MacEwan, Grant (1902-2000)

Popular historian, teacher, and highly regarded counsellor to prairie farmers, J.W. (John Walter) Grant MacEwan was born on a farm near Brandon, Manitoba on August 12, 1902. The MacEwan family moved to the Melfort district in Saskatchewan in 1915. MacEwan obtained a BSc in Agriculture at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph, and in 1928 obtained his Master's in Animal Science from the University of Iowa. That same year he began teaching at the University of Saskatchewan in Animal Science, and soon became a popular livestock judge at shows and fairs across Saskatchewan. He was also in demand as a speaker and demonstrator of farming techniques, particularly in livestock: it is estimated that he talked to 40,000 people in one five-week period on the Better Farming Train that criss-crossed the province. During the 1930s his research showed it was possible to feed cattle on Russian thistle when all other forms of forage had died due to drought.

MacEwan also began writing books with fellow professor A.H. Ewen on animal husbandry, on general agriculture, and on breeds of farm animals. These became texts for universities and for farmers. Later, he launched out on his own writing history: his colourful prose made him a best-selling author with over fifty-five titles to his credit. In 1948 MacEwan moved to Manitoba to become Dean of Agriculture and Home Economics at the University of Manitoba. He returned to Saskatchewan for a few months in 1952 to serve as agricultural editor of the Western Producer. Throughout his career in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton, he maintained contact with agriculture in Saskatchewan. He was a popular choice as a livestock judge, for demonstrations, and for speaking engagements. In Alberta he worked first with the Canadian Council of Beef Producers, later as alderman and mayor of Calgary, as member of the Alberta Legislature, and as Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta. MacEwan was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from six universities, including the University of Saskatchewan. He died on June 16, 2000, in Calgary.

Joe Ralko

Further Reading

Macdonald, R.H. 1997. Grant MacEwan: No Ordinary Man. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books; MacEwan, G. 1990. Grant MacEwan's West: Sketches from the Past. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books.