This book is dedicated to the memory of my Father and Mother who, at an age when most people enjoyed the quietness and comfort of a well settled life, embarked on a great adventure in a new and unknown land.
Marie Albina Hamilton.
These Are The Prairies
These are the gardens of the desert; these the unshorn fields boundless and beautiful,
For which the speech of England has no name "The Prairies"
William Cullen Bryant.
Recently, the pioneers of Regina gathered for a celebration. Those who had arrived the first year of the Railway were asked to stand. I was able to qualify, and when I looked around I was startled at the ancient nature of the company into which I had fallen. Most of the people in that group were old, and the youngest, judging from appearances, had left middle age far in the rear. Despite the fact that I had been very young when I qualified for the guild represented by that patriarchal company, I had a feeling akin to panic. Until that moment I had not realized how far along the road of life the years had carried me.
The incident engendered a retrospective state of mind and I then felt I had a fairly clear recollection of the happenings of the intervening years and that I might have something of interest to tell. During more than half a century spent almost entirely in the Prairie country, accident or design placed me in contact with people making western history. Where our paths intersected. I have made divergences to follow them along the roads they travelled.
In compiling the following pages I have enlisted the aid of my husband whose experience of the West is only a few years short of my own, and I wish to state frankly that without his collaboration this book could never have been written. It must, therefore, be regarded as our joint work.
I would like to express my gratitude:
To George Stephen of Regina, Clerk of the Saskatchewan Legislature, for constructive criticism, freely given when he could ill spare the time from exacting public duties;
To Ivon Burrell, of the Highways Branch of the Provincial Government, for preparing maps showing the landmarks of the country;
To Garnet Hazard, Artist of Toronto, for his Frontispiece illustration These Are The Prairies.
With these explanations I submit this work to my readers, in the hope that the simple record of events of a time gone by, may interest people living under modern and entirely different conditions.
Marie Albina Hamilton.
March 22, 1948.
This prairie region is very young. There are people still living who can remember when it was almost an unknown land when buffalo herds thronged the prairie pastures, when Indian bands rode on tribal wars and "The Prairies" were marked by map makers as part of the "Great North American Desert". Sixty years ago explorers and agricultural experts were still debating whether it were possible to produce cereal crops from the prairie soil, and if summer frosts would permit even the hardiest plants to survive.
The changes have been tremendous and having occurred before our eyes, perhaps, may have lost some of their significance. History, mighty history, was in the making, but much of it lacked an interpreter.
And now, we have here a book that may fill a long felt want. The Authors have lived long in the West. They have seen "The Prairies" emerge from the shadows of time, to become one of the greatest productive regions of the continent; they have travelled the rutted trails of the pioneers; experienced seasons of crop failures and discouragement, succeeded by periods of production and prosperity, and have had personal contact with people important in every phase of life of the country. They have a tale to tell, and they do it simply without stage setting or artifice. They travel the paths of the years and tell of their fellow wayfarers.
This book makes no pretentions of being history, and yet it contains much authentic history in its pages. It is neither fiction nor romance; yet it shows that the western stage may be set for incidents as dramatic as anything in Canada's story. In a word, it is a simple record of other days in this, our western land, told with sincerity not to be denied.
R. J. M. Parker,
Pierre de la Verendrye
The first white man of whom we have authentic record to see the
Great Western Plains, December, 1738.