FURTHER RANCHING RECOLLECTIONS FROM THE FRONTIER ERA
By Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
Let’s look back at some of those 1909 ranching conditions as recorded in the back issues of the Pincher Creek Echo, around 1909.
ECHO PROMOTIONS OF THE RANCHING INDUSTRY
The Echo also dropped in at the Charles and Josephine Age ranches. These two quarters were located in the Yarrow and Robert Kerr School Districts. One was a homestead just northeast of St. Henry’s Church which they filed on in 1904. The second was a short distance southeast of the Robert Kerr School. The Echo was very pleased to report that the 37 year old Age had planted and threshed 800 acres of fall wheat that year. It was a near bumper crop! He was one of the first locals to operate a steam engine for farming purposes. Age was a talented fiddler, sought after for those popular country dances oft hosted at the rural schools.
Nearby were the Walper siblings, early pioneers of the Robert Kerr District. George, William and Adam Walper harvested two and a half tons of hay to the acre, Saunders’ Echo glowingly reported. Settling here half a decade earlier, the Walpers were known for their extensive cattle and horse herds. Their quality farming and ranching endeavours won the family much acclaim.
Nearby it was reported that Christopher Spade had an excellent crop of hay.
Rancher Alfred (best known as Fred) Pelletier also was noted for his 1909 agricultural successes. On his Valley View Farm he planted 2,000 acres of hay and grain and reaped two tons of hay per acre. Pelletier particularly was remembered for his fine Percheron horses which he often brought into town – locals recalled often seeing them near the Timothee Lebel Store. Dating back to the 1890s, he may have secured the first threshing outfit in the Pincher Creek area. Several years later, this was replaced by a steam outfit which he operated till 1923. The community-minded Pelletier also was a founding member of the Southern Alberta Hay Growers. Of French-Canadian heritage, he was born in New Brunswick in 1871.
Eight miles north of Cowley was the old Mead Ranch of which the Echo made special mention. Press reports record its cattle herd as featuring thirty cows with calves at foot, fifteen 2 and 3 year old Heifers and twenty-five two and three year old Steers. Hogs offered for sale included 84 six to ten week old pigs, all advertized as being in good condition
PIONEER RANCHING CONDITIONS
A generation earlier, in the autumn of 1887, frontier ranching accomplishments were achieved. Between the Waterton and Belly Rivers was located the Cochrane Ranch Company. Popular folklore indicates that more than 1,700 calves were branded there that year. Established in 1883, the corporate enterprise originally straddled the Bow River west of Calgary but relocated to its more southerly location following the severe winter of 1886-87. Senator Matthew Cochrane of Ottawa, the ranch’s financier, found this new topography much more favourable with the Chinooks and open pastures. Corporate ranching was encouraged by the Dominion Government of Sir John A. Macdonald as a way of injecting money and organizational talent into the ranching industry on the Canadian Prairies. Up to 100,000 acres of Dominion land could be leased by each ranch.
Up in the Porcupine Hills, the neighboring Oxley and Winder Ranches were preparing their cattle for eastern Canadian and overseas sales, primarily in England where market demands were strong. The quality herds were well fed in open pastures and fetched top prices. Four-hundred head from the Winder alone were marketed.
Newly organized was the Macleod Cattle Company which worked closely with cattle barons in the Pincher Creek area. Shareholders were local ranchers and financiers. As an incentive to secure future development, no dividends were paid shareholders over the following five years. Investments went into buying additional cattle. One of those purchases came from Charles A. Lyndon in the amount of one-hundred head. The six-member Lyndon Family, who had American ancestry, also ranched in the Porcupine Hills. Truly an early pioneer, Charles Lyndon’s birth dated back to September 1823.