THE ENGLISH IN
THE PRAIRIE PROVINCES
Log Dwelling in
Hunís Valley, near Minnedosa
Manitoba photographed in 1889 by Ernest Baxter
who originated from Devon.
The English influx to the Prairies occurred in
two phases. Ontario and Quebec migrants of English descent travelled
overland in carts from the 1870s long before the railways were constructed.
Substantial numbers also came at this time from the Eastern Townships of
Quebec and from
the Maritime Provinces. By 1926 Saskatchewan had more Ontario-born residents
than Manitoba and Alberta combined, the majority having English origins.
People who came directly from England did not
arrive in appreciable numbers until the 1890s, after the completion of the Canadian Pacific
Railway. By the early 1900s their numbers were soaring. They
too favoured Saskatchewan. Nearly 50% of all English-born farmers and farm
workers, who had settled in the three Prairie Provinces by 1926, were to be
found in Saskatchewan. By this time English settlers were concentrated
across great swathes of south western Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan and
Canadian Pacific Railway Company station and grain
elevators at Wetaskiwin south of Edmonton, 1913.
Growing mechanization in England and
rising imports of cheap food from abroad caused many English families to look
increasingly to Canada to better their prospects. However, while the prairies
were crying out for men with agricultural skills to operate ploughs and plant
crops, the arrivals from England were destitute urban workers. They generally
headed for the towns and cities in the Prairie Provinces, leaving the labourers
of other nations to fill the regionís agricultural job vacancies.
Western Canada: The New Eldorado, 1890-1920,
One exceptional group of English
urban workers went on to found the much-acclaimed Barr Colony in Saskatchewan in
1903. After a difficult beginning some 2,000 of them established a large English
settlement north of Battleford. The achievements of the Barr colonists are
remarkable since few had any farming experience. In the end boldness,
determination and an unshakable desire to succeed saw them through their
located near the Immigration Hall in Saskatoon,
1903. The initial
accommodation for the Barr colonists.
Ranching was initially centred in the Fort
Macleod district but, with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in
1883, it became increasingly concentrated further north around Calgary.
Upper and middle class Englishmen with pluckiness and money dominated its
A painting, 1887, by
Alfred Wyndham of his ranch n 1887
Alberta. He named it Dinton after
his home village in Wiltshire.
For further details see Chapters 4
and 5 of Ignored but not Forgotten; Canadaís English