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Bar U Ranch

Superintendent William Winder, North-West Mounted Police, ca 1870’s. The famous Bar U Ranch, or the North-West Cattle Company as it was officially known, experienced many setbacks, but unlike many of the other large ranches of its day, the Bar U managed to prosper and endure despite its string of hardships.

William Winder had come the North West in 1873 as a member of the North West Mounted Police, but after he retired he decided to take up ranching. With the help of his father-in-law, Charles Stimson, he convinced Sir Hugh Allan, a highly successful businessman and head of the Allan Steamship Line in Montreal, to set up the North-West Cattle Company in March 1882. Fred Stimson, Winder's brother-in-law, was appointed manager, and went to Chicago in 1881 to look over and select appropriate bulls coming to market from western ranges. On the trip up to the Highwood River area, a snowstorm hit, but Stimson allowed the cattle to drift south to the Old Man River area, where they could graze. The blizzard that had nearly devastated the Cochrane Ranch herd was not to destroy the cattle of the Bar U Ranch.

Charlie Millar at the Bar U Ranch, Pekisko, Alberta, 1892. Tom Lynch had been contracted to select the foundation cattle for the ranch, so he and Stimson headed to Idaho to purchase them. They were not disappointed, and bought 3,000 animals, each six dollars cheaper than they would have cost in Montana. One of the cowboys he hired for the drive north was John Ware, who, despite Lynch's initial hesitancy, impressed everyone with his riding prowess and ability to apprehend wily cattle thieves. Early in September, Lynch and his men met Stimson at Ft. Macleod. "This is evidently one of the most successfully drives ever made to this country," raved The Macleod Gazette, and wild celebrations were held at the Macleod Hotel that night.

Despite the first hard winter on the range, the cattle at Bar U were to thrive over the years. Stimson's new foreman George Lane devised the famous Ü brand to replace the former double circle symbol. The Bar U became noted for its hospitality, and was favorite spot for travelers from England and eastern Canada. Stimson himself was well-liked, even among the Indians. He was reported to be fluent in the Blackfoot language and collected native handicrafts and artifacts.

Bar U Ranch cowboys, general round-up, southern Alberta, May 31, 1901.

In 1902, Lane's company - Lane, Gordon, Ironsides and Fares - bought the company from Sir Hugh Allan's son. The deal, involving 18,000 acres of land, 500 horses, 1000 tons of hay and the associated range leases and buildings, was worth $250,000 - the largest transaction the Northwest had ever seen.

Lane had invested in horse ranching before the Bar U, but the new ranch gave him the opportunity to expand his core herd of Montana Percherons. Soon he was everywhere winning prizes and awards, as well as a reputation for breeding some of the finest horses in the world. By the 1920s, Lane had bought out his partners and retained sole possession of the ranch.

For more on the Bar U Ranch visit their website!

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  • The Bar U Ranch: Part One - The Bar U Ranch's success in the 1880s owed much to Britain's demand for beef.
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  • The Bar U Ranch: Part Two - The Bar U hosted a famous outlaw and a famous artist. Hear about the celebrities associated with this ranch!
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  • Bar U Ranch: Prince Edward Comes to Visit - His experience at the Bar U so impressed Edward, the Prince of Wales, that he bought a ranch for himself. Hear about the prince's visit to Longview, Alberta.
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  • Bar U Ranch: Gee Bong Polo Club - There was more to recreation at the Bar U than you might expect. See what challenging sport the cowboys played for fun!
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  • Bar U Ranch: Percheron Horses - As the market for cattle declined, George Lane decided to breed horses, and built the world's best Percheron ranch of the time.
    Read | Listen
  • Bar U Ranch: The Life of the Cowboys - Learn about the many types of men on a ranch like the Bar U, from the riders to the choreboys!
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  • Bar U Ranch: Cowboy Life - Listen to Simon Evans explain living conditions for the riders at the Bar U, and hear about the famous cowboy, Charlie Miller.
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  • Bar U Ranch: Aboriginal Cowboys - First Nation peoples contributed greatly to the success of the ranches like the Bar U.
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See also:

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