Plenty of Opportunity for Men in Alberta If They Will Go on the Land

Plenty of Opportunity for Men in Alberta If They Will Go on the Land


Plenty of Opportunity For Men in Alberta If They Will Go on the Land

A Place for Them Not Only in Summer but in the Winter--Fifteen Thousand Homes and Positions Were Offered For Twelve Thousand Men--Cities Afford Only Limited Employment--Work to Be Had in Lumber Camps, in The Mines, on the Railroads--No Man from the Old Country Need Be Ashamed of Starting to Work with His Hands--Alberta Has No Promise of Silken Ease in Luxury, but She Extends the Boon of Honest Toil.

(Continued from Last Week)
But to come back to the solicitation of the farmers to take in the English harvesters for the winter. After the harassing events of the summer above mentioned, it may be thought that Mr. Farmer would turn a deaf ear to these canvassers for the men from the old land. Far from it. The result was quite remarkable, if one takes the figures of the railroads and the government into consideration. Fifteen thousand homes and positions secured for twelve thousand men! That was the tremendous response of the Canadian farmer.
I am told that out of the 12,000 men who came here only about 1,000 returned to England. In our own district of Calgary, 300 positions on farms were found for men for the winter. The winter wage, it is true, was not high--probably averaging about $20 to $30 a month--in some cases lower. I have heard of some men who went out to farm and are working for the winter for their board. A great many of these harvesters had saved harvest and threshing wages. It is no uncommon thing in this country for harvesters and threshers to have enough saved from their season’s work to lay off for the entire winter.

Other Kinds of Jobs

First of all, I might recall the fact that this is an agricultural country. The cities afford only limited employment, and they should therefore be eliminated in considering possible places of employment.
Most people cherish the erroneous notion that farming is a simple occupation that anyone can undertake; that requires no brains, no apprenticeship, no experience, no especial gift. That is a most fallacious idea. Farming, properly conducted, is as skilled and important a business as any that exists. The farmer, indeed, needs both knowledge and skill in a hundred directions. In fact if a man desires to go in for farming in this country, it would be well for him first, to go to work for another farmer and learn his trade. Too many come out here, take up a homestead or buy a farm, go out upon the land and then blunder along helplessly till they are either broke or have won out. The most successful farmers here are those who either started in the service of another farmer or who have had experience elsewhere before coming here.

Lumber Camps

Next to farming the lumber camps offer perhaps the best opportunities for employment. The camps are unable to get anything like the labor they want. The work is healthy and the hours are regular. It is, of course, hard and husky work, but many men prefer it to any other type of physical labor. In some camps--I might especially mention the camps of British Columbia--modern appliances are afforded. There the men have bathing facilities and are given clean quarters and good bedding. The lumberjacks and loggers demand and get the best of grub.


Work in the coal mines is hard, and not especially pleasant, but it is well paid for. I believe the wage is from $8.00 to $20.00 a day, and it is fairly regular employment. There will likely be a considerable development of the mines in the coming years, as Alberta is being recognized as a great coal country and only time and capital are needed to bring it up to a producing centre that will compare with that of other coal countries.

The Railroads

I am told by railroad official heads that there is always work on the railroads. In a big country like this, railroad construction goes on constantly, and the man who is willing to handle a pick and shovel will find employment.


A good living is made by the successful trapper. This is a limited field, however, and to make an actual living, a man needs to know the country well and be a good woodsman. He should understand the habits of the animals whose pelts he is after. Some men spend a whole lifetime in the woods acquiring such knowledge.
However, many of the farmers and more of the men working on the farms do make considerable on the side by trapping or killing beavers, lynx, coyotes, muskrats and other animals. We had a man who worked on our grain ranch who made $250 in a single season from muskrat and coyote hides.

Road Work

Road work is done in the summer. The roads of this country are kept in shape by gangs of laborers. They are paid from $4.00 to $6.00 per day and board, and if they possess a team of horses they are allowed $3 a day extra for the labor of each horse.


Good riders are always in demand on a cattle ranch. It is a favorite employment with younger men. Some outfits employ only the experienced riders, but others prefer men who are new at the “game” but are willing to “learn the ropes.” The experienced rider is often spoiled for other work on a ranch. They balk at any job not directly connected with the horse or cattle, such as branding, dehorning, vaccinating and, of course, riding and rounding up, and in the case of horses, cutting out, breaking, etc. Most of the ranchers prefer men who besides riding will give a hand at fencing and also work in the field at haying time.
Physical labor in this country carries with it a certain dignity. A man does not lose caste by working with his hands. Sons of our best families, and some of the best families in England go into our fields at harvest time, while others are engaged upon road building and in the lumber camps. College men are as numerous in the harvest fields as men of no education.
Snobbery is out of place in a country like Alberta. It’s not the employment, but the man, that counts. Personally, I have more respect and a feeling of fellowship for the overall-clad chap upon the land or in the shop, who is contributing his honest share toward the productive work of the world, than I have for the white-collared, spats-footed, cigarette-smoking boozefighters and joyriders who are the main props of pool rooms, dance halls, gambling houses and other places. There is no work, however hard or even menial, that can degrade a man. It’s the man who degrades the work. There is no reason why any work should not call for the tribute of respect.
For the past seven years I have watched the men of the farming and ranching country who have worked for us and for neighboring ranchers. In boosting the wage from $4.00 to $6.00 a day at harvest time, or holding out for top wages during the war years, I do not doubt but what they had their side to the question. Take the case of the harvesters this summer. Eight to ten hours a day, laboring in the field, under a hot sun, stooking up bundles that this summer at least weighed from 20 to 40 lbs. each! A man’s job, indeed, and deserving of a man’s pay. Or at threshing time, working in all kinds of weather, fair or rough, tossing those same bundles into stook wagons. Unloading maybe in wind and biting cold, with chaff flying from the separator and blowing into their faces, their eyes and down their lungs. Changing from farm to farm, wherever the threshing machine might go. Sleeping in bunk house or caboose, in tent or granary or shed, or any old place the farmer could afford--sometimes upon a bed, but more often that not upon straw upon the ground.
Small wonder that these men demanded the highest wages possible for their sacrifice and labor. But in asking for more than the farmer was himself earning, showed poor judgement. In considering the work of the harvester, we must at the same time look at the average farmer, who employed the harvester. Was he not working hard--yes, harder, than any man in his employ? I know of few outfits where the farmer was not working shoulder to shoulder with the harvest and threshing hands and when the day’s work was done in the field, unlike the man he employed, the farmer still worked--and on. Nor could he be sure of the daily wage upon which at least the harvester could count.

The Climate of Alberta

We suffer abroad from an erroneous conception of the climate of Canada. We can trace this curious idea of our country to the pernicious literature which has been circulated in the form of stories, articles, plays, motion pictures and even lectures by people who are not Canadian, but who have sojourned for a brief season in Canada, and returned to their own countries to exploit and misrepresent Canada. Some day we will realize the incalculable harm done to Canada by these libels. We are always represented as being a land of ice and snow, where hardships and privation and poverty are the general rule of life. Only in certain parts of Canada, very sparsely populated, do we suffer from the extremes of cold and privation thus pictured. Taken as a whole, Canada has a healthy robust winter, and summers that are almost unrivalled. The climate of British Columbia, the year around--or rather a part of British Columbia, compares with that of part of the boasted climate of California, where the flowers bloom the year around. For my part I consider that Alberta possesses the finest climate in the world. Its sunlight and its Chinook winds make it unique. It is true, that we have spells of bitter zero weather in winter, but they never last long, and they are broken by Chinooks that compensate for the transient cold by long spells of warm days of sunshine. Our springs are not as warm or balmy as one might wish. I do not like our springs, but they are not unendurable at all events. I believe our summers and falls cannot be surpassed, and the long sun-lighted days stretch sometimes clear up till the end of December.
Even the temporary sojourner in Alberta feels something of the fascination of this country, and I believe it is more or less due to the climate--the eternal sunlight, and the bracing air; through the magnificent scenery on all sides of us, whether it be in the hill country, with its stretch of matchless peaks, or the wide spreading prairie lands, stretching into unlimited distances and seeming to be merged into the sky itself, these contribute their share to the spell of Alberta. The tang of the big new land; the pull of the immense open spaces--these are the magnets that draw and hold us.

Immigrants From All Over the World

It is now generally known that immigrants from all over the world are preparing to pour into this country during the coming year. Already a great number of Russians and Mennonites have come during the past year. They have been filtering in gradually, but I was surprised when told that of 20,000 Russians had come in during the past year. Central Europe, the United States, the Scandinavian countries, Holland, Italy,-- all are preparing to send a large quota into Canada. Canada has all the potentialities that go to the making of the greatest of countries, but she lacks capital and population. The signs point to the fact that these will ultimately come to her either from the motherland or our neighbors to the south.
Canada recognizes that her crying need is population, and she is anxious to select the type of immigrant who will be a credit to the country. For that reason many schemes are under way to induce the best kind of immigration. One plan, which is likely to be laid before the British government, considers the desirability of bringing whole families into Canada, and settling them upon five and ten-acre farms in good farming districts, where the father, and possibly the sons, if old enough, may find regular employment among the neighboring farmers. Meanwhile the small farm would not only supply a home to which they might return nightly, but contribute materially through dairy products, poultry, pigs and garden truck. It is certain that such a plan would be most desirable so far as the farmers are concerned. A steady man in a farming neighborhood would be sure of work from the farmers who have to depend upon the uncertain help supplied from the city. With his wages, which should be considerable over harvest and threshing period, this man would be comfortably fixed, and after a couple of years would have earned the right to take up the quarter section homestead which it is then intended should be allowed him.
I have heard it said that many of the immigrants from Central Europe and Russia speak of Canada as the land of promise and refuge, the sure haven and retreat from the torturing problems that make of mere living a desperate and stark struggle against the grimmest of antagonists.
Splendidly immense, aloof, yet holding out warm mothering, inviting arms, Canada calls across to the war weary and hungry ones of the old world. She offers no promises of silver or gold, of silken case or luxury; but she extends a great--indeed the greatest of all boons--honest toil!


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People Mentioned


This anonymous volunteer was in a UBC ENGL 2021 class.

Leean Wu

Leean is an Honours English language and literature student at the University of British Columbia and a research assistant for The Winnifred Eaton Archive. She was an undergraduate teaching assistant for the UBC Coordinated Arts Program for two years and a research assistant for the UBC Public Humanities Hub.

Winnifred Eaton

  • Born: August 21, 1875
  • Died: April 08, 1954
See the Biographical Timeline for biographical information on Winnifred Eaton.

Pseudonym used in this text

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and a Developer at Simon Fraser University’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (DHIL). He is a graduate of the M.A. program in English at the University of British Columbia where he specialized in Indigenous and diasporic literature, science and technology studies, and the digital humanities.

Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman is the Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive, a Professor of English, and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub at University of British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism (Oxford UP) and of numerous articles about American literature and women writers. She has also edited Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s UP) and published essays on the Eaton sisters in American Quarterly, MELUS, Legacy, Canadian Literature, and American Periodicals. Her current research project is a microhistory of the Eaton family. For more information, see
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