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Robert J.C. Stead

Stead wrote a book of poetry in Alberta in 1917, but while living in Manitoba, he had authored two other collections of verse, The Empire Builders and Other Poems(1909) and Prairie Born and Other Poems (1911). His verse was traditional and the sentiments expressed romantic and idealistic, but his poetry garnered him a large audience in the Canadian west. Stead, a newspaper man and public relations writer, also wrote three novels while in Alberta: The Bail Jumper (1914), The Homesteaders (1916), and The Cow Puncher (1918). He is credited with presenting his audience with the "romance of pioneering."

Before you came the red-man rode the plain,
Untitled lord of nature's great domain;
The shaggy herds, knee-deep in mellow grass,
The lazy summer hours were wont to pass;
The wild goose nested by the water side;
The coyote roamed upon the prairie wide;
The black bear trod the woods in solemn might;
The lynx stole through the bushes in the night.
You came. Straightaway the silent plain
Grew mellow with the glow of golden grain;
The axes in the solitary wood
Rang out where stately oak and maple stood;
The land became alive with busy din,
And as the many settled, more came in;
The world looked on in wonder and dismay–
The building of a nation in a day!

Excerpt from "The Plough", 1909

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