South African Scrip

The Peace Country could have gotten its name because of the land grants given to soldiers returning from wars.  Many took up homesteads here, far from the battlefield, in the safe and peaceful, if isolated, prairie land of northern Alberta and British Columbia.

The first time Canada dispatched troops to an overseas war was to the 1899-1902 South African War.  In 1908, the Military Bounty Act offered each Canadian veteran two quarter-sections of Crown land in the West, without fees but with the condition that he or she performed regular homestead duties on it.  The offer, also known as the Volunteer Bounty Land Act, came with promising opportunities for expanding the homestead as well.  This made the Peace Country, freshly surveyed in 1909-10 and declared to have more room for large farms than the southern prairies, particularly desirable.

Not many veterans of the South African War took up this offer, choosing to receive their scrip in cash ($160 or $0.50 an acre) rather than in land.  However, they also had the option to sell their entitlement to a substitute – someone who truly desired a homestead and had an eye to the future and the family farm.

After the First World War (1914-1918) Soldier Grants were offered once again, this time only one quarter-section per veteran.  There were many more soldiers this time, and already land in Western Canada was more valuable.

Far from world conflicts and battlefields, the Peace Country, by its very name, must have seemed an ideal place to start fresh and to invest in the bright future – the place we know today.  We are indebted to the veterans we know in this region not only for their efforts in wartime, but also for their struggles as peacetime pioneers.

 

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