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Social Conditions at Cochrane Ranche

Group at Cochrane ranch, near Cardston, Alberta, August 11 1902. L-R: Doctor Oliver Cromwell Edwards; James Wilson, ranch manager; Mrs. Cochrane, wife of William. The system of large leased ranges established a kind of class system in the Canadian West. Stock raising, unlike farming, demanded an initial capital investment that was substantial and therefore tended to eliminate those of lesser means. The owners of the leases were generally upper or middle class residents of Eastern Canada or England. The men chosen to manage the large company ranches were very much of the same background. At Cochrane Ranche the managers were James Walker, Frank White, A.E. Cross, and Ernest Cochrane. Each of these men were well educated and "of good family". James Walker was a former Northwest Mounted Police superintendent. Frank White's brother was the personal secretary of John A. MacDonald in 1880-1882. A.E. Cross was the son of a prominent Montreal jurist. The last manager of the ranch was Ernest Cochrane, the Senator's youngest son. These men contributed to a manger-employee relationship that was "...particularly suitable for the support of the English Country Estate Ethos".

Group of wealthy hunters at the British American Ranche, Cochrane, Alberta, 1888. L-R back row: Lady Adele Cochrane; Tom Cochrane. L-R front row: Lord Norbury; Mr. Algernon St. Maur of Seymour, 15th Duke of Somerset; Mrs. Susan St. Maur. Note Mrs. Susan St. Maur, Duchess of Somerset was author of Impressions of a Tenderfoot, published in 1890. This was previously the Cochrane Ranche Company. Cowboys and rangemen formed a second class of men on the ranches. These were often drifters, many from the United States and the east but possessed of little education or wealth. Often they would work for a short time to obtain money for stock or improvements to their own slowly-developing "spreads". These people eventually led the fight which resulted in the disintegration of the large lease-held lands.

Reprinted from Roderick J. Heitzmann "The Cochrane Ranche Site."Archaeological Survey of Alberta Occasional Paper No. 16, 1980. With permission from Alberta Community Development, Historic Resources Division.

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