Homestead on the Range
Stafford Johnston was a freelance reviewer living in Mitchell, Ontario.
The author’s father, Samuel Eggleston, was an English newcomer to Canada who believed the Canadian government’s propaganda about the bright future for homesteaders in the Pallister’s Triangle portion of southeastern Alberta. In 1857, in a report to the British government, Major John Pallister had condemned that area for settlement, finding that there was no sod to be broken and that the short and scanty grass could support ranching only at the rate of one animal to 40 acres.
In 1908 the area was opened for homesteading in 160-acre lots. The Eggleston family, including young Wilfrid, spent 15 heart-breaking years discovering that Pallister had been right. Wilfrid was eight years old when his father, fresh from life as a shopkeeper in England, took up the homestead grant. Eventually the Egglestons, along with 90 per cent of those who had homesteaded in that corner of Alberta, admitted defeat and moved out of the arid semi-desert.
As a competent journalist, the author has produced more than an exercise in nostalgia. He has searched out the stories of many of their dry-land neighbours and has looked for the motives that brought the immigrants there. One wonders that the author still spells his name Wilfrid, rather than the more usual Wilfred. It was the Wilfrid Laurier government that opened Pallister’s Triangle for settlement and advertised for homesteaders.