The first Canadian to win the title “World Wheat King” was John Brick, a Church of England minister, who did some farming in the Peace River area of Alberta as a hobby!
Brick came from England with his wife and four children and studied theology in Ontario. Fascinated by stories of the West, he received permission to start a mission at Dunvegan on the Peace River. When he had built his church, Brick decided to do some farming. After five years he returned to Toronto where he raised $5,000 for his mission. The Federal Government was interested in his farming experiment, and contributed $2,000.
When Brick returned to Peace River in 1888, the Edmonton Bulletin reported on August 25 that “Reverend John Brick, the Church of England missionary, is now on his way to Peace River. He is bringing up a large outfit, including a portable grist mill, agricultural and carpenter’s tools. Also a thoroughbred Durham bull, two Holsten heifers and an Ayrshire cow, Berkshire and Yorkshire pigs and some poultry.”
Brick’s farm made great progress. In the spring of 1892, he planted a bushel of a new type of wheat seed, Red Fife,
and harvested an amazing 72 bushels to the acre. The crop had to be cut with a sickle and threshed with a flail on the floor of the church!
Somebody suggested to Brick that he send a sample of his wheat to the World’s Fair at Chicago, which he did more as an advertisement for Peace River than in the hope of winning an award. In order to ship it, he had to make the ten-day journey to Edmonton when the temperatures dropped as low as -51° C (-60° F) along the way!
Then the news came. Wheat from Peace River had won the World Championship! Where was Peace River? Finally the newspapers located it and there was more astonishment. John Brick and the people of Peace River did not hear the news until many weeks later.
There is now a bronze tablet at the town of Peace River commemorating the great achievement of the parson with the wheat crown.
If you would like to learn more, I suggest visiting History is Where You Stand by Dorthea Calverley.
I didn’t know there was such a title as World Wheat King. Very cool!!!
LOL. I want to see what the medal or trophy would look like … Though I don’t think he received anything. 🙂
Awesome history. You think we got it made with our transportation system, wow, a man’s livelihood was hard work. Kudos to your excellent post, as ever, Tk.
Thanks, P! Encouraging words are always welcomed (and critism) ! 🙂
Dunvegan remains remarkable country.
So I’ve heard! Of course, I go by what I can find on the internet, not travelling very far in reality. But it sure looks and sounds like a great place. 🙂
Always a thrill to spend a few minutes focused on the Peace River valley, an astonishingly beautiful region. I was *really* surprised (and pleased) to read about John Brick, his farming, and even more so his Red Fife wheat! All associations I’ve had with the region involve farming and this story never came up!
I was also surprised at the significance of an Anglican presence in Dunvegan’s history – I’ve visited Dunvegan a time or two (brief day trips) and the featured historical mission was Oblate, which, in my ignorance, I assumed Roman Catholic. The Peace River region, especially ‘Alberta side’, has several sizable French-Canadian communities … possibly prompted my assumption.
Just looked up ‘oblate’: “An oblate in Christian monasticism (especially Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican) is a person who is specifically dedicated to God or to God’s service. … Oblates are individuals, either laypersons or clergy, normally living in general society, who, while not professed monks or nuns, have individually affiliated themselves with a monastic community of their choice.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblate.
Clearly my assumption was wrong. … I guess the little church I saw was probably John Brick’s!
Dorothea Calverley was a dedicated and careful regional historian – thanks for the link.
I also found more on Dunvegan here: http://www.history.alberta.ca/dunvegan/
Wow! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and that you’ve been able to get a clearer picture of the details. It warms my heart that I was in part responsible for that 😉
But I am also very happy that you visited and commented! I really appreciate that!
Oh, and thank you for the link — I believe that’s a new one for me. I love to get my hands dirty reading other people’s blogs. I learn so much more that way.
Thanks again, and have a great day! 🙂