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Wilson Siding Elevator

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Pages 78 - 79
by Betty Robinson (Anderson)

When the rail lines were extending south and east of Lethbridge, stops were planned about twelve miles apart. Since the trains were run by steam, they had to take on water at these stops. In 1908, one stop eleven miles south east of Lethbridge, was built. It was named after E.H. Wilson of the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company.

A telegraph and express office was built. Homes and offices for the crew who worked on the railway were built by the C.P.R. Mail had to be obtained in Lethbridge, but parcels could be sent to Wilson by train.

Farming had become a very viable industry, and so in 1908 a grain elevator was built at the new station of Wilson by the Cardston Milling Company.

The Nicholas Bawlf Grain Company was formed by Nicholas Bawlf and his son William. In 1918 the company owned more than a hundred elevators. One of the elevators was at Wilson Siding. Another Company Bawlf owned in Alberta was the Alberta Grain Company. It merged with the Alberta Pacific Elevator Company to form the Alberta Pacific Grain Co. Ltd. John I. McFarland was a track buyer for the Bawlf Co. in 1898. When Bawlf took over Alberta Pacific Co., John McFarland became General Manager. (The McFarland Block in Lethbridge was named after him.)

In 1914 the Ogilvie Flour Mills Co. built a grain elevator at Wilson. The company had 18 men at work erecting a 35,000 bushel up-to-date grain elevator. It was erected as quickly as possible so it would be ready to handle the fall crop.

The grain at Wilson was fairly good considering the fact that it was a very dry year. The fact that the Ogilvie Company was rushing their work on the elevator, showed the faith they had in the methods farmers were to farm and the faith they had in the milling interest in the district. For several years these companies took care of the grain grown in the district.

Grain was hauled to the elevators in grain tanks pulled by four, six or eight horses. A few farmers by the late 1920's had trucks to haul their grain.

At first the elevator operators lived in the office adjoining the elevator. Later on the companies built houses for the grain elevator operators, and their families. One of the early elevator operators was Raymond Poole, who started working for the Ogilvie Grain Company.

In 1923 the Alberta Wheat Pool was formed. When the Pool Elevator was built at Wilson, Raymond Poole became the operator, a position he kept until the early 1940's when he left to farm a few miles east of Wilson Siding.

Wilson Siding of years gone by is slowly disappearing. The express station, and the telegraph office are gone. Trains changed, and when steam engines were no longer used, the water tower was removed. The C.P.R. no longer has section men living at Wilson.

Elevator companies also changed through the years. Bawlf and Ogilvie disappeared. Another grain company, the Alberta Pacific, succeeded the Bawlf, but it too is gone.

Today, 1994, the Alberta Wheat Pool is the only company doing business at Wilson Siding. When the Pool Elevator closes its elevator, the once busy train stop will no longer exist.

Through the years interesting things have happened at Wilson. In the early thirties, when dust storms were everywhere, the Hutterites from the Allenby Colony were hired to clean the dirt out of the engine room of the Bawlf Elevator. When times were hard during the depression, some farmers hauled their grain to the Ogilvie Elevator and exchanged it for flour and rolled oats.

A young couple started a small convenience store in their home. This venture was short lived as improved roads made it easy to get to Lethbridge.

About 1944, a kindergarten was operated by Mr. and Mrs Barkling in the station.

People remember terrible snow storms that completely blocked the tracks and stranded people in the train between Wilson and Stirling. Neighbours came in bobsleds to take them to nearby farm homes until the train could move again.

The Country Elevator Operator

The country elevator operator was quite an important person in the community, especially to the farmer, because he was the man who gave the farmer his weight and grade of grain. He weighed the wagon, dumped the load and weighed the wagon again. The difference was the weight of the grain. Then he took a sample and put it through the cleaning machine to measure the dockage which could be two percent, four percent, or, even ten percent if it had a lot of wild oats or chaff in it. The dockage was taken off the gross weight to determine the net weight.

Sometimes the farmer thought he was being cheated and in some cases he was. The agent had to operate the elevator under the instruction of the owner of the company. He was the agent of the company, paid by the company and worked for the company, not for the farmer. Consequently, the agent wasn't always trusted and there were arguments. The agent was a source of news. He knew the yield of crops in the district, the grade the grain was registering. He was able to advise the farmer on the price of grain and the time to sell.

At certain times of the year, the elevator agent was a very busy man. In the fall of the year, during the rush of harvest, operator took in grain all day, did the paper work and worked into the night loading the grain into boxcars. The fact that the operator often lived in a company dwelling not far from the elevator was an advantage at busy times. In wintertime things certainly slackened off a great deal. Sometimes the elevator got to be a favorite gathering place for people of the community - for a game of rummy, crib or poker, or just a good visit.

The Wheat Pool Elevator at Wilson Siding

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Page 79
by Del Patching

The Alberta Wheat Pool, a farmer owned and controlled grain handling organization was formed in 1923 and the Wilson AWP elevator was opened in November 1928 with R.D. (Ray) Poole as the agent. He remained as agent until June 1948 when he was replaced by C.R. (Ralph) Bechtel. The travelling Superintendent (traveller) was W.D. Anderson of Lethbridge. The elected Delegate for the District for 1928-29 was T.B. Dunham and he was replaced by Redd of Raymond who held that position until 1958. The District Director was C. Jenson of Raymond and he was replaced by A.T. Baker of Nemiscam in 1946.

In the earlier days of grain handling elevators were spotted along the railways using the rule of thumb "A farmer should be able to travel to the elevator with a load of grain and return home the same day."

The person in charge of the grain elevator was known as the Agent and he issued grain storage tickets, bought and sold grain, ran moisture tests, passed on local gossip, and a host of other duties. During winter or on rainy days it was not unusual to find several local farmers sitting in the office cussing the weather or settling the affairs of the country. Because the earlier elevators were built to handle wagons or small trucks, the equipment was somewhat different than that of present times. Power was supplied by a one cylinder motor which was started by pulling on the flywheel and was cooled by a large tank of water kept in the back of the agents office to keep it from freezing in the winter.

Amajor difference between then and now, was that after the vehicle on the scale was weighed, the elevator agent cranked up the front part of the platform while the rear end of it would drop down the 'pit' so that the grain ran out of the rear of the wagon or truck. With horse drawn wagons it was necessary to unhook the back team of horses to keep them from being hoisted with the front of the wagon box. This process was often upsetting to 'spooky' horses and the agent often had to lead horses onto the scale platform and help to calm them.

The Wheat Pool is still operating in the same location but now the facilities are much larger and the equipment is very different. Another change is that the employee in charge is now known
as The Manager.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup