Articals

The Settling of the the west

A few leaves from the anniversary album of a strangely turbulent and strangely tender love affair — the union of a very young people with a very ancient land

June 25 1955
Articals

The Settling of the the west

A few leaves from the anniversary album of a strangely turbulent and strangely tender love affair — the union of a very young people with a very ancient land

June 25 1955

The Settling of the the west

Articals

A few leaves from the anniversary album of a strangely turbulent and strangely tender love affair — the union of a very young people with a very ancient land

“SOME were drawn by fear, some by faith, some by ambition, some by gullibility.” Few of the pioneers who began trickling into the southwestern part of the Northwest Territories late in the nineteenth century had any real knowledge of the land they were coming to—what it would tolerate from them, what it was to demand of them, what it was ready to give them in return. For many it was enough to know that they might meet the simplest of human needs, homes and food for their families and the right to live according to the private human conscience. Some fully expected

that they’d be rich enough to retire and “go home” within a few years. Nearly all at one time or another cursed or wept over the impulse that had led them to entrust their futures to this capricious, unknown country, which sometimes smiled with favor on their awkward attempts to come to terms with it and sometimes tried to break their hearts with bitter rebuffs that ranged from blizzards and hail to frost and prairie fire. In time, through a miracle of improvisation and a prodigy of stubbornness, they learned to live with the country, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.

Continued on nextsix pages

A cry that made a nation : Hurry!Hurry!

EVEN AFTER the CPR the west filled up slowly and the dream of a Canadian nation from coast to coast was in jeopardy. Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior, spread Ottawa’s offer of free crown land across two continents, conducting “the largest, noisiest and most successful medicine show in history ... in impressive, rounded phrases worthy of a multilingual W. C. Fields.” The people came, from many distant places, in many conditions and conveyances. They remained to make Canada a reality as well as a word.

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TWENTY YEARS before Saskatchewan became a province the fabulous sub-colony of Cannington Manor was making a valiant attempt to bring a little bit of England to its southeast corner. Capt. E. M. Pierce, a retired army officer, ran a school for young gentlemen. Three wealthy pupils, Ernest, Billie and Bertie Beckton, remained and built a 22-room mansion and a private race track. They imported thoroughbred horses, foxhounds, game chickens and even hired two steeplechase jockeys and two valets.

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AT FIRST much of the soil was broken slowly and laboriously by single-furrow plows, drawn by a single ox or horse, occasionally as in one of the pictures on the opposite page by strong and gallant peasant women from Europe. Many of the first crops were cut by hand with scythe or sickle and threshed with wooden hand flails— sometimes called “the poverty stick.” But a dozen revolutions in machines and methods, a few symbols of which are shown here, led to the single revolution that counted most: Instead of working all the time to live, it had become possible to work part of the time and live well.

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SOME OF the fair visions of the early settlers proved illusory. But even before 1905, they had helped to prove that abundance and elegance were by no means beyond their grasp. All these photographs except the Saskatoon real-estate ad below were taken while Alberta and Saskatchewan were still part of the Northwest Territories. Their locale was Edmonton. The distance between buffalo bones and bull trains and the silk and tassels and mahogany you

see here is less than twenty years. By the end of that crucial period the pioneers had proved they were ready for self-government. They were on the way to proving something even more important than that. They still had a lot to learn about the volatile old land—but they could endure its tantrums if it could forgive their follies. They were ready to settle down in the fullest sense, not because there was no other place else to go but because there was no better place to be.