THE OLD HOMESTEAD:
ROMANCE AND REALITY

Wilfrid Eggleston

The homesteading era in southeastern Alberta ended long ago. There are very few "originals" left. My father, who is the central figure of this account, died twenty years ago at the age of eighty-nine. The last of the homesteaders in our immediate neighbourhood died in 1969 at the age of ninety-one. Since an applicant had to be at least eighteen years of age to file on a homestead, the youngest of the survivors of the land-rush of 1909 would now be in his middle eighties.

I was only eight years old when the last big tract of homestead country was opened up in southern Alberta. As the son of a homesteader I enjoyed all the romantic aspects of homesteading without much of the burden of work and anxiety assumed by my parents and their fellow settlers.

My father filed "blind" on a quarter section of short-grass prairie fifty miles south of Medicine Hat in the month of February, 1910. We were living at the time in a draughty two-storey frame farmhouse about eleven miles east of Nanton, fifty miles south of Calgary, heated only by a small kitchen range.

We were a family of five, English immigrants who had landed in southern Alberta the previous May. My father was what the English would call a small tradesman: he had been a warehouse hand, an insurance agent, and a shopkeeper after a boyhood spent on a Nottinghamshire farm. My mother was the daughter of a Lincolnshire shoemaker, who had been apprenticed to a milliner before her marriage. The family had not prospered; illness had plagued us for a time; emigration was in the air. My parents had decided to start life anew in another part of the world. New Zealand, Australia, and the United States were all contemplated; but southern Alberta was the final choice, made early in 1909. The deciding factor was one well known in immigrant literature—the testimony of a friend who had gone out earlier. In Nottingham the Eggleston family had known a girl named Alice Stokes, who now, many years later, was Mrs. J. B. Dew, wife of an Alberta

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