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Agricultural Colonies in Canada

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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Agricultural activity among Jews in Canada is a sequel to Russo-Jewish immigration occasioned by persecution. The Mansion House Committee of London, England, the Jewish Colonization Association of Paris, and a local committee in Montreal, Canada, have been the chief agencies that have fostered and directed the movement. Jewish farmers have met with a certain measure of success in the colonies established there; but Canada does not offer to novices in farming the natural advantages pertaining to favorably situated parts of the United States. The question of markets for the sale of produce is also a more serious one in the Dominion; and the long winters, during which little outside work can be done, have proved to be a test that many would-be colonists have been unable to stand.

Moosomin Colony.

The first Jewish agricultural colony in Canada was established under the auspices of the Mansion House Committee, which, in 1884, purchased several thousand acres of land in the district of Moosomin in the Northwest Territories, 220 miles west of Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba. About 30 families received grants of land, cattle, implements, etc., as well as sufficient food and other necessaries to last until the end of the third harvest. Before the termination of this period the settlers had become discouraged, and had all abandoned their farms. Most of the colonists migrated to Winnipeg. The colony had been under the management of Sir Alexander Galt, then Canadian High Commissioner in London, who acted as trustee for the Mansion House Committee. While the land at Moosomin was good for agricultural purposes and was well supplied with water and timber, it was twenty to twenty-five miles distant from the railroad; consequently, the colonists found it impossible to obtain a market for their produce.

In 1891 a Jewish colony was founded at Oxbow, in eastern Assiniboia, twenty-five miles east of Hirsch, the first settlers being a farmer named Pierce and his two sons. In 1900 there were at this place 14 Jewish families, including some from Winnipeg, and some of the original Hirsch colonists, who, in order to avoid the repayment of advances made to them, removed to Oxbow with the cattle and implements provided for them by the Jewish Colonization Association of Paris.

It was in consequence of the very large influx of Russian refugees into the Dominion, at the time of the second great migration, that Baron Maurice de Hirsch decided in 1892 to start an agricultural colonization movement among these people by placing some of them, selected as most suitable for the purpose, on farms in the Northwest Territories. The Young Men's Hebrew Benevolent Society of Montreal agreed to undertake this task; and, in consequence, the members of the Board of Trustees of that society were appointed trustees of the colonization fund, under the direction of the Jewish Colonization Association of Paris.

Colony Named after Baron de Hirsch.

Careful investigations were made before the land for the colony of Hirsch, named after its founder, was finally selected. It lay in the extreme south of the district of Assiniboia, six miles from the Mouse River, and about twelve miles from the United States boundary line (102° W. long.; 49° 21' N. lat.). The land was practically free, as it was obtained from the government upon payment of the homestead entries, which are repayable if the provisions of the Dominion Lands Act are complied with. At first, 49 families were sent to Hirsch and provided with houses, horses, cattle, implements, seed, and provisions for three years. It was soon found, however, that 24 additional homesteads were required for the sons, sons-in-law, and other relatives and friends of the original colonists, making a total of 73 farms of 160 acres each, or 11,680 acres in all. Before leaving Montreal each of the colonists signed an agreement to repay, in twelve annual instalments, the money advanced. At the expiration of the first three years, when nearly $50,000 had been expended for the benefit of the settlers, it was announced by the trustees that the colonists ought thenceforward to be self-supporting. Thereupon the majority of the settlers sold all their movable property, and with the proceeds departed—some going to Winnipeg, others to St. Paul, and a few even as far as San Francisco. In 1895, 5 families were brought from Red Deer to Hirsch; and in 1899, 3 families came from Winnipeg, and 5 from London. In 1900 there were 28 families at Hirsch—all doing well, especially those of the original settlers that remained. Two schools have been built, one of which was opened in 1899 and the other in 1900. A paid manager has now full charge of the colony, all responsibility being taken from the Montreal trustees. In this colony there is an abundant supply of water from wells throughout the year. The climate is healthful; and the soil is a clayey loam mixed locally with gravel or sand, having a rich vegetable mold as top-soil. It is fertile, and there is no barren land—buffalo-grass, which forms nutritious pasture, covering the uncultivated districts. The staple product of the district is wheat. Next to wheat, prairie-grass is the most important crop, on account of its usefulness in dairying and stock-raising.

Wapella and Red Deer Colonies.

Wapella, which is on the Canadian Pacific Railroad, in the eastern part of the district of Assiniboia, is on the site of a former settlement, and was formed in 1894 by 20 Jewish families. These colonists had means of their own and needed no outside assistance. However, they did apply for help to build a school, and funds were provided for that purpose; but before these could be sent, the settlers succeeded in raising sufficient money among themselves. The school was opened in 1898; and altogether the colony seems to be prospering. Wapella dates back to 1886, when Herman Landau, of London, sent John Hepner and four young Jews to Canada; forwarding, at the same time, $2,000 to the officials of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, to assist in locating them, and to provide the settlers with the necessary implements, cattle, tools, provisions, and seed.

Another settlement was formed in the Red Deer district by a few Russo-Jewish colonists, who wereassisted by some benevolent people of Chicago; but after remaining upon their farms for a year, they found that they were unable to make a living, and petitioned the colonization committee at Montreal to remove them to Hirsch. Their request was granted; and in the autumn of 1895 they were given cattle and implements and placed upon some of the farms abandoned by the original colonists at Hirsch. In 1900 they were said to be thriving.

One of the mistakes that the Jewish farmers of Canada have made has been the purchase of expensive farming implements on the instalment plan. The rate of interest on deferred payments—often as high as 12 per cent per annum—causes them to run into debt, and they seldom succeed in extricating themselves. Mixed farming is generally advised; and where this system is adopted success usually follows. All the settlements are suited to this kind of farming, since they embrace good grazing-land, as well as good soil for both grain and root crops. Hay grows in abundance; and the land is not subject to early frosts.

M. R.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Agricultural Colonies in Canada'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​a/agricultural-colonies-in-canada.html. 1901.
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