hide You are viewing an archived web page, collected at the request of University of Alberta using Archive-It. This page was captured on 16:30:17 Dec 08, 2010, and is part of the HCF Alberta Online Encyclopedia collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page. Loading media information
Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Canadian Petroleum Heritage
titlebar Home | About | Contact Us | Search | Sitemap | Sponsors spacer
hertiage community foundation, ckua, albertasource

Outline of History of the Canadian Pacific Railway's Land Grants

                                                    (Attributed To Les Munro, Land Manager)

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4


When the author was researching his ''LEDUC'' book, he gave his interpretation in Chapter 7 to both the Turta and the Borys landmark legal cases (pp. 138-144). The reader is invited to study both versions.

Imperial Oil was not that diligent in ensuring that they had all of the acreage in the Redwater area. Gulf applied for and were granted CPR rights which Imperial could have had. This gave Gulf a piece of the reservoir in the southwest part of the field.

Throughout the decade 1870-1880, the Government of Canada was confronted with the necessity of bringing about the construction of a railway to the Pacific Coast, either by private enterprise or by the government itself. Part of the problem was to achieve the objective within a specified time, and at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayers. A review of the procedure followed in the United States during the two or three preceding decades appeared to indicate that the desired result could best be attained by offering to private interests the inducement of a land subsidy in the area to be traversed by the proposed railway. In that era, settlement of the West was an active topic in the minds of the people of both countries, and there were many groups who sought to profit by the opportunities, some of these groups consisting mainly of individuals whose chief objective was not the building of a railway, but the acquisition of large areas of cheap land. It was clearly the desire, as well as the duty of the government to avoid, as far as possible, the exploitation of Crown lands by groups of this type.

In view of the magnitude of the undertaking, the government at one time considered that it would be necessary to set aside an area in excess of 50 million acres for the purpose. However when, in 1880, an agreement was reached with the Syndicate that was later to build the first Canadian transcontinental railway, it contained provision for a cash subsidy of $25 million and a grant of 25 million acres of Crown land in the Province of Manitoba and in that part of the Northwest Territories now known as Saskatchewan and Alberta. (Lands in Ontario and British Columbia were not under the control of the Federal government).

While a selection pattern was provided for, i.e., the odd-numbered section (usually excepted were Sections 11 and 29, reserved for school purposes) in a belt miles wide on both sides of the right-of-way, provision was contained in the agreement that the Company (CPR) had the right to reject lands that were not ''fairly fit for settlement". This provision allowed the Company to reject lands tributary to the railway between Swift Current and Calgary as average rainfall in that area was considered insufficient for the successful growing of crops without irrigation.

In addition to the agreement with the Canadian Pacific, agreements with other companies or syndicates were entered into by the government for the construction of shorter local railways in the West, such as the Manitoba South Western Colonization Railway Co., the Manitoba and North Western Railway Co. of Canada, the Great North West Central Railway Co., the Calgary and Edmonton Railway Co., the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Co., and others, all of which carried with them similar subsidies of land adjacent to their proposed rights-of-way; usually on the basis of 6,400 acres per mile of railway construction. Some of the projects did not materialize and the agreements were cancelled. Others were proceeded with, some of them later being acquired by and becoming part of the Canadian Pacific system. A list of these latter companies, with acreage acquired by Canadian Pacific, appears below:

As the number of projected railways, with their respective land allotments increased, it became apparent that the allocation of lands fairly fit for settlement could not be made within the so-called ''railway belt'' and as a consequence allocations in other areas considerably removed firm the routes traversed by the railways became necessary in some cases.

The originally contemplated route of the first trans-continental railway was via Saskatoon, Edmonton and the Yellowhead Pass - approximately the route later followed by the Canadian Northern. With this in mind, the government earmarked large areas of land in what are now known as the Battleford, Lloydminster and Edmonton blocks. However, the location of the main line of Canadian Pacific through Regina and Calgary was considered to be more in the national interest, as in this location it would serve a strip of country considerably nearer to the International Boundary than would have been the case had the mob northerly route been followed. (Even the present route was found to leave an unduly wide expanse of country to the south, as was later evidenced by the building of the Weyburn-Lethbridge and the Crowsnest-Kettle Valley line).

Grant   Acreage acquired   Unsold as of Dec. 31, 1958
Main line grant 25,000,000      
Less acreage held back in lieu of        
repayment of $9,880,912
O/S balance of loan,
18,206,986   581,126
Souris Br. & Pipestone Extension.   1,609,024   278,593
Manitoba-Southwestern Col'n. Ry   1,396,800   5,141
Great North West Central Ry.   320,000   10,539
Manitoba & North Western Ry.   3,153   -
Saskatchewan & Western Ry.   98,880   -
Calgary & Edmonton Ry.   407,402   5,249
Alberta Railway & Irrigation Co.   181,249   4,899
Interprovincial & James Bay Ry.   306,760   -
Northern Colonization Ry.   96,000   -
Add: Purchase of Hudson's Bay        
lands in Irrigation Blk.   102,174   416
Townsites   85,626   926
Areas In BC Land Grants        
British Columbia Southern Ry.   3,755,733   -
Columbia & Kootenay Ry. & Nav. Co.   188,593   -
Columbia & Western Ry.   1,315,273   -
Vancouver townsite acreage   6,272   520
Add: Est'd. unsold acreage taken        
over at time of purchase of        
Esquimalt & Nanaimo Ry.        
    1,440,495   366,372

Another provision of the land subsidy was that the lands granted to the Railway were to be exempt from taxation for a period of 20 years. As inspection and selection of lands over so wide an area necessarily extended over a period of years, applications for patents likewise were spread over a long period, the last big selection and allocation not occurring until 1903, when the Irrigation Block was accepted. It was later held by the Courts that the exemption dated from the time of issuance of the patent, rather than from the date of the original agreement.

Realizing that the land would be unproductive until occupied by settlers, the Company was faced with the necessity of (a) examination and selection of the lands considered acceptable, and (b) of colonizing its vast and scattered holdings. It was obvious that sales to actual settlers who would enter into occupation of the lands would more likely produce traffic quickly than would sales of large blocks to companies which would hope to profit by reselling the lands at some later date. For this reason, every effort was made to sell to the individual settler, although in a few cases the Company was able to realize some much needed ready cash by selling sizable blocks of land to land-colonization companies for resale to settlers.

Also very soon it became obvious that settlement of the West within a reasonable period of years was not likely to occur without an extensive colonization campaign. The story of this effort, extending over more than half a century, is very ably set forth in considerable detail by Professor J.B. Hedges in his book ''Building the Canadian West'' in which he covers the progress of the colonization program carried on by the Company in Eastern Canada, the United States, Great Britain and Europe.



Albertasource.ca | Contact Us | Partnerships
            For more on the oil industry in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.
Copyright © Heritage Community Foundation All Rights Reserved