New Canadians in the Making
Immigrants by the shipload are material for newspaper headlines but the limelight seldom searches out the lone immigrant family on the frontier farm. What happens to the Canadians by adoption who daily seek our shores f This article relates the experiences of some of those who have found in British Columbia the province of their hopes.
MY, IT’S a grrrrand country! But, my goo’ness, these Canadians ought to go to Scotland to learn what work is. It’s easy here compared to th’ ould country. Why, there ye work frae mornin’ to nicht—and get nothing to show for it at the latter end. My, but it’s a grrrrand country an’ a’!”
Thus Mrs. Tom Scott, a bonnie little Scotswoman, lately “frae Aberdeenshire” where her husband was a farm laborer at a wage of two pounds ten shillings a week. One year ago they came to British Columbia with their four children, aged fourteen, twelve, eleven and eight, under the Overseas Settlement Scheme, and landed at Vancouver with less than $100. To-day, Tom Scott, erstwhile laborer without the remotest prospect of ever owning a single acre of the earth’s surface, is in a fair way to becoming owner of a farm of thirty acres in the Fraser Valley district of British Columbia.
Even now, explains the little woman, she has sometimes to “pinch hersel’ ” to make sure it is not all a dream.
“. . . and the wee bairns. What chance had they back in Scotland? . . . Sure they’ll make guid Canadians—but I tell ’em: ‘Aye, be you Canadians—But don’t get you into them Canadian ways of work—or it’ll be the strap you’ll get!’ ”
Plenty of Room For Newcomers
T'OR five years the cry for increased population has been heard in a gradual crescendo from all parts of the Dominion. “Bring in more people to till our idle lands and help bear the burden of taxation.” This has been the text of countless newspaper editorials and of speeches innumerable by men prominent in national affairs. And nowhere has the need of increased rural population been more keenly realized than in British Columbia, a province which is faced with great natural obstacles in the development of its territory.
Under the Overseas Settlement Scheme last year, 100 families were brought out to British Columbia from the United Kingdom. This year, before the summer is far advanced, another 126 families, each with from two to eight children, will have been added to the bare half million of this province’s population.
It is early yet to form any definite judgment of the ultimate success of the new immigration scheme, but, from personal observation and from records in scores of cases, it is safe to predict that the selected immigrant scheme will amply justify itself .
You may find these new Canadians at widely scattered points in this vast province—In the fruit belt of the sunny Okanagan Valley; along the line of the Canadian National Railway in central British Columbia; on Vancouver Island and in the fertile valley of the mighty Fraser River within seventy miles of Vancouver.
Quietly, without much noise or publicity, the transfer of British settlers is going steadily ahead.
And who would not be an immigrant to Canada to-day?
Six thousand miles—-Liverpool to Vancouver—for forty-five dollars. Children travel free. Farm land, as fine as any on the earth’s surface, to the value of $5,500 with twenty-five years to pay for it. Stock and equipment to the value of $1,500 bought for you, under expert advice, on the same terms of repayment. A job on a neighboring farm waiting for you on arrival.
Small wonder that almost every train from the east deposits its group of new settlers on the platform at Vancouver. Small wonder that men who have slaved on the land in England or Scotland for a weekly wage of $10 or $20, are crossing the Atlantic in a steady stream.
Difficulties Being Surmounted
ANY plan of farm settlement in British Columbia necessarily presents many obstacles which are not met with east of the Rockies. There are great stretches of timbered land from which the forest is being pushed back, slowly and with infinite labor. Mountain ranges divide the fertile valleys and make transportation a tremendously difficult problem. Widely differing climatic conditions make marketing a more complex matter than on the wheat-growing prairies. But, allowing for all these obstacles, British Columbia presents splendid agricultural possibilities with difficulties not nearly so great as those which confronted our grandfathers in many parts of old Ontario.
These new settlers are being placed on farms which have reverted to the Soldier Settlement Board, their former occupants having abandoned them. Herein uninformed critics find cause for complaint.
“It is a crime,” they say, “to bring Old Country families out and put them on farms where their predecessors gave up the struggle to make a living.”
It will not be denied that many soldier settlers gave up after genuine attempts to make good on the land. But it is also true that a large number of veterans who took advantage of the settlers’ loans were not really farmers. They took the loans because they offered a temporary means of livelihood at a time when unemployment was rife in the cities. Some of this type gave up as soon as more lucrative employment offered elsewhere; some abandoned the land because their wives had no liking for the life of a farmer’s wife. Whatever the reasons, the fact is that there are some hundreds of reasonably good, abandoned, soldier settlers’ farms in British Columbia, from which the incoming settlers will reap the benefit.
Since the Soldier Settlement Act came into force 2,200 veterans have been placed on farms in British Columbia. Sixteen hundred of them are still on their land and eighty-five per cent, of these will “stick.” In all, the Dominion Government had $10,000,000 invested in soldier settlers’ lands in this province. Eight millions are still outstanding in process of repayment.
That, however, is apart from the new settlement plan in connection with which the 600 reverted farms are being utilized. What is this new scheme? How does it work? Where does the money come from? How are the new settlers faring under this scheme?
Let us take a typical case and follow it through.
From Hertfordshire to the Fraser Valley
HERE is Fred White, dairy farmer, near the village of Cloverdale in .he Fraser Valley. Twelve months ago he was a demonstrator at St. Albans’ Agricultural College in Hertfordshire. He had behind him fourteen years’ service in a cavalry regiment of the British army. He had been born and bred on a Somersetshire farm.
He was married and had three boys and one girl, the eldest eight. Being a welleducated man, his wages amounted to four pounds a week. The chance of any increase was very slight. If he had had the money, he could have bought second-class land in Hertfordshire for ten pounds an acre, or good land—not as good as.that in the Fraser Valley—for forty pounds an acre. But, having no capital to speak of, he faced a lifetime of working for wages.
Fred White visited the Wembley Exhibition; became interested in Canada; made some inquiries and eventually was advised by a friend from Edmonton that British Columbia was the place for him. He applied to be placed under the Overseas Settlement Scheme. In due course, after filling up various forms, he was told to have his family medically examined at the county town of Hertfordshire. He received a clean bill of health; satisfied the officials that he would arrive in British Columbia with not less than twenty-five pounds, and, within a few weeks, was on his way to the new country.
Arrived in Vancouver he was told by the district superintendent of the Soldier Settlement Board that a farm, suitable to his experience, expressed desires and requirements, was available near Cloverdale. He went to Cloverdale and for a few months worked out at a neighboring farm at good wages. Meanwhile, he was provided with one cow, some poultry, a pig and absolutely essential furniture for the house, including a stove. Not quite satisfied with the first farm, he was given a second choice and, finding it to his liking, he entered into a preliminary agreement to purchase twenty acres of land, with buildings, for $5,500, payments to commence at the end of the second year, and to be spread over twenty-five years. For a few months, his progress was closely watched by officials of the Soldiers Settlement Board. When they had decided that he would make good, a permanent agreement for sale was signed, and a further $1,500 was provided for the purchase of stock and equipment. All expenditures were authorized by the local Soldier Settlement Board supervisor.
Fred White has now five cows milking, three bought for him by the board and two with his own money. They bring him in an average of, roughly, seventy-five cents per head per day, or twenty-five dollars per week. In addition, he now has a team of horses and 500 head of poultry. The latter give him approximately 200 eggs a day, which net him an average price of thirty cents a dozen. This adds in the neighborhood of thirty-five dollars a week to his revenue. His market is certain, though prices fluctuate according to the demand. His produce is picked up from his gate every morning by a truck from the farmers’ co-operative concern. Out of his revenue he must provide living expenses for his family, feed for his stock, repayment of the passage money of himself and wife and, after two years, he must be ready to begin repaying principal and interest on his total loan of $7,000. Passage money— before the reduced fares came into force—for the man and wife amounted to $236.47 and is repayable in six semi-annual instalments.
There we will leave Fred White, erstwhile soldier and demonstrator at St. Alban’s Agricultural College. He is content with his new surroundings and more than content with the new-found prospects for his growing family.
For the Sake of the Children
EVERYWHERE you go among these new settlers the burden of their tale is the same:
“We came chiefly for the children’s sake. There was no chance for them at home.”
What the new prospects mean to these people can be fully realized only if one knows something of the conditions under which they lived in the Old Country. Rural districts in England or Scotland are very far behind this country in the provision of nearly all the social amenities of life. Even to-day, telephones in rural England are scarce, and electric light is by no means the rule. In the Fraser Valley hundreds of farms, perhaps the majority, enjoy the advantages of the telephone while electric light is common. Splendid paved automobile roads radiate from
Vancouver, and truck and bus Services run to practically all the country villages. The villages themselves are infinitely more modern than their counterparts across the ocean. Mo'ving pictures and up-to-date buildings are1 the rule even’ in the smallest hamlets of British Columbia —delights and comforts which are not generally available in rural Scotland or' England.
These Settlers Are Succeeding
1CAME across an interesting family near historic Langley Fort on the banks of the Fraser River. It was in tíre sfd log fort, still standing, that Sir James Douglas, first governor of British Columbia, took his oath of office in 1858. Near this place on a forty-acre farm was a family named Smith from South Wales. This’ is one of the places of which it was said; “It is a crime to put new settlers there.” William Smith had been manager of a* big colliery farm at Aberdare, and he knows good land when he sees it. No one forced him and his wife and four youngsters to take this particular place. He had less than $100 when he landed on the farm just one year ago. To-day he has seven coWs, five of the Board’s and two of his own; some pigs and a second-hand automobile van all paid for. His place is fenced, and he bids fair to become well established financially within a few years. True, he did not make all this in one year from his farm. He got a temporary job when he first arrived, at a large greenhouse eight miles away at Langley Prairie. He stuck to his job and is now a permanent employee at ninety dollars a month. Each day he goes back and forth in the second-hand van, while his wife and nineteen-year-old son work hard on the farm and the youngsters go to school. It has meant hard work, of course. Some time ago the car was out of commission, and rather than risk losing his job by staying at home or getting leave of absence, Smith, senior, walked eight miles each way to and from his work every day for a week.
Mrs. Smith has taken prizes for her butter and cheese at the local fair. Every Friday she is to be found at her rented stall at New Westminster market, selling the best of butter at fifty cents a pound, thereby adding from seventeen to twenty dollars a week to the family income.
Nearly all the menfolk among the new settlers are veterans of the war. There is William Eddels, for instance. He came out last year from Gloucestershire after a long period of service in the Army Veterinary Corps. For a time after the war he “rode second hoss to a huntin’ gentleman,” as he himself put it. Then he turned chauffeur to the owner of a castle in the neighborhood and, later still, set up on his own in a garage. Then, a chance came to sell out and realize his life’s dream of coming to Canada.
As we approached his place we heard a girl’s voice lilting a cheerful song. The music came from a chicken house and was accompanied by the scraping of a hoe. Then there came forth “Eddels’ hired man,” as her father called her, in the person of his buxom sixteen-year-old daughter—the picture of health and happiness. Go back to the Old Country? Not she—nor her father either!
Eddels confided that his married boy was coming out for a visit this summer.
“He says he’ll stay only a few weeks— but I know he’ll never go back when he sees this country,” he chuckled.
The farm consists of twenty acres and cost Eddels $5,200. His revenue to-day from his cows and poultry runs not far from $100 a month.
A Community Settlement
YEARS ago, when the Soldier Settlement scheme first came into force the Government purchased a splendid farm near Gifford, British Columbia, consisting of 520 acres of the finest land. It was christened the Amiens farm and was used as a training centre for the veterans. The land has been sub-divided into thirty-acre blocks. On each of them there has been erected a substantial four-roomed house, with unfinished attic space for two more rooms. The house measures twenty-five by twenty-eight feet and cost the government $845 apiece. Each of these farms has also a fine barn, forty by forty-four feet, with feedroom, haymow and stalls for eight cows and two horses. Each barn was erected at a cost of $675. Fence posts and wire are ready at hand, as the first job of the new settler is to erect his own fence.
Scottish settlers are being settled on this block of farms. It is the only example in British Columbia of this type of community settlement. Having a common homeland, the Scotsmen on the Amiens place show a desire to help each other in a variety of ways. One man who, perhaps, has a team of horses, will plough the land of the man who has none. In turn, the latter will provide milk for his neighbor’s family, and so on.
Here was Robert Sibbald, his wife and two bonnie children, who had been out a year. Their farm of thirty-four acres cost them $175 an acre, cleared and ready for the plough. Sibbald had a small amount of capital of his own, and, having been a farmer all his life in Dumfriesshire, is already fully at home.
A mile or two further on were two families who had arrived only the day before our visit. The menfolk were brothers and they were established on neighboring thirty-acre plots. Jobs had been found for them, while the mothers and children experimented with the kitchen stoves, the like of which they had never before seen. One of the women was in desperation because she could not understand the draughts of the stove and, as she said, “was adying for a scone.” Just a wee bit homesick they were as they stood in the midst of a roomful of half unpacked boxes and looked at ornaments and pictures from the old home.
“But all the neighbors are so kind— we’ll soon settle down,” said one of the women hopefully.
No reasonable man or woman could be pessimistic under the conditions in which these settlers start their new lives. Their farms, equipped at the start with every necessity, are set amid scenery the like of which can hardly be found outside the borders of British Columbia. The splendid lands of Matsquia and Langley Prairies are ringed about with a distant wall of mighty snow-capped peaks. Far to the southeast, across the international border, Mount Baker stands up into the
blue haze. To the northwest more snowy peaks pierce the skyline. When we were there, flowers were ablaze in the gardens of established farms throughout the valley, though it was only March. In the woods trees were green and the red blossoms of the wild currant added a touch of vivid color. Everywhere the grass was luxuriantly green.
Land Not All Cleared
TT WOULD not be correct to say that A 100 per cent, of the newcomers find the prospect exactly what they had expected. Here and there you find a family who are rather appalled at the idea of having to clear additional portions of their land of huge stumps. One Scotswoman complained somewhat bitterly that she had been led to expect a farm of cleared land. Conditions had been misrepresented to her in Glasgow, she said. Another case was that of a settler whose family had been allowed by the medical examiners in England to proceed to Canada. On arrival in Canada, a son was held at the port of disembarkation as he was not considered physically fit. Subsequently the family went back to England, after vigorous protest, but the correctness of the Canadian medical report was proved by the sad fact that the boy died soon after the family got back to the Old Country.
Conditions in the Fraser Valley are considered most suitable for those who have been accustomed to mixed farming, and the majority of the settlers who have come to British Columbia have gone to this area. A score or more have gone to the Okanagan, where the extremes of heat and cold are much greater and whore, perhaps, conditions are not so comfortable for those with small capital.
Generally speaking, the settlers themselves are well pleased with their conditions. They are rejoicing in their new found freedom from restraint and in the prospect of being able to build up something worth while for their children. The old folk may retain the hallmarks of their Old Country origin, but their children will make the finest of Canadian citizens with the traditions of their parents for a background.