IN 1892, the coveted title “World Wheat King” was given at the great World’s Fair in Chicago to an unlikely candidate. The first Canadian ever to win the great honour was a minister who took up farming as a hobby. He was from the Peace Country, however, which probably gave him an edge in the Wheat King competition 😉
John Brick was an Englishman who studied theology in Ontario, then received permission from the Church of England to start a mission at Dunvegan. It seems he had an adventurous spirit and he knew how to get things done. He built his church, then turned to the fine art of farming.
After five years, Brick went back to Toronto to raise some money for the mission and for his experimental farming. In 1888, he returned to the Peace with a portable grist mill and tools and equipment for his agricultural venture. His stock included a Durham bull, two Holstein heifers, an Ayrshire cow, pigs and poultry.
All went well. So well, in fact, that Brick’s crop of Red Fife, a new type of wheat, produced an incredible 72 bushels to the acre in the fall of 1892. It was cut with a sickle and threshed with a flail on the church floor.
Such success did not go unnoticed. Brick was convinced to send a sample of his wheat to the Chicago World’s Fair. Despite the difficulty (it took 10 days to get to Edmonton back then and it was a particularly cold year), Reverend Brick’s wheat was hauled to Grouard by oxen and then by dog train to Edmonton, where it was sent to the Dominion Department of Agriculture in Ottawa and from there down south. He never thought it might win such a prestigious award; he just figured it would be good advertising for the Peace Country.
But win it did. No one knew where this “Peace Country” was, but it sure did make impressive wheat. When the newspapermen had located the place it was an even better story. Wheat from some place way up in the north of Canada had won the World Championship!
It took several weeks for the news to reach the newest Wheat King himself, but surely his medal was still shiny when it reached him. To this day, Peace River maintains a bronze tablet in commemorating the farmer parson.
One of the Reverend Brick’s sons, T.A. Brick, caught the farming bug and became the first farmer in Peace River to raise wheat commercially. You may also have heard mention of him serving as the first M.L.A. of the Peace River provincial constituency in the newly declared Province of Alberta.
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