Friday, 13 July 2018

No Englishmen Need Apply - Canadian Farms 1900-30s

 No  Englishmen need apply - Single young men seek farm work
This notice was found in the local history book Rural Reflections. 

It is possible that one of our family who emigrated from England was a 'gentlemen farmer', which is what this article is about. (The term 'gentlemen' has a different connotation in North America than how it is used in England.) This article particularly focuses on these men, also known as 'Remittance Men' or 'Second Sons'. Not all remittance men were 'gentlemen' and not all 'Gentlemen Farmers' were 'Second Sons'. The term was loosely used in the old country for those who were second sons of small land holders as well as titled families.

It is difficult to find these men who looked for work on Canadian farms. As far as I know, there is no centralized database to find these emigrants, but I list a few resources here that will help. The resource that I refer my readers to again and again are local community history books (use this as your search term with the province or place) as they contain written family histories of farm families and 'townies' where your English 'gentleman farmer' ancestor may have lived.

See Resources section for references to where these local histories are found.

An article I wrote about English born settlers in Manitoba included a few accounts of 'gentlemen farmers' which are outlined below:

Robert Bruce WALLACE came from England as a young man. He worked on farms as a part of the threshing gangs. His work was as a busheler. Many of these workers would travel from town to town looking for farming work especially during harvest time in the fall. Eventually, he took a homestead on Section 28 north of Isabella. (this is an excerpt from Rural Reflections Vol. II)

Reginald BROWN - I spent an enjoyable hour reading Brown's entertaining letter to his mother in England. He was a remittance man and was sent to Canada to make a life for himself. It caught my eye immediately because he landed in Winnipeg in 1908 where some of my family lives.

      His first sentence, "This is a beastly, horrid place, this Winnipeg." was amusing, but rings true for those who do not see the beauty in the prairie. He sets out to purchase a farm with the idea of making money from raising crops and was duped by a fellow 'Englishman', eventually losing money and the farm. He then ended up working for a local farmer and happened upon a preacher from the home country who helped him to understand life in the colonies and life in general. Later he meets a Salvation Army officer who later becomes his wife. There is quite a good discussion between Reginald and an employer about the disinclination of farmers who did not want to employ Englishmen.

An excerpt: 
     "Why do English parents and guardians permit, and even prompt and encourage, wayward sons to come to the Colonies, where licence exists, and where moral restraint is not? An Englishman coming to this country naturally seeks the society of his own kind, even as I did, failing to recognize that, while the atmosphere that education gives and breeding conveys may be retained, dissipation and want tend to deaden moral sense and breed unrighteous principles."

Hudson's Bay, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Title: The Letters of a Remittance Man to his Mother  Author: Jarvis, William Henry Pope (1876-1944) (e-book via Gutenberg - see link above)

Don't limit your searches to digital collections in only Alberta or Saskatchewan, the Universities in eastern Canada - Ontario and Nova Scotia for example, will have references to western material in their collections. You may find some of the material in their collections on  Cast the net wide!


Mark Zuehlke's book 'Scoundrels Dreamers Second Sons' - He provides a short excerpt on his website -  -  and A review on the Vancouver Sun by Mark Zuehlke

LGBT activist Harry Hay founder of the Mattachine Society makes a reference to gay remittance men. He suggests that some men were sent to the colonies to prevent their 'unusual sexuality' being discovered and ultimately disgracing the family.

The Alberta Family Histories Society tweeted about the University of Manitoba Library's Prairie Immigration Experience :
        "Organized by nationality, the fonds include diaries, photographs, letters and even recordings which detail the experience of immigrating to the Prairie provinces."
Another fabulous online resource for Pioneers : "Thank you University of Manitoba!"

Article:  Unpacking English Gentlemen Emigrants' Cultural Baggage: Apple Orchards and Private Schools in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley by Jean Barman in British Journal of Canadian Studies Vol. 16, No.1 2003.
        The author looks at the ways in which 'Gentlemen Emigrants' brought their 'cultural baggage' with them to Canada when re-settling and forming a livelihood in the local communities. "They might have changed their place of residence, they did not shed their upbringing." (p.140) They were free with their money, and behaved outrageously as they were not being scrutinized by their parents or the society that they left behind.

Article: Visions of Agriculture in British Columbia (a pdf) by David Demeritt.  in BC Studies, Winter 1995, Issue 108, pp. 29-59.
     Demeritt talks about the 'gentleman farmer' from Britain settling in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia in places such as Peachland, Summerland and Glenmore. He also suggests that fruit farming (creating vast orchards) was considered an easy way to make a living while creating a home similar to those in England. The emigrants also created 'boys schools' modeled after schools in England and Anglican church communities to emulate their beloved British Empire. Demeritt compares the Arcadian, Agrarian and Country Life Movement especially in British Columbia.

About Manitobia - what is hidden in this fabulous digital collection?

Rural Reflections -

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Gentlemen Emigrants: From the British Public Schools to the Canadian Frontier by Patrick Dunae (Vancouver: Douglas & Mclntyre, 1981)

"It’s the legacy of gentleman farmer Griffiths R. Hughes who liked to do things on a grand scale."
Craigdarroch expansion recalls Cobble Hill gentleman farmer

Community Local History Books - digital collection of local histories in most of Canada's provinces with a few scattered states in the U.S.

Growing Up British in British Columbia : Boys in Private School by Jean Barman

Newspapers - via Peel's Prairie Provinces for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta

Pioneers of Southern Alberta

Search Ontario Land Property Records

Voters lists
Library & Archives Canada Guide to Voters Lists

Ancestry : Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980 This database contains preliminary voters lists for general elections in Canada, 1935–1980.   Original data: Voters Lists, Federal Elections, 1935–1980. R1003-6-3-E (RG113-B). Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

British Columbia Voters' Lists - a list of holdings by the University of B.C. Library- on microfilm

The Electoral History of B.C. - History only - not an online database - refers to candidates names

Candice McDonald has written a helpful article - Finding Ancestors with the Federal Voter's Lists

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Will you be attending John D. Reid's presentation 'Canada's Silver Spoon British Migrants'  at the Secret Lives Conference ? It would be interesting to hear his views on this topic. 
Location:  Jury's Inn, Hinckley, Leicester,   Friday, 31 Aug. to Sunday, 2 Sep. 2018.


  1. Thanks for the mention Penny. My presentation will also cover Short Straw migrants. The Secret Lives conference has some most interesting presentations that I'm looking forward to attending.

  2. Hello John.Thank you for your comments, Short Straw migrants sounds very intriguing. I hope th as there will be conference proceedings available afterwards. I almost met you at a Who Do You Think You Are show a few years ago but missed my chance. I hope you enjoy the conference, unfortunately I won't be able to attend. All the best!