EWART, JAMES, farmer and politician; b. 13 Aug. 1859 in Hoddam parish (near Annan), Scotland, son of Thomas Ewart and Mary Irving; m. 1887 Lavina Janet Bingham in England, and they had three surviving sons; d. 27 Jan. 1920 in Calgary.
Shortly after James Ewart’s birth, his parents moved to Orton Park Farm, near Carlisle, England. James farmed there with his father until the spring of 1881, when he immigrated to Canada and settled in Norval, Ont. Two years later, accompanied by his brothers William and David, he travelled to the North-West Territories and applied for a homestead in what later became known as the Red Fox district, about three miles south of present-day Sintaluta, Sask.
Before receiving a patent for this land Ewart had to fulfil the requirements of the Dominion Lands Act regarding residence and improvements, and, like many other settlers, he had difficulty doing so. After living in a tent in the summer of 1883, he went to the north of England for the winter and then returned to the North-West Territories. From 1884 to 1887 he resided with his brother David, worked on the large corporate farm of William Robert Bell near Indian Head (Sask.), and sowed 25 acres on his own homestead. His first and third crops were destroyed by hail and the fourth by smut, but over time he became a successful farmer. In 1888 he began to raise livestock, and by 1893 his Willow Bunch Farm had grown to more than 100 acres.
Besides running his farm and raising a family, Ewart took an active part in the affairs of his community. He was on the council of the rural municipality of Indian Head from 1887 to 1890 and again in 1905, 1906, 1908, and 1909 – one of his favourite projects was the building of better roads – and in 1916 and 1917 he served as reeve. Named president of the Red Fox Valley Telephone Company on its creation in 1909, he owned the first phone installed by the firm. He was an officer in the Sintaluta masonic lodge and in 1909, three years after the Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan was formed, he became deputy grand master of District No.4.
Ewart was also associated with farm leaders such as William Richard Motherwell* and Edward Alexander Partridge*. He supported the attempts of the Territorial Grain Growers’ Association and later the Saskatchewan Grain Growers’ Association to remedy the inequities in the grain-handling system caused by the monopolistic positions of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Winnipeg Grain and Produce Exchange. Indeed, when a group of farmers met in Sintaluta on 27 Jan. 1906 to establish the Grain Growers’ Grain Company – a cooperative enterprise whose purpose was to handle grain on a commission basis – Ewart was named to a committee charged with running the organization until a board of directors was elected. He was also one of the Sintaluta farmers who guaranteed the bank loan that the company needed to purchase a seat on the Winnipeg exchange.
Ewart had other interests, too. In the early years of western settlement, the seed branch of the federal Department of Agriculture contributed to the success of farming in the region by emphasizing the importance of high-quality grain. To this end, the department appointed judges who assessed standing fields of grain before harvest and the grain samples displayed at agricultural fairs in the winter months. One of the judges it named was James Ewart, who continued this work after the responsibility for such competitions was transferred to the college of agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan in 1910.
Ewart and his wife retired from farming in 1917 and took up residence in Sintaluta. Two of their sons served in World War I, and all three, like their father, made significant contributions in their local communities to the development of the province of Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan Arch. Board (Saskatoon), Homestead files; S-B2 (Saskatchewan Grain Growers’ Assoc.), minutes and convention reports. Grain Growers’ Guide (Winnipeg), 6 Feb. 1919. Indian Head News (Indian Head, Sask.), 6 Dec. 1911. Morning Leader (Regina), 3 Feb. 1920. News (Wolseley, Sask.), golden jubilee ed., 18 May 1955: 7. “The Canadian family of Thomas Ewart and Mary Irving, 1883–1994,” comp. Eileen [Ewart] Willoughby (unpublished family history; copy in possession of J. H. Ewart, Indian Head). Hopkins Moorhouse [A. H. J. Moorhouse], Deep furrows, which tells of pioneer trails along which the farmers of western Canada fought their way to great achievements in co-operation (Toronto and Winnipeg, ). Sask., Dept. of Agriculture, Annual report (Regina), 1910–1915/16. Tales of the Red Fox: Assiniboine reserve, town of Sintaluta, districts Allindale, Durham, Blackwood, Red Fox & Spring Coulee (Sintaluta, Sask., 1985). L. A. Wood, A history of farmers’ movements in Canada (Toronto, 1924; repr., intro. F. J. K. Griezic, Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1975).