A compilation of thirty-six personal homesteader stories, providing unique insight into the daily life of prairie pioneers.
Highlighting the voices and personal stories of early immigrants who arrived in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Tales from the Homestead is a captivating snapshot of social history. This compilation of first-person accounts by English, Dutch, German, Russian, Ukrainian, and American homesteaders reveals fascinating, startling, heartbreaking, and inspiring details about new lives and communities built, risks taken, and hardships endured.
The book includes stories of surviving periods of near starvation and natural disaster, and describes the challenges of navigating Canada’s nascent immigration process, building a sod home and establishing a farm, and adapting to the norms of a new country. Along with these tales of difficulty, fear, and sadness are the many stories of happiness and wonderment at the beauty of the land. Community events and parties are thoughtfully remembered, as are accounts of attending one-room schoolhouses. The camaraderie of the people, and their pleasure and delight in forging a new life for themselves on the prairies, shows the extent of their fortitude, grit, and stamina. Illustrated with archival photography, Tales from the Homestead will appeal to history buffs, genealogists, and anyone who enjoys first-hand accounts of the resilience of immigrant communities.
About the author
Sandra Rollings-Magnusson is an Associate Professor of Sociology at MacEwan University. She has studied western Canadian homesteaders for over thirty years. Since receiving a Master’s Degree from the University of Regina and a PhD from the University of Alberta, she has written numerous academic journal articles on homesteading life and lectured on a number of homesteading topics. She has also written two books, Heavy Burdens on Small Shoulders: The Labour of Pioneer Children on the Canadian Prairies (University of Alberta Press) and The Homesteaders (University of Regina Press).
“An exceptional book. Tales from the Homestead reveals the experiences of settlers to the Canadian prairies. Based on in-depth research, Sandra Rollings-Magnusson presents the tragedies and triumphs of newcomers through their own voices and stories. Everyone interested in western history will be inspired by the tenacity and optimism of those early pioneers.”
—Faye Reineberg Holt, author of Alberta: A History in Photographs and Settling In: Early Homes of Western Canada
“The personal vignettes collected in this volume, tenderly written by those who were there, transport one directly to the prairie. Rollings-Magnusson’s settlers ride wood-slatted railway seats, dig in the soil for rusted iron homestead stakes, and view wheat stook-dotted fields. Their experiences, the common and unique, all poignant, come alive.”
—Molly Rozum, author of Grassland Grown: Creating Place on the U.S. Northern Plains and Canadian Prairies
“The settlement of the Canadian West was not for the faint of heart. Sandra Rollings-Magnusson has produced a compelling social history that explores the experiences of economic migrants, adventurers, or those seeking political and religious freedom, including both men and women. Many accounts are moving; anger, bitterness, and despair at adversity are balanced by the more positive voices recounting economic betterment and belonging. What struck me, in particular, were the ordinary acts of human kindness that tipped the balance between failure and success.”
—Adriana A. Davies, editor of The Frontier of Patriotism: Alberta and the First World War and author of From Sojourners to Citizens: Alberta’s Italian History