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Agriculture – Dr. Shadd

Dr. Shadd purchased his first plot of land in Saskatchewan in 1900 when he bought a farm across the river from the Carrot River settlement. In 1902, he applied for a homestead, and then applied for patent on that land in 1905. Under the Dominion Lands Act, certain tasks had to be completed on the land before ownership officially transferred to the homesteader. Receiving title to the land was called “receiving patent” to the land. After 1886, some of the requirements for receiving patent included specifications on how much land had to be prepared for crop, how much had to be planted each year, and requirements for building a house and maintaining residence on the land.

Pages from Dr. Shadd’s farm ledger, recording daily farm activities. WDM photo. Click to enlarge.

Though he had some experience with agriculture from his childhood in Ontario, he seems to have mostly developed his agricultural skills in Saskatchewan.

After moving to Melfort and establishing his practice and pharmacy, Dr. Shadd turned his attention to agriculture. In 1906, he began an effort to establish an Agricultural Society in the town. Agricultural societies received government financial assistance to share information on cutting-edge innovations in farming. They also hosted competitions to highlight excellent seed and produce and encouraged experimental agriculture. The Melfort Agricultural Society held its first meeting on July 10, 1906, and Dr. Shadd was elected to the board of directors.

Minutes from the first meeting of the Melfort Agricultural Society. Dr. Shadd’s name is highlighted near the bottom of the page. Photo: City of Melfort. Click to enlarge.

Dr. Shadd also advocated for extending rail lines through rural areas to make it easier and faster to distribute crops to market. When the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) showed little interest in building more branch lines to their railway, Dr. Shadd became involved in a movement to create a Farmers’ Railway line. The idea was to build a farmer-owned railway line from Regina to Hudson Bay. A half mile of track was built under this initiative before the idea faded. However, this threat of competition may have spurred rail companies into action, as the Canadian Northern Railway completed the line from Melfort to St. Brieux in 1912.

He also campaigned for the CPR to pay taxes for the lands they owned. Under the 1881 Canadian Pacific Railways Act, the railway is to be “forever free from taxation by the Dominion.” Dr. Shadd argued that it was unfair for farmers to have to pay full taxes on their lands while a large company such as the CPR went untaxed.

Of course, transportation was just one issue that farmers faced when trying to sell their crops. Storage was another concern. Dr. Shadd was also involved in the campaign to build a grain elevator in Melfort, serving as secretary-treasurer of the Farmers’ Elevator Company.

Cheque from Craig Bog Farm, run by Dr. Shadd. Photo: Melfort & District Museum. Click to enlarge.

In 1913, he purchased land he called Craig Bog Farm. On this farm, he kept 150 hogs and 98 head of beef cattle and grew his own feed for his livestock. He also planted the first crab-apple trees in the Melfort area. Though Dr. Shadd owned Craig Bog Farm, he hired a man, Harry Slinn, to manage its day-to-day activities. Harry Slinn kept a diary of all transactions on the farm and is an excellent example of farm management. This diary also recorded a number of workers who worked on the farm to earn money while getting their own homesteads in order.

Typical entry in Craig Bog Diary
September 3 “Tom. Chad. Vic. & I threshed all day. 15 acres Barley. 2 loads Wheat. 2 loads Oats. Will S. raked hay forenoon. Cut Barley Afternoon. Bob & Mr. C coiled hay.” Harry Slinn

1912 letter from Dr. Shadd to ‘Harry’, The name at the top indicates his credentials from the University of Toronto, and Edinburgh. The letter includes information on the purchase of a cow. Courtesy of the Melfort and District Museum. Click to enlarge.

Dr. Shadd was especially focused on raising excellent cattle on his land. His herd appears to have started in 1911 with purchases of shorthorn cattle from Thomas Sanderson, a man who became Dr. Shadd’s political rival. One of the bulls he purchased was a $1,000 prize-winning bull named Bandsman’s Choice. This bull came from a long line of prize cattle in Burlington, Ontario. Dr. Shadd invested heavily in obtaining excellent livestock, but unfortunately died before he could build his reputation as a breeder of fine cattle.

Dr. Shadd was involved in agriculture on both an individual and community scale. He was concerned not just about his own success but about the success of the farmers around him. His contributions to agriculture in the Melfort area are remarkable, especially given the relatively short amount of time he lived in the area.

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