Settlers to our area came in waves, and each brought something to our culture. The first of course were from old Ontario, enticed by the strenuous promotion put out by the province and the CPR. Many were immigrants or first generation Canadians, primarily Scottish and English, with roots in rural Ontario. Many were tenant farmers there, and were enticed by the attraction of owning their own land, which at that time was the key to getting ahead, the difference between a serf and a free man. All came during the great depression of the 1890’s, with the tough mindset that hard times engenders. So our original local culture reflected our Scottish roots, independent, hardworking and responsible, frugal and cautious, devout and clannish, and above all settlers who came for the long haul. We still see these traits in our Dryden culture.
There were many waves of newcomers over our first 50 years, from other parts of Canada, the US, and Europe, and especially from the prairie provinces. All had an influence, but our basic culture persisted, and until the major population change in the 50’s and 60’s, Dryden was an entrepreneurial place of people anxious to invest in their community.
Success on a homestead was by no means guaranteed, even in the best farm areas, and many failed. Over the succeeding decades, homesteaders here failed, mostly due to lack of capital, and moved on. In their place, we had waves of homesteaders from the west, often originally from old Ontario, who had failed there due to flood or drought or grasshoppers or whatever. This influx from the west was reinforced as our forest industry grew, as western farmers in financial trouble would bring a team of horses and work in one of our bush camps for the winter. Some decided this country was more to their liking, with trees, hills, and without that constant wind. Many came from drought-stricken parts of Saskatchewan during the depression as people were literally going hungry there, while here they could at least produce a garden and shoot an occasional deer to put food on the table.
All these people were settlers, they came to make a home, and generally adopted our unique culture, which itself slowly morphed to become much more like western Canada than Ontario, but still uniquely us, and still very entrepreneurial. All (emphasize, ALL) our major businesses, from the mill itself through AWPL, retailers including first supermarkets, auto dealers, mechanical shops, metalworking places, building and roadbuilding and forestry contractors, were originally started by local entrepreneurs, not big companies from somewhere else. Even mainstays like Walmart and Canadian Tire were originally here on the initiative of local entrepreneurs. More next week.