8-05: THE REVEREND JOHN GOUGH BRICK

By Dorthea Calverley

Wheat was being grown in 1809 at Dunvegan in the Peace River country, as recorded in the journal of Fur-Trader, Daniel Harmon. But it was not until 1893 that the agricultural world paid any attention to this fact. That year, at the Chicago World’s Fair, a sample sent by the Rev. John Gough Brick of Dunvegan took First Prize. Sixteen years earlier, a sample took third prize -- a bronze medal -- at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. One prize could have been a fluke but another prize, and that a Championship could not be ignored.

The sample came from a most unlikely beginning. The young son of a missionary farmer in the "Shaftesbury Settlement", a little up river from Peace River Landing, took a random sample on a windy day, climbed to an upstairs window, and poured the grains down onto a blanket. The chaff and light kernels blew away. The resulting measured bushel of wheat weighed seventy-two pounds, whereas sixty pounds was the standard. Today the sample would have been hand picked, grain by grain, until only the most plump would remain. Then it would be polished by long, gentle shaking, and clearing away of dust and roughness until the kernels slipped together to make room for the greatest possible poundage.

Allie Brick took the 1893 sample to Edmonton over the "roads" of the time. It was winter and the temperature fell to 50 degrees below zero. It was still a race against time when it caught the train and it just barely made the deadline. Rev. John G. Brick and his son Allan are undoubtedly the fathers of our long, long history of grain and seed championships.

Rev. Brick, Anglican clergyman and missionary, was the first man to seriously start agriculture in the Peace River area. He personally conceived the idea of teaching his Native and Metis charges to fend for themselves instead of just hanging around the fur trade forts. He personally raised the money to start the enterprise. He personally brought the necessary machinery and supplies all the way across the prairies, and by the long, long, watercourse up to Lake Athabasca and thence up the Peace to Dunvegan.

He also brought purebred cattle with which to experiment, and to raise the quality as the local scrub stock descended from the early fur-traders’ herds. The livestock enterprise did not turn out as successfully.

 

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