Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Across the Canadian Prairies
To Fort McLeod and the Ranches

Fort McLeod is about 105 miles from Calgary, and within the last two or three years railway communication has been provided between the two places. Formerly, the only way of reaching McLeod was by the four-horsed stage which ran periodically between the two places, or by the railway from Dunmore to Lethbridge, the latter place being about 30 miles from McLeod.

The ride from Calgary to McLeod, which takes about five hours, is a pleasant one, as the Rocky Mountains are in full view all the time. For the first 40 miles the country is very well settled, and the small farms are all fenced, a fact which somewhat increases the difficulties of travelling by road, excepting where a more or less straight trail has been surveyed. The country is well watered, the railway crossing rivers and creeks at every few miles, and the district should be admirably adapted for dairying purposes. At present, however, it is largely given up to cattle-ranching and horse-raising, and those industries have assumed considerable dimensions. At one time it was believed that mixed farming would be possible, and that grain of all kinds could readily be raised. Experience, however, has demonstrated that irrigation will be necessary before arable farming can be carried on to any extent, except in specially favoured places; and, as mentioned in the letter relating to the Calgary district, irrigation is now the general topic of conversation in the whole of Alberta.

After arriving at McLeod, and spending a few hours there with friends, we started off on a three days’ drive, making our way the first afternoon to Pincher Creek, where many important ranches are located. The town itself is a very small affair, consisting of two hotels, a few stores and some residences; but we had the opportunity there of meeting with several of the ranchmen, and of talking “cattle” with them for some hours. The next morning we commenced a longer drive of about 60 miles, with the view of visiting the Mormon settlement at Lees Creek. On our way we called at the well-known Cochrane Ranch, and also had the opportunity of witnessing a “round up.” This important function takes place twice a year. The cattle, irrespective of owners and ranches, are allowed to graze in the meantime all over the prairie, but in April and October they are collected in bunches, and separated by their various owners, the calves being considered to belong to the cows they follow. The different ranch owners and their representatives camp together on these “stock-taking” occasions, and the work is very hard while it lasts, so much so that each man invariably has several horses for his use. After the animals are separated, the unbranded animals are branded, and the cattle are all turned loose again, excepting, of course, when any are cut out for purposes of sale. It is a very interesting sight, not to say an exciting one, to watch the splendid horsemanship of the cowboys, the facility with which animals are separated from the bunches, and the skill of many of the men with the lasso.

The Cochrane Ranch is situated in a very pretty valley on the Kootenay River. The buildings are substantial and comfortable, and, notwithstanding the drought, there was a good supply of the famous “bunch grass” in every part of the range over which we drove. So far as one could see there were not many signs of ranching in the neighbourhood of the buildings, but this is not surprising when we remember that the range covers 100,000 acres, and that the cattle, to the number of about 20,000 head, are scattered over that large area. After spending an hour or two at the ranch, we continued our journey to the Mormon settlement, which is called Cardston, after Mr. Card, who occupies the position of chief elder in the settlement. These Mormons, who number now about 800, emigrated from Salt Lake City a few years ago, and were permitted to settle in Canada on the distinct understanding that polygamy would not be allowed. Having given the requisite assurance, they selected the site of the present settlement, on Lees Creek. They have formed quite a little village, and their farms are situated in the country around at various distances. Mr. Card was away when we arrived, but we were hospitably received by Mrs. Card, and had an opportunity of a lengthy conversation with several members of the settlement. The community is certainly an ideal one in many respects. Mutual co-operation generally exists, and in many ways the Mormons seem to be able to give “points” to the followers of other religions. Their manner towards each other is most respectful and considerate; they help each other on every possible occasion, and they all appear to be willing to engage in general work that will be beneficial to the whole settlement. For instance, they have irrigated a considerable area of land, and are engaged on other similar work. A company is nominally formed, but no money is invested, and anyone who shares in the work is entitled to participate in the benefits. By means of irrigation, especially, they have transformed a rather arid piece of country into a garden, and last year they had excellent crops of all kinds of vegetable and garden produce, as well as grain. They have also a sawmill, a grist mill, and a cheese factory, and telephonic communication with Lethbridge. The Mormons seem to be very well satisfied with the country and with their progress, and further immigration is expected from the United States.

We started next morning on our return to McLeod, and drove for most of the day through the “Blood” Indian Reserve. At the Agency we had an opportunity of some conversation with the Agent, and of seeing a largo number of the Indians in all their gorgeousness of attire, as it happened to be the day on which they came in for their rations. It may be mentioned that the “Blood” and “Blackfeet” tribes were formerly among the most warlike of the Indians of the North-West, and that they have not made so much progress in the direction of civilisation as some of the Indians in other parts of the country. They still have to be maintained by the Government, and do not as yet show much inclination to work cor their living. The hope, however, is entertained that the rising generation will grow up imbued with other views, as the result of the education they are receiving.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.