THE GRAIN KING OF THE PEACE COUNTRY
In a 1914 Maclean’s story entitled “The Third Chapter of Western Growth,” W.D. Albright, reported a stream of newcomers arrived in the Peace Country with the railroad, which had reached Grande Prairie. Wheat and barley yielded very well, he claimed, but production in the region was hampered by a lack of machinery.
Peace Country’s fortunes improved considerably in 1926 when Herman Trelle won both the wheat and oats prizes at the Chicago International Hay and Grain Show. “The effect in Alberta was electric,” wrote Albright in his 1927 Maclean’s story “Grain King Wears a Double Crown.” The news substantially increased demand for Peace Country land as well as its price and brightened the prospect for further rail expansion. “It means a bigger and a greater province,” wrote Albright.
Born in Kendrick, Idaho, in 1894 to immigrants from Hamburg, Germany, Trelle homesteaded with his parents near Wembley in 1909. Multitalented, he earned his surveyor’s ticket, briefly studied engineering at the University of Alberta and won the province’s amateur heavyweight wrestling championship of 1914-15. He was also a gifted mechanic who spoke 10 languages.
Trelle became a seed grower in 1916 when he broke 279 acres of his father’s land. In 1919, he married Beatrice
Burdick, originally of Minnesota. In her book The Peace River Story, Jacqui Rebar wrote Burdick “played an important role in Trelle’s success as a mentor, supporter and partner in their successful business of seed hybrids.”
Of three varieties he sowed that year, Trelle submitted a sample of Marquis wheat to the 1926 competition. “Trelle’s wheat was outstanding,” wrote Albright. His oats were also unbeatable. “They were wonderfully uniform.” Albright asked Trelle to give prize-winning advice to his fellow farmers.
“Choose your line, whether it be horses, cattle, grain, grass seed or what. Study it. Concentrate on it. You can’t expect to get anywhere without specialization. Stick to your aim and you’re bound to win,” said Trelle.
Through the 1920s and ’30s, Trelle went on to win 18 Chicago world championships for wheat, oats, peas, rye, flax and timothy seed. The man who had done so much for the reputation and betterment of the Peace Country was then murdered by a disgruntled ranch hand on a San Bernardino, CA olive ranch in 1945.