British Settlers Arrive in Saint John

English: Barr colonists in Saskatoon, Saskatch...
Barr colonists in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1903 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many settlers from England proved to rank with the best citizens of Canada, although enduring terrible hardships; and probably because they endured terrible hardships.  The journey made by the founders of Lloydminster on the Saskatchewan-Alberta border shows their courage.

In 1903, The Laurier Government was enjoying a great immigration boom, thanks to an almost worldwide drive for new settlers.   One of the immigration agents was the Reverend I. M. Barr, a silver-tongued orator in England.  Anxious to earn the $5 paid for every head of family and the $2 for every person sent to Canada, he persuaded a large group of people that life in western Canada was better than in England.  Their ship, an old tub called the Manitoba, arrived in Saint John on April 10, 1903, after a dreadful crossing.  Men, women and children slept in the cargo holds.  There was no privacy, the most primitive of toilet facilities, and the food and water were unfit to eat or drink.

When they arrived in Saint John, they were loaded into “colonist cars.”  The train was so slow it was said that the people in the front coaches could shoot a rabbit from a window, jump out, pick it up and get back on one of the coaches to the rear!

When they arrived at Saskatoon, they lived in tents for two weeks before journeying on.  The wagons they travelled in were overloaded; baggage dropped into mud-holes and coal oil spilled into the food.  The temperature was often below zero as blizzards gusted across the prairies.

Many of those people were ordinary city-folk.  Yet, they stuck it out.  The colonists deposed Reverend Isaac Barr and replaced him with the Reverend George Lloyd. He encouraged the colonists, as shown by the founders of present day Lloydminster, which they named after him, because he did so much to keep them going.

Do you want a visual?  Just go to Canadian Museum of Civilization, where you will find a painting by C.N. Frey depicting this voyage. A great place to get a more detailed account, a good place would be at .

If you want to read not only about this, but about everything Canada and Canadian, I highly suggest reading The Oxford Companion to Canadian History.

“Barr Colony, Isaac Barr (1847-1937), a charismatic but inept Anglican clergyman, promised Clifford Sifton‘s Department of Immigration, anxious to import farmers to the thinly populated Prairies, that his colonization scheme would “save Canada for the British”.  The Laurier government did more than usual to ensure the safety and comfort of the 2,000 British townsfolk — bank clerks, butchers, housemaids, gardeners — who responded to Barr’s Call.  Halfway through the 330-km trek, which took them by wagon from the railhead at Saskatoon to the “Promised Land” west of Battleford in the dismal spring of 1903, the colonists deposed Barr and replaced him with the Reverend George Lloyd (1861-1940), another controversial man, after whom they named Lloydminster. Watched by the international press, “the raw Englishmen loose on the plains’ spent a miserable first winter in poorly built sod huts, but most proved their homesteads and eventually became successful farmers and business people.”

The previous is reprinted here, with permission, from  The Oxford Companion to Canadian History, Edited by Gerald Hallowell, (,  -Lynne Bowen, pp.64 copyright Oxford University Press Canada 2004  ISBN: 13:978-0-19-541559 :

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