I am Canadian – Saskatchewan bound – Part 1

My maternal grandparents were raised in Wiseton and Dinsmore Saskatchewan. Both of their families, one set from Nebraska and the other set from Ontario, arrived in Saskatchewan expecting to make some good money by farming.

Immigration to the Prairie Provinces from Wikipedia:

In the 18th to 19th century, the only immigration western Canada or Rupert’s Land saw was early French Canadian North West Company fur traders from eastern Canada, and the Scots, English Adventurers and Explorers representing the Hudson’s Bay Company who arrived via Hudson Bay. Canada became a nation in 1867, Rupert’s Land became absorbed into the North-West Territories. To encourage British Columbia to join the confederation, a transcontinental railway was proposed. The railway companies felt it was not feasible to lay track over land where there was no settlement.

Back when the British first came to North America, Canada looked like this:

Rupert's Land 1670 extends over parts of Saskatchewan
Rupert’s Land 1670 extends over parts of Saskatchewan

The fur trading era was declining; as the buffalo population disappeared, so too did the nomadic buffalo hunters, which presented a possibility to increase agricultural settlement. Agricultural possibilities were first expounded by Henry Youle Hind. The Dominion government with the guidance of Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior in charge of immigration, (1896–1905)[5] enacted Canada’s homesteading act, the Dominion Lands Act, in 1872.

The borders looked like this in 1870. Saskatchewan is part of the North-West Territories.

Canadian provinces 1870-1871
Canadian provinces 1870-1871

An extensive advertising campaign throughout western Europe and Scandinavia brought in a huge wave of immigrants to “The Last, Best West”. (In 1763 Catherine the Great issues Manifesto inviting foreigners to settle in Russia,[6] and in 1862 the United States enacted a Homestead Act inviting immigration to America.[7]) Ethnic or religious groups seeking asylum or independence no longer traveled to Russia or the United States where lands were taken or homestead acts were canceled. The Red River Colony population of Manitoba allowed it to become a province in 1870. In the 1880s less than 1000 non-Aboriginal people resided out west. The government’s immigration policy was a huge success, the North-West Territories grew to a population of 56,446 in 1881 and almost doubled to 98,967 in 1891, and exponentially jumped to 211,649 by 1901.

Canada West poster
Canada West poster
Canada 1882
Canada 1882
CPR land sales ad
CPR land sales ad
Canada 1895
Canada 1895

Ethnic Bloc Settlements[9] dotted the prairies, as language groupings settled together on soil types of the Canadian western prairie similar to agricultural land of their homeland. In this way immigration was successful; new settlements could grow because of common communication and learned agricultural methods.

Census divisions 2005
Census divisions 2005 showing ethnicity spread over provinces

Canada’s CPR transcontinental railway was finished in 1885. Immigration briefly ceased to the West during the North West Rebellion of 1885. Various investors and companies were involved in the sale of railway (and some non railway) lands. Sifton himself may have been involved as an investor in some of these ventures.[10] Populations of Saskatchewan and Alberta were eligible for provincial status in 1905.

Canada 1905
Canada 1905

Immigration continued to increase through to the roaring twenties. A mass exodus affected the prairies during the dirty thirties depression years and the prairies have never again regained the impetus of the immigration wave seen in the early 20th century.

My great grandfather Alfred Sharples was one of those people who took out a homestead out in Wiseton, Saskatchewan. He had emigrated from Walton-le-Dale, Lancashire, England with his first wife in 1883. The family sailed on the SS Polynesian from the Allan Line. They left from Liverpool and landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

SS Polynesian of the Allen Line
SS Polynesian of the Allan Line

They settled in Brantford, Brant, Ontario and had three daughters.

Sadly, Alfred’s first wife, Lizzie, died in 1905 before they could make the move to Saskatchewan. We don’t know why or how, but Alfred was on his own with three children to raise. Needless to say, he was eager to find a mom for them. Somehow he wound up in the Zephyr Hotel where his next wife was the cook. Her father, William Bennett Foote, was the owner of the hotel. I guess Alfred liked her, Alfretta’s, cooking and decided she would be a good mother to his children. They were married 1907 in Toronto, Ontario.

By the time Alfretta and Alfred were married Alfred already had the farm in Wiseton. He went back and forth between Saskatchewan and Ontario until the land was ready for settling. When my grandfather was born in 1910, he was born in Zephyr or Uxbridge, Ontario. Between 1910 and 1920 they joined Alfred during the summer in Saskatchewan and went back to Zephyr during the winter. Once the farm was ready for the family Alfretta and Floyd joined Alfred in Wiseton full time. The family is living in Wiseton in the 1921 census record. By this time the older daughters were married and gone.

Young Floyd, my grampa
Young Floyd, my grampa in ringlets

About fourteen kilometers from their farm in Wiseton was the village of Dinsmore where my grandmother was living with her parents. I guess they had some community dances back then and that’s where they met. I’ll tell more about my grandmother in the next post.





3 thoughts on “I am Canadian – Saskatchewan bound – Part 1

  1. Being from Saskatchewan I found this post most interesting. I am very familiar with the influx into the area known as Saskatchewan. Can you imagine the hardship they would have faced?

      1. Yes they did Darcy and my Mom still lives on it. Her parents families came from Minnesota and were German. My Dad’s father was British and served in WW1. He ended up being given some land in southern Sask and like many was forced to head to BC in the dirty 30s.

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