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The American Settlers

American settlers looking for a home on Stephen Avenue (8th Avenue), Calgary, Alberta, ca. 1900-1903. Inscription on bottom right corner of photograph reads: \"U.S. settlers looking for a home.\" Immigrants from the United States played a very prominent role in the early settlement of Alberta. American ranch hands came to the Territories in the 1880s and 1890s looking for work on the southern ranches. Others spread northward along the railways as far as Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan. By 1891 more than 1200 Americans had settled in Alberta.

When the American frontier closed and free land was no longer available in the western states, American pioneers attracted by government publications began to make their way to the Canadian prairies. By 1901 there were nearly 6,000 American citizens in Alberta but, interestingly enough, nearly 11,000 of all immigrants had been born in the United States. Over the next two decades, from 1900-1915 approximately82,000 Americans arrived in the province, and by 1916 those of American birth constituted nearly 19% of the total population. They settled all over the province but tended to favour south and central Alberta, around communities such as Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Vulcan, High River, Nobleford and Macleod.

The term "American" is somewhat vague and cuts across many different ethno-cultural lines. According to the 1916 census 60% of the "Americans" who were residing in Alberta were actually of British origin while 13% were Germans, 7% Norwegian and 3% were Swedish. American Mennonites were also a large group of Dutch origin who concentrated themselves in the Didsbury-Rosebud area.

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.