The Proof of the Pudding
NORMAN REILLY RAINE
It is not yet two years since the Dominion Government decided to assist three thousand Britishers of some farm experience in establishing themselves on the land in Canada. Mr. Raine has followed the fortunes of many of these newcomers and in this article he tells what they have accomplished. It is, indeed, a cheering chronicle.
AT 4.30 p.m. on a winter day, early in 1925, a passenger train pulled into a tiny station far out on the Saskatchewan prairie.
It was near dark, and softly falling snow whirled in diamond arabesque against the lighted windows. Passengers within, peering out upon the flat, snowbound waste, stretched luxuriously as folk do who can lie late abed on an inclement day, and turned back to their reading. The tram moved off, Rs taillight a rapidly diminishing red point against the curtain of gloom, and a last faint wail emphasized the desolation through which it sped.
On the windswept platform, more lonely now than before, stood
a little GROUÎ of
seven people, late passengers, who shivered in the bitter air, after the heavy steam heat of the coaches, and gazed about with forlorn eyes. This, then, was the end of their journey of ~ over five thousand land and sea miles. This was their new home, for which they had exchanged that other safe, familiar haven in the old land so far away.
Desperately they fought homesickness and tried to buoy each other up with weak jokes on their predicament. But somehow the jokes went flat.
A burly, fur-clad figure appeared out of the surrounding dark.
“Are you the Loten family, farm settlers?” he asked.
“Glad to see you. Don’t mind all this; it’ll look better in daylight.
Suppose you want to get out to your farm, eh? How many are you?”
“My wife and myself, three sons and two daughters.”
The eldest son grinned a schoolboy grin. “We are seven,” he murmured, then aloud: “How far is it to the farm, sir?”
“ ’Bout eleven miles, my lad. We’ve got a couple o’ grain tanks here, so if you’ll just pile in we’ll make a start.”
The family divided itself and took passage in the tanks, each drawn by a team. The leading driver chirrupped, and they plunged, at seeming haphazard, into the dark and the flying snow. The passengers, huddled together for warmth, dozed uneasily, and awoke ir fitful starts, once when another team was added to the lead tank to haul it through a big snowdrift, again when eight miles had been covered. The wagons were stuck fast. All around, ghostly in thç darkness, were great flying buttresses of snow, quite impassable; nor could the united strength of the six horses and the men of the party extricate them from the drift into which they had forged. It was bitter cold, and the new settlers were appalled at the prospect of a night without shelter on the open prairie.
“Don’t you worry,” their guide said, rough comfort in his tone, and pointed to a swinging light that approached over the snow. He hailed the light and a few words passed. “It’s all right now,” the guide then told them. “Here’s your neighbor come to bear a hand. He’ll look after you.”
He was right. The farmer greeted them with a heartiness that put warmth into them.
“Don’t mind this,” he roared cheerfully. “Just you climb out and come over to my place across the fields there. It ain’t a palace, but the wife has something hot ready for you, and warm beds.” He chuckled. “Guess your farm’ll wait till morning, huh?”
Many of the recent newcomers from the Old Country have made extraordinarily rapid progress on the farms of Western Canada. Top: William Knight discing on his farm at Kandahar, Sask. He came out from Lancashire in April, 1926. Centre : F. W. White and his family on their ranch at Clovcrdale, B. C. Bottom: the children of William Mackie in a grain field on the latter’s farm near Crandora, Sask. This family came from Falkirk, Scotland, in 1925.
Oh, the grateful comfort of that warm, snug farmhouse kitchen! the hot, appetizing meal that was spread before them in steaming plenty, as the weary travelers took off their wraps, wet with melting snow; the deep, soft beds that eased their tired bodies as they sank to blessed sleep. Will the Loten family ever forget that night?
In the morning they awoke to a new world; a world of light, and snowy, wide spaces, and glittering sunshine and hope renewed. The family turned out, and, after a hearty breakfast, were driven in their neighbor’s sleigh to their new home, three miles away. Then the neighbor drove to the coal depot six miles off and returned with a load of fuel for which he refused to accept one cent beyond the bare cost price. After making certain that they were comfortable in their new abode, he returned to his farm.
“If this is a sample of Canadian welcome to the settler,” Loten told his wife, “it is worth all the worry and uncertainty of last night. Royal blood couldn’t be treated better than they treated us, and if we can’t make good among such people we’ll not make good anywhere.”
And so H. S. Loten, and his family, formerly of Yorkshire, came to their Canadian home.
There is a venerable saw, moth eaten, and frayed with use, but like many another well-worn thing it still holds equally good to-day. That is the saying that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Little more than a year ago, after the people of the United Kingdom had been for weary years served various indigestible immigration dishes by federal, provincial, railway and steamship authorities, bent upon populating our fair country by hook or by crook, the national stomach-ache which ensued became so acute that it affected not only the United Kingdom but the Dominion of Canada as well. We had a plethora of unskilled labor, floating from coast to coast, working in summer when they could get it, living a bare existence by aid of various municipal charities in winter, disgruntled, disillusioned, utterly fed up with Canada, yet quite unable to return ■whence they came. More
__settlers, any kind,
anyhow, from anywhere, was the cry. They were shoveled in, and the majority, as was naturali drifted to the already overcrowded manufacturing centres, for that was the environment in which most of them were bred. There they got a job if they were lucky, and well-nigh starved if they did not, while, east and west and middle, from Nova Scota to the Strait of Georgia on the British Columbia coast, farm lands the equal of any in the world cried to an unheeding heaven to conceive and bear fruit.
A problem solved always seems simple, so when the Department of Immigration and Colonization at Ottawa evolved a plan called the Empire Settlement Act. whereby these farms should be populated by people already experienced in farming, and the policy of the department wfas concentrated upon bringing to the Dominion the class of labor most needed—farm labor, people said, without committing themselves as to how it would pan out, ‘Why didn’t they think of that before?’ After a deal of palaver with the Imperial Government, which lent its usual hearty co-operation, the thing was finally worked
The Proof of the Pudding
Continued from page 11
months with one of the largest farmers of the district, and worked through the haying to harvest time. In between, he painted all the buildings on his own place and made a first-class job of them. Parenthetically, it may be noted that improving and adding attraction to the home building seems to engage the pride of most of the families who came to this country under the farmer-settler scheme, and it is a healthy characteristic. During the harvest Smalley earned four-fifty a day right until freeze-up, and then got a job doing day work for a local contractor. Shortly after their arrival, the Smalleys bought five grade shorthorn cows with their own money, and they were later supplied by the Land Settlement people with three heifers, two sows and a flock of poultry. From these Mrs. Smalley made sufficient money to keep the house going, and in addition saved enough to buy more equipment in the spring. Smalley’s judgment in selecting dairy farming is bearing fruit, and with the knowledge that he and his wife possess of caring for cattle and turning out dairy products, they stand more than an even chance of success.
Twenty-one years of service in the Royal Engineers may not seem a very secure or suitable foundation for eventual success as a Canadian farmer, but then army life engenders certain qualities, such as self-discipline, industry and pride; and these, teamed with an energetic wife, four sons, aged five to eighteen and a daughter of thirteen, all eager to make good on the land, may be forged into a most suitable tool for carving a place in the home life of Canada. If you want proof, visit the farm of A. W. Reynolds, formerly of Queensberry near Chester, in England, but since April, 1925, at home near Dunnville, Ontario. Reynolds’ clean, upstanding family was one which attracted considerable attention even among the splendid types which made up that first consignment of farmer families to land at Halifax last spring. Reynolds himself, erect, commanding, with the alertness of the sergeant-major in every move, made it clear to the writer at that time, that he had come to Canada to give his boys a chance in life. “I want a wider, freer outlook for them!” said he. “They have shown aptitude for an agricultural life and have taken several prizes for fruit and flowers at local affairs at home. I’m not much of a farmer myself, but I am not too old to learn something, and we intend to pull together.”
They had their chance on the thirtyacre farm allotted to them. It was situated on a stone road in a fertile country, and the house was piped for the natural gas locally available for heat and light. Shortly after their arrival, Reynolds and the two older sons got work at good wages, a cow, calf and pigs were bought for the home farm, and the mother and younger members of the family looked after these and the place generally. One year later, in addition to working for his neighbor, Reynolds had four acres of his own seeded to sweet clover, three acres to husking corn, one to sweet corn, one to potatoes, three to a mixture of millet and sweet clover for hay, four acres of barley, three acres mixed vegetables, and had contracted to grow three acres of tomatoes and four of peas for the local canning factory. He took off his neighbor’s berries on half shares, he has two cows, a yearling heifer and one in milk, a heifer calf, a sow and litter. By April of this year he had two hot-beds made and tomato plants well up. A hen house was being built to house one hundred and forty hens, and he was planning an addition to his home. Not bad for a soldier with twenty-one years’ service in His Majesty’s Forces, eh?
Those of MacLean’s readers who followed the account of the arrival of the first farmer settlers in the June 15 issue last year, perhaps will remember ‘Wee Peter,’ and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Freer, of Birmingham. Freer, pere, was a quiet, clean limbed lad, whose little blue-eyed wife had done her bit on the land in England during the war. Both were farmer stock, and Wee Peter’s sturdy legs and little white flashing teeth indicated that this was the life for him. A three-year old laddie’s bright blue sweater ■can enwrap a world of possibility, and
Peter’s Dad was out to make the most of it and him.
The Freers were placed on a fifty-one acre farm in Ontario, close to schools and churches, and the house and farm buildings were comfortable and serviceable. Being at home on the land it did not take the young couple long, with Wee Peter’s invaluable if erratic aid, to make it produce. An acre of garden was at once planted by Mrs. Freer, who raised a good supply of roots for the winter, and fresh vegetables for summer use. A quantity of maize was grown for their cow, and Freer killed one of a pair of pigs bought for him, and salted it down for the winter. He earned money to buy a cow and a brood sow, and raised a heifer calf, as well as a promising flock of poultry.
One of the most noticeable characteristics in the Freers when they arrived in Canada was a determination to make good, expressed not in so many words, but rather in a spirit which colored every word and thought. This enthusiasm has grown and found expression in their new home; and the hope they expressed on that cold March landing day last year, that they would till Canadian soil, bring up Wee Peter in the way a good Canadian should tread, and be happy in the land of their adoption, bids fair to be realized. If you doubt it go and visit the Freers. They’d be glad to see you in their shy, quiet way, and if Wee Peter liked you be might even let you drive his pig.
A Cheery Chronicle
SO THE tale goes. All over the Dominion, these first settlers under the new scheme are making good. Herbert Shaw, with his wife and three children from Blackburn, settled in New Brunswick. Upon their arrival they, too, experienced hardship and discouragement in getting out through a countryside covered with snow, to their farmstead; but they were not of the type which allows temporary discomfort to outweigh the industry which spells success. Neighbors met them with kindness and a hot meal, and they made the best of things. The farm to which they were sent was not suitable, however, and after a month the Shaws were transferred at their own request to another in the neighborhood. It was not possible for Shaw immediately to get employment, but he was an experienced farmer in the old land, and as he had sufficient personal capital to finance a crop he was loaned a team and machinery by the government. He bought seed, feed and fertilizer amounting to $300 and started farming on his own. In this venture he was so successful that, after reserving sufficient crop to meet his needs for the next year he disposed of, approximately, $400 worth of his produce. In addition, his wife had an income from the sale of butter, of a dollar a day. Happy and contented, they have entered into the life of their community, and may be considered as fully established, and an asset to Canada.
Robert Rawcliffe with his wife and three children formerly of Skipton, England, was a war veteran with a thirty per cent, disability. He had worked on a farm, could plough, milk, and raise pigs. His wife was used to the care of poultry and they settled in Alberta. As with most of the other settlers he received a hearty welcome from neighbors, and the entire family, even the younger children, set to work. In fourteen months this man has seventy-five acres of wheat and is to summer fallow ten acres; he has also sixty-two acres of wheat in on a quarter section which his son bought on crop payment, this land being near his own. He has four cows, four calves, one sow and a litter of thirteen, and one hundred head of poultry. In addicion a full line of stock and equipment with the exception of a binder has been obtained, and the Rawcliffes are well on the right road.
From County Antrim, Benjamin Carson brought his wife and seven children, and they settled at Burford, Ontario. They had not been in the country long before they demonstrated their possibilities. Kathleen, the eldest daughter, had had nursing experience in a Belfast hospital, and a position was found for her in a hospital in a nearby town. A son was placed with a neighbor farmer'at twenty-
five dollars a month, and another son and a daughter found local work.
The mother looked after the chickens and stock, raised chicks and bought additional birds. A pig she fattened and sold, and with the proceeds bought two more. The family improved existing buildings and erected others, re-decorated the house, put up fences, bought furniture and made other improvements without touching a cent of their original capital. This, of course, was due in great measure to the assistance of the eldest girl; and her attitude is a good indication of the spirit of mutual heljj and co-operation which holds the family together. The Carsons have become popular in the neighborhood, and their industry and initiative have had the effect of raising the status of the British settler in their community.
What are the outstanding qualities of these new Canadians? The most powerful perhaps, is that of looking to the future, and being willing to learn Canadian methods, coupled with a will to work. Second, a desire to fit in and be at home in the life of the community. Third, a spirit of cheerfulness and a willingness to take whatever job offers until the thing they want comes along. A. F. Jones, who settled in Alberta with his wife and two daughters, was a man who had worked on a farm in Manitoba before the war. He returned to Birmingham to enlist, and after the war worked on a farm in England. His wife also had been on a farm in Canada with her husband, and it is due, perhaps, to this experience that when Jones came back to settle he had no difficulty in finding employment even in times when work was most slack. Now he is supplying milk to the town of Innisfree; he has a horse, two sows, a cow and farm implements and plans to develop his side line of dairy products until they become his main source of revenue. He is not the sort of man who rushes into panegyrics over his prospects, which fact lends emphasis to his reply to the question how he liked his new home. “How do I like it?” said he, “I like it this much, that I’m sending some snapshots home to our Birmingham paper, showing what Canada has done for us.”
Do anything, anywhere, to get a start! That is the spirit among these people. John Jones, of Gramania, Alberta, from Wales originally, worked his first summer for various farmers in the neighborhood and during the winter ran the mail from Leasome to Edmonton, providing enough cash to keep the house going. In addition, he found time to remodel his house, barns and granary. James Warburton, of Saskatchewan, from Worcester, got a job with a farmer, when he came out, at thirty-five dollars a month. He remained with the farmer until December, then cut wood and traded it for the balance of the winter, to keep his family in meat and provisions. He was placed on a 160 acre farm in the Indian Head district, with ninety-seven acres under cultivation and made good progress.
A visit to the farm of T. G. Sloan may be recommended to those of little faith in the economic value of the British settler. Sloan, with a lifetime of farming and gardening brought out his wife and three children from County Down, and settled in Alberta. To start the family, the Land Settlement Board bought them two cows and twenty hens. They raised sixty chicks, and twelve months later had eight cows. The hens and cows kept the family during that lirst difficult summer, and the wages Sloan earned from a neighboring farmer were not used. A pig, bought soon after they arrived for thirty-eight dollars, had a litter which sold in the fall for $140, and another litter of eleven is growing rapidly.
Mrs. Sloan and her fourteen-year-old boy put up five tons of hay last summer. She has a good garden with plenty of vegetables for the winter, and enough potatoes left for seed. She grew forced rhubarb and sold a lot of it locally. In addition one of her daughters, by wray of demonstrating that all of the family talent isn’t corralled, took a prize for flowrers at the school fair. This settler had only $120 when he arrived in Canada. What he had in his head and his family cannot be accounted in dollars.
Cold—But Alter Scotland
THE reactions of some of these newcomers to the climate of Canada are not devoid of interest. Alex Will, wrho came out with his family from Aberdeen
to settle in Carleton County, New Brunswick, a year ago, and who is making a striking success of his venture, recently was asked what he thought of our Canadian winter. Said he:
“I certainly would not call it unpleasant, even though it is long. Ten days in February were cold, but man, they were bracing! We have not had a day’s illness since coming out, and my wife and six children have picked up remarkably; in fact, I have never seen them in such health.”
“You are satisfied then,” he was asked.
“I am. The children and myself went fishing last Sunday and caught thirty-six trout, so we had quite a feed. The neighbors are the best, and always ready to assist. I am afraid the farm servants in the north of Scotland are not very well acquainted with conditions here, or they would tumble over each other in their hurry to get out.”
It must not be expected that a scheme of such wide scope as this would be altogether without failures. The majority of those first settlers under the plan have made good, and the record of those who followed indicates that the government, at last, is on the right track in settling old country immigrants on the land. But mishaps, mistakes and disappointments there inevitably must be. And, although they are remarkably few, it is possible in practically every case to place a finger upon the particular cause for failure.
One man with his vafe and child proceeded to British Columbia. Immediately upon arrival they stated they were dissatisfied with the farm, the man’s wife claiming to have been told in England that they were coming to a fully stocked, revenue producing farm. The man refused to go to work, nor would he accept another farm in the district, unless the house was fully furnished, a condition with which it was not in the power of the Land Settlement Officer to comply. The wife refused to learn to milk. She did not like farm work and would have nothing to do with cows. Both claimed misrepresentation on the part of emigration officials in the old land —a charge which was disproved. They were offered farms in other parts of Canada, but the offer was definitely refused. The reason for failure in this case is apparent.
There are a few other instances which might be quoted, but most of them have as a basis disinclination to work, slow mentality which prevents assimilation of Canadian methods, obstinacy and refusal to work on Canadian lines, lack of judgment in buying stock and equipment, sometimes directly in the face of the advice of men with years of experience in such matters, and so on. A few were so keen to start that they could not wait to learn—a fault easily remedied. A number of settlers, who at first showed signs of becoming problem cases, after a thorough threshing out of the subject were moved to farms in a different part of the Dominion and so prospered.
It is impossible to come in contact with these new Canadians without becoming impressed with one thing in particular, quite aside from experience, adaptability, keenness and ambition to succeed. That is the part the waves of the settlers are playing in helping husbands and children to make good. They are a sterling, steady-eyed crowd, these women of the old w'orld, who have had the courage to tear up the old roots of association and affection and take their chance in the new and probably hard w'orld across the sea. But as with womankind generally when great things are at stake, they responded with the utmost that was in them, buoying the men by their quiet uncomplaining spirit, curbing too great enthusiasms, keeping in full measure a bulwark of love against the buffets of the wrorld, and then, under new% strange skies, beginning, immediately, the task of making a home for their owm. Here are just a few instances but there are, fortunately for Canada and the old land, countless thousands like them.
Mrs. Jones, now of Jeffrey, Alberta, hopes to make money for her family through poultry. She says that last winter was “a bit of a struggle, but wre kept out of debt,” and, even with only one cowq sometimes had a little butter to sell. The children are all healthy, and she is ‘delighted’ that they came. Mrs. Jackson, of Innisfree, besides making a home for her husband, who was in the Scots Guards for ten years, helps him by outside work.
Continued on page 60
Continued, from page 58
building fences, picking stones, milking
and looking after the poultry, as well as caring for two small children. Mrs. Grey, of Alberta, helps things along by giving music lessons, although ten miles from the market town. Mrs. Fallowfield of Alberta, who was hard at work in the garden when interviewed, spoke of the kindness of her neighbors, and exhibited with justifiable pride seven fine calves that she was raising. And these women are typical of many.
Disappointments there have been for these people, and set-backs of one sort ¡ and another. Stock has perished, hail has j taken its toll, illness made its inroads, and j many things, unexpected and unavoidable perhaps, except through the safeguards that only experience can bring, ] have happened to take off the keenness of that first fine enthusiasm. But in its place has come something more durable and with a surer cutting edge—the knowledge that success is possible on a Canadian farm if gone after in the right way.
I cannot do better than quote the words of Thomas Stones, formerly of Lincolnshire, who was a railway signalman but who gained sufficient farm experience to make him eligible under the farmer-settler scheme. Stones is now settled on a farm in Alberta which his industry has made an excellent proposition. He says:
‘T would like to have a talk with the Lincolnshire laboring families who have been up against it all their lives. Here, there are no trade union rules, no boss, no foreman. You are absolutely free on your own, and I tell you it is great.”
Canada is eating its immigration pudding and liking it.