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Homesteading in 20th century Canada

Homesteading became a phenomenon in the late 19th through early 20th century, when the Canadian and provincial governments incentivized immigrants and eastern Canadians moving westward in order to increase townships in those regions. The major incentive was 'free land.'


 Under the Dominion Lands Act of 1872, one could purchase 160 acres of land for $10, providing that the homesteader built a house and cultivated a specified area of the land within 3 years.

In addition to breaking the land, which was often done with oxen due to the expense of horses, one had to plough a fireguard to protect farm buildings, plant a vegetable garden and hunt game. 

If the water supply was poor, homesteaders had to melt snow or collect rainwater to be successful.

Life as a homesteader was hard, and many gave up their plots. But for those that stuck with it, strong communities were forged.  Quilting bees and community builds were common, and it was common to leave lanterns burning to aid travelers in the night. 

The townships that sprung out of the homesteading act were divided evenly, with 20% of each township belonging to the railway company, and plans for schools and buildings enveloped in the planning process. 

Many of the early homesteaders were of Eastern European descent -- the Canadian government hired international marketing agencies to attract Eastern Europeans to immigrate to the Canadian west. This resulted in many ethnic communities springing up as immigrant homesteaders purchased land in the same areas as fellow countrymen.  The predominant religion of this area was, and continues to be, Roman Catholic, with Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox as the next two predominant denominations.


Jane Mccracken, The Canadian Encyclopedia, s.v. "Homesteading", last modified June 01, 2017,


Eli Yarhi and T.D. Regehr, The Canadian Encyclopedia, s.v. "Dominion Lands Act", last modified July 07, 2017,

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