The Key Players
Henry Weiller was born in Switzerland in 1881. His family emigrated to the United States when he was seven years old settling in Minnesota. By the early 1900s Henry and his brother William (Billy), were running a successful livestock commission firm: Weiller and Weiller Company. Being in the US, the Weillers were on the right side of the 20 per cent tariff. They began buying Canadian cattle and eventually set up an office in Winnipeg, with easy access to Chicago and other American markets.
When Leland Stanford (Lee) Williams arrived in Alberta in 1911 at the age of 19, he was just beginning his career in the livestock business. Lee was born in New York State in 1892. His father had a large training stable for standard bred horses, which contributed to his lifelong passion for horse racing. Lee had hoped to attend veterinary school but couldn’t afford it, so when one of his father’s associates told Lee that he could get him a job in Edmonton, he jumped at the opportunity.
Lee began working at the Swift Canadian Company, carrying frozen sides of pork and digging ditches for 20 cents an hour. He wrote home to his mother after only a month on the job:
“Well mother I have been transferred in the Superintendents private office at work inside for present & will not buy any clothes this winter unless it is an overcoat later on. I have to take off my coat now it is so hot in the office but one fine job & I like it very much.” – Lee Williams, Transit Hotel, 1911
After two years, Lee had worked his way up to timekeeper and was then moved to the livestock department, eventually becoming the cattle buyer for local livestock at 20 dollars per week.
Image Credits: Lee Williams – ca. 1910–1920, Musée Héritage Museum