This Week in History
Into the Great Wide Open
For the week of Monday July 5, 2004
On July 10, 1871, a survey party from the Dominion Government placed the first marker of the Dominion Lands Survey on the Principal Meridian and created a survey system that extends across the prairies to the pacific coast, dividing more than 321 million kilometres of land in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and parts of British Columbia.
Canada passed the Dominion Lands Act in 1872, a bill that aimed to encourage the settlement of the prairies. In order to prepare for the homestead demands, the government divided the western lands into townships. These townships ran parallel to each other along base lines or meridians running either east-west or north-south. The act allowed 160 acres for the price of $10.00 to any farmer who agreed to break and cultivate at least 30 acres and build a permanent residence within three years. Much of the land distributed to the settlers was not suitable for farming, causing difficulties for some settlers, and for others, loss of their homesteads.
The survey system devised in the 1870s formed the basis of the land disposal system that contributed to establishing the western provinces. As the system that determined the settlement patterns of Western Canada, the Dominion Lands Survey System was designated an event of national historic significance.
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