The Sentinel Of The Prairie
As you scan the horizon in farming country the grain elevator was often the first thing you would see that told you were close to one of the tiny prairie farming hamlets. This painting has a special meaning to me as it was home to family. Consort, Alberta is still a very active farming community and I do believe this is one of the elevators that is still in operation.
Alberta’s first grain elevator was built in 1895, by Brackman-Ker Milling Co. at Strathcona. The last traditional wooden elevators were erected 90 years later, by Alberta Wheat Pool in 1885 at Willingdon and Dapp.
Those intervening years of the twentieth century saw ups and downs. Rail lines rapidly expanded, but then miles of branch lines were ripped up. Grain elevator companies came and went. There were lean years and years of plenty in the harvest and in prices realized on the grain markets. The story of grain elevators in Alberta follows these trends, as they progressed from novelty to ubiquitous landmark, to vanishing symbol. Alberta was the last part of the Canadian prairies to be settled and developed as part of the national grain export system. The first elevators were built on the Calgary and Edmonton Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway. By the 1920s there was a web of branch lines to serve the rapidly expanding grain trade in Alberta. Amalgamations of the railway companies in the 1920s resulted in Alberta characterized the trade in general in Alberta to 1920. Only eighteen of the seventy-two companies listed in 1912 were still operating in 1920.