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Les Henry: United Grain Growers’ mail-order home business

The company that founded Grainews also sold catalogue homes on the Prairies

First things first. In early October, there was still a lot of crop out in many areas with quality degrading rapidly. Here’s hoping for a great late autumn to allow the harvest to wrap up. Above all, keep safe at a stressful time.

Almost a generation has gone by since the end of United Grain Growers (UGG) so this is a bit of history for the Millennials. UGG was a farmer-owned grain company formed in 1917. It carried on until amalgamation with Agricore in 2001.

UGG had 182 elevators in Alberta, 121 in Manitoba and 62 in Saskatchewan. UGG was very active in communicating information to farmers and first published Grainews in 1975.

UGG’s mail-order homes

Grain Growers Grain Co., a pre-cursor of UGG, purchased a timber right east of Prince George, B.C, in 1912. Shortly after UGG was formed it built a sawmill and entire town (Hutton) on a rail line in the B.C. bush, to secure lumber to service the mail-order house business. They also had plans and materials for barns, schools and churches.

The UGG house business was much the same as the famous T. Eaton Co. Ltd. house business, but UGG was a little late to the game. A serious recession in the early 1920s slashed business and a fire at the B.C. sawmill in 1926 was the end of that era.

My book Catalogue Houses: Eatons and Others shows many examples of catalogue pages and a few examples of UGG houses. If your town had a UGG elevator perhaps you or your parents were raised in one of these homes.

Carter House

Windthorst, Sask.

UGG provided the plans and materials for this fine house of George and Mary Carter family at Windthorst, Saskatchewan. They moved into the house in October 1917 and Norman was born November 1, 1917. I took the picture of this house in July 2001, when Norman was still living in the house in the summer and still farming seven quarter sections of land himself. We had a grand visit and he showed us through the house. Information to find the Carter home came from a testimonial in the 1920 general UGG catalogue.

UGG Plan books

This rare UGG Plan Book and Catalogue was advertised in the 1920 UGG General Catalogue. Just recently, it was my great thrill to obtain a copy. Over the years I have established contact with like-minded mail-order house enthusiasts in the U.S.

Dale Wolicki of Michigan kindly sent me this rare book in mint condition. He acquired it on eBay from an antique shop in Melfort, Saskatchewan.

UGG’s Plan Book, 1920.
photo: Les Henry

The University of Manitoba Archives is the keeper of the keys for UGG material so I intend to eventually donate this Plan Book to them.

Help wanted

I have yet to uncover this UGG Plan Book from 1917-18. If any reader stumbles across a copy I am willing to pay well to get it, or even a photocopy. I do not collect for the thrill of collecting but for the thrill of having the information.

UGG’s book of Artistic Homes and Substantial Farm Buildings.
photo: Les Henry

Help offered

If any Grainews reader has a house whose pedigree is in doubt, I am always happy to help if I can. Send photos from at least two sides and a sketch or description of the original floor plan and I will do my best. Email me at [email protected]. My book Catalogue Houses: Eatons and Others answers many questions, but I am happy to help whether or not you buy a book.

About the author

Columnist

J.L.(Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He recently finished a second printing of “Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water,” a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Les will cover the shipping and GST for “Grainews” readers. Simply send a cheque for $50 to Henry Perspectives, 143 Tucker Cres., Saskatoon, Sask., S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book.

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