Saskatchewan Homesteading

The North-West Territories of the Commonwealth of Canada became the province of Saskatchewan on September 1, 1905. Its political leaders at the time proclaimed its destiny was to become Canada’s most powerful province. Saskatchewan embarked on an ambitious province-building program based on its Anglo-Canadian culture and wheat production for the export market. Population quintupled from 91,000 in 1901 to 492,000 to 1911, thanks to heavy immigration of farmers from the Ukraine, U.S., and other countries.

In 1870, Canada acquired the Hudson’s Bay Company’s territories and formed the North-West Territories to administer the vast territory between British Columbia and Manitoba. The national policy set by the federal government, the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Hudson’s Bay Company and associated land companies encouraged immigration. The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 permitted settlers to acquire one quarter of a square mile of land to homestead and offered an additional quarter upon establishing a homestead.

A settler could apply for a pre-emption. They had an option to purchase the quarter section next to theirs as a pre-emption, by paying the market price of the time which was about $2.00 acre. Even numbered sections were reserved for homesteads and pre-emptions, while odd-numbered sections were sold. A homesteader was granted a “quarter-section” for a $10 filing fee and he had to perform homesteader duties over the ensuing three years to be earn a Dominion Land Patent or “Title” to the land. For more information, and tutorial about Townships, ranges and meridians and about homesteads.

The Canadian Northern Railway was established, in 1899, and all railway companies owned by Mackenzie and Mann (primarily in Manitoba) were consolidated into the new entity. CNoR’s first step toward competing directly with CPR came at the start of the 20th century with the decision to build a line linking the Prairie Provinces with Lake Superior at the harbour in Port Arthur-Fort William (modern Thunder Bay, Ontario), which would permit the shipping of western grain to European markets as well as the transport of eastern Canadian goods to the West.

Meanwhile, Mackenzie and Mann expanded their prairie branch line operations to feed the connection to Port Arthur. From a series of disconnected railways and charters, the network became 1,200 miles of profitable and continuous track that covered most of the prairies by 1902

April 1904 saw the collapse of the rail bridge due to spring melt and ice on the South Saskatchewan River. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway system survey proposed Hanley as its northern terminal between Regina and Prince Albert. Saskatoon’s Board of Trade sent delegates from Saskatoon to Ottawa to discuss the river crossing and proposed city bridges. Their mission resulted in the selection of Saskatoon as the divisional centre for both the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway; both of these built bridges near the town by 1907.

In 1905, CNoR reached Edmonton.

In 1923 the Canadian Northern merged into the Canadian National Railway.

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