The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 44
Committee Room, House of Commons, Friday, March 24th, 1876
Professor John Macoun, of Albert University, Belleville, appeared before the Committee and, in answer to questions, said :—
A continuous farming country extends from Point du Chien to the Assiniboine, at Fort Ellice. a distance of 230 miles, without a break. Beyond this there are twenty-five miles of dry, gravelly ground, of little account for anything except pasture. Then follows a very extensive tract of country stretching westward to the South Saskatchewan and extending indefinitely north and south. This wide region contains many fine sections of rich fertile country, interspersed with poplar groves, rolling, treeless prairie, salt lakes, saline and other marshes, and brackish or fresh water ponds. What is not suited for raising cereals is excellent pasture land. Only a few of the salt lakes would be injurious to cattle or horses; and fresh water can be obtained without doubt a little below the surface.
The soil of this whole region is a warm, gravelly or sandy loam. The surface soil, to a depth of from one to three feet, is a brown or black loam. The subsoil, being generally either sand or gravel, consisting principally of limestone pebbles; many boulders are found in some sections. The land between the two Saskatchewans is nearly all good. Prince Albert Mission settlement is situated in this section. At Carleton I crossed the North Saskatchewan, and therefore know nothing personally of the immense region extending west and south thence to the Boundary. All accounts, however, agree in saying it is the garden of the country. Good land, generally speaking, extends northward to Green Bake, a distance of 170 miles from Carleton. How much further eastward this good land extends I am unable to state; but Sir John Richardson says that wheat is raised without difficulty at Cumberland House. The good arable land is about twenty-five miles wide at Edmonton, but possibly not so wide at Fort Pitt, more to the east, but further north. This region is bounded on the south by the North Saskatchewan, and on page 26 the north by the watershed between it and the Beaver and Athabasca Rivers. Within this area there are five settlements where wheat is raised regularly without difficulty, viz: the Star Mission, (Church of England,) sixty miles north of Carleton on the Green Lake Road; Lac La Biche Mission, (R. C.), 100 miles from Fort Edmonton; Victoria Mission, (Wesleyan,) eighty miles east of Edmonton, and St. Albert Mission, (R. C.), nine miles north of Edmonton, and at Edmonton itself. Edmonton seems to be the coldest point in the district in question, and suffers most from summer frosts.
Next is a very extensive district forming the watersheds between the Saskatchewan and Peace Rivers, and through which the Athabasca River flows for its whole course, and from which it receives its waters. This region is all forest, and consists of muskeg (swamp) spruce and poplar forest. Very little is known of this region, but the soil where I crossed it is generally good where not swampy. West of Edmonton, whore the railway crosses the section, there is said to be much swamp, but between Fort Pitt and the Forks of the Athabasca there is scarcely any swamp, although it is nearly all forest.
Next comes the Peace River section, extending along the Rocky Mountains from a little north of Jasper's House to Fort Liard, Lat. sixty-one north; and from the former point to the west end of Little Slave Lake; thence to the Forks of the Athabasca, and down that River to Athabasca Lake, and from thence to Fort Liard. The upper part of this immense area is principally prairie, extending on both sides of the Peace River. As we proceed to the north and east, the prairie gradually changes into a continuous poplar forest with here and there a few spruces, indicating a wetter soil. The general character of this section is like that of Manitoba west from Portage La Prairie to Pine Creek.
Wheat was raised last year at the Forks of the Athabasca, at the French Mission, (Lake Athabasca,) at Fort Liard, and at Fort Vermillion in this section.
The following observations and extracts will speak for themselves. I was on Peace River during the whole month of October, 1872; part of my work was to note the temperature, which I did with care. The average reading of the thermometer, at eight o'clock p.m., for the ten days between the 10th and 19th October, was 42° in Lat. 56°, while at Belleville, Ontario, in Lat. 44°, it was only 46° at 1 p.m., being only 4° higher with a difference of 12° in Latitude. (For details see Pacific Railway Survey Report for 1874, page 96).
Captain Butler passed through the same region in the following April, and states that the whole hillside was covered with the blue page 27 anemone (Anemone patens) on the 22nd of April. See Wild North Land.
Daniel Williams (Nigger Dan,) furnished the following extracts from his notebook: