THE FAIRCHILD COMPANY
"THE PLOUGH KINGS OF WINNIPEG"
By George Siamandas
The first delivery of agricultural implements came from the John Deere Co April 26, 1878. It was the beginning of the transformation of Winnipeg from a fur trade centre to an agricultural centre. Two years earlier the first shipment of 857 bushels of "Manitoba hard" wheat had been exported by Steele And Briggs.
A Company called Westbrook and Fairchild had imported Manitoba's first agricultural equipment. John Deere's equipment had been selected because his new steel ploughs were thought capable of dealing with the sticky clay like, soils of Manitoba. Originating in Moline, Illinois, the equipment came by rail to St Paul and then up by steamboat to Winnipeg. After 3 years in the retail business, they became wholesalers, and in December 1881, they received a 115 rail car shipment of agricultural equipment.
FRANK A FAIRLCHILD
Frank Fairchild had been born in Brent County Ontario Dec 7, 1849. At age 19 he moved to Illinois. He came to Winnipeg in March 1878 and went into business with his brother in law HS Westbrook selling farm machinery. They stayed together for a decade and subsequently Fairchild went on with his brother Isaac to form the Fairchild Co in 1888. Partner Westbrook became mayor of Winnipeg in 1886.
The Fairchilds went on to become prosperous merchants, but Frank Fairchild died at age 48 in 1898 and never saw how large the Fairchild Co would became. In 1904 it planned a massive new building on Princess St. By the time it was completed in 1907, the Fairchild Co had been bought out by John Deere. Deere would remain in the building till 1953.
OTHER EQUIPMENT COMPANIES
But the Fairchilds were not alone in this business. Main competitors of the day included A Harris Co from Brantford and the Massey Co from Toronto. A Harris and Son had come to Winnipeg in 1872. In 1882 they built an ornate Victorian building still standing at 154 Princess St. Their neighbours next door at 160 Princess were the Fairchilds. It was Winnipeg's agricultural district.
After the depression years of the mid 1880s, in 1891, Massey and Harris merged to create Massey Harris and moved to a new location at 296 William Ave. This limestone and brick warehouse is still standing at the southeast corner of William Ave and Princess St. Originally built in 1885, Massey Harris would operate from this building till 1944.
THE BUSINESS OF GRAIN
The grain boom is credited to a productive agricultural land base, an immigration policy that encouraged a strong farming stock, breakthroughs in wheat milling technology, and the construction of the railway. The grain industry grew with the Grain Exchange and over the years has expanded to include many governmental organisations like the Canadian Wheat Board, Canadian Grains Council etc.
The first grain dealer is thought to have been WJS Traill in 1879. By 1880 the Henderson Directory listed 6-grain dealers. The Winnipeg firm of Higgins and Young, sent Red River's first surplus wheat, 857 bushels of Red Fife, to Minnesota by boat in 1876. In 1877 20,000 bushels were sent to Britain. In 1883 the first Richardson Grain shipment was sent to the Great Lakes.