76 Ranch

Biography – Jim Wilson

Jim Wilson, current owner of the ’76 Ranch

  Jim was born in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. He grew up on a mixed farm 15 miles southwest of Maple Creek where he got his education in a one-room school. He was an ambitious lad earning extra money milking cows to sell cream and doing custom sheep-shearing for the neighbours.

  In 1954 Jim he bought his parents’ farm which included Black Angus cattle and a flock of sheep. That’s the same year he caught his arm in an Allis-Chalmers baler. (He had been proud of his first machinery purchase a year earlier for $1000. It made the cutest little round bales.) He spent six weeks in Moose Jaw hospital after his arm was amputated.

  With determination he continued running the family farm. It was the auctioneering course he took in Billings, Montana that began his successful career of selling cattle and sheep at Maple Creek and Tompkins. He bought the Maple Creek Auction Ring in 1979 renaming it Cowtown Livestock Exchange Ltd. Jim was a well-known judge at bull sales and founding member of the Murray Gray Association. In 2011 he received a Scroll of Honour from the Saskatchewan Livestock Association for his contribution to the community and the livestock industry.

  In 1972 Jim sold the home place and bought 17 sections of the 76 Ranch at Piapot then called Crane Lake. “Some older guys were sure I’d be working for the bank, but that made me all the more determined.” Jim Wilson’s son Shay (and Sharmon) now have the deeded land, pastureland and an excellent hay flat that Skull Creek floods naturally every spring.

  The Grazing Coop also has pasture that was part of the 76 Ranch. The 76 land is all around Piapot. It is one of the ten large farm/ranches Sir Lister Kaye started from east of Regina to west of Calgary in 1887. From 1890 the Crane Lake Farm was headquarters of the cattle operation. In keeping with Kaye’s eccentric use of numbers, this 76 ranch was 7 miles long and 6 miles wide when it was fenced. Shay and Sharmon and their daughter Tawny still carry the 76 brand, the whole left side.

  The farmyard and the original house was along the old Trans Canada highway (and railroad) five miles east ofPiapot, a half mile from the Old Crane Lake station. The legendary house (a mansion in its time) was still elegant with its hardwood floors, fireplaces and glass cabinets, but it grew to be old and by now needed major repairs. No one wanted it. The fir lumber was hardwood and too brittle to reuse so it was destroyed. The Wilsons have the original bell that was used as a call-in for dinner or a meeting. The renowned wagon-wheel table that could be turned at will is at the Maple Creek museum. It’s unique design was to feed the 25 or so men employed on the original ranch.

  Jim and his wife Dorothy raised three children: Lorna (Barry Kusler), Clay (Janica Schlenker) and Shay (Sharmon Murray). Jim is retired, residing a half mile east of Maple Creek beside the the Cowtown Livestock Auction in which he still has a share.

Learn more about DH Andrews, one-time manager of 76 Ranch.

Click to access Some-memories-of-the-old-76-Sept.49.pdf