Jubilee Jottings — looking back at the first 60 years

Canada 150: As they do today, farmers in 1927 reflected on how much easier life was 
than back in the old days

In the midst of war in 1917, there was not much appetite for a 50-year celebration of Confederation, so the country was anxious to celebrate the “Jubilee” year in 1927. Former editor John Morriss prepared this look back at what we covered as those celebrations approached.

The Scoop Shovel, which published from 1925 until it became the Manitoba Co-operator in 1931, was an official “organ” and unabashed promoter of the wheat pool movement in Manitoba. Ed Russenholt, who later became CBC television’s first “weatherman,” was the Pool’s publicity director and also a talented cartoonist. He took advantage of Confederation’s 60-year Jubilee in 1927 to put in this plug for both national and farmer unity (see photo at top).

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The issue also contained some “Jubilee Jottings” from pioneers looking back at the first 50 years of farming in Manitoba, and just as we do when looking back today, they reflected on how much things have changed. We’ve posted images of all these pages on our website.

“Looking back over the years since I was born in Kildonan in 1862 the change is altogether startling,” wrote G.T. Sutherland of Clandeboye.

“In the early ’70s we used the Red River Plow, then the wooden harrow. In harvesting the grain, first came the sickle, the cradle, then the reaper which was drawn by one man while another forked off the grain to be bound into sheaves by hand. Then came the self-raking reaper, and when the self-binder was introduced it was regarded as a wonder and a blessing.”

John Grover of Birnie wrote of the “striking contrasts” since he arrived from England in 1870 at age 20. “The crossing took 13-1/2 days in a sail-and-steam vessel of 5,000 tons as compared with the modern passage of about seven days, and vessels more than six or seven times that size,” he wrote.

He also commented on the change in land values.

“The old process, also, of filing on a homestead for $10 cash, and buying a pre-emption at $1 per acre with three years to pay, presents a distinct contrast to the land values at present varying from $25 to $50 per acre.”

Sheriff R.H. Home of Portage reflected on the “stormy scenes enacted after the birth of this province as the result of the Riel Rebellion,” and the arrival of a “body of virile men” (Northwest Mounted Police) to quell it.

He had special praise for the evolution of the grain-marketing system.

“Through the instrumentality of our extensive railway systems, the organization of the grain-marketing system which makes it possible for the farmer to load his grain from the machine, and with the aid of the radio watch the movements of the market and keep in immediate touch with the world, he is indeed fortunate compared to those who struggled in the early days.”

The women’s perspective

No first name or address was provided for Mrs. J. Munday, but she described her arrival from the U.S. by rail and vessel in 1866 and subsequent journey to farm in the Gladstone area.

“Reaching Winnipeg we stayed a few days in the emigrant sheds which were crowded with settlers, mostly like ourselves, from Ontario. We found quite a number of other settlers ready to start when we did, and it was quite a fair-size caravan which left Winnipeg on the Portage trail — now busy Portage Avenue — for the virgin lands farther west.”

She described seeing “some years after” Lord Strathcona’s herd of tame buffalo near his home in Silver Heights.

“The wild ones had all disappeared from those districts before then. I have eaten pemmican often enough, but cannot remember liking it particularly well.”

An ad from the June 1927 issue. One writer marvelled at how much easier life had become for the woman at home.
photo: File

Mrs. E.M.A. George — also no first name or address provided — described her 62 years of life and the changes in home conveniences, including her mother’s first kerosene lamp in 1870.

“I think it was in 1877 that my mother bought a clothes wringer which was considered a very wonderful machine. Today when I step into a modern kitchen and see the up-to-date equipment, electric range, washing machine, iron, hot water heaters and all the little and great helps that electricity has brought to our assistance in the home, I feel like rubbing my eyes and wondering if I have come into a new world.”

Mrs. A. Tooth described her life in Canada starting in 1883, “just after the big land boom of ’82 collapsed, leaving desolation behind.”

“Then the struggle for existence commenced for many farm women, but they faced the problem patiently, with a fortitude that kept the home fires burning.”

Mrs. Tooth described how she supplemented the farm income by selling butter, eggs, lard, bacon and chickens in Winnipeg.

However, “Sometimes I think better prices and more livable conditions are somewhat deteriorating to the fibre of the present generation. Cream shipped and butter bought does not look right to me. I do not wish the young wives to work as the pioneer women worked, but there’s a medium — it should be a happy one — manufacture for use and ship the residue. Bakers’ bread is neither as healthful or as economical as homemade.”

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