Henry Wise Wood was born in Missouri in 1860 and in 1905 like many Americans moved to Alberta because of the availability of cheap land in Canada. He bought a wheat farm near Carstairs and settled in happily in his new home. Over time, he became annoyed at the domination of Canadian politics by Central Canada, without consideration of the needs of western farmers.
At a time when seventy per cent of Albertans lived on the land, Wood felt it was time to develop the power of farmers as a political force in the province.
Wood became well known as the leader of The United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) serving as a director in 1914 and then as president from 1916. This radical group was a powerful agricultural force in Alberta, working to promote the legal and political position of farmers. Some key areas of interest were hail insurance, grain elevators and control of the sale of their farm products such as wheat. Under Wood’s leadership the UFA became the most powerful political lobby group in the province.
In 1917, Wood expanded the reach of Alberta farmers as he became the president of the Canadian Council for Agriculture which was formed to speak for all branches of agriculture and all provinces. He contributed in that role for six years.
Wood was concerned that the government was not dealing with farmers’ economic and financial problems. As a result, Wood oversaw the transition of the UFA into a political party in Alberta and in 1921 the UFA formed the government of Alberta, winning 38 of 61 seats in the Legislative Assembly, remaining in power until 1935. Wood was not interested in serving as an elected politician himself but was an important force in influencing the members of the elected government from behind the scenes.
In 1923, Wood took the lead in launching the Alberta Wheat Pool as he was passionate about the importance of a farmer owned cooperative as the best vehicle to market farmers’ grain. Within two weeks, he and his fellow farmers signed up over 26,000 members and the organization continued its steady growth from there.
Wood continued as president of the UFA until 1931 and played a strong role in the Alberta Wheat Pool until 1937. At that time he retired to his farm in Carstairs, Alberta. He passed away in 1941. A school in Calgary, Henry Wise Wood Senior High, was named after him.
Henry Wise Wood was a very influential farm leader in the early days of the province of Alberta.
References & Links
van Herk, Aritha, Mavericks, An Incorrigible History of Alberta. Penguin Canada, 2001
Brennan, Brian, Building a Province, 60 Alberta Lives, Fifth House Publishers, 2000
Henry Wise Wood High School (CBE)