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Searle Grain Company

In 1921 Stewart A. Searle, newly graduated from Yale University, and his father Augustus Searle formed the Searle Grain Company Ltd; Stewart became vice-president and general manager. The headquarters were initially in Melfort, Saskatchewan. The company began operations in 1921-22 with twenty-five elevators, all located on Canadian Northern Lines in northeastern Saskatchewan. Starting as an inexperienced grain buyer, Augustus Searle had by 1895 become chief executive officer of several grain companies. When the Canadian Northern Railway owners looked for investors to build elevators on their newly constructed lines, they invited the Peaveys, then an established grain family in Minneapolis, to tour the west. The Peaveys took with them Augustus Searle, and the tour led to the formation of several individual companies, all on different rail lines.

Augustus Searle, along with Peavey associates, purchased two existing elevator companies. In 1914 Searle formed the Home Grain Company Ltd; starting with fifteen elevators, it grew to seventy-three by 1923—all of them were in Alberta. With H. Sellers and J.C. Gage, the Searles formed the Northland Elevator Company to lease and operate the 7.5 million-bushel terminal at Fort William; later they were involved in terminal ownership and operations on the West Coast. In 1929 the Searles moved to consolidate their operations, merging the Saskatchewan Elevator Company, the Liberty Elevator Company and the Home Elevator Company with the Searle Elevator Company. This made the Searle Grain Company, with 277 elevators, the third largest non-farmer-owned company.

Between 1929 and 1948, Searle acquired the Malden Elevator Company, the Standard Elevator Company, and the Quaker Oats Company; and in 1948 it purchased fifty-one elevators left over from the dispersal sale of the Reliance Elevator Company to the three Pools and United Grain Growers a year earlier. With 417 elevators, this made Searle the largest of the private companies. In the 1960s, with the growing concern over duplication of facilities and competition, private companies began to consider mergers. In 1967 the Searle Grain Company amalgamated with the Federal Grain Company, Alberta Pacific being included in the merger. The new company, named Federal Grain Company Ltd, was sold to the Pools five years later, in 1972.

Gary Storey

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Further Reading

Anderson, C.W. 1991. Grain: The Entrepreneurs. Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer Publishing; Fowke, V. 1957. The National Policy and the Wheat Economy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; Wilson, C.F. 1978. A Century of Canadian Grain. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books.
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