As part of our September 2021 MHCowboy Life Newsletter, we featured the 76 Ranch near Piapot. Read more of this local ranch history. Follow Link.
Jim and Carol Hern
Jim and Carol Hern ranch in the Bindloss community which is about 85 miles north of Medicine Hat on Highway 41. Jim is the grandson of William Fowlie, his mother’s father who homesteaded in the area in 1912.
In 1962 Jim’s mom and dad, Ben and Helen Hern bought the X Bar 4 Ranch from R rol now own. The ranch is 13 miles south of Bindloss and borders the Suffield Base and the South Saskatchewan River.
In 1991, with the help of Carol’s parents, Jim and Inga Schneider, the Hern’s purchased the Bar Diamond Ranch from Perry, Tad and Jody Minor. This ranch is nestled in the valley of the Red Deer River, 17 miles northwest of Bindloss. The Hern’s run about 750 mother cows on 34,000 acres. Their daughter, Leanne and her husband, Scott Fedyshen, two hired men and their wives, and a cook and her husband also live and work on the ranches.
The Hern ranching operation consists of two ranches, the X Bar 4 Ranch and the Bar Diamond Ranch. From 1963 until this year it was the X- 4 brand that cattle from both ranches wore. In 2013 we incorporated both ranches names into a new registered brand, X-^. (X Bar Diamond)
In 1904 the Reesor Ranching legacy began when WD (William David) and his wife Alice filed for a homestead where the present ranch is located. Why leave their eastern Canada roots? (WD was the son of one of Canada’s first Senators, David Reesor, and his mother, Emily McDougall was the sister of one of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation.)
They had four sons with no room to expand. The West offered “boundless horizons”.
It was at Graburn, Assiniboia, NWT then, SW of what is now Maple Creek, Saskatchewan that they settled. The ranching tradition has been kept in the family, but with each generation there came the need to divide and be creative.
Scott and Theresa Drapeau are 5th generation Reesors and their daughter is the 6th generation owning/operating the Historic Reesor Ranch. They’ve adapted by forming a guest ranch as a business, and done it in a way that keeps ranch history and family heritage alive. The original log house has been partially encased in today’s ranchhouse and the original buildings have been restored. Being they are a working ranch, they are able to provide an authentic western experience to guests and share the story of pioneers coming West to start a new life.
They have been successful in managing business growth and at same time maintained integrity of the land. Little wonder the Reesor Ranch has received numerous awards and was designated as a provincial heritage property. The family has had to be innovative to ensure the ranch will be passed down for generations to come.
Short Grass Ranch
Short Grass Ranch: These ranches probably started in about 1939 as a 10-year-old boy’s dream on the back of a horse riding the wide open prairie under Alberta’s blue skies in what is the current Northlands Co-op site. As a young man Reiny delivered milk door to door to Medicine Hat residents by horse and wagon and sold watermelons from the back of a truck. For six years he and his brother operated Lehr’s Dairy.
But at age 32 he began to fulfill his dream when he purchased what is, to this day, the home place for the Short Grass Ranch along the banks of the South Saskatchewan River just across from Northlands. It was a humble beginning: a few acres of land, a handful of cows as well as pigs and chickens.
But as the family grew, so did his ranching dream expand. Two sons and three grandsons (and their families) gradually became part of the operation as land was acquired from south of Cypress Hills to north of Irvine and beyond. And as a corporation they have been diversifying from a cow/calf operation, to feedlotting, to irrigated and dryland cropping, all the while experimenting with different cropping ideas and embracing new technology.
The Cavan Ranch started in 1883 when Daniel Negus Cavan took up a homestead. He had worked for the railroad and as it pushed westward, he randomly got off at Dunmore Junction, Assiniboia, North West Territories. Before that he’d been in the British Military posted in Kabul and Kanahar, India. It’s documented that his first son Henry was the first white child to be born in the Dunmore area.
At that time Daniel’s operation was a modest sheep ranch. By the time his son Henry was 12, Dunmore Junction and nearby Coleridge (now Dunmore) were bigger than Medicine Hat. When Henry Cavan was 16, he experienced the tragic cattle losses from a week-long snowstorm in 1903 at the end of May when it was least expected. Then came the hard winter of 1906-7 when Henry was 20 years of age. It changed his life. He saw first-hand the dire consequences from lack of feed and the need for ranchers to put-up hay. He was convinced irrigation was necessary and thus initiated a new era in the ranching industry.
While working all over Southern Alberta and parts of southern Saskatchewan for the Prairie Farm and Rehabilitation Act (PFRA) from 1936-1946, Henry was an authority in irrigation and water matters. After he finished employment with the PFRA, his thoughts turned to how he could get irrigation to the Dunmore and Irvine areas. He decided the best location to build a reservoir was three miles south of Pashley, which is half way between Dunmore and Irvine. He was the sole founder and surveyor of the Cavan Lake Irrigation system that began construction in 1948 and completed in 1950. He worked unceasingly to develop many projects in the drought area of Southern Alberta and now the Ross Creek project has some 3000 irrigated acres between Dunmore and Irvine. For good reason, the Cavan Lake Recreation Area was named after him.
Henry took over the operation of Cavan Ranch when his father retired. He was already in his 50’s when he increased its holdings by purchasing 10,000 acres from one of the old 76 Ranches (which was 1 of 9 such ranches started by Sir John Lister-Kaye in 1886). Shortly after purchasing this additional land he ran 250 head of Hereford cattle. Ten years later added a herd of 100 Morgan brood mares and a Tennessee Walking Horse stallion named Old Chief producing high class saddle horses. Folks in the area and from farther afield would often come to see them.
Henry ranched with his sons until he passed away when Calvin and Lionel ran Cavan Ranch in partnership. In 1971 Lionel bought out Calvin to take full ownership with his son Warren. Lance and Dan, Warren’s sons now have the ranch, the fifth generation on Cavan Ranches. The ‘Fowl C Reverse Fowl’ of their great grandfather Henry still roams on their extensive pastureland.
The Wright Ranch, about 25 miles east of Maple Creek, got its start in 1910 when Andrew Wright took up a homestead. He was a city boy whose dad was in the lumber industry. What courage at age 25 to come out West from Saginaw, Michigan! It was an opportunity of free land but not free workwise.
The only cow was probably a milk cow, but it was horses, Belgians and Percherons with an A9 brand (LS) that broke and cultivated the land in the summer. In the winter he had different jobs. He worked in Michigan at the GM factory. He used his blacksmith skills to make all the fancy locks for the Lethbridge jail that was being built. He also worked for the famous 76 Ranch.
It was Generation 2, Mel Wright that started raising Hereford cattle. Generation 3, Ken Wright was about 10 when he and his dad got the partnership brand MK connected. Generation 5 has the ranch now, Casper Hoffman, Ken’s grandson. Will Ken’s great-granddaughter eventually carry on the tradition? At 2 1/2 she rides her own Shetland pony and loves her special seat beside daddy on the tractor.
The original 1 1/2 story house, built in 1913 still stands, is well kept and will be Casper’s woodworking shop. It’s with pride that he uses the original A9 horse brand and, like his great-grandpa, Casper is a rancher with an off-ranch job and like his grandpa, does leatherwork in his spare time.