The land rush in the early 1900s was expected to lead to full rural settlement
and prosperity, something anticipated twenty years previous in the 1880s. Some
leading farmers did well, but many families realized only low and irregular
returns for their produce and work. By 1911 most districts were less than fifty
percent settled and the proportion of land actually farmed was much less.
The net economic rewards of the area's frontier were dismal for most farm
families. The Batchelor study calculates that the average net increase in family
worth over the decade 1901-11 was $1500, apart from increases in land value.
Popular ideas of the day held that this meagre low increase in worth would be
eventually rewarded in an eventual increase in farmland values.
Contrary to nostalgic images of farm life before World War I, the study shows
that net out-migration from some townships, transience and poverty were common.
Many rural settlers blamed the low rate of settlement on outside speculators,
although there is little evidence for this. Potential settlers, especially those
with little capital, were drawn to newly opened homestead areas outside the Red
Deer and Lacombe area. In such areas they could anticipate more land per dollar
than in the Red Deer area.