Laying the groundwork for agriculture

By Sandra L. Brown

September 22, 2016 12:00 AM

Unmistakably, breaking and ploughing the raw prairie sod for planting crops laid the groundwork for agriculture in Lloydminster’s early days. 
Most of the Barr Colonists were not farmers when they arrived and set-up their homesteads. 
They were not all wealthy but became comfortable farming and living amidst a fledgling community in a new environment. 
Early on, learning from each other soon led to winning major local and national agricultural awards in Canada and in the United States. 
Lloydminster quickly had the distinction of being the best mixed farming district in the West. 
Oats, wheat, and barley were grown along with the raising of dairy and beef cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, and chickens.
In August 1905, a group of entrepreneurial farmers (Miles, Peach, Sutton, Smith, and Rackham) bought a steam-threshing outfit hoping for a quick delivery. 
For anyone that hired their threshing crew, they required accessible water for the engine and the stacks should be placed in lots of four, seven, or eight feet apart. 
The farmer was to provide two pitchers, men for the straw and for hauling the grain away and of course hearty food for the whole gang. 
Those with less than 10 acres of crop joined in with their neighbors to keep the cost of threshing down. 
J. C. Hill arrived in the Barr Colony in 1903, worked on the railway construction, and in 1904 after purchasing a team of oxen, worked his land. 
In 1910 and 1913, Hill and Sons won the Colorado Silver Cup (Columbus, Ohio) for the best oats grown in North America. 
At a competition of 1300 oat growers from Canada and the United States in Dallas, Texas, the oats championship went for the third time in five years to the Lloydminster farmer in 1914. 
At the local Board of Trade banquet held that same year, MLA. J. P. Lyle, spoke of the developments in mixed farming taking place in Lloydminster congratulating the government’s assistance to the farmers in our area. 
He believed that with more assistance, that the Lloydminster area would become even more prosperous. 
Also honored in 1914, was Charles Barrett for winning the Brackman-Ker Silver trophy three times in a row for the best milling oats in Canada at the Alberta Seed Grain Fair. 
James H. Brown won the Edmonton Board of Trade trophy for the best field of standing wheat in northern and central Alberta. 
Threshing out at 51 bushels to the acre, the wheat scored 100 per cent. 
Dr. J. T. Hill, one of Lloydminster’s pioneer medical doctors, won the Grand Championship for field peas at the International Show in Chicago in 1923, 1925 and 1926. 
Stanley Jones’ threshing outfit was one of the first gasoline models used in the Lloydminster area in 1920. 
The separator and engine combination was an attempt to let the farmer do his own threshing rather than wait for the services of a threshing rig and its crew. 
Later abandoned, the labour intensive equipment was too slow.
Threshing was both exciting and an anxious time due to weather concerns. 
The mutual goal was to have their crops threshed before winter, and reportedly, this was not always the case as some had to wait until December or later before it was completed. 
The entire family waited with great anticipation for the arrival of the threshing rig and its crew.
The crop was readily prepared by hand either in round stacks or in stooks, both of which took time to complete in advance. 
Jobs ranged from pitching sheaves heavy with grain, hauling water from a slough or lake for the steam engine, and to making sure, that the horses were well looked after at days end. 
Filling meals provided by the women fueled everyone’s hearty appetites.
A front-page quote in the Lloydminster Times (May 1907) stated, “A grain of wheat possesses the promise of more wealth than a ton of gold.”
In the story of the Barr Colonists, wealth is clearly interpreted differently. 
The strong interrelationship between the farmer and townsfolk blended with a sturdy sense of community, shared visions, and an abundance of what truly mattered to the Barr Colonists, supported opportunities for these remarkable agricultural achievements both on and off the field.

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