HISTORY OF THE WALROND RANCHE COMPANY
By Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
The Walrond was one of several corporate ranches established on the western reaches of the Canadian Prairies during the 1880s. Promoted under a Dominion Government policy which allowed companies to lease up to 100,000 acres of land at one cent per acre per year, these ranches were designed to give birth to the cattle ranching industry in what is now southwestern Alberta. With the proper political and economic backing accompanied by a favourable climate and grazing areas, the result was a series of flourishing corporate and family ranches.
Established in 1883, the Walrond was largely financed by Sir John Walrond-Walrond, a wealthy British politician. Local veterinarian Dr. Duncan McEachran was appointed the ranch’s first General Manager.
The Ranche itself was located along the North Fork of the Oldman River, encompassing much of the grazing lands west and southwest of the Porcupine Hills. The first herd of cattle owned by the Walrond, which numbered over three thousand head, was herded north from Montana.
The Ranche prospered over the years, in spite of the harsh winters of 1886-87 and 1906-07. The holdings were eventually acquired by rancher Pat Burns. In 1962, a co-operative venture under the Walrond name was established by area ranchers to manage some of the former corporate entity’s land holdings through a members grazing lease.
This large heritage building, constructed in 1894 of local timbers squared by broad axes, served as the home for the many Managers and their families until the 1950s. Ranch offices were located in what now serves as photo display room. Adjacent was the parlour where many a pioneer social event was hosted and on the far side, two early bedrooms for the adults and children of the managerial families.
The kitchen was where many of the ranch hands ate their meals while not out on the range. Featured here are a number of artifact furnishings including a wood burning cook stove, ice box, and a “Lazy Susan” table where up to a dozen hungry hired men gathered to eat their home cooked meals. It was constructed from a wagon wheel frame whose upper centre portion turned allowing the workers easy access to the ranch produced and prepared food. Nearby are two particularly intriguing relics of days gone by. One is the butter churn was used on many farms and ranches to churn butter from cream and milk. Manufactured from Medalta Stoneware which kept the contents cool, the pole was used to evenly stir the dairy product. However, the churn’s use was versatile – it also served as an excellent container for making homemade huckleberry wine. The second artifact is the wooden “potato slicer” attached atop a sawhorse, handmade by the King brothers, Maurice and Harold, whose ranch on Sharples Creek bordered the Walrond. A single potato placed in the grate basket was sliced when the handle was lowered with the fries dropping onto a plate below.
A tack room next door sheltered the hired men’s saddles, branding irons and gear. A portion of the structure sports a sod roof with a subsequent roof, several feet higher, being added later. The Walrond Ranche House was transported in two sections into the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village during the early 1980s.