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Graduate Students

Hak, Gordon - M.A

The Harvest Excursions and Young Men in Rural North Huron-Bruce, Ontario 1919-1928 - Dr. Brookes, advisor     

         This thesis is an investigation of the harvest excursionists from North Huron-South Bruce, a rural area in southwestern Ontario, in the years between 1919 and 1928,. The harvest excursions were an annual enterprise organized by the railways to transport labour from all parts of Canada to the prairies in the fall when extra help was in great demand in the wheat fields. The excursionists spent a few months working in the West before returning to their homes.
         Using oral history as a research technique to help recreate the temporary migration experiences of individual harvesters reveals the motives, circumstances, and the significance of the journey in the lives of ordinary people. Systematic use of the oral testimony also connects the harvest excursions to the larger society. Excursionists from North Huron-South Bruce were mainly young men with a particular role in rural society and on the family farm which allowed them to go west, and the majority of the young men had close, personal connections on the prairies to help them adjust to western life. While the excursions were a tough work experience under harsh conditions, they were also part of a larger social complex; as such, this study provides insights into the society of rural Ontario as well as a social perspective on the harvest excursions.
         The main theme in village development during these years was the impact of the railway and the decline in lumbering in east Elgin. older villages, situated along Lake Erie and in the lumbering region, declined while new villages mushroomed along the route of the Canada Southern Railway. The construction of that line and the Great Western Air Line in 1872 did little, however, for the established centres. St. Thomas, Aylmer and Springfield were the outstanding exceptions.
          Only in industry was growth lacking. But by 1880 an economic system was established which would serve as a basis for industrial as well as for urban and agricultural development in the twentieth century.