Eccentric Settlements in the Canadian West

In the 1880s, writes Ronald Rees, an English community brought with it to Canada hunting, horse-racing, cricket, tennis and rugby.

In popular accounts, the settlement of the Canadian Prairies is usually characterized an epic struggle between heroic pioneers and a powerful, unyielding environment. The theme, as in America, is the winning of the West - the conquest of a Goliath-like environment by pioneer Davids. Like most myths, this is a blend of fact and fancy.

On the immigrant trains to Western Canada, sturdy pioneers were accompanied by opportunists, rogues, dilettantes, and failures who tempered the fortitude of their stalwart companions with a dash of human weakness and folly. As a slight redress to the historical balance, I propose here to write about two communities of dilettantes, one French, the other English, whose behaviour was so contrary to that of most pioneers that it has become part of the lore of the prairies.

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