Economic history in Canada started with the First Nations and continued with those that came to this country from Europe. At that time goods were transported by canoe throughout the rivers and lakes. In central Canada most trading and bartering, which is how small business came about, revolved around the fur trade. Pelts were most often traded to the Europeans for guns and luxury items. Though to this day, the sale of fur is still going strong in Canada, political controversy has caused great losses as those around the world react with distaste to the slaughter of animals for their pelts. Were they to live in a climate as cold as Canada’s was at that time, and still is in some areas today, their opinion may be different.

The fur trade eventually led to the trading of tools and other goods for food and staples . Because of this exchange and barter, outposts sprung up at several main river crossings and lake shores throughout Ontario in particular. These were the original general and corner stores which evolved to the point where they stocked staples for growing colonies in the areas. As more settlers arrived in the province and the timber industry began to grow, these outposts also became meeting places and the first method of ‘mail delivery’ for these areas.

The timber industry also brought civilization to huge parts of the province which led to residents settling in the areas and a new small business was born, that of agriculture. With the growth of communities spreading and trade growing with it, the railroad was expanded. While creating jobs for hundreds at that time, it also allowed for easier shipping of large amounts of goods not only across the province but throughout the country as the railway grew. At each small whistle stop, hamlet and village a variety of necessary businesses began to open to cater to the needs of the community. Major cities eventually grew up at several of these sites, junctions at the time, as the railroad network started to connect to locations in an ever widening web.

Though many small business owners today have little knowledge or interest in their economic past, there is a lesson to be learned by looking back in history to those who came before us. Small business has always been an integral part of our economy. Without the original pioneers of this country, many of whom worked along the railroad tracks providing goods and services as the rails were laid down, we would not have the choices that we have today. Confederation was built on the backs of the original entrepreneurs of this country. Like the entrepreneurs of today, they worked long hours with no guarantee of success, only hope that what they were doing was what was best for themselves and their families.

By looking back at the small but great beginnings of economic history in this country, the modern entrepreneur can learn many lessons, the major lesson being that hard work can lead to great things.

What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? ~Robert H. Schuller

canadian railroad

© Copyright 2010  All rights reserved.