The central plains of Western Canada for the past twenty-five years have been known as “The Bread Basket of the World”. Today, with population steadily on the increase, leading statesmen are confronted with the ever-pressing problem of finding fertile areas capable of producing food for teeming millions. As most of the Free Land suitable for agriculture in Manitoba and Saskatchewan has already been taken up, the move is now West and North, and the solution of the problem lies in the opening up of the PEACE RIVER COUNTRY.
Statistics go to prove that as much grain can be raised in the territory lying to the North and West of Edmonton as is at present grown between Winnipeg and the Rockies.
The opportunity to assist in the development of this magnificent “Inland Empire” and to establish homes for themselves beckons to every young man and woman of the pioneer type, prepared to work hard and put up with certain inconveniences.
To those contemplating a move, no better place can be chosen than the Grande Prairie District in the Famous Valley of the Peace.
The GRANDE PRAIRIE DISTRICT, in the Peace River Country, lies to the south of the Peace River and is bounded on the west by the foothills of the Rockies, on the south by the Wapiti River and on the east by the Little Smoky and its tributaries. In all it comprises approximately 16,000 square miles of territory. This famous district is just north of the 55th parallel of latitude and has an average altitude of about 2,200 to 2,500 feet.
Grande Prairie, the largest town in the Peace River country, is located approximately 110 miles north and 210 miles west of the city of Edmonton and has a population of about 1,200. Tributary to it are Wembley, Beaverlodge, Valhalla, Claremont, Sexsmith, Rycroft, Spirit River, and also Pouce Coupe and Rolla in the Peace River Block, each of which acts as a center to its local district and has all the business and professional callings necessary for the requirements of a thriving community.
A Dominion Lands Office is located at Grande Prairie, with sub-offices at Beaverlodge, Spirit River, Pouce Coupe, and For St. John. There is an Immigration Hall at Grande Prairie, and also at Spirit River. Farmers going to Wembley, who have not yet located, can get accommodation for their families at the Immigration Hall at Grande Prairie.
The predominating soil formation is a deep black loam, containing in some sections considerable silt, underlain with a clay subsoil. Heavy soils of this character retain the moisture for crop growth and make the district drought resistant. While some of the poorer and lighter soils and small patches of gumbo are to be found in restricted localities, a comparison with the soils of a like area in other sections of the province would be very much in favor of the Grande Prairie District. Very few stones are to be found.
Generally speaking, the surface is level or rolling and consists of open prairie or bluffs, interspersed with numerous small banks. Visitors have often remarked that the district, in appearance, reminds them of Eastern Canada and the Eastern States.
Dr. Wyatt, Professor of Soils a the University of Alberta, after an extensive trip through the Peace River country and after examining numerous samples of the soil, gave the following statement to the press:
“This is the richest and most fertile soil I have ever examined in any part of the three Prairie Provinces. There is practically no difference in the soil here (at Rycroft and Spirit River) and that which I have examined all the way from Falher and Donnelly and along the route via Peace River, Waterhole and Dunvegan.”
“It is a soil which will grow big crops year after year and will not “wear out” easily, like so many other soils we find, which often produce good crops for a few years and then show a diminished fertility.”
The following is an extract from the Dominion Government Report: “The climate of the Peace River District is excellent, and remarkably moderate considering the latitude. The air is pure and bracing; in winter clear and crisp and in summer dry and balmy. Extremes of temperature, sudden changes, and severe storms are very rare. The winters are by no means mild, but are very dry, with clear skies, little snowfall, and few winds. Blizzards are unknown, but mild Chinook winds occasionally sweep through the mountain passes from the warm Pacific, giving pleasing respites of balmy days to break the monotony of a steady cold. Spring comes early and quickly; the snow soon disappears, and the ground is dry in a few days. Ice on the lakes and rivers breaks up during the latter part of April or early in May. Seeding usually begins early in April and most of the rainfall occurs in June and July….
“The summers are remarkable for their long days and short nights. For three months there is almost continual light, the nights being merely a couple of hours of semi-darkness. The nights are cool and conducive to rest. Summer frosts, hailstorms, or fierce winds are very rare. These are the growing days when vegetation makes its remarkable progress to compensate for a short season. The long, cool evenings are especially pleasing after the day’s heat.
“Harvest commences about the middle of August. September is an especially pleasant month. The days are still warm, but the nights grow colder. Life in the woods is at its best during this month. October brings heavier frost and the ice forms late in this month or early in November. Winter can usually be expected early in November, though mild weather until Christmas is not uncommon.”
The winter of 1925-1926 was exceptionally mild. During the entire year only 12 below zero nights were recorded by the official thermometer at Beaverlodge, the lowest being minus 11 degrees Fahrenheit on October 28th, 1925.
The twelve-year monthly averages are as follows, in degrees Fahrenheit: January, 7.35; February, 12.98; March 21.16; April, 37.21; May, 47.76; June, 55.71; August, 57.30; September, 48.49; July, 55.09; October, 38.42; November, 23.47; December, 10.00. Damage by hail is practically negligible. Cyclones, tornadoes or hurricanes are unknown.
Extract from report of Dominion Government Experimental Sub-Station at Beaverlodge, Alberta: “Experimental plot yields at Beaverlodge Station were very heavy. These have been obtained from areas from which the border drills were removed before harvest, the yields being thus obtained from the portions growing under field conditions of competition, with no real advantage over fields save that weeds are hand-pulled as may be required. Moisture determinations of the grain have been made during the past two years and the yield reduced to a basis of clean, dry grain with twelve-per-cent, moisture content. (The legal limit for dry grain is 14.4%.)
“In 1926 the drilled plots were on summer fallow and yields of all varieties represented therein were as follows:
“Springs wheats ranged from 55 bushels 49 lbs. per acre to 68 bushels, 4 lbs.
“Turkey Red winter wheat, average of four dates of planting 59 bushels 58 lbs.
“Winter rye, badly lodged from June to harvest, averaged from four planting dates 46 bushels 55 lbs.
“Twelve oats ranged from 88 bushels 25 lbs., for bushel up to 151 bushels 24 lbs., for Banner.
“Seven barleys ranged from 67 bushels 25 lbs., up to 93 bushels 21 lbs.
“Five peas ranged from 52 bushels 7 lbs., up to 58 bushels 4 lbs.
“Common buckwheat, planted at three dates, averaged 45 bushels and Premost Flax, ditto, 16 bushels 33 lbs.
“In 1927 one-third of each plot was on summer fallow, one-third after corn, and one-third after sunflowers, the latter a crop that is very restrictive on the yield of the one that succeeds it. In spite of severe lodging on the fallow and corn ground yields ran follows.
“Five spring wheats, 42 bushels 49 lbs. to 60 bushels 14 lbs.
“Five oats, 76 bushels 1 lb., (hulled) to 117 bushels 15 lbs.
“Six barleys, 62 bushels 14 lbs. (hulled) to 74 bushels 30 lbs.
“Three peas, 40 bushels 1 lb. to 52 bushels 9 lbs.
“Premost flax, 18 bushels 23 lbs.
“Common buckwheat, 25 bushels 22 lbs.
“Owing to lack of snow in early winter, when temperatures were rather low, winter wheat sustained an unusual degree of injury, yielding only a few bushels per acre, but winter rye yielded 51 bushels 3 lbs. From an average of three planting dates.
Some long-term Yields are submitted
“Marquis wheat during 13 years averaged 36 bushels 43 lbs. (1915-1927)
“Victory oats during 12 years averaged 89 bushels 18 lbs. (1916-1927)
“O.A.C. 21 barley during 12 years averaged 41 bushels 19 lbs.
“Arthur peas during 13 years averaged 24 bushels 16 lbs.
“Premost flax during 10 years 13 bushels.
“Common buckwheat during 3 years averaged 30 bushels 40 lbs.
“Turkey Red winter wheat during 10 years averaged 26 bushels 8 lbs.
“Winter rye during 10 years averaged 40 bushels 25 lbs.
“Alfalfa seed, though a precarious crop, gave good yields for four successive years, amounting to ten bushels per acre from rows in 1925, of which eight bushels graded No. 1 at the Dominion Seed Laboratory, Calgary”.
Mr. Herman Trelle of Wembley, whose farm is 12 miles west of Grande Prairie, won the following awards at the International Grain and Hay Show at Chicago:
THIRD PRIZE for Hard Red Spring Wheat in 1923.
GRAND CHAMPIONSHIP for hard Red Spring Wheat in 1926.
FIRST PRIZE for hard Red Spring Wheat in 1927.
RESERVE CHAMPIONSHIP for Hard Red Spring Wheat in 1927.
GRAND CHAMPIONSHIP for oats in 1926.
GRAND CHAMPIONSHIP for Oats in 1927.
RESERVE CHAMPIONSHIP for Peas in 1927.
Over the E.D. & B.C. railway and the Central Canada railways the following total of grain, in bushels, was hauled out during the period given above: 9,474,469 bushels; previous season, 5,853,594 bushels.
Total Grain Shipments Over the EE.D. & B.C. , Central Canada and Prembina Valley Railways During the Past Three Crop Years
From the 1925 Crop…………………………………………………………………3,426,877 Bushels
From the 1926 Crop…………………………………………………………………5,853,594 Bushels
From the 1927 Crop…………… (to April 30, 1928 only)………………..9,474,469 Bushels
The above figures take in all of the Peace River Country
As an indication of how rapidly the Peace River Country is developing as a grain-raising district, it may be of interest to note that in the whole territory there are now some 39 elevators, and it is expected that at least another 30 elevators will be built during the coming summer.
Western rye and brome are the best adapted grasses. Alfalfa and sweet clover the best legumes. Excepting alfalfa, all the common meadow crops may be depended upon to-ripen good yields of nice seed, and even alfalfa has done so at the Beaverlodge station for a number of years. Considerable timothy has been grown in the district and large quantities of seed are exported every year to wholesale seed companies and other parties, who realize that the clean fields of the Peace River country produce a quality second to none in any of Western Canada. Robert Cochrane of Grande Prairie won Third Prize for timothy seed at the International hay and Grain Show at Chicago in 1924 and 1926, and Second Prize in 1927.
All the staple hardy vegetables may be grown successfully and the quality is super-excellent. A 44-pound Copenhagen Market cabbage was raised in Pouce Coupe in 1923 by a soldier-settler, Mr. S.H. Tuck. Hardy varieties of currants, strawberries, raspberries, and gooseberries are productive while sand cherries and certain sand cherry-plum hybrids have fruited in rare instances. Seedling apples have been repeatedly ripened by Mrs. Mary Thompson on the shores of Bear Lake [near Grande Prairie].
The Beaverlodge Station annually raises crops of small fruits rivaling, if not exceeding, anything that can be grown elsewhere in the Prairie West. In 1924 two varieties of red currant each yielded at the rate of 15½ pounds per bush. In 1926 one kind of white currant averaged 15¾ pounds per bush and a red variety 12- 1 to 3 pounds. In that same year, from a cultivated row of saskatoon bushes about twenty rods long, there were picked 144 quarts of fruit and not over half the crop was recovered at that. In 1927 Herbert raspberries produced at the rate of 5,950 pounds per acre.
Wild fruits include strawberries, raspberries, red and black currants, pembinas, blueberries, cranberries, and saskatoons — all found growing throughout the district, the latter in lavish abundance.
Caragana, tartarian honey suckle and Chinese lilac seem absolutely hardy while common lilacs, spireas, native honeysuckle, mountain ash, Russian Olives and many other choice ornamentals have been grown. Exotic trees showing more or less promise include Manitoba scrub oaks, elms, and basswoods. Successful herbaceous perennials include the peony, iris, larkspur, lavatera, and many others. Annual flowers are a riotous success. Wild roses grow profusely.
Creameries in the district are located at Grande Prairie, Valhalla and Pouce Coupe. Pouce Coupe Creamery, smallest of the three and, located about 90 miles from the railway, made over 32,000 pounds of butter in its first year of operation. The largest, that at Valhalla — a cooperative creamery — has in one year made over 160,000 pounds and distributed over $40,000.00 in that district for cream.
The hog, the complement of the dairy cow, has an important place in the district. Bacon breeds predominate. At the 1925 Inter-Club Contest held at Edmonton, the local Girls’ and Boys’ Club won the Provincial Championship with a car of hogs that graded 85% select bacon and which was said to have been the best that has yet reached the Edmonton market. Generally speaking, northern hogs have established a very high reputation for quality.
Large numbers of beef cattle have been raised in the district. They find their most profitable place, however, as a sideline on the grain farm. Progressive farmers are finding the winter feeding of cattle quite profitable.
Poultry raising is a profitable source of income in the district. Turkey raising is particularly popular. Cooperative turkey shipments for the past three seasons have netted the producers an average of 34 cents a pound for their best birds. Chicken raising is a successful side-line and the Provincial Department of Agriculture has a poultry field man located at Grande Prairie for the purpose of promoting the industry. Arrangements are being made whereby any surplus of eggs that may develop in the territory will be placed on other markets and local “gluts” avoided, assuring the producers a price very close to that obtainable in any other section of the province.
A colony of bees on the Beaverlodge Station attained a weight of 550 pounds gross, the best 24-hours’ intake of nectar being 20 1/2, with 20 pounds on one other day. This colony yielded 280 pounds of surplus honey, besides stores enough for the two strong colonies into which it had to be divided.
The area is generally free from plant diseases, weeds and pests. Dr. Margaret Newton of the Dominion Rust Research Laboratory of Winnipeg, Manitoba, made certain investigations during the summer of 1927, and in speaking of the Peace River Country, said:
“During the past spring the government supplied the Experimental Farm at Beaverlodge with samples of several varieties of grain which are particularly susceptible to rust, to be sown under conditions which would be highly favorable to the invasion of rust, the purpose being to determine whether or not the climate of the district would prove favorable to this particular plant disease, if it should make its appearance.”
“In addition, ‘spore traps’ were established near these experimental plots and everything done to promote the establishment of this plant disease, if it were present.”
“Despite all the care given to the promotion of rust,” said Dr. Newton, “I have found the fields absolutely clean. Even where we have endeavored by traps and susceptible grains to promote it. I was able to find only 8 pustules, and these of questionable character.”
“When you have no sign of rust in the Peace River Country this season, you may rest assured you will never need to fear it, for every condition favorable to this disease has been promulgated. It simply is not here.”
The district is now relatively free of the worst noxious weeds and every effort is being made to keep it so. Both the provincial and municipal authorities are taking every precaution to enforce the regulations and prevent the spreading of noxious weeds. Incoming settlers are warned to see to it that their machinery is carefully cleaned before shipping, as required by “The Noxious Weeds Act.”
Good clean seed can be purchased locally at reasonable prices and it is suggested that settlers do not bring seed grain with them. Bear in mind that settlers’ cars are inspected upon arrival.
There are no gophers nor rats in the Peace River Country. Sawfly damage is not experienced. The period of grasshopper damage had passed and in the opinion of entomologists will not recur within [the next] twenty or twenty-five years.
Nature has bountifully endowed the Grande Prairie District with unlimited natural resources. Here is to be found merchantable timber (spruce, jackpine and tamarac) not to mention any quantity of poplar suitable for fuel. Coal for domestic use can be obtained from a number of local mines at a very low figure. The rivers and lakes teem with fish. Fur is still plentiful, as shown by the annual amount exported while the presence of wild fowl in large numbers, and big game such as moose, deer and bear proclaim the district as a sportsman’s paradise.
The E., D. & B.C. Railway, originating at Edmonton and terminating now at Wembley – a distance of 421.3 miles – is the only railway serving the district at the present time. There is a biweekly passenger service. The greatly reduced freight passenger, express and telegraph rates which are in effect have materially helped the district and act as an incentive to further development. This year an extension is being built from Wembley to Hythe.
Premier King has already pledged himself that an outlet to the Pacific will be provided for the Peace River Country “as soon as humanly possible.” Many other distinguished statesmen and railway official have also expressed themselves in favor of an outlet, and the people of the district will continue to bring pressure until the outlet is finally constructed. The Grande Prairie District will then be in a position second to none in Western Canada.
Grand Prairie to Fort William, 1640.3 miles (via Can. Nat’l)
35.5 cents per 100 lbs. on grain in carload lots.
Grande Prairie to Vancouver, 1172.4 miles (via Can. Nat’l)
28 cents per 100 lbs. on grain on carload lots.
(b) Freight Rates on Stock: –
Grande Prairie to Edmonton, 411.8 miles.
Rate on 20,000 lb. car of cattle, $73.00
Rate on 16,000 lb. car of hogs, $58.40
(c) Freight Rates on Settler’s Effects: –
Special freight rates are granted on bona fide settlers’ effects originating in the United States. Write of call on the nearest C.P.R. or Canadian National Railways agent for particulars.
(d) Passenger Rates: –
Edmonton to Grande Prairie –
Single Fare, $14.20; Return Fare, $25.60
Lower berth, $4.15.
(The above rates will, of course, differ slightly from point other than Grand Prairie.)
Low fares are available from Canadian boundary points, both one-way and return, for settlers from the United States wishing to look for land in the Grande Prairie District, and also from Edmonton, Alta., for bona fide settlers from points East, South or West of Edmonton, Alta. To obtain benefits of these special fares, call on or write the nearest Canadian National or Canadian Pacific Railway agent, who will quote fares and make all arrangements for your trip.
The Peace River Country affords the last free land in Western Canada and in the Grande Prairie District there are still about 10,000 homesteads open for settlement, part of which is bush land, consisting mostly of poplar and willow.
Naturally, most of the better land, close to railways, has been taken up, but free land with some brush on it is still available to the settler who is prepared to do a certain amount of clearing. Such land, when brought under cultivation, makes splendid farms, the soil being of the very best.
In the Sturgeon Lake country, 60 miles east of Grande Prairie there are about 5,000 quarters or more open for entry. Some of these quarters have considerable prairie land, others are park like while many others are fairly heavily wooded. Settlers are already going into the district and it is well worth investigating for those desiring homesteads.
Privately owned lands can be purchased, on terms, at from $10 and upwards per acre, depending on distance from market and improvements.
The Hudson’s Bay Company has a limited amount of land for sale throughout the whole of the Peace River Country, on reasonable terms and at reasonable prices. For those who may be interested, information regarding this land may be obtained from the company’s land commissioner at Edmonton or from any of the local agents.
Although a comparatively new country, the district boasts many of the modern conveniences usually found in only the older settlements. Good automobile roads radiate in all directions. The telephone system, urban and rural, is modern and up to date. Two telegraph lines operate throughout the territory, connecting it with Edmonton. Public and high schools maintain a high standard of education. Excellent and well equipped hospitals at Grande Prairie and Pouce Coupe, B.C., afford the settlers the best of medical attention. Plans are now under way for the construction of a new and larger Municipal Hospital at Grande Prairie, which, when completed, will be modern in very respect and a credit to the community. Community Leagues, Cooperative Associations, Social Gatherings and Athletic Competitions provide plenty of good clean amusement and recreation.
The religious life of the community is well cared for by the various denominations, both Protestant and Roman Catholic.
The Dominion Government maintains an Experimental Sub-Station at Beaverlodge, under the capable management of Mr. W.D. Albright, where excellent results have been obtained from numerous experiments. Weekly articles are published by Mr. Albright dealing with farming problems peculiar to the district, so that the public may reap the benefit of his experimental work.
The Provincial Department of Agriculture maintains an office at Grande Prairie, with A.R. Judson, District Agriculturist, as their representative. The work carried on through this office is similar to that of the county agent in the United States and the district representative in Ontario. A special effort is being made to assist new settlers who will get in touch with the office.
With a view to extending the use and production of good seed and assisting in marketing it, the Peace River Seed Board has been organized at Grande Prairie. It is backed by the municipalities who are represented on the Board. Mr. Albright is a member and Mr. Judson is secretary of the Board.
Due to careful management and judicious expenditure, the Municipalities are in splendid shape financially, with the result that taxes in the Grande Prairie District are no higher than those in other parts of the prairie provinces. Taxes for the district, both municipal and school, average LESS than $35 per quarter. Personal property is not taxed.
In the Grande Prairie section of the Peace River Country there are 61 organized school districts, forming practically a solid block that extends from the Smokey River on the east to the Alberta boundary on the west. In the Spirit River section there are eleven organized districts.
The Rural Schools all provide instruction up to Grade VIII, which is the highest grade of the Elementary Schools. Some of the Rural Schools include the work of Grade IX, which represents the first year’s work of the High Schools. Advanced work is taken in several centres to qualify students for entrance to the Provincial Schools and the Provincial University.
While the Provincial Government pays a regular maximum grant of some $175 per year to school districts, the schools are maintained mostly by local taxation under the control of local Boards of Trustees. The average levy for school purposes is 10 mills and the majority of the schools operate for full terms. The regulations of the Provincial Department of Education provide that any THREE residents may petition the Minister of Education to establish a school district, provided there are eight children between the ages of five and sixteen years within an area approximately four miles square.
The Grande Prairie district has a class of settlers well above the average. Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians predominate. The many beautiful homes and well-equipped farms throughout the district provide conclusive evidence that good farming methods pay — and pay well.
The Department of Public Works for the Province of Alberta announces that they expect to have the highway between Athabasca and High Prairie completed in the summer of 1928. This will then afford a passable road from Edmonton to the Peace River Country.
AVERAGE PRICE OF STAPLE ARTICLES
5-foot Mower 110.00
10-foot Rake 65.00
Drill, single disc, 20-run 240.00
16-16 Disc Harrow, complete with truck 90.00
14-inch Gang Plow 162.00
16-inch Brush Breaker 95.00
Wagon, with double box 182.00
Now is the time for prospective settlers to buy. Land can be purchased on reasonable terms and comparatively cheap. Having in mind the extremely high-priced land in the older and more settled parts and in most cases certainly less productive, one is forced to the conclusion that as a safe and sane investment farmlands in the Peace River Country are well in the front rank. Prices are bound to go up, and for those intending to establish homes for themselves, “there is no time like the present”.