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Settlement abandonment - a case study of Walhachin - myth and reality Riis, Nelson Andrew

Abstract

It has commonly been assumed that the community of Walhachin, settled by British aristocracy during the immigration boom at the turn of the century, was eventually abandoned consequent to most of its manpower being lost as casualties during World War I. With investigation it was found that this explanation did not sufficiently account for Walhachin's failure. It was, however, the one accepted and offered by the settlers since it absolved them of all responsibility. The thesis is concerned with the identification and examination of the less obvious and yet more critical variables associated with the settlement's abandonment, and views these variables and their interrelationships within the unifying theme of settlement process. The variables examined range from "micro-climatic conditions" that worked against the settler's efforts as horticulturists to "levels of expectation" which determined the agricultural productivity demanded of the settlement. The results of the inquiry would suggest that Walhachin had never existed as a viable agricultural community. Since the settlement may be regarded virtually as a microcosm of variables inherent in agricultural frontier abandonment, its failure variables may be considered applicable not only to similar colonization schemes but to agricultural frontier regions generally. Two broad implications are derived from the findings. First, the generally accepted single-factor explanation of Walhachin's fate must be replaced by a multi-factor explanation. Second, the individual's inability to act effectively in a new environment plays a more important function than usually accorded it in frontier studies. The essence of the research was that even in retrospect, most of the settlers interviewed were either unwilling or unable to determine the most fundamental cause for Walhachin's failure - the settlers themselves.

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