Monday, January 31, 2011

Letter 13: The Wild Wild Canadian West

The tale of The Letterhead. Herbert Nicholson was a man on the move in 1911.

Qu'appelle Sask. July 29, 1911

Dear Father,

Your letter of the 19th arrived two or three days ago and was glad to hear from you.

We are not very busy in the office just at present so think I had better answer you now as later on I am to be in charge again while our manager relieves our Wolsley Branch.

I would like if they would make me Manager of some of their Branches as I feel that I could handle one.

Suppose it may come if I can only wait, seems a long time though.

You asked about the crops. In my opinion, well, I never saw anything that looked nearly as fine but as it has rained almost every day for the last two months and is at it again today. The grain has kept growing all the time instead of heading out, and at present there is only parts here and there that are properly headed which means, of course, that unless we get some dry hot weather at once there will not be time before the frost arrives in the fall for it to mature.

The farmers were all smiling for a long time but are now beginning to look less hopeful.

We have not had a bit of warm weather that you could speak about.

Have done considerable automobiling all summer and we have only had one night that you could feel comfortable without an overcoat.

I do not think or rather do not know what to think about an early general election.
Do not think it is or should be necessary to appeal to the country on the question of Reciprocity?

It seems to me that the representatives now in Parliament are sent there just for this purpose. This class of men are far more able to deal with a question like this than about seventy five percent who vote.

Would like to see the thing passed myself and think it will.

There is a lot of opposition here, of course, drawn principally from party feelings, this being a conservative stronghold.

Lake, the man who we heard so much about in the East, is the Member (of Parliament) and will I think be elected quite easily.

There is some talk in the papers of Sir Walter Scott, the Provincial Premier, running against Lake, also Judge Brown, Dr. Moffatt's friend who came from Huntington originally, resigning from the bench to contest this riding but I do not think either would have much show.

Lake did not have a large majority by any means at the last election but Scott does not seem to be very popular and the other man is not well enough known, was practising law in a small Western Town called Mossimin until only a few years ago when he got the appointment of Judge for that district.

Now I wish you would not apologize for advising me as I know that you have had far more experience than I have and what is more, you never advised me very wrong yet, and wish you would remember that I will always be glad to have your advice any time.

You asked me if I thought the chances for making money were any better out here than in the East.

I think they are, but the the 'get rich quick period' has past in any part of the West that I have seen, except for the man with money - and the man with money can make it other places just as well.

Now I would rather buy real estate in Montreal than Winnipeg.

May not be able turn it over quite as quickly but you are always sure of being able to get your money any time you want it.

Our Manager here is an Englishman, and although I am not just exactly struck on him, I can't say that I dislike him and he uses me very well.

Edith has had some fine rides with the Skinners according to the cards she has sent me. Marion will certainly have a fine salary next season, Mother tells me.

I am going to write to Mother today. Hope Flora passed her Exams.

Well, think I will have to stop this time.

Hope this will find you feeling as well as you look in the snap you enclosed.

I showed it to a man in town here and he said I should be ashamed to be so homely when I had such a good looking father.

Glad you have a good Chief and hope as you do that you will have him for a long time as you have to work for these people.

Your son,


In 1910 Sir Wilfrid Laurier went out West by train to promote Reciprocity, Free Trade with the United States to citizens of Canada's newest provinces. That same summer, a group of actors working for Thomas Edison's Film Company, under the direction of American J. Searle Dawley, journeyed out West making silent shorts in promotion of the Canadian Government's Immigration Drive. 13 films were made, ten of which were melodramas.

One of the actors talked about the experience for Western Canada Magazine.

"We had been engaged by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, to go through the Dominion, taking motion pictures to be shown all over the US and Europe to advertise the country. We had a special train in charge of a railway official who made sure we didn't miss any good bets on the good points, and we surely took them all in.

We rode with those champions of the plains, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. At Regina we assisted in the roundup of 5000 cattle at Brooks, where one girl in the company donned a 'divided skirt' and rode with the rest of the men. We had a fight with the Indians in Calgary and I carried a bruise given to me by one brave for a month. "Ugh, me Kill" he said which made my scalp rise and I got hold of a mounted police to make sure he understood it was only a 'pretend' kill."

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