John Sanderson holds the distinction of being the first homesteader to file his claim in Western Canada. Born at Prestopans, East Lothian, Scotland, he came to Canada in 1867. He settled first at Fergus, Ontario and moved to Manitoba in 1872.
Sanderson arrived in Winnipeg with $30 worldly wealth, $10 of which he paid for his homestead entry located northwest of Portage la Prairie. Here he pitched his tent and with sturdy oxen commenced breaking the virgin soil. He sowed this land by hand to Golden Drop wheat; his first crop was harvested with an old reaper, sheaves were tied by hand, some of the crop was threshed by flail and the rest was taken to a small mill powered by oxen. That winter he crossed the Assiniboine River to get out logs for his farm buildings. He constructed a log house and a log stable on his homestead. Money was scarce at that time and work was available on the Canadian Pacific Railway had Sanderson been free to leave his farm. However, he did not; his first concern was for the farm.
Sanderson married Sarah Green, who proved to be as truly great a pioneer as her husband. Together they faced loss of crops by grasshoppers, Prairie fire and hail, in addition to loss of livestock and food shortages. Regardless of the hardships and the setbacks, when Sanderson was asked, “Would you do it again?” he replied, “Do it again? I would like nothing better! I never regretted leaving Scotland for Ontario or Ontario for Manitoba. What better could I have done than break new land to service?”