Charles S. Noble cut a wide swath through the annals of western Canadian agriculture. A progressive thinker, he was also an ambitious farmer and businessman whose guiding principle was go big or go home.
The American-born farmer moved to Claresholm in 1903. In 1910, he established Home Farms, a 4,000-acre property equipped with homes, offices, a store, elevator and hotel. It would later become the town of Nobleford.
By 1916, Noble farmed about 10,000 acres in the Nobleford area and a year later purchased 20,000 additional unbroken acres of the Cameron Ranch about 56 kilometres east of Nobleford. He used eight to 10 steam engines, each pulling eight to 10 bottom plows, and operating 24 hours a day to break the land. In 1918, Noble’s 36,000-acre farm was the largest farm in theBritish Empire.
One of Noble’s little-known inventions (pictured above) is a transport system that moved grain from the Cameron Ranch across the Oldman River. The system, believed to have been in use for several years between 1918 and 1925, trimmed about 29 kilometres off the grain haul.
According to a note written on the back of the original photo, wagons rolled up the hill on the ranch side of the water, dumping their loads into the system’s 250,000-bushel grain holder. The wheat was piped to 50-bushel buckets that were cabled across the river. The grain was then depositedinto the pictured bin and emptied into waiting wagons destined for anelevator in the hamlet of Chin, located 13 kilometres away.
Poor grain prices and heavy debt prompted the banks to foreclose on Noble’s farm, selling off much of his holdings in about 1922. Noble regrouped and returned to farming by 1928, just in time for the drought and devastation of the Dirty Thirties.
The dry conditions of the eraprompted him to design the Noble Blade. A V-shaped cultivation tool that controlled weeds with very little soil disturbance, it is regarded by many as one of the 20th century’s most important agricultural innovations.