One key part of the populating of the west was the completion of the Railway. This made the west accessible to the rest of the nation.
the Canadian Pacific Railway "C.P.R."
After the economy had turned around Donald Smith of the Hudson Bay Company and George Stevens, President of the Bank of Montreal teamed together to form The Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The terms that they proposed to their crony MacDonald and the Canadian government did not come cheap. If they were to undertake the operation, they wanted millions of dollars and millions of acres of land in the west, the control and ownership of the entity, control of the work that had already been done as well as a perpetual tax exemption and a no competition clause for a railway south of them for at least twenty years.
Time was crucial if Canada did not want to lose its West to the United States.
By 1883 most of the money was gone and the Canadian government was forced to pass a bill to supply additional funds if they wanted to complete the venture.
By 1885 again out of money and it looked like the end of the line for the railway. The Northwest Rebellion led by Louis Riel changed all that. The railway was the only way to transport Canadian Troops to Saskatchewan to defeat the Metis and it was this panic that sparked the government to inject more funds.
“Craigellachie” in honour of the last stand of the highland clans in Scotland was given to the final rail siding, November 7th 1885. The railway was completed six years ahead of schedule and contributed largely to quash of the rebellion in the west. It also dashed the ambitions of the United States toward western Canada and secured the nation from coast to coast. At that time it was the longest railroad in the world and had conquered two incredible barriers; the Canadian shield and the Rocky and Costal Mountains of the west.
Once Laurier was in power and the gold rush was growing it encouraged more to move westward. Manitoba and the Northwest’s draw was the possibility to grow wheat.
There is a story of the young Scot who sent a sample of a certain type of spring wheat that would grow quickly. His friend planted the wheat in the fall and all but a few grains survived. The recipient of the wheat was able to increase his production and in 1868 when the wheat in the west was destroyed by grass hoppers, this new wheat was sent from Ontario. Known as Red Fife (due to a red tinge), it was a wheat that started to grow later in the spring preventing it from being destroyed by late frost. It also grew quickly and could be harvested before the onset of the cold weather in the fall. It became the choice for farmers of the area.
Later replaced by Marquis in 1904 which was even faster growing and more durable meant that farmers even further north could produce the grain. This created Canada’s bread basket.
The land in the U.S. was all but full and with the railway infrastructure, Canada was ripe for development in agricultural machinery, the likes of McCormick and Massey-Harris.
Between 1881 and 1896 only 40,000 of the 57,000 people who had applied for free land had actually moved west. This was due to the fact that The C.P.R. had still not chosen millions of acres of land that had been granted to them when they originally built the railroad. Clifford Sifton, minister for the interior and a resident in Brandon took hold of the situation and issued an edict forcing the railway to choose their acreage or lose it. This way he was able to know what would be available to immigrants.
Regulations for Land
At that time if we looked at the Ontario families we can see the attraction. Many of the farmers had large families. Most often the family farm would go to the eldest in the family, leaving the younger boys in the family with nothing. Those that wished to farm had to find their own place. This provided a needed opportunity for these young men.
Sifton sent land agents to many communities to sell his idea and assist and hasten the process of land acquisition. He also sent much advertisement to the U.S and Britian encouraging the settling of the west. From there he sent agents to Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, France and Eastern Europe. His plan worked.
In 1897 the numbers had increased from 16,000 in 1895 to 32,000. From 1896 to 1911 over 2,000,000 had arrived in Canada raising the national population to 7,206,643. The arrivals were as follows:
38% Great Britain
34% United States
26% the rest of Europe.
During those years the population of Manitoba doubled and Saskatchewan and Alberta went from 164,281 to 867,095.
Among these settlers were, many were from my family. William James Bell and Bertie Ryder-Vance, from my father’s family.
Simeon Charles Ostrom, Frances Knight-Ostrom, Simeon D. Ostrom, Bertie Ostrom-Clark, Jenny Ostrom-Medforth and some of Fanny May-Knight’s sons.
This week I am focusing on my great grandfather, Simeon Charles Ostrom. He was a bit of a scoundrel, but colourful none the less.