English Settlements

The “English” population in Saskatchewan included not only large numbers of Anglo-Canadians who moved here from Ontario and neighbouring Manitoba, as well as Anglo-Americans, but also many immigrants direct from England. The early English immigrants tended to be romantic idealists who mostly lacked any farming experience, yet viewed the Canadian west as a wild colonial frontier of the British Empire. They came to escape industrial unemployment, poverty and class inequity, religious discontent, and agrarian depression in England. Several early utopian settlements were established. In 1882 Cannington Manor, named after a village in Somerset, was founded by Capt. E.M. Pierce (1832-88) and his four sons; the colony attracted English aristocrats, businessmen, and landowners. Mutual visits were exchanged between these and French aristocrats at St. Hubert: together they went hunting with horses and hounds. All Saints Anglican Church and Beckton Place manor house on the Didsbury Stock Farm were prominent features of the colony. Cannington Manor thrived for two decades, yet it was all but deserted by 1905: five years earlier the new railway line had missed the community by more than ten miles.

As Cannington Manor was developing in the southeastern region, other utopian settlements came into existence elsewhere in what would become Saskatchewan. Methodists from Toronto formed the Temperance Colonization Society, which founded the Temperance Colony in 1882 on the east side of the river flowing through Saskatoon. The East London Artisans settled in the Wapella-Moosomin area in 1884; the York Farmers Colonization Company commenced a prosperous farm settlement centred on Yorkton in 1885; and the Church Colonization Land Company attempted—with limited success—to settle urban immigrants on pre-planned homesteads around Saltcoats in 1887. The Barr Colony, an extensive settlement centred on Lloydminster, was established in 1903 by Rev. Isaac M. Barr. He was assisted, and soon replaced as leader, by Rev. George Exton Lloyd (1861–1940), a Canadian who accompanied the colonists from England; later he became principal of the Anglican Theological college in Saskatoon, and Bishop of Saskatchewan (1922–23).

As the English—and more generally British—population of Saskatchewan grew, it controlled political, economic and social interests: “Anglo-conformity” was emphasized in urban and rural schools, which ensured the dominance of Anglo-Canadian culture and a strong resistance to “foreign” immigrants. The total British proportion of the Saskatchewan population (i.e., the areas which would be included within the province of Saskatchewan in 1905) could be estimated at 57%, just over half of the total population in 1901. A British majority was maintained until 1941 (49.7%), after which the British proportion continued to decline to the present quarter of the population. In fact, in 1941 Saskatchewan became the only province in Canada (besides Quebec) lacking a British-origin majority; yet English and British-origin residents have been pervasive throughout much of the province, outnumbering other ethnic groups in numerous communities. Today, out of a total Saskatchewan population of 963,150 (2001), 235,715 residents (24.5%) claim to be of English ethnic origin; 41,815 claim English-only origin, and 193,895 partially English origin. A total of 561,155 residents claim various British origin—70,535 solely, and another 490,605 partially. However, there is considerable overlap between these categories (English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh). People claiming to be specifically of English origin (in whole or in part) are outnumbered only by people claiming German origin.

Alan Anderson

Further Reading

Barry, B. 1997. People Places: Saskatchewan and Its Names. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center.