The Land of Open Doors

The Land of Open Doors: Being Letters from Western Canada 1911-1913

J. BURGON BICKERSTETH
Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1976
Pages: 268
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt15jvwdr
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  • Book Info
    The Land of Open Doors
    Book Description:

    The letters collected in this volume preserve the vivid and thoughtful impressions of a young man who came to western Canada in the early twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5692-5
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. An introduction
    (pp. v-xii)
    J. BURGON BICKERSTETH

    IT HAS BEEN DECIDED to republishThe Land of Open Doors,which has long been out of print, in the hope that it may be of use to those who are taking an increasing interest in the pioneer days of the West particularly during the early years of this century. In contributing this new introduction to my letters written over sixty years ago, I will try to recall very briefly the events which lay behind the formation of the Archbishops’ Western Canada Mission and how it happened that I personally became involved in what proved to be a fascinating experience...

  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. v-viii)

    Nearly fifty years ago a young Presbyterian minister, James Robertson, born 1839, swore that, God helping him, he would never allow the Canadian Prairie to become a “wild and woolly West.” He refused a good call from New York, preferring to serve his own country at a quarter of the salary within his reach. He felt that his own people wanted him, and, as he expressed it, “the time for self is gone.” Before 1870 the great West was regarded with fear as the great lone land of terrible Arctic winters, and as an extremely doubtful asset to the Dominion....

  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-xx)

    “The Nineteenth Century was the Century of the United States, the Twentieth Century belongs to Canada.” Some such dictum is said to have originated with Sir Wilfred Laurier while he was Premier. “I do not deny that in a period of rapid development, such as that which has characterised the progress of Canada, you will perhaps find the spirit of the market-place showing a keener development than it might at some other periods of a nation’s history.” So spoke Mr. Borden, as Premier of the Dominion, on his memorable visit to London in the summer of 1912.

    No one who...

  5. Table of Contents
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  6. I. IN MID-ATLANTIC
    (pp. 1-5)

    We have had a successful voyage, though a slow one, to-day being our twelfth day out from Liverpool. In mid-Atlantic the weather was rough, and on one occasion we only made 198 knots in twenty-four hours. 1450 people, all told, on board: 1080 steerage passengers— the rest second-class. It has been extremely interesting seeing something of the kind of people who are pouring into Canada by their thousands. Dallas¹ has been acting as Chaplain, and we have spent most of our time in the steerage, getting to know the people. They are a curious mixture. There are a great many...

  7. II. WESTWARDS FROM MONTREAL
    (pp. 6-12)

    Dallas and I arrived here two days ago. It is practically three weeks since we left Liverpool.

    At Montreal we stayed three days as the guests of our kind friend Mr. Lachlan Gibb. There is nothing much to tell you about Montreal. It is like any other large well-built city, with its huge banks, churches, and business houses, and stretches from the St. Lawrence up to the lower slope of Mount Royal. For so large a place the roads, except in the centre of the city, seemed bad, and the forest of telegraph poles in the streets was ugly. We...

  8. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  9. III. FIRST EXPERIENCE OF WESTERN TRAILS
    (pp. 13-26)

    Let me give you some account of our journey up here from Edmonton.

    There was so much to be done that it was almost mid-day before a start was made. We had a buggy with Canterbury between the shafts, and also a horse, which we had meant to let run behind, but one of us had to ride it as the buggy was so full. You know how limited the carrying capacity of a buggy is—room for two people sitting, and a little space for a few things under the seat, and that is all. Our load consisted of...

  10. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  11. IV. BREAKING NEW GROUND
    (pp. 27-50)

    We have had the heaviest rains here they have known for years. June and July are generally the two rainy months, when the trails are at their worst, and this year we have had practically seven days’ continuous downpour. The trails defy all description. I have just returned from a long trip of twelve days’ continual travelling, and will try and give you some account of it. It will help you to understand my life in this country.

    The country north-west of Edmonton is not prairie, such as one finds in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Southern Alberta. Please be clear on...

  12. V. SETTLERS AT HOME
    (pp. 51-74)

    I left here on horseback two weeks ago on my usual monthly round, travelling every day, and staying almost every night in a different place. Having arranged to meet Mr. Boyd at Onoway, I started due south from here across Rich Valley, and then through many miles of heavy timber and thick brush. It was a lonely ride, but as I got near Onoway there were more signs of life. Onoway is 40 miles due west of Edmonton and will be the junction of the Canadian Northern Transcontinental mainline and Peace River branch of the same Company.

    To the uninitiated,...

  13. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  14. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  15. VI. NEW CITIZENS OF CANADA
    (pp. 75-98)

    Winter is here with a vengeance, and we are in the middle of a cold snap; not more than nine inches of snow, but the thermometer far below zero. Our house here is far from warm. We stoke the heater up with as much wood as it can carry—dry and green—before we turn in, but, even so, everything is frozen in the morning. It is not safe to leave water in the kettle or buckets, as it might burst them. The mere “hewing of wood and drawing of water,” in other words “chores,” under these conditions is a...

  16. VII. A GREAT CITY
    (pp. 99-119)

    Whitaker and I reached Edmonton yesterday for the Quarterly Reunion. You know the excellent system by which we all meet together in Edmonton whenever there is a fifth Sunday in the month. The fifth Sunday comes, roughly speaking, every three months, and as most of our country services are arranged on a monthly or fortnightly basis, this occasional fifth Sunday can quite conveniently be kept clear of engagements.

    We found a good number of the men already arrived. The Mission now numbers twenty-two men, of which over half are clergy. The permanent staff at our headquarters here consists of Mr....

  17. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  18. VIII. ALONG THE NEW TRANSCONTINENTAL
    (pp. 120-152)

    I write to you from a new address. It is some time since you had a letter, and I want now, if I can, to give you some impression of the last two or three weeks.

    I do not know whether you are familiar with the main points of railway geography in North-Western Alberta at the present time.¹ They are simple. The Grand Trunk Pacific and the Canadian Northern Railways (which I will refer to in future as the G.T.P. and C.N.R.) are both building as rapidly as they can towards the Pacific. They both passed Edmonton long ago, but...

  19. IX. LUMBER CAMPS
    (pp. 153-180)

    I forget whether you have a clear idea what this place, Marlboro, consists of or not. There are a hundred and fifty men employed in installing the cement plant. A few of these are married, and have their own shacks; others are banded together in groups of two or three, and have built themselves little shacks or loghouses—this is rather the more permanent element, they feed in the cookhouse, but sleep and spend the evening in their own shacks; and lastly, there are three or four bunkhouses, where the bulk of the men sleep and spend practically all their...

  20. X. HEAD OF STEEL, AND BEYOND
    (pp. 181-201)

    I have just returned from a trip into the construction camps beyond the end of steel.

    About a week ago, I went down to Edson to see Provis and to get my mail, and went straight out west from there. The passenger trains run at night now, which is a fearful business, as it means we are up at all hours of the night a good many times every week. The 10 P.M. out of Edmonton arrives at Edson at 4.15 in the morning, and pulls out again at 4.35. I got up shortly after 3.30, and was down at...

  21. XI. RAILWAY CONSTRUCTION CAMPS
    (pp. 202-229)

    I must try and write you some account of rather an interesting trip from which I have just returned.

    I left here a week ago for Edson, travelling that far with the station agent on his speeder—an excellent machine with four small wheels, which run on the rails; it is driven by a gasoline engine. It is an extremely exhilarating way of travelling, though somewhat cold, when the temperature is below zero and the speed reaches over thirty miles an hour.

    Edson seemed pretty busy. When the snow comes, the town prepares for an influx of Grande Prairie and...

  22. XII. IN CENTRAL ALBERTA
    (pp. 230-249)

    I received a letter from Creighton the other day, asking me to go down and see him if possible, while he was still living in the caboose. I decided to go, and last Wednesday week left here for Edmonton, and from there, the following afternoon, went to Mirror. Mirror is on the G.T.P. line from Edmonton to Calgary, and about half-way between those two places. It is one of Creighton’s headquarters, the others being Alix, Clive, and Bashaw. He has, for this country, a regular network of railways. I arrived at Mirror at 10.40 at night—distance 122 miles from...

  23. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  24. NEEDS AND EXPERIMENTS
    (pp. 250-264)

    Crowning the steep, wooded banks of the Saskatchewan River, and occupying one of the most prominent positions in the whole of Edmonton, capital city of the province, stand the beginnings of a great University. Born only a few years ago, the University of Alberta has already become one of the great educational centres of the West. It can only be a question of time before it has attained a position of national importance.

    Universities in a new country must assuredly justify theirraison d’ êtreif they are to live and flourish. The wonderful progress of the University of Alberta,...

  25. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  26. APPENDIX: SUMMARY FOR CANADA OF ALL RELIGIONS IN 1911 COMPARED WITH 1901
    (pp. 265-266)
  27. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-268)