Homesteading, Part Four
After Wilfrid Laurier was elected Prime Minister, the Canadian government launched an aggressive campaign to attract settlers to Canada’s west. Thousands of immigrants answered the call to take up homesteads in Alberta.
But, as historian Pat Myers explains, they first had to meet the eligibility requirements.
And to do that, you filed a fee of ten dollars. You had to be a male, 18 years or older, or a female, who could prove that they were the sole support of children under 18.
Now this was fairly difficult; they were quite skeptical of women who wanted to take out homesteads, but the provision did exist for women who met the eligibility requirements.
Once you had filed for your land, to gain title to that land, you had to live on the homestead for six months a year, for each of the three years following the granting of your application. You had to break 80 acres, which is about 32 hectares of land, and you had to build a home worth at least 300 dollars.
Homesteading guides also established what animals and goods homesteaders could bring with them into Alberta.
The 1913 guide, for example, told prospective settlers they could bring in 16 horses, 16 head of cattle, 160 sheep, and 160 swine.
They could bring in their clothes; they could bring in household furniture, books, guns, musical instruments, used agricultural equipment, and other things, such as sewing machines, bicycles, and typewriters.
After travelling west by boat, train, or horse and wagon, settlers would file their claims at the Dominion Lands office. In return, what they got was a piece of paper giving the homestead’s legal description.
Now what they were looking for in this waving sea of grass was the three-centimetre township stake, left by the surveyors. These were square stakes, that had the quarter and the section stamped on the top, and they were driven into mounds of earth, so they were a bit higher, but they were still quite hard to find.
Within each township, each section was marked with a slightly smaller stake, and from here, your quarter section could be identified.
Looking out over the unbroken prairie, or tree-covered parkland, the new homesteaders suddenly realized the hard work before them if they were to succeed in their new country.
On the Heritage Trail,
I’m Cheryl Croucher.