Friesen Printers. Altona, MB.

Pages6 and 57

[4] Victoria Colonist, July 7, 1909

[5] Victoria Colonist, May 2, 1911.

[6] Victoria Colonist, June 2, 1911.

[7] Letter from A.D. Paterson to Frank H. Ellis dated June 1, 1939.

[8] Daily Colonist, Victoria, September 10, 1910.

[9] From Cordwood to Campus in Gordon Head 1852-1959

Ursula Jupp

ISBN 10: 0969065027 / 0-9690650-2-7

ISBN 13: 9780969065029

Publisher: estate of Ursula Jupp

Publication Date: 1975

[10] Title The Beaver

Contributors Hudson’s Bay Company, Canada’s National History Society

Publisher Hudson’s Bay Co., 1952

[11]People who lived in stone houses

Western People

August 26, 1982

[12] Understanding Saskatchewan through “Our Towns”

Publisher Leader Post
Date May 23, 2008

[13] Title Saskatchewan History, Volumes 28-30

Contributors University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan. Archives

Publisher University of Saskatchewan., 1975

[14] Title Canada’s flying heritage

Author Frank Henry Ellis

Edition revised

Publisher University of Toronto Press, 1973

Original from the University of Michigan

Digitized 12 Feb 2008

[15] Uncharted skies : Canadian bush pilot stories / Walter Henry and the Canadian Bush Pilot 1993.

[16] Riders on the wind / Laurence Swinburne ; illustrated by Dan Hubrich. 1980

[17] Canada’s aviation pioneers : 50 years of McKee trophy winners / Alice Gibson Sutherland ; foreword by C – Headquarters:
[18] Title Indian fall: the last great days of the Plains Cree and the Blackfoot confederacy

Page 203

Author D’Arcy Jenish

Edition illustrated

Publisher Viking, 1999

Original from the University of Wisconsin – Madison

Digitized 18 May 2010

ISBN 0670880906, 9780670880904

[19] Title Recollections of an Assiniboine chief

Authors Dan Kennedy, James R. Stevens

Editor James R. Stevens

Contributors Dan Kennedy, James R. Stevens

Edition illustrated

Publisher McClelland and Stewart, 1972

ISBN 0771045107, 9780771045103

Page 57

Frank Ellis, O.C., a noted aviation historian, Canada’s first parachute jumper and aviation pioneer who flew his own biplane in 1914 wrote several articles about GIBSON:

[20] Gibson, William Wallace. “William Wallace Gibson; a Canadian pioneer of the air by Frank H. Ellis, in The British Columbia Historical Quarterly, April, 1944.

[21] – Flash in the sky boy, by Frank H. Ellis, in Western Wings, July-August 1960.

[22] ” Ellis, Frank. “First Flying wing; the story of an attempt to conquer the air made by three ingenious farmers of Alberta in 1907-8, The Beaver, outfit 277 (March 1977), 6-9. illus.”

[23] Ellis, Frank. “Pioneer flying in British Columbia, The British Columbia Historical Quarterly, III (October 1939), 227-261.”

William Wallace Gibson: A Canadian Pioneer of the Air

[24] A biography

Author Frank Ellis

Published 1946-45

held at the City of Vancouver Archives

[25] Additionally, the Saanich Archives has a Gibson Displayset up honouring the achievements of William Wallace Gibson’s first flight at “George Deans’ farm near Mount Tolme.”[9] The photograph of the cairn and plaque erected at Landsdowne and Richmond roads in 1985 at Landsdowne Airfield. This commemoration came twenty years posthumously.

[26] Coming in On a Wing and Some Wire

The Montreal Gazetter
March 9, 1968

[27] AS well, Partners in Motion produced an episode “The Balgonie Birdman” for the one hour documentary series, The Canadians, Biographies of a Nation which aired on History Television NOvember 15, 1998.

[28] “The Balgonie Birdman”, a nine minute animation feature film, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, was directed by Brian Duchscherer and released in 1991.

[29] Photographs exist attesting to the achievements of W.W. GIBSON at the Glenbow archives. An image of his aircraft engine on display at the National Air Museum, Ottawa, Ontario, and his wooden plane built in Victoria, British Columbia, 1911.

[30] Also a photo exists of the very first airplane built in Regina, Saskatchewan by William Wallace Gibson in 1907.

[31] A photo (#8551) of the GIBSON twin plane is held at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum

[32] On September 10, 2010, the B.C. Aviation Museum honoured the 100th Anniversary of Flight in Victoria B.C., (100 years Gibson’s flight) reported Bill Irvine, the event was hosted by Caroline Duncin of the Saanich archives, and Dave Marratt was the master of Ceremonies.

[33] Saturday July 17, 1948 a Canadian Press story entitled “Inducted into Cree tribe as Great Chief Piapot,” published by the Lethbridge Herald.

[34] The 1952 edition of The Beaver published by the Hudson’s Bay Company with contributions from Hudson’s Bay Company, Canada’s National History Society, quoting the Canadian Press Induction into Cree Tribe story first published in Regina on July 17, 1948

[35] Induction Ceremony Story published by the Winnipeg Free Press Page 2, Friday August 6, 1948.

 

________________________________________________________________________________

For more information:

Saskatchewan Gen Web Ethnic History – Scottish Roots

Saskatchewan Gen Web – Transportation

Yorkton Gen Web Region

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Related Posts:

•The Era of Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouses

•Why were Canadian “Last Best West” homesteads created?

•How did pioneers travel to their prairie homesteads?
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How did Saskatchewan Pioneers Homestead?

1 Nov
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How did Saskatchewan Pioneers Homestead

“Those years were hard,” the farmer said to me,
And hardened lines then deepened round his eyes,
Which narrowed like he read each memory
From chalky scrawls that streaked the prairie skies,” Byron Anderson

“The early settlers to the prairies were from Sweden, France, England, Ireland, Germany and the Ukraine,” recalled the Kelliher Historical Society in Reflections: Kelliher Jasmin District, “They came by way of the Touchwood and Carlton trails or to the end of the rails then overland until they found their particular area or homestead….These people came …on foot, by ox teams or horses on wagons, buckboards or squealing Red River carts.”

Railway, government and land agents distributed advertising encouraging immigration to and settlement of the “Last Best West“. The Canadian Government established the Dominion Lands Act / Homestead Act in 1872 similar to the United States of America’s Homestead Act of 1862 and its policy and regulations passed under President Abraham Lincoln .

Commencing July 10, 1871, the survey system established the township model granting the Canadian Pacific Railway odd numbered sections twenty four miles on either side of the rail tracks extending across the plains. The survey system expanded to the area now known as Saskatchewan in 1877. Besides railway lands, land administration set aside block settlement land grants which were made available to ethnic groups, various Land Colonization Companies, Soldier Settlement Grants, South African (Boer War) Scrip, North West Mounted Police Bounty, school lands (sections 11 and 29), and Hudson Bay lands (sections 8 and 26).

Surveyors would place survey monuments at the intersections of sections in a township grid. An immigrant after traveling for weeks across the ocean on their steamship, would disembark and travel as far west as possible via rail, then commence across the North West Territories to the prairie country where they wished to settle. First arrivals would seek soil conditions similar to their home country so that their agricultural tools and methods would provide the greatest chance of success. Later immigrants would seek lands near the first homesteader from their family or town.

To find an available quarter section to homestead, persons roamed across the grasslands searching for an iron post set approximately every mile apart set in the centre of four pits three feet square and eighteen inches deep. In the center of each section would be a wooden post demarking the quarter-section corner. Allowances  were made for roads and correction lines

Upon finding the land, the pioneer would thence travel to the land titles office to file an Application for Homestead Patent, often standing in line ups. In the first three decades of the 1900s, there were 303,000 homestead applications. However, before dry land farming techniques were established, three out of very four homesteaders failed, filed a Declaration of Abandonment and moved away.

Basically Homestead Entry for a quarter section (160 acres) of surveyed land could be had by any person who was the sole head of the family or a male reaching twenty one years of age on payment of a $10 application fee. The age was thereafter dropped in subsequent revisions to 18 and allowed provisions for younger males already head of a family. The first Dominions Lands Act of 1872 only allowed those women to receive a homestead who could prove their status as the head of the household as widows, divorcees or abandoned wives with family to support.

With this protocol of land application out of the way, the pioneer had to “Prove up the Land“. Again, the regulations changed over the years, the homestead duties of 1904 required residence upon the land, and cultivation of the land each year during the term of three years. Settlers would need to break the land, clear the land, and make improvements such as buildings and fencing.

The land would need to be first cleared of trees and rocks before the land could be tilled. Stone boats were employed behind horse, oxen or mule team to pull large rocks from the land. Stone houses, schools, fences were occasional uses of prairie fieldstones. In the 1880s and ’90s, getting access to construction materials was not easy because there were few railways and the roadways weren’t conducive to easily hauling lumber,” said construction historian “Frank Korvemaker. Trees, scarce as they were, were invaluable as winter fuel, for construction material, for tent framework or as a foundation for thatched roofs on sod houses before a log home could be constructed.  Tree roots in the field were pulled by oxen or horses.

The earliest pioneers employed hand tools to break the land. The axe, hoe, pickaxe, spade or shovel were utilised to clear and turn over the soil. Following the shovel, a hand rake was used to smooth the surface and break up clumps of soil.

The first crops to be seeded were Red Fife Wheat which needed a longer growing season than the northern Great Plains provided. In 1909 Marquis Wheat was available. Red Fife wheat crossed with Hard Red Calcutta produced Marquis wheat which matured 7-10 days earlier than Red Fife, and had a more phenomenal yield than Hard Red Calcutta. Wheat growing expanded, and farmers met with greater success in the shorter growing season.

Besides wheat, farmers also tilled alfalfa, flax, sunflower, corn for fodder, oats, and winter rye. Mixed farming ensured food for the family, a milk cow provided dairy products, chickens laid eggs, pigs and cattle were slaughtered for meat.

Before winter came, a dwelling was required to fend off the cold and blizzards. A “soddy” or sod house may be erected by cutting sod bricks with a plow into rectangles two feet long, one foot wide and between four to six inches thick which were stacked one upon the other to form the walls. Pioneers made the walls stronger by cutting central slits in the root mass, stacking the bricks alternately widthwise then lengthwise or stacking the sod bricks with a base wider than the apex of the wall. The sod walls were protected from erosion by planting ivy, or providing a covering. It would take approximately one acre (43560ft² or 4047 square meters) of sod or 2,304 bricks for the walls of a basic 12 foot by 20 foot home. Additional sod would be needed to cover the wooden poles or purlins which provided the framework for the roof unless the settler made a thatched roof from straw or rye grasses covered in clay.

If the crop survived drought, grasshopper plagues, and raging prairie fires, the harvest would need to be taken off. Hand tools were again the first implements at harvest time. A hand scythe would mow the stalks, threshing would be accomplished with a hand flail before winnowing the chaff.

Over the winter months settlers used their proceeds from the year’s crops to buy supplies, wagons, plows, and harrows. These improvements enabled the homesteader to employ a plow rather than a shovel, and a harrow in place of a rake. Different plows were required for specific soil conditions. Pulled by horse, oxen or mule team, a “single furrow plough” or a “Sulky plow” were common implements used by the farmer who walked behind. A disc harrow was used to break up the sod, whereas a chain harrow could cover seed or spread out dung. Often six to ten acres of land were all that could be broken within the 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile quarter section in the first years.

For an idea of the size of land being worked, the American football field with end zones comprises an area of about 1.3223 acres or 0.535 hectare and the Canadian football field has an area of 2.0145 acres or 0.815 hectare. A quarter section envelops 160 acres.

Sheaves were created with binders which both cut the stems of the plant, and tied the stems all gathered together with twine. Stooks were several sheaves leaning on each other allowing the seed heads to dry in the autumn. When the harvest was dry enough to store in granaries, the sheaves were threshed.

An investment in a threshing machine eliminated the laborious and time consuming task of threshing by hand with scythe and sickle. Threshing bees and steam driven threshers began dotting the prairie scene in the early 1900s.

The government and rail lines collaborated during harvest time offering low fares and high wages to encourage temporary helpers to travel west from Ontario and the Maritimes to assist with the harvest.

The next challenge was getting the grain to market. The crop taken of in 1901 sat in storage due to a huge shortage of grain rail cars. Farmers would load their hay wagons, and traveling by horse take the harvest to the nearest grain elevator. As early as 1890, there were ninety elevators in the prairie provinces. The first roads were not much more than prairie red river cart trails until Local Improvement Districts and Rural Municipalities began the task of constructing and grading roads.

Better Farming Trains were the province’s first foray into distance learning. Between 1914 and 1922, farmers could see exhibits and displays offering information and advice on agricultural and farming improvements and methods.

In the spring sod houses leaked and roofs collapsed as the piles of snow collected over the winter months began melting. So along with breaking and clearing another 6 to 12 acres of land, and sowing seeds as part of the homesteader duties, after the last frost, construction of a new roof for the home was added to the chores.

Agricultural tasks helped the homesteader fulfill the homestead duties. However, additionally the family needed to find and haul water, collect firewood, build dugouts, construct fire breaks, furnish home and barn, construct fences, make furniture and repair agricultural implements. The people needed clothing and food, the livestock needed tending and feed.

The demise of the Canadian Dominions Lands Act came about in 1930 when the federal government transferred any and all remaining lands and resources to the control of the provincial governments. The Century Farm Awards are a testament to those who succeeded at pioneer farming methods through thick and thin, and the family remained on the farm for better than one hundred years.
Pre-1930 Homestead File Series contains about 360,000 listings of those who applied for land under the terms of The Dominion Lands Act.

People arrived out west along the rail lines. Most settlements and homesteads were established alongside the rail for ease of transport, however ethnic bloc settlements were established before the arrival of rail. A random sampling of the opening up of Saskatchewan with Rail Lines:
Canadian Pacific Railway CPR arrived at Balgonie in 1882
Candian Northern Railway arrived at Humboldt in 1904
Canadian Pacific Railway CPR arrived at Kerrobert (previously Hartsberg) in 1910
Canadian Pacific Railway CPR arrived at Melfort in 1904
Canadian Pacific Railway CPR arrived at Moose Jaw in 1882
Canadian Northern Railway CnoR arrived at North Battleford in 1904
Qu;Appelle, Long Lake and Saskatchewan Railway Company arrived at Saskatoon in 1890
Canadian Pacific Railway CPR arrived at Swift Current in 1882
Canadian Northern Railway CnoR arrived at Tisdale in 1904
Canadian Pacific Railway CPR and Canadian National Railway CNR arrived at Warman in 1904
Manitoba and Northwestern Railway arrived at Yorkton in 1888
Canadian Pacific Railway CPR arrived at Yorkton in 1891

“…Pioneers, who had taken up their homesteads in a spirit of hope and determination that, by years of hard work ahead,… the land that they were breaking and bringing into cultivation could be developed into productive farms,” said the Aberdeen Historical Society in Aberdeen 1907-1981, “Faith in the power of the soil to yield good crops of grain and hope for future prosperity were key words”
Further Information:
Saskatchewan Homestead Index Project SHIP

Western Land Grants (1870-1930)

Homestead Maps

Saskatchewan Homestead Records

Sources:

Click on an embedded link for further information.

______________________________________________________________________________

Related posts:


Why were Canadian “Last Best West” homesteads created?

The Era of Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouses

How did pioneers travel to their prairie homesteads?

Where were Saskatchewan Homesteads Located?

How do I locate my ancstor’s home town in Saskatchewan?
Have you ever visited your ancestral home?





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Why were Canadian “Last Best West” homesteads created?

17 Feb

Peaceful Calm

Why were Canadian “Last Best West” homesteads created?

Homesteads of one hundred and sixty acres of land were offered by the Dominion Land Act of 1872. They were created as the Dominion Government wanted British Columbia to join the Dominion and B.C. would only do so if there was a transcontinental rail line built joining them to eastern Canada.

The Dominion Government agreed to this term. When it came time to survey the land and enlist existing rail line companies to embark on this project, the rail lines did not wish to lay rail through the prairies. They argued the rail lines would not be used due to the low population, and therefore it would not be economically feasible in the long run and feared the rail lines would be subject to disrepair and vandalism.

Without a British presence in the west, the Canadian Government realized that the area ay fall to the United States. The Dominion Government, Railway colonisation companies and private colonisation companies all promoted homesteading in Eastern Canada, United States and Europe.

Precursors to the rail lines and deciding factors to the rail lines were dependent upon the Palliser expedition and the Henry Youle Hind expedition reports.

Captain John Palliser led a Royal Geographical Society expedition (1857-1860) that explored the Canadian West in an attempt to survey the region’s resources, provide an early analysis of where to best lay a transcontinental railway, and to assess the economic potential.

In 1853, Palliser wrote the book “Solitary Rambles and Adventures of a Hunter in the prairies.” It was his advice that the railway should be surveyed from Winnipeg up through the area which later housed the Northwest capital of Fort Livingstone (1873-1876) east of present day Norquay and Kamsack. He suggested he rail should extend north of the Eagle Hills through Battleford, to whit, this area became the North West capital between 1876-1883. Following along, the rail would run through to Edmonton. By 1885, the telegraph lines were surveyed and laid in the west following this route including Fort Pitt at Frenchman’s Butte and Fort Saskatchewan enroute to Edmonton.

Palliser was of the impression that the ony settlements arising in the west would be north of the tree line in the forested area of the Northwest Territories and the economic mainstay would continue to be the trapping industry. This area was believed to be the only place to obtain wood for building houses and subsequently heating them through the prairie winter.

“In Palliser’s Triangle, Living in the Grasslands 1850-1930 delves into the living conditions during a time when the grasslands were experiencing drought like conditions similar to those experienced in the 1930s. The area called Palliser’s triangle was thought to be an extension of the American desert.

John Palliser’s conclusions were: “[This area now known as Saskatchewan] can never be expect to become occupied by settlers…it can never be of much advantage to us as a possession.” Captain Palliser became famous or perhaps infamous, for these words.

Henry Youle Hind and Simon Dawson set out on a subsequent expedition 1857-1858 which showed a much larger area of land was fertile than previously asserted by Captain John Palliser on his expedition. Hind was a botanist and saw the potential for agricultural settlement in viewing the native grasses and plants growing in the river valley area near Long Lake. It waas due to his report that the survey for the rail lines took a more southerly route from Winnipeg then south of Long Lake where the settlement of Regina later established itself becoming the capital of Saskatchewan (1883 to present). This route was more economically viable to the rail lines.

In 1867, the British North America act brings the provinces of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia into one Dominion of canada, divided now into four provinces named Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Prime Minister John A. MacDonald wanted to build the nation of Canada from coast to coast.

On November 19, 1869, the Hudson’s Bay Company agreed to surrender Rupert’s Land to the Dominion of Canada for 300,000 pounds and 120th of lands in the fertile belt. (This amounted to 3,351,000 in the current province boundaries of Saskatchewan). This request was given Royal assent June 23 180.

Sir Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior initiated a huge advertising campaign for immigration. Homesteads of one hundred and sixty acres of land were offered by the Dominion Land Act of 1872.

Europeans were familiar with settlement acts. In 1763 Catherine the Great issues Manifesto inviting foreigners to settle in Russia,and in 1862 the United States enacted a Homestead Act inviting immigration to America.

The terms of the Russian 1763 Manifesto, held that immigrants to Russia would receive communal property, implement their own education and for the majority exercise their religious practices and be exempt from serving in the military and paying taxes.

The American Homestead Act of 1862 offered the settler 160 acres (64.75 ha) of land, free of monetary cost in exchange for an agreement that the homesteader remain living on the land and cultivate it for a minimum of five years.

Western Canadian homesteaders could purchase a quarter section of land (160 acres) for a filing fee of $10.00 on the condition that they clear ten acres and construct a domicile within three years. The homesteader was expected to live on the land and cultivate it for six months out of every year in this first period This condition for “proving up the homestead” provided for settlement in the west, and prevented speculators from buying up large amounts of land. Land agents inspected homesteads to ensure that improvements were made annually.

These were the main factors at work to create opportunities for homesteading in the “Last Best West”. The North West Territories evolved from a hunting and trapping lifestyle to a farming population. The creation of the province of Saskatchewan occurred in 1905.

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Sources:

California: A History
Volume 23 of Modern Library Chronicles
 page 169. Kevin Starr. reprint, illustrated. Random House of Canada, 2007. ISBN 081297753X, 9780812977530. digitised online by Google Books. URL accessed February 7, 2012.

Dickason, Olive Patricia (1997) (Paperback). Canada’s First Nations A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times (second ed.). Toronto, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-541358-X, 0-19-541227-3.

Dominion Lands Act / Homestead Act
2006 Canadian Plains Research Centre, University of Regina. URL accessed February 7, 2012.

History Of The United States Of America, Part Five International World History Project. January 2007. URL accessed February 7, 2012.

Introduction – Free Land! – A National Open-Door Policy (1867-1895) – Traces of the Past – Moving Here, Staying Here. The Canadian Immigrant Experience – Library and Archives Canada URL accessed February 7, 2012.

Lalond, Andre N. and Perdersen Maureen A. Administration of Dominion Lands 1870-1930. pp. 48-49.in Fung, Kai-iu (1999). Barry, Bill. ed. Atlas of Saskatchewan Celebrating the Millennium (Millennium edition ed.). Saskatchewan: University of Saskatchewan. ISBN 0-88880-387-7.

McCracken, Jane. Homesteading. pp. 527-528. Volume 2 For-Pat. in The Canadian Encyclopedia. Hurtig Publishers Ltd. Edmonton, AB, CA. 1985. ISBN 0-88830-269-X (set)

McConnnell, J.G. and Turner A.R. Historical Geography. Land Settlement. pp. 16, 17. in J.H. Richards, K.I. Fung. (1969). Atlas of Saskatchewan. W.G.E. Caldwell, W.O. Kupsch. Saskatoon, SK, CA: University of Saskatchewan.

Life’s a Grind: For Volga Germans, its not Christmas Without Sausage on the Table Obra, Joan. “Life’s a Grind: For Volga Germans, its not Christmas Without Sausage on the Table.” Fresno Bee, 20 December 2006.: North Dakota State University Libraries NDSU
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection URL accessed February 7, 2012.

Russell, R.C. Carlton Trail. The Telegraph Line. pp. 73-75. Prairie Books. The Western Producere. Saskatoon, SK, CA. 1971.

Schwier, Charles. Railway History. pp. 1541-1544. Volume 3 Pat-Z. in The Canadian Encyclopedia. Hurtig Publishers Ltd. Edmonton, AB, CA. 1985. ISBN 0-88830-269-X (set)

Survey of the Western Part of the Dominion – Homestead Regulations of Dominion Land – Entry – Homestead Duties Map. Survey of the Western Part of the Dominion, Entered according to Act of Parliament of Canada, in the year 1904. and 1907 by the Scarborough Company, Hamilton, Ontario, at the Department of Agriculture,Scarborough Company, digitised online by Online Map Historical Digitisation Project. Julia Adamson. Copyright February 3, 2009. URL accessed February 7, 2012.
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