About the book
William Bell was born in Dumfries shire, Scotland in 1825 and grew to manhood during the period of the lowland enclosures that took place in the border country of southern Scotland in the mid-1800s. The son of generations of farmers, he found himself without land due to the reformation of the land ownership system and was faced with seeking work in Glasgow, or working in the mines of the area.
Newly married, he and his wife, Anne, instead decided that their best option was to seek land in Canada. They made the voyage in 1851, settling in Pickering Township in Upper Canada. After 30 years as a farmer on rented land, and sometimes, as a schoolteacher, losing his wife in the birth of his youngest son, and seeing his two eldest sons emigrate to the U.S, William concluded that he wasn’t going to realize his dreams of landownership in what was now Ontario.
Captivated by the promise of free land in the West, he and his son-in-law, Walter Palmer, went on a trip of exploration in 1881, travelling across Manitoba, the then postage stamp province, to the Northwest Territories. There they did find empty land, since they were amongst the first to come that far west with farming in mind. This is the story of their first three years, from 1881 to 1883, their challenges, triumphs and failures.
The remarkable story is told through the eyes of his 8 year old son, his oldest daughter and his own experience.