McKELLAR, HUGH, teacher, farmer, civil servant, and publisher; b. 11 Dec. 1849 in East Zorra Township, Upper Canada, son of John McKellar and Agnes ———; m. 19 June 1894 Cassie Marie Sherrard in Pointe-du-Chêne, N.B., and they had two daughters; d. 28 Oct. 1929 in Moose Jaw, Sask.
Hugh McKellar was raised and nurtured in the agricultural community of Oxford County. His early education there was followed by study at the Galt Grammar School under William Tassie*. Unable to obtain teacher training because he was not yet 18, he taught in Huron County before enrolling at the Toronto Normal School. Accredited in 1870, he pursued his career in the public schools of East Zorra (1870–73), Paisley (1873–76), and Teeswater (1876–80).
By 1880 the federal government was vigorously extolling the merits of settling in western Canada. These urgings induced McKellar to leave education and go west. He homesteaded near Clearwater, Man., but he also travelled widely to become familiar with the soils, topography, vegetation, and climate of the province. During these trips he met many prominent government officials. In 1890 Manitoba’s Liberal premier, Thomas Greenway*, selected him to be the province’s immigration officer in Winnipeg, responsible for directing prospective settlers to suitable land. To stem the exodus of disillusioned farmers from the Maritimes to the United States, Greenway next sent McKellar to man an office in Moncton: it was hoped he could persuade the farmers to locate in western Canada, where good land was freely available. This office was jointly promoted by Manitoba and the Canadian Pacific Railway.
McKellar’s stay in Moncton lasted only six months because he was recalled to Winnipeg by Greenway to become the chief clerk (deputy minister) of agriculture after the death of J. W. Bartlett in April 1892. He would serve in this capacity under three premiers (Greenway, Hugh John Macdonald, and Rodmond Palen Roblin*). During his tenure (1892–1904), the Moose Jaw Evening Times would recall, he was always “preaching the gospel of permanent homes to the farmers and new settlers, urging them to look upon the west as a place to live and in which their children after them would make their homes, rather than a place to make money in, and then leave.”
As chief clerk, McKellar had a duty to become acquainted with all the current problems in agriculture on the prairies. He became knowledgeable about injurious insects, especially grasshoppers. Along with dominion entomologist James Fletcher*, he conducted vigorous campaigns to control such plague insects. It was during these attempts that he came to assist Norman Criddle*, a farmer and entomologist at Aweme, Man., in demonstrating the superiority of poisonous bait over such mechanical implements as the “hopper-dozer,” and in developing the “Criddle Mixture,” a combination of arsenic (McKellar arranged for the supplies of poison) and horse manure that grasshoppers found irresistible. “Thus, in this way, as well as in others,” Criddle would conclude in the Canadian Entomologist (London, Ont.), “he had a direct influence on the progress of economic entomology and for this reason, if for no other, his name is worthy of a place in its annals.”
A new opportunity to advance the settlement of western Canada came to McKellar in 1905, when he accepted the position of secretary and commissioner of the Board of Trade at Moose Jaw. He would hold the post until 1919. Convinced that the west had to be filled with settlers to achieve prosperity, he worked diligently to promote Moose Jaw as the “buckle of the greatest wheat belt in the world” (in the words of a board publication in 1913) and to persuade immigrants that success lay in agriculture. He advised hundreds of farmers of the best districts in which to settle, especially the area that in the first decade of the 1900s showed the greatest development: south of Moose Jaw to the border and north to the South Saskatchewan River. Along with Angus Mackay* of the federal experimental farm at Indian Head, he determinedly propounded the sale of an extra quarter-section to homesteaders at $3 per acre to increase their holdings and ensure a viable base for grain production.
To give stronger voice to his promotions, in 1910 McKellar had become the founder, editor, and publisher of the Saskatchewan Farmer (Regina), in which he advocated weed-free summer-fallow, pure seed, weed control, mixed farming, tree planting, and a good farm garden. Although he sold the paper in 1922, he continued as a joint editor for another two years and in 1928 he founded the Agricultural Review (Moose Jaw), which was dedicated to the betterment of farming in western Canada.
Hugh McKellar’s activities also included executive positions with the Southern Saskatchewan Cooperative Stockyards, the Association of Saskatchewan Agricultural Societies, the Saskatchewan Livestock Association, and the Saskatchewan Registered Seed Growers Association. A staunch Liberal and an elder of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Moose Jaw, he died there in October 1929 at his home at 204 Stadacona Street West, and was remembered by William John Finley Warren, president of the Moose Jaw Agricultural Society, as “at all times a ready and willing worker for the advancement of agriculture.”
Hugh McKellar is the author of Extended notes of an address on the geography of Manitoba (Winnipeg, 1895).
Moose Jaw Evening Times (Moose Jaw, Sask.), 24, 28 Oct. 1929. Regina Leader, 24, 28 Oct. 1929. Biblio. of the prairie prov. (Peel). Canadian Entomologist (London, Ont.), 61 (1930): 288. Historical directory of Saskatchewan newspapers, 1878–1983, comp. Christine MacDonald (Regina and Saskatoon, 1994). Vital statistics from N.B. newspapers (Johnson), 92, no.2954. Who’s who in western Canada . . . (Vancouver), 1912.