Homesteading, Part Three: Getting Here
After 1905, Alberta’s new Department of Agriculture advertised heavily in the United States and in Europe for settlers to take up homesteads in the new province.
According to historian Pat Myers, just getting here was a challenge.
If they were coming from Britain or Europe, they crossed the Atlantic in a steamship, embarking perhaps at St. John, perhaps at Quebec, and then they would get onto what were called colonists trains for the ten-day journey here.
The cars on these trains had hard benches that folded down into bunks, and a stove at the end of the car for heating water.
Those homesteaders who came to Alberta from the United States sometimes came by train, but more often travelled by horse and wagon.
They usually made the journey in the spring, so they could find their homestead and hopefully get a bit done before winter set in.
But a trip by horse and wagon could be quite hazardous. They would run into everything from mud to swollen spring rivers to prairie fires, snowstorms. It took a fair while, was very hard, monotonous food – pancakes were certainly a staple.
The advertising guides that were circulated by the homesteading agencies advised settlers what they should bring on their journey to Alberta.
They were advised to bring canned food, and items such as tapioca and cornstarch to make cooking a bit easier. Each family was urged to bring a stove and a cream separator for their homestead. Things that might not seem valuable when they were packing and had little room, but, really, when they got there, would be quite helpful – such as rags and old harness and all sorts of tools – they were urged to bring.
And they were also told to bring medicines for the animals, and a well-stocked medicine cabinet for the family.
They travelled across the prairie with whatever possessions and supplies they could carry. But their journey didn’t end at the land office. After filing on their homesteads, they still had to find them in the hinterland.
On the Heritage Trail,
I’m Cheryl Croucher.