A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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General History


One of the greatest legacies of American immigration to Canada is that of William Van Horne who came to Canada as the general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1882. Van Horne is credited with the organization and construction of the railway through the western mountains and prairies, which was completed from Winnipeg to Calgary by 1883 after years of delays. With Van Horne at the helm, the CPR developed a telegraph service and entered the express business. He launched the famous Empress line of Pacific steamships in 1891--a fleet of fast, luxury vessels that ran between Vancouver and Hong Kong. They carried mail for the British government and encouraged tourist and freight transport between the Orient and Canada. He also founded the CP Hotels such as the Banff Springs in Alberta, the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec and the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. As one of Canada's nation builders, Van Horne himself inevitably put down roots. "Building that railroad," as Van Horne said, "would have made a Canadian out of the German Emperor.(10)

American settlers were renowned among leaders of western agrarian protest. One of the best known American settlers in Canada since Confederation was Henry Wise Wood. Born into a prosperous family with farms in Missouri and Texas, Wood became an expert stockman and was an earnest student of agrarian reform. In 1904 he visited Alberta, heralded then as "the last best West," and purchased a wheat farm near Carstairs. In 1914 he became the director of the United Farmers of Alberta. From then until his death Wood was regarded as one of the most powerful agrarian and political figures in Alberta, preaching the need for a strong, broadly based farm organization so that rural people could offset the growing power of bankers, industrialists and professionals.(11)

C.D. Howe was also an American settler who initially made his mark in agriculture. From 1915 to 1935, Howe became the leading grain-elevator builder of his time. His business crumpled in the Depression. In 1935 he entered politics and Parliament as a Liberal and became a member of Mackenzie King's Cabinet. In Parliament, Howe served as Minister of Transport and helped create Trans-Canada Airlines, later to become Air Canada. In 1940 he became Minister of Munitions and was responsible for Canada's war-production program. In 1944 he took over the new Department of Reconstruction, reconverting the Canadian economy to a free-enterprise system. In 1956 he sponsored the trans-Canada pipeline with government aid to a private firm.(12)

Another American immigrant who made his name in Canada was Walter Graves Penfield. In 1934 Penfield founded the Montreal Neurological Institute. It quickly became an international centre of teaching, research and treatment for diseases of the nervous system, and still operates at the forefront of its field to this day. It was at the Institute that Penfield established the "Montreal procedure" for the surgical treatment of epilepsy. In his later years, Penfield devoted himself to public service, particularly in support of university education and early second-language education.(13)

And of course, Martha Black blossomed on Canadian soil. She developed an expertise on Yukon flora and gave extensive lectures about the beauty and history of the territory. She raised a family and succeeded in the milling business. In 1904 she married George Black and instantly became a loyal Canadian Conservative. When Black was appointed commissioner of the Yukon, Martha reigned as first lady. She followed her husband to England during WWI. There she received an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her aid to Yukon servicemen. She later became a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society for her work with Yukon flora. When George Black was unable to defend his Commons seat in 1935, Martha ran in his place. At the age of 70 she campaigned the vast Yukon constituency, often by foot. As the second woman ever elected to Canadian Parliament, Martha Black became known and remembered well as the First Lady of the Yukon.

The Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 1998).

Only Farmers Need Apply, by Harold Martin Tropper
(Griffin House, Toronto, 1972).

They Can't Go Home, by Richard L. Killmer
(Pilgrim Press, Philadelphia, 1975).

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