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History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter XLIII - Colonization Companies and Analogous Enterprises: Anglo-Saxon Immigration


Regulations for Colonization Companies, 1882—Collapse oi- Early Companies—Land Grants to Colonization and Railway Companies—Hardships Attendant Upon the Creation of Such Reserves—Gigantic Farming Enterprises—The Bell Farm— The Sir John Lister Kaye Farms—"The American Invasion"— Immigration from the British Isles—Crofter Settlements— The Barr Colony'.

The problem of peopling and bringing under cultivation the vast prairies of Saskatchewan and other western provinces has involved various experiments of historical interest. In this portion of our treatise we will review as fully as space permits the story of these enterprises, devoting special attention to a few typical examples.

Upon January 1, 1882, there came into force certain land regulations which guided the operations of colonization companies for a number of years.

Any person or company satisfying the government of good faith and financial stability might obtain, for colonization purposes, an unsettled tract of land anywhere north of the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, not being within twenty-four miles of that road or any of its branches, nor within twelve miles of any yet projected line of railway. The even numbered sections were held for homestead and preemption purposes, but the odd numbered sections would become the property of the colonization company, on payment of two dollars per acre in five equal instalments. The company would also pay five cents an acre for the survey of the land purchased, and interest at six per centum would be charged on all overdue payments.

The contract into which the colonization company entered with the Government required that within five years the company's reserve should be colonized by placing two settlers on each odd numbered section, and also two settlers 011 each of the free homestead sections. When such colonization was completed the company was to be allowed a rebate of one hundred 494

and twenty dollars for each bona fide settler. On the expiration of the five years, if all conditions had been fulfilled, such further rebate would be granted as would reduce the purchase price to one dollar per acre. If, however, the full number of settlers required by the regulations had not been placed upon the land in conformity with the official regulations, the company was to forfeit one hundred and sixty dollars for each settler fewer than the required number.

Under what is called plan number two, provision was made for the encouragement of settlement by those desiring to cultivate larger farms than could be purchased under the regulations requiring two settlers to be placed on each section. A colonization company of this sort was called upon to bind itself simply to place one hundred and twenty-eight bona fide settlers in each township.

After the boom of 1882, colonization companies sprang up like mushrooms, in every direction. As a general rule, their careers were likewise of mushroom brevity.

It is impossible in the space at our disposal to treat of these companies in any detail. Most of them proved financial failures, as far as the original investors were concerned, and none of them succeeded in placing any considerable number of permanent settlers on their lands. Many of the settlers they did secure were not well adapted to agricultural life in such a country as this then was, and in consequence were soon dissatisfied and restless.

Accordingly, in September and November, 1884, meetings were held in Toronto by the representatives of many of these companies, with a view to obtaining from the Government readjustment or cancellation of their contracts. A petition was addressed to Sir David L. McPherson, in which the colonization companies complained of the unfair competition of interested railway companies, themselves controlling large reserves, of the formidable agitation conducted by a portion of the public press in hostility to their enterprise, and of the opposition of the Farmers' Union and other bodies. Owing to these hindrances, immigration had been checked. Moreover, as large areas of land more eligibly situated for railway facilities were yet available for settlement free, the companies found the sales of the odd numbered sections, as required by the agreement with the Government, to be simply impossible. Furthermore, it having become necessary to grant the railways lands free, which at the date of the contracts with the colonization companies were to cost 51.00 per acre, these companies, by paying the price stipulated for their lands, were thereby subjected to unequal and hopeless competition. The petitioners therefore prayed that patents might issue to them for such portions of their lands as they might fairly be judged to have earned, and that their charters be cancelled. They would thus be enabled to grant perfect titles in fee simple for those odd numbered sections, for which they were able to obtain purchasers.

The Minister of the Interior recognized that, to a large extent, the failure of the companies was owing to circumstances over which they had no control. Some of them had honestly and earnestly proceeded with the task they had undertaken, and had expended large sums of money in promoting immigration, disseminating general information about the North West and in establishing mills, roads, bridges, stage lines and other improvements. But while they had doubtless been instrumental in bringing into the country a considerable number of its immigrants, a large proportion of these had not settled on the companies' tracts, but had homesteaded elsewhere, or purchased from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

The Department of the Interior felt that it would be impossible to adopt any hard and fast basis of settlement that would be fairly applicable to all the defaulting companies. However, it was agreed that every settler placed by such a company upon its lands should be credited as a payment of $160.00 which should be included with snch other expenditure as might in the Minister's opinion have materially conduced to the progress of colonization. On such a basis a final settlement was arrived at and the companies concerned were dissolved between 1884 and 1891, chiefly in 1886.

The Saskatchewan Land and Homestead Company, part of whose holdings were south-west of Yorkton, part at the Elbow, and part at Red Deer River, Alberta, had placed two hundred and forty-five settlers on its reserve of 491,746 acres. It had paid on account over $150,000. In the final settlement it was therefore given the title to 119,200 acres and scrip for $32,000 additional applicable on the purchase of public lands.

The York Farmers' Colonization Company, operating near Yorkton, placed one hundred and sixty-four settlers and obtained finally 51,358 acres.

The Dominion Lands Colonization Company placed one hundred and forty-three settlers on its reserve in the Fill Hills and ultimately received 56,672 acres and scrip for $33,586.

The Primitive Methodist Colonization Company, operating between Yorkton and Qu'Appelle, placed one hundred and four settlers, and obtained in the final settlement approximately 36,600 acres.

The Temperance Colonization Company had control of fourteen contiguous townships south of the Saskatchewan, with the Village of Saskatoon as its chief settlement. It placed one hundred and one settlers and received in settlement 100,000 acres.

The Touchwood and Qu'Appelle Colonization Company placed ninety-six settlers and received scrip for 48.300 acres.

The Montreal and Western Land Company, south of Yorkton, had paid approximately $16,400 on account, which, together with rebates, brought up the amount to its credit to slightly over $49,000. It had placed sixty-tour settlers and received in settlement of its claim 24,586 acres.

These seven companies were all those included in the settlement that had succeeded in placing fifty or more settlers in what is now Saskatchewan. The records of the Land Department at Ottawa, to which the writer was given access, show the terms of settlement arrived at with a number of other concerns which secured some settlers, but fewer than fifty. Their land grants ranged from about four thousand acres down.

Finally seven other such companies, though they had expended much money, had not obtained a single settler. However, they were granted scrip representing considerable sums; four, eight, twelve, fourteen to eighteen thousand dollars apiece.

As a general result of this epidemic of colonization companies, upon the 2,842,742 acres set apart for their reserves, 1,243 settlers were placed. Prior to the final settlement the companies had sold rather less than 1,500,000 acres and in cash payments or rebates had to their credit with the government approximately one and a quarter million dollars. On the cancellation of the contracts, they became the proprietors of tracts of land in the best agricultural districts, aggregating 438,208 acres and scrip in addition to the value of $375,518.33.

It will be seen that the general issue of this disastrous fiasco in colonization was, without any adequate public advantage gained, to place in the hands chiefly of eastern speculators, the absolute proprietorship of vast blocks of arable lands that in course of time became exceedingly valuable.

The principalities thus alienated to colonization companies are, however, almost insignificant as compared to the kingdoms given away to railway companies. The land grant earned by the Alberta Railway and Coal Company exceeded 1,100,000 acres. By building the Souris Branch alone the Canadian Pacific Railroad earned over 1,400,000 acres, an area considerably greater than that of the whole province of Prince Edward Island. The Manitoba & North West Railway was granted over 1,800,000 acres, an area considerably greater than that of Scotland. By such a policy. Parliament, prior to 1896, alienated to Railway Companies, in the choicest sections of Manitoba and the North-West Territories, the stupendous area of 30,569,354 acres. When this area has a population averaging five persons to each quarter section it will accommodate a rural population of 955,295 persons. A very large proportion of these lands lie within the Province of Saskatchewan. They represent one special form of contribution for railway and settlement purposes, the burden of which is borne and will continue to be borne by the citizens of Saskatchewan, in addition to their share of the cash subsidies voted by the Federal Parliament and responsibility for bonds guaranteed by the Provincial Assembly.

The practical exemption from taxation enjoyed under their charters by many of these vast corporations has always been a source of infinite public vexation. Moreover, in the early days, especially when relatively little of the country was surveyed and when means for the publication of information to the scattered settlers was yet very inadequate, it could not but happen that much hardship was wrought by the creation of these vast reserves. A prominent Winnipeg physician and politician related to the present writer an instance in point. In 1879 he "squatted" on a piece of land that was subsequently taken up by a large Colonization Company. He had erected buildings, made other improvements and been about three years on his land, before he learned that his title was likely to be subject to question. He received his notice first from the company's local manager, who, in the most insulting manner possible, ordered him off the place, for which courtesy he was properly thrashed by the squatter. As there were a number of other squatters on the tract, an official was sent down from Winnipeg to investigate their claims for indemnity.

Our informant met this functionary on the train and the latter, being in an ultra-communicative frame of mind and of course ignorant of his companion's identity, told him how lie had been wined and dined by the company's manager and what an enjoyable visit he had had. He had not troubled to go near the complaining squatters. This was rather interesting information and on reaching Winnipeg its recipient announced his intention of publishing the whole circumstance through the press. To prevent this the company immediately paid him an indemnity of $4,000.00 for his improvements. The settler notified two fellow squatters to present their claims at the. same time and they were likewise met. So far as he was able to inform the writer, none of the several other squatters on the tract received any compensation. This episode is typical except for the fact that the company were dealing with at least one man who knew how to defend his rights.

An interesting phase in the development of Saskatchewan has been that involved by the history of a number of gigantic fanning enterprises, financed chiefly by British capitalists. Just before the first notable boom in territorial land values in the early eighties, Major W. R. Bell organized in Winnipeg and partly with the aid of British funds the Qu'Appelle Valley Farming Company. Large areas were purchased at Indian Head, Qu'Appelle. Balgonie and other points in what is now Southern Saskatchewan. Most of the land was bought from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company and the Hudson's Bay Company at one dollar an acre. For a time the prospects of those concerned in this venture seemed very bright and it was thought that the enterprise would bring into the country a large number of valuable settlers.

The company acquired a tract of 50,000 acres of the best wheat land in America, lying to the north of Qu'Appelle and Indian Head. It was, of course, entirely unsettled, except for the presence of a few squatters. Even before any active settlement had been made, the company had secured "upwards of a hundred thrifty and intelligent settlers and their families wherewith promptly to inaugurate farming operations." The general plans were somewhat similar to those that had previously been adopted by the great wheat kings of Dakota and Minnesota. They involved, however, various novel and characteristic features, chief among these was an arrangement by which the settlers at once became working share-holders in the company and the recipients of a large proportion of the fruits of their own labor. The enterprise was received with such popular favor that before the publication of the prospectus was completed every syndicate share had been subscribed and the stock was at a very high premium. Mr. Dewdney himself was one of the first presidents. From his actual report presented in January, 1884, we learn that during the summer and fall of 1882, when active operations commenced, 2,700 acres of land were broken. The land seeded this spring yielded an average of twenty bushels to the acre. In 1884 about six thousand were under crop. In 1883 a thirty thousand bushel granary was built, together with two large barrack cottages for the accommodation of men at the main station, buildings for the storage of implements, a blacksmith shop, a horse infirmary and twenty-two cottages with their outbuildings, costing about eight hundred dollars each. Fencing, bridging, tree-planting and other improvements on an ambitious scale also received attention. During the first two years of its history, the company spent approximately $250,000. Various means were taken to reduce by co-operative methods the expenses of the enterprise. The whole tract was divided into smaller farms. Two-thirds of each of these, as they were broken, were cropped each year, and one-third summer-fallowed.

The management, however, seems to have been extravagant and haphazard and few of those concerned had any practical knowledge of agriculture as it must be pursued in such a country as Western Canada. The share-holders were soon land poor and their great estates fell to pieces, and were disposed of at a sacrifice to smaller holders.

A similar history has to be recorded in regard to the John Lister Kave farms. Sir John's first investment consisted of some six sections of lands near Balgonie, which he commenced to farm in 18S5. Associated with him in this venture were Lord Queensbury and others. In 1SS8 there was formed

the Canadian Agricultural, Coal and Colonization Company, Limited. This concern took over the Balgonie farm and established nine others. These various farms averaged thirty-six square miles each in area.

Unfortunately the immediately available capital was invested with injudicious haste in buildings, stock and implements, and the management of the farms in many ways soon manifested deplorable ignorance of prairie conditions. The policy of the company was directed by a board in England, the majority of whom had never seen this country. As a colonization enterprise the whole scheme proved the same failure that it was as an investment. In a few years, however, some of the farms were sold and the control of the others passed to a new organization, the last of these being the Canada Land and Ranch Co., which under the management of practical business men proved profitable.

Of colonization companies drafting immigrants from Continental Europe, we shall speak in succeeding chapters.

The Province of Saskatchewan has within its broad limits many thousands of Galician, German, French, Scandinavian, Icelandic, Doukabor, Finnish, Hungarian, Roumanian and Hebrew settlers, but it must not be forgotten that the mass of its citizens are Anglo-Saxons.

The first decade of the twentieth century saw a most remarkable immigration from the United States. Many thousands of these newcomers were returning Canadians, and the vast majority of the rest have thrown in their lot with their British brethren so heartily that in a very short time they are properly counted as genuine Canadians. They retain the affection for the Republic that a Scottish Canadian feels for Scotland, but it does not lessen their loyal appreciation of cabinet government, a non-partizan judicial system, swift and certain justice and other ideals for which Canadian citizenship stands.

The ''British-born" citizens of Saskatchewan constitute the fundamental element in the body politic. Most of these have come from Eastern Canada. They are to be found everywhere and the history of their settlement would be simply the history of the Province rewritten.

Various attempts have been made to establish colonies made up entirely of settlers from the British Isles, but the individualism of the race has not tended to encourage this policy.

In the spring of 1SS3, Lady Gordon Cathcart sent out a number of Crofters from her estates in Scotland, who settled in what is now known

as the Benbeeula Settlement, south west of Moosomin. The success of at least some of these immigrants caused further attention to be drawn to the advisability of assisting a larger body of Crofters to settle in the fertile North West. Mr. W. Peacock Edwards, of Edinburgh, and Mr. Ranald MacDonald, of Aberdeen, visited Manitoba and the North West Territories in 1884 and, not confining themselves to the district of Benbeeula Settlement, they drove through and inspected large tracts of country. The result of their report was the sending cut of about one hundred additional families in the following spring, some from the estates of Lady Gordon Cathcart, some from those of the Dnke of Argyle, and some from those of the Earl of Dunmore. They were located along the district south of Moosomin, Wapella and Red Jacket. In 18S9, a Crofter settlement was also founded at Saltcoats. Progress was slow at first in these various settlements, owing partly to the inexperience of the Crofters with regard to methods of farming adapted to Saskatchewan, and partly to extravagant expenditures, especially upon machinarv. The settlers were inadvertently encouraged in their improvidence by the fact that the promoters of the movement advanced to them loans of $500 to $600. Many of the first settlers became discouraged and abandoned their homesteads, but those who tenaciously stayed on the land have prospered in the end.

Financial aid was also extended to old country immigrants to the East London Artisans' Colony, south of Moosomin, prospected by Major-General Sir Francis DeWinton and other prominent citizens of London. The Church. Colonization Land Society and various other like bodies also engaged in assisting emigration movements, but, upon the whole, the policy did not prove very encouraging, as far as immediate results were concerned, at all events.

The most remarkable attempt to transplant to a given locality in Saskatchewan a large group of Old Country immigrants is that associated with the name of Rev. I. M. Barr.

In 1901 this gentleman went to England from the United States, with the purpose of organizing a British colonization enterprise in South Africa. In this he met with insufficient encouragement, and in 1902 he applied for an appointment in the Canadian immigration service, but was rejected. Nevertheless he visited Canada and made preparation to bring out a large number of settlers. He led his clients to believe that lie had made full arrangements for the immediate establishment in full operation of a store syndicate, a transportation organization, a colony hospital and a home building and plowing department for late arrivals.

In all his arrangements, however, Air. Barr was hampered by inexperience, lack of capital and imperviousness to all suggestions emanating from immigration officers. For example, a number of bronchos were purchased at Calgary and loaded into an ordinary box car, so that they reached their destination smothered! When his party of English immigrants reached Saskatoon—the settlement nearest to the site of the proposed colony—Barr was yet in England, still strenuously refusing to accept the help or advice of the Canadian immigration officials. However, the Immigration Department erected tents at Saskatoon and did all in its power to assist the inexperienced settlers in their two hundred miles trek westward to their homesteads and in their subsequent efforts to establish themselves there.

At the colony, Barr indeed established his store syndicate, but owing to the excessive prices charged by it, it collapsed, the headstrong promoter obstinately refusing the cooperation of the Department, which proposed floating supplies down from Edmonton. Barr was ultimately deposed by the set-, tiers from the leadership of the colony, his place being taken by the Rev. Mr. Lloyd, who had accompanied the party as chaplain. This gentleman by his business ability and incapacity for discouragement saved the situation when it seemed almost desperate. A memorial to the services he rendered his comrades remains in the name of their chief settlement—Lloydminster. In due time the colony took healthy root and gradually attained prosperity. Progress in this direction was hastened as other settlers more experienced in the ways of the country came into the district. The settlement thus ceased to be "All English," but all concerned have benefitted by the intermingling of stocks and the opportunities afforded for the comparison of agricultural methods favored by peoples from various environments.


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