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National Grain Company

The story of National Grain is the story of the Peavey family in Canada. When western Canada was being settled, Frank Peavey had already established an empire of grain elevators across the American West, as well as lake shipping, rail cars and terminals on the Great Lakes and the West Coast. After completing the Canadian Northern Railway between Edmonton and Port Arthur, William Mackenzie and Donald Mann made a rail car available to American grain interests to view the west and select sites for new elevators; Frank Peavey's sons-in-law Frank Heffelfinger and Frederick Wells, along with Augustus Searle and Peavey executives E. Kneeland and Robert Evans, made the tour. After the Winnipeg Grain Exchange had introduced a wheat futures contract, allowing for hedging grain purchases, Heffelfinger and Wells proceeded to form the British America Elevator Company in 1906, with Mackenzie and Mann holding 40% of the capital stock. The agreement was to construct fifty new elevators on northern lines. By 1911, under Kneeland's leadership British America had 100 elevators - most of them in Saskatchewan.

A second company, the Security Elevator Company Ltd. was formed to build elevators on the newly constructed Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (today part of Canadian National Railway). A third company, the National Grain Elevator Company, was formed in 1909 to operate elevators on both Canadian Pacific and Northern lines; in the same year Peavey purchased the Northern Elevator Company, the first line company to be established in the west (in 1893). In 1929 the close association between the Peavey interests and Augustus Searle was ended when the two parties agreed through an exchange of shares to divest their joint interests; Searle merged his grain interests into the new Searle Grain Company. In 1940 the Peavey companies (British America, Northern, National, and Grand Trunk Pacific Elevator) were merged to form National Grain Company Limited, with George Heffelfinger, son of Frank Heffelfinger, as president. The new company had close to 400 elevators.

National Grain did not participate in direct overseas selling. An opportunity arose in the late 1960s, when the McCabe Grain Company was dispersed, to acquire the expertise needed to trade internationally. In 1967 United Grain Growers purchased the McCabe elevators; Peavey interests purchased the feed and seed components. The McCabe company still existed with its experienced merchandizing staff, but had no physical facilities. In 1971 Heffelfinger and McCabe merged their interests to form National Grain Ltd., George Heffelfinger remaining president. Shortly after this merger the Peavey interests decided to reduce their dependence on commodities and began to seek a buyer for their Canadian grain and feed operations. Cargill Grain, already a massive diversified grain company located primarily in the United States, became the buyer: National Grain Ltd. was amalgamated with a Cargill Canadian subsidiary on January 1, 1975, to become Cargill Grain Company Ltd. National Feed and Livestock Ltd. became Cargill Nutrena Feeds Ltd.

Gary Storey

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Further Reading

Anderson, C.W. 1991. Grain: The Entrepreneurs. Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer Publishing; Wilson, C.F. 1978. A Century of Canadian Grain. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books.
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provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan.
University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
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