Edward Alexander Partridge | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Edward Alexander Partridge

Edward Alexander Partridge, farmer, farm leader, author (b at Whites' Corners [Dalston] near Barrie, Canada W 5 Nov 1862; d at Victoria 3 Aug 1931).
Edward Alexander Partridge
Partridge grew up in an area where farm militancy was well established in the 1870s. He went west with brother Henry in December 1883 and taught school while homesteading east of Sintaluta. During the North-West Resistance he served in the Yorkton Company of Infantry. In the mid-1890s Partridge became active in the Patrons of Industry in the Sintaluta area. A bustling community dominated by Ontario settlers, Sintaluta became a centre for strong regional and political movements.

In 1902 Sintaluta farmers charged the CPR with improperly allocating grain cars under the Manitoba Grain Act. Henry Partridge, the magistrate who judged the case, found the company guilty. This largely symbolic victory over the railway made the Partridge brothers important figures among the Saskatchewan grain growers. Early in 1905 a few neighbours sponsored a trip by Ed Partridge to investigate the operations of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange. Shocked by the speculation he found, he quickly developed a plan for a co-operative marketing program, and the Grain Growers Grain Co was organized in 1906. After a bitter struggle to join the Winnipeg Exchange in 1907, the company prospered. Partridge was its first president and he was also instrumental in starting in 1908 Grain Growers' Guide, the voice of Prairie farmers.

Partridge was a visionary who believed that the keys to western development were government control of the grain-marketing system to ensure reliable, inexpensive delivery of grain, and the development of the Hudson Bay Railway. He inevitably found himself in fierce struggles with politicians and other farm leaders and in 1912 he resigned from the Grain Growers' Grain Company. He realized that he was a weak administrator and was primarily responsible for selecting his successor. Shortly afterward he started the Square Deal Grain Co, but when it declined in 1913 he returned to Sintaluta.

Despite a number of personal tragedies and failing health, he re-entered the farm movement as elder spokesman for a new generation of agrarian radicals at the end of the war. He was revered by many within the Farmers' Union of Canada, a radical farm movement formed in 1921. He became once again a popular spokesman for farmers and in 1926 he published A War on Poverty. A strange mixture of Ruskinian socialism, Old Ontario Toryism, western utopianism and religious fervour, the book called for an independent western state, Coalsamao. It was a highly individualistic vision that attracted much interest but few converts. Plagued by despondency at times throughout his life, Partridge died, probably by suicide, in 1931.

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