( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Oats and barley thrive and yield amazingly. Oats frequently weigh from five to fifteen pounds per bushel more than the prescribed standard, and the ordinary crop yields from forty to eighty bushels an acre. Barley, both six-rowed and two-rowed, is of exceptionally fine quality, and flax (linseed) is produced in large quantities, but its injurious effect upon the land prevents it becoming a favourite crop with the farmers.
In 1909 some five million acres were under plough in Manitoba. Upon this were raised 44,915,887 bushels of wheat, 54,947,320 bushels of oats, 15,626,208 bushels of barley, and 206,350 bushels of flax. The total grain crop for 1909 was 115,695,765 bushels. In addition there were large crops of roots, cultivated grasses, and natural prairie hay.
Manitoba, however, must not be regarded as exclusively a wheat-growing country. Stock raising and dairying are being profitably followed. Cattle-raising is especially profitable, and there is a splendid home market. Some eighty thousand head are required annually for home consumption.
Realising the importance of this the Provincial Government has established in Winnipeg for many years a Dairy School, which is well attended in the winter by the sons and daughters of the farmers. It is admirably equipped, and here many of those now in charge of the creameries and butter factories throughout the West have received their training. Residents of Manitoba are eligible to attend this school without payment of fees.
The pastures of Manitoba afford a variety and an abundance of suitable grasses, with ample and excellent watering facilities for the stock, and for use in the dairies, in many places streams of pure running water being at hand.
Small fruits flourish in Manitoba. Currants (black, red and white), gooseberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, plums and wild plums yield abundantly, and most of these varieties, regularly.
At the Convention of Manitoba market-gardeners, Dr. Thompson, a successful fruit grower, contended that in no country could small fruits be grown with less trouble than in Manitoba. There were few insect pests or diseases to interfere with their growth.
The capability of the prairies to produce " hard wheat " is conceded everywhere, but the most optimistic Westerner would not have said that apples could have been grown there until recent years. However, " the proof of the pudding is in the eating," and Mr. Stevenson, of Nelson, Manitoba, had from his orchard there in 1909 about a hundred barrels of apples, which sold for $450, one tree producing no less than five barrels. That is an excellent yield in a district which people never looked to for fruit of this kind. Production it is true is only on a limited scale at present, and while nobody pretends that Manitoba is going to compare in this respect with British Columbia, Ontario, or Nova Scotia, the result of Mr. Stevenson's enterprise is very significant. An exhibit of fourteen different varieties of apples produced in Manitoba sent by this gentleman to the Show of the American Apple Society, won the silver medal given to each province displaying an exhibition of merit. Mr. Stevenson has also produced a good crop of plums and cherries.
Apples in limited quantities are grown successfully in many parts of the province, and those who have carefully studied the question look forward to the time when the production will greatly increase and be an important factor in supplying local demands.
Ornamental trees and shrubs also do well, and many of the farmers have their homesteads surrounded by beautiful plantations which not only beautify but afford shelter from the summer suns and the winter winds.
The Dominion Government supplies from the Experimental Farms fifteen hundred trees to each applicant owning a farm in Western Canada. These are delivered in good condition at the nearest station free of cost, the farmer on his part undertaking to care for the trees, which as a matter of fact grow very readily and require but little attention.
The long summer days that ripen the crops in so short a time also make it possible for the bees to store freely quantities of honey. The luxuriance of the vegetation and the increasing cultivation of varieties of clover make bee culture both easy and profitable. An apiary of ten hives started four years ago has increased to one hundred and five, and produced nine thousand pounds of honey, and in the interval twenty-five hives have been sold. Within the province itself there is a large market for the honey, which is of excellent quality. Bee-keeping has passed beyond the experimental stage, and honey has become one of the notable products of the prairies.
Little more than a generation ago Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, was but a Hudson's Bay Post, known as Fort Garry. In 1870 its population was 215 ; in 1909, according to the local census, it had swollen to 130,000, and is steadily increasing and bids fair so to continue for long years to come. Winnipeg is not only the railway centre of Western Canada, but it also controls the whole-sale and jobbing trade of the Great West, and every branch of enterprise is represented there. It has most extensive stockyards and immense abattoirs which are necessary to enable cattle and meat shipments to Europe and to other markets to be dealt with. The yards of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company at Winnipeg are the largest in the world operated by one company, and contain one hundred and twenty miles of track. It is a most important railway point from which both East and West, and South and North may be reached. As has already been indicated, branch lines run to every part of the province, and a branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway connects with the " Soo " Line at Emerson, thus affording a direct and easy route to St. Paul, Minneapolis and Chicago.
The Canadian Northern Railway Company has a line running parallel to this, and connecting with the Northern Pacific Railway at Pembina. There is also a branch running south via Gretna, connecting with the Great Northern Railroad System of the United States. It is also an important centre for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.
Winnipeg is not only the commercial centre of Western Canada, but is the political and educational headquarters as well. Here are to be found the Legislative and Departmental Buildings of the Manitoba Government ; the chief Immigration, Lands and Timber Offices for the West of the Dominion Government ; the Provincial University ; indeed all the principal institutions of the country of whatever character are to be found in the Metropolis of Manitoba.
In addition to Winnipeg there are several towns of importance, such as Portage la Prairie and Brandon, both of which are important railway junctions and distributing points for large areas of unexcelled farming country. All over the country are towns and villages of more or less importance, with populations ranging from five hundred to five thousand. In these places will be found all that contributes to the amenities of life, and they constitute the homes of as happy and contented and as prosperous a people as is to be found anywhere.
The superficial area of the Province of Saskatchewan is 229,229 square miles, or 91,691,600 acres. When early in the autumn of 1909 it was announced that the wheat crop of Saskatchewan would approximate to some sixty million bushels it was regarded by many as gross exaggeration. Later on, however, it was officially confirmed that 3,912,499 acres cropped with wheat in that year in Saskatchewan produced seventy million bushels, an average of eighteen bushels to the acre, and this crop realised $61,269,703. Of the above 630,000 acres were virgin prairie a year before. Practically the whole of Central Saskatchewan is admirably suited to wheat-growing. This territory is principally drained by the Saskatchewan, North Saskatchewan and Qu' Appelle Rivers. The northern part of the province, with an area of some 70,000 acres is very thinly settled. The south-eastern portion embraces the great wheat plains of Moose Jaw and Regina, and these of course lie contiguous to Manitoba. South-western Saskatchewan is a magnificent cattle country, and the writer has often seen in this district beasts fit for the butcher's block grazing in a profusion of unrivalled pasturage in which the wild vetch and the wild peavine were prominent.
Although the Saskatchewan crop returns of 1909 caused astonishment, yet things in this respect are only at their very beginning. The provincial authorities have divided the province for statistical purposes into crop districts, and these districts comprise a total area of 73,171,780 acres. The total area of the grain crop in 1909 was but 6,888,000 acres. There can be no need to dwell upon this point, and the significance of the facts having regard to the future of this great Province will be conceded on all hands.
Many of the general facts which have been set forth in respect of Manitoba apply equally to Saskatchewan. There is a similar richness of soil and of climate, making for the perfect and rapid ripening of the crops, and the severity of the winter gives to a large extent immunity from injurious insects.
Naturally the older settled portions of Saskatchewan lie along the Canadian Pacific Railway, where is to be found the famous wheat district of Indian Head, and both here and in the Regina district may be found farms which have been under crop for a quarter of a century.
The character of the buildings erected on many of these farms is the best evidence of the prosperity which has attended the efforts of the owners. There are to be seen beautiful homes, surrounded and adorned by attractive plantations, neat fences and many other signs of proud proprietorship and prosperity. All along the main line of the three railway systems to which reference has been made are towns and villages where are rows of high grain elevators (warehouses), which if somewhat ungainly are substantial evidences of the enormous grain production which is the feature of the country.
Like her sister province of Manitoba, Saskatchewan is served by railway systems which cover what must be regarded as an extraordinary extent of the new country when it is borne in mind that a generation ago it was practically uninhabited.
But the end of railway construction is not yet. Throughout the province branch lines are contemplated and actually under construction in many directions, and these will bring all the settled districts within reasonable reach of the railway.
A recent and interesting feature of the development of this province is that not very long ago the plains west and south of Moose Jaw, which were considered to be fit only for ranching, are to-day being rapidly taken up by substantial farmers, many of them from the United States, who by the adoption of what is known as " dry farming " are transforming these plains into vast wheat fields. The districts of Weyburn, Yellow Cross, Estevan and others along the " Soo " Line were at one time regarded as the western limit to the wheat-growing area of Southern Saskatchewan. Today these places are the centres of important grain growing districts.
There are still large areas where the " land hunter " may go and with ordinary industry and prudence repeat the prosperous experiences which have been cited.
Stock-raising is general throughout the province. The animals require shelter during the winter. In many parts of the province natural conditions render it eminently suitable for mixed farming and dairying. There is a splendid market for butter, especially during the winter months, and in recent years the supply has not been equal to the demand. Co-operative dairying is gradually progressing, and the creameries now in operation are being well supported. There are indications that farmers are regarding this movement with more and more favour. Most of the creameries are under the direction of the Department of Agriculture of the Provincial Government at Regina. This Depart-ment supervises generally all business transactions relating to the operation of the creameries, with the assistance of local Boards of Directors. The butter is sold by the Department and twice monthly cash is advanced on cream delivered by the farmers. Such advances are based upon the wholesale price of butter at the time, and are forwarded regularly even if the butter is not sold. This payment constitutes an advance only, and twice in each year the season's business is balanced up, only the actual cost of manufacturing being debited to the patrons.
The establishment of the Province is of such a recent date that there has been no time for the growth of great industrial centres. Although this is the case there are already many towns of importance which seem destined to repeat the expansion which has taken place in older communities. Regina, the capital of the province, has a population of about 13,500. This town is growing rapidly, and will unquestionably become an important city. Those who preside over its destinies have done so with an efficiency which is much to be commended, and by their enterprise have done wonders on Regina's behalf.
Prince Albert, with a population of some 8,000, is situated on the Saskatchewan River about the centre of the province. It is the centre of a charming district, well wooded and watered, and offering great attractions to the immigrant in search of a home.
Moose Jaw is an important business centre on the Canadian Pacific Railway, and has a population of some 13,000. It is in one of the great wheat sections to which reference has already been made. Moose Jaw is a railway junction of importance.
Saskatoon, the rival of Regina, has a population of about 13,000. It is a thriving town and the seat of the University of Saskatchewan.
In addition to the above, the Province is dotted throughout with towns and villages, built up by people who are comparatively recent arrivals in the country, and find within them profitable occupation for their energies, and opportunities for themselves and their children not available elsewhere.
We have seen that the size of Manitoba as at present constituted is a little more than that of England and Wales, but in approaching the most westerly of the prairie provinces Alberta we find that it has a superficial area equal to about twice the size of the British Isles, and larger than either France or Germany. Within its boundaries are diversified natural resources upon a noble scale.
The two prairie provinces with which we have already dealt will in all human probability have to depend for any pre-eminence in a large measure upon their agricultural resources. Nature, however, has so bountifully endowed Alberta that as time goes on not only is she destined to become the home of millions of contented and prosperous farmers, but it seems almost equally certain that her great coal and other resources will enable her to provide for a great industrial population. In the meantime, let it be borne in mind that this magnificent kingdom has at present a population of, approximately, only some three hundred thousand. In contemplating this one irresistibly speculates upon the future, and he would be indeed a mean-hearted British citizen not to be filled as he dwells upon the subject with glowing anticipation and pride of possession.
Elsewhere under the heading, " The Undeveloped North," the more remote districts have been dealt with —that vast stretch from Athabaska Landing northward, embracing the noble valleys of the Athabaska and Peace Rivers. At the moment we shall dwell more particularly with that part of this province where closer settlement prevails.
In common with the rest of the Canadian prairies the soil of Alberta is admittedly of the richest. In Southern Alberta, from the foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains, we find the land sloping away eastward into prairie of noble dimensions. At one time given up almost exclusively to ranching, particularly to horse-ranching, for it is a great horse country, we now find a rapid expansion of grain-growing, dairying and mixed farming.
As the prairies to the eastward have become famous for their hard spring wheats, so Southern Alberta is become known as a great producer of winter wheat. Irrigation, making both for regularity and abundance of production, has been adopted with most gratifying results, notably in the Calgary and Lethbridge districts where the Canadian Pacific Railway Company owns three million acres of the rich Bow River valley lands, and has undertaken the largest irrigation system in the Western Hemisphere, and land which a comparatively few years ago possessed but a nominal prairie value is today in good demand at from twenty dollars an acre and upwards. In 1900 the area seeded for winter wheat in Southern Alberta was less than five hundred acres ; in 1909 it was 305,000 acres, and the increase still goes on. The yield of this wheat is extraordinary, frequently amounting to forty bushels per acre, and in abnormal cases to sixty bushels per acre. Alberta red wheat ranks high in the world's markets. Not long ago no one dreamt that it could be grown in Southern Alberta, and yet an exhibit of this variety took the gold medal at the Portland (Oregon) Exhibition in competition with the best products of the United States. The great advantage of this crop to the grain-grower is that it ripens earlier than spring wheat, being usually harvested early in August, and in this way not only escaping climatic dangers, but also enabling it to be saved in the pink of condition. Speaking of these conditions Professor Thomas Shaw writes :
" When I passed over this road only a few years ago, only a few fields of grain were discernible along the entire road. At the present time one cannot look out of the car window, save in limited areas, without seeing excellent crops of grain on every hand. These crops consist very largely of winter wheat and oats, but spring wheat is also grown, as well as speltz and barley, both of the beardless and hull-less varieties. The wheat crop, however, is in the ascendant.
" This marvellous development has been brought about mainly by the uncommon adaptation which it was found that the country possessed for growing winter wheat. The yields of some of these crops have been such as to seem almost beyond credibility, and the instances in which these yields have been obtained have been so many, that the statements made in regard to them cannot be challenged. Thirty bushels per acre is a very moderate yield. Forty bushels is quite common. Fifty bushels is not infrequent, and as high as sixty five bushels an acre have been threshed from large fields. That there should have been a rush for these lands as soon as their producing powers became known is in no sense surprising. The rapidity of the increase of production along this line of road is probably without a parallel in the history of agricultural development in the entire West. In 1908 the shipment of wheat per mile of road was 60,000 bushels from Granum to Highwood, fifty-four miles."
In respect of the country further north, and roughly speaking tributary to those towns between Calgary and Edmonton, we find a park-like country which is proving greatly attractive to large bodies of new settlers, and especially those coming from the United States. Mr. John Arthur Fixon, a well-known American agricultural authority, and the editor of Home Life, who may be deemed to be an impartial critic, wrote after investigation in Central Alberta, as follows :
" An excellent country for farming and grazing is found in central Alberta between Calgary and Edmonton. It is park-like, with wide expanses of fertile soil between the wooded tracks. Grasses grow with luxuriance all through this district, and the grain yields are surprisingly large. I saw wheat which would go as high as 50 to 55 bushels per acre ; oats as high as 80 bushels per acre, and barley 60 to 70 bushels per acre. Root crops of all kinds do well. For stock raising this district is of unusual adaptability. There are plenty of ranges and sheltered woods for cattle and sheep. The hay product throughout all of central Alberta is large enough to support many times the number of cattle and other animals that are now raised there. At the experimental farm at Lacombe, I saw in an astounding measure what the soil will do. Alfalfa, the great restorer of fertility to the soil, made a remarkably good showing. Strawberries and other berries, small fruit and apples, were grown there in a manner that showed there is a great future along this line. Experiments were being made with various grains that will mean great additions to the wealth of the farmers of Alberta. One who seeks his fortune in central Alberta and uses the soil rightly cannot fail."
In dealing with this subject important mention must be made of the live stock industry. The Province of Alberta occupies a position in Canada equivalent to that of the State of Kentucky in the United States in regard to horse-breeding. Its high altitude, dry atmosphere, short and comparatively mild winters, nutritious and well-watered pastures, render it exceedingly well adapted for horse-breeding, and the Western horse is noted for its endurance and freedom from disease. We find all the well-known breeds of horses represented on the Alberta farm and ranch. Heavy draught horses find a ready sale at high prices ; horses weighing from twelve to fourteen hundredweight realise £80 per pair and some-times more, and even lighter horses of less quality fetch £60 and upwards per pair. Altogether conditions and circumstances are such as to enable the Alberta farmer to raise horses most advantageously. The great agricultural expansion of the West is bound to continue to provide a certain market.
The bunch grasses of the prairie, occurring as they do on the ranges, turn out beef cattle which almost compare with those stall-fed on grain. A train-load of four-year-old steers after being driven one hundred and forty miles and shipped by railway to Montreal, two thousand three hundred miles, weighed at the end of the journey on an average 1,385 lbs. each. For all suitable cattle that can be produced there is a good market. Alberta supplies the Province of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory, as well as a large export demand.
Much attention has been devoted to securing the best breeds, with the result that the range cattle of Western Canada are the best procurable of their kind. At Calgary cattle sales take place annually in April, which attract stockmen from great distances. These men come to this centre from near and far afield to purchase their bulls. Shorthorns, Herefords, Polled Angus and Galloways are the chief beef breeds, while for dairying purposes Holsteins and Ayrshires are often to be seen.
The rearing of sheep is also an increasingly important industry. There is a good market for both mutton and wool. It would seem certain that eventually woollen mills will become established in the West. At present, however, the production of sheep is quite inadequate to the demand. A year or two ago the demand from the Manitoba market completely absorbed the available supply in Alberta, and after that found it necessary to draw upon Ontario for a large number. The demand in British Columbia and the Yukon is bound to expand, so that it is reasonable to say that there is a great future for the sheep farmer in Alberta.
The Honourable Sydney A. Fisher, the Canadian Minister of Agriculture, has had his attention drawn to the shortness of the sheep supply not only in Alberta but throughout Canada, and at the present time a Departmental investigation is taking place with a view to placing before the farmers of Canada facts which will bring home to them the profitable prospects that exist for sheep-breeding, and will advise as to the particular breeds which will best suit the different localities.
Much might be said as to the attractive prospects which exist for the farmer in hog raising, in the dairy and poultry industry and in other directions in this great country, but we must pass on and deal with the more general features.
Edmonton is the capital of the province. It is situated on the Saskatchewan River, and has a population of about 28,000 or more. It is the distributing centre for the northern districts, and the centre for the fur trade of the North. The Provincial Legislative Buildings of Alberta will be found here. Edmonton controls all its public utilities, including the system of street railways. On the south bank of the river is the town of Strathcona, with a population of some 4,000. It is the seat of the University of Alberta. One might suppose that sooner or later it will become incorporated with its near neighbour.
Calgary is often regarded as the commercial metropolis of the Middle West, and is a rapidly growing city of some 30,000 inhabitants. Calgary has many notable manufacturing establishments with an output amounting to millions of dollars annually. The town operates its electric light and power plant, and its system of street railways. It is an important centre for the activities of the Canadian Pacific Railway, who have here the headquarters of their British Columbia Land Department and their Irrigation Department.
Medicine Hat is another thriving town with a population of some 5,000, situated on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River. This town has a natural gas supply which is used to heat and light the business places as well as the private houses. The citizens of Medicine Hat look forward with assurance to its becoming an important manufacturing centre, owing, as has been indicated, to the exceptional advantage of a natural gas supply.
Lethbridge is a town of nearly twelve thousand inhabitants in the extreme south of the province, in the centre of the magnificent Southern Alberta wheat-fields. The town has at the present time five large coal mines, two of which have a daily output of twelve hundred tons each. It is destined to be the centre of an important manufacturing industry. Lethbridge owns its electric light and power plant, water and sewerage system.
Although the foregoing pages dealing with Western Canada do so in by no means an exhaustive manner, still enough has been said to give some idea of the vast extent of the resources and the general conditions existing there.
The three prairie Provinces together have a superficial area of 578,190 square miles, of which the prairie area is about 200,000 square miles. Of this up to the present there are under cultivation only some 18,750 square miles, or 12,000,000 acres. The population in 1909 was 1,081,000.
The dazzling prospects which this country presents to the land worker who is prepared to commit_ himself to a life of continuous but not necessarily arduous toil, and what widespread effects will be brought about by the certain expansion, have already to a partial extent been made evident ; and although to-day the country is only in its early infancy the manufacturers of Eastern Canada, who have for some years been increasing their facilities as rapidly as possible, find even so they are scarcely able to meet the demands made upon them by the West. In these three Provinces it is estimated that there are some 171,000,000 acres of land suitable for profit-able farming. As has been shown, but a fraction of this is under cultivation. There are vast tracts of fertile soil awaiting the coming of the suitable settler. Such a man locating on the virgin prairie at midsummer, will find that if he exercises ordinary industry, and if the season be an average one, that with one pair of horses or oxen it will be possible to prepare, say, forty acres ready for wheat during the first summer. Under average conditions there should be a yield in the following season of say a thousand bushels (125 quarters) of the finest milling wheat in the world. In addition to this, he will probably produce a sufficiency of grain and food for stock, to meet the needs of his homestead. Nine-tenths of his wheat crops he will be in a position to sell. Placing the settler's capital at of 100, the proceeds of the first year's wheat crop at an average price—say sixty cents a bushel —will enable him to realise an amount greater than his working capital. As the partial average result of one year's work on wild prairie land of a man with this small capital, the contiguous railway is furnished with some 54,000 pounds of wheat freight, and the Canadian manu-facturer is called upon to supply at least a plough, a wagon, a binder, and other tools costing about £70 ; that is, of course, in addition to the other products necessary for the settler's home. This is a striking result of the efforts of a single settler, with meagre capital, for only one year. Many of the new settlers from the United States bring with them several teams of horses, and instead of preparing forty acres during their first season in the country, we find them " ripping up " two and even three hundred acres in the same time. Nowhere else can wealth from the soil be produced so readily, and this is the foundation of the great expansion now proceeding in Canada.
The enormous acreage of these Provinces, practically all arable, and most of it in point of fertility not to be excelled, points with certainty to Western Canada quickly becoming a great factor in world affairs. As has been indicated the wealth of these Territories lies mainly in their agricultural resources, the surest and most per-manent foundation upon which any nation can rest. Very wisely the Canadian Government invites to these estates only those who intend going on the land, they need not necessarily be experienced agriculturists, the development promoted by these will in turn bring the commercial and professional classes.
Of the 171,000,000 acres of cultivable land only a little over fourteen million acres were in cultivation in 1910. To show how rapid the expansion is it may be mentioned that 1,254,000 acres were " broken " to the plough during the year 1909 alone.
For many years wheat-growing within this area was regarded as more or less experimental. Since then the question has been put beyond doubt, and people have poured into the country in numbers that steadily increase from year to year, as the following figures relating to the immigration into the NorthWest will conclusively show :
Year ending June 30, 1901 .................. 49,149.
The Dominion Census of 1901 showed that the population of the three prairie Provinces was then about 400,000, which figure rose to 808,863 at the North-West Census of 1906, and the population is now placed at 1,081,000.
In 1896 the export of wheat was under eight million bushels ; in 1909 it was over sixty million bushels.