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More Family Celebrates 125 Years Of Farming In Western Manitoba

During the rush to settle the Prairies in the 1880s, thousands flocked to the promise of free land.

Some hoped to turn a fast buck on a piece of land, while others hoped to put down permanent roots.

Colin Thomas More, who arrived in Winnipeg from Bruce, Ontario, in 1882 with his wife Elizabeth and a young daughter, had less than $3 in his pocket.

It was the year of a big flood, and as he recounted later in a letter, Things looked pretty blue.

He worked for five years at a lumber company in the provincial capital, then after walking for days on the open prairie, he finally located a suitable homestead near Elgin.

He brought lumber to build a house, bought a team of oxen for $75, and broke and seeded 10 acres of wheat that sold for 40 cents per bushel. The original plow, since restored, still stands on a cairn on the original homestead that gained century status in 1985.

Some of the lumber was lost in a prairie fire or stolen, but More continued undaunted.

By 1917, he owned a barn full of Clydesdale horses, his own threshing outfit, and 14 quarters of land southwest of Elgin.

But perhaps his greatest accomplishment of all was instilling in his descendants a love of the land and farming that has endured for well over a century.

David McDowell, of the Manitoba Historical Society, who presented an armful of century farm plaques and one rare 125- year farm award at a recent ceremony, said that the Mores are a unique case of a settler building a lasting family empire out of the virgin prairie.

This is really the first one where we ve had so many quarters still within the family, said McDowell, adding that next year, more land owned by his cousins will be due for century farm recognition.

The period from 1880 up until the First World War represents a unique epoch in Prairie history that could be considered the first farming boom, that saw a combination of good weather, high grain prices, and no disasters of any type, he added.

It s really intriguing in terms of social history, he said.

Martin More, who received a century farm sign for a quarter that he owns, said that the family patriarch built up the original spread through hard work and determination.

He transferred a love of the land. I ve always wanted to farm and I think my cousins were quite the same, he said.

Barry More, the family historian who now lives in Brandon and rents out his quarter to a cousin, said that Colin Thomas More s drive to succeed was truly remarkable.

By 1910, he d expanded from one quarter section homestead to 14 quarters, which was a really big farm for the time. It s not a bad farm for today, in fact, he said.

Larry Hammond, a family member who served as MC for the reunion/century farm award ceremonies, noted that farming 3.5 sections of land with horses required a masterful skill set.

Can you imagine working all that land, doing all that planning, organizing all that feed, making sure the horses and machinery were where they were supposed to be that was a massive undertaking, he said.

On one section bought from the CPR in 1891, now owned by Martin and Nancy More, he recalled a story how they plowed mile-long furrows one way, stopped to rest the horses for 15 minutes, then plowed all the way back.

I think we used to have a combine that would overheat much the same way, joked Hammond, to laughter from the crowd.

Not all of the land was optimal for grain farming, however. In 1985, prior to the first century farm dedication ceremony, Norval More decided to use the old breaking plow to turn some sod on the old yard site.

He took the walking plow and a team over and did just that, said Hammond. By the time he was done, he was so frustrated that he tossed the plow onto the stone pile that had developed from his efforts.

Looking back, Hammond said that there must be a More gene that has been passed on throughout the family that has helped them endure over the years, even to the present, when excess moisture saw parts of the farm go unseeded for the first time in the 125 years since the original quarter was settled.

Maybe in another 100 years, our descendants will be celebrating the bicentennial on some of these farms, he said.

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Maybe in another 100 years, our descendants will be celebrating the bicentennial on some of these farms.

Larry Hammond

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