Frank Van Slyke (1863 -1936)
Around 1909, people gathered in fields in central Alberta to watch the Van
Slyke plough at work. Attached to the first Caterpillar tractor in the Red
Deer area was Frank Van Slykes plough and he used it to make land useable
all over central Alberta.
Born in Iowa in 1863, Van Slyke was still a young man when his mechanical
abilities became apparent. He naturally became the community blacksmith
and in between commissions, found time to bring some of his ideas to
fruition. Before the turn of the 19th century, Van Slyke had invented a
He married Annie Steinmetz in 1885 and the two had six children. When a
number of neighbouring families decided to move and settle land in the Red
Deer area, Van Slyke was encouraged to accompany them and see if he could
locate a homestead. Shortly after arriving, he found a parcel of land,
arranged to purchase it and returned to Iowa to bring his family to their
The family arrived at their homestead, located in the Balmoral district
east of Red Deer, in the spring of 1905. Van Slyke began work with the
local blacksmith, Archie Fead, living in town with the blacksmiths family
during the week and returning home to his own family on the weekends. It
was his daughter Fay who dutifully drove the family horse and carriage
into town to retrieve her father each week, while her brothers remained at
home to work the farm.
As most of this land was unused, there was a distinct need to develop
implements that would till the land, making it useable for farming. Van
Slyke, aware of this necessity, employed his superior mechanical abilities
and developed the Van Slyke plough, revolutionizing farming in the area.
In 1910, the Van Slyke Plow Manufacturing Company began operations in Red
Deer. A successful business for quite some time, it was eventually taken
over by Edmonton Iron Works Limited and transferred to Edmonton.
Annie Van Slyke died in the autumn of 1924 and was buried in the Red Deer
Cemetery, she was 59 and although the rest of the Van Slyke family stayed
in the Red Deer area, Frank Van Slyke decided to return to Iowa. After
moving, he continued to visit his family in Red Deer. He had invented a
dual engine motor vehicle and found great joy in the attention it received
in travelling between Iowa and Red Deer. Continuing these visits for as
long as his health permitted it, Van Slyke died in Anita, Iowa in 1936.
The Van Slyke plough was extremely instrumental in the development of the
Red Deer area and when the city designed its coat of arms, a
representation of the plough was incorporated. The Van Slyke plough
symbolizes three distinct thingsfarming, a Red Deer invention and a Red
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