The Mighty Gang Ranch (acheived Best seller status)
No 1 "The Mighty Gang Ranch" 309 pages with 205 photos. ISBN:0-9734686-2-9 Retails for $22.00 + postage
By Chris Kind Released April 2005 and has now gone a best seller.
This book shows the deep roots between the Oregon desert, surrounding communities and British Columbia.It was in the mid 1800s that the Colonial Government was beginning to form in British Columbia. Cattlemen from South of the border were very much encouraged to trail thier cattle herds to the province and further north to the gold fields. The few herds of local stock that arrived,were rapidly dwindling as miners moved north in search of the yellow gold. Over twenty five thousand miners crossed the Canadian border and arrived in the Cariboo in two short years. Behind the gold miners, came the pioneer familys, all eager to carve a living out of the province. Small cattle drives were formed from as far south as Burns, Baker, Bend, the Oregon Desert and Nevada.
"The Mighty Gang Ranch" spans 150 years from the owners and sale of the ranch. It also gets into the major controversy and alleged overgrazing by livestock along with the relocation and transplants of the California Bighorn Sheep from the Gang Ranch in B.C. to several States in the USA. Programs that have been a major success.
The Harper brothers were now left with many hundred head of unsold cattle. They could have just left them to roam the hills and become half wild along the Fraser River, but they decided to find a market for them. Over a thousand head left the Gang Ranch, passed through Clinton and the Cariboo. The herd gained in numbers as they moved through the bunch grass valleys near Kamloops all of these cattle were destined for the town called Salt Lake city, Utah, many hundreds of miles away. They crossed the Thompson River at Savona and there regrouped for the long journey south and across the United States. They had several mountain ranges and rivers to cross and this had to be done in the summer months. The cowboys for the job were well schooled in driving cattle through all conditions and surviving on very little. The herd was wintered in Idaho and then started up once again. Once the cattle reached Utah, they wintered them there and let them gain weight. They were getting ready to rail the cattle to Chicago.
It was at that time that Thaddeus Harper was convinced that he could make more money with the herd if it was sold in California. There was a drought in California and prices of livestock were much higher than any other place. The entire herd was turned around and once again they moved slowly towards San Fancisco.
They crossed Nevada and California. There were Indians, Deserts, Dry Mountains, all this was new country to Thaddeus Harper. His crew of eight cowboys left the Gang ranch, and some eighteen months later, they drove the herd into San Francisco, California.
They sold the big fat steers at seventy dollars per steer. Several of the larger steers were sold as oxen for pulling wagons. They brought a higher price. This particular cattle drive is noted as the most historic in Canada's ranching history. This took the cowboys a couple of years before they returned to Canada.
Thaddeus Harper continued to move thousands of cattle back and forth across the borders. As demand increased, they supplied. Pioneer family's were now pouring into the interior.They moved cattle down to New Westminister, Nenaimo and Victoria.
The Harpers put together other cattle drives over the mountain ranges to the Kootenays during the gold rush there.. They found markets at the mining towns of Fairview, Phoenix, and Rossland.
Cattle were pushed over the Dewdney Trail to Hope. This took over ten days to get through the mountain passes. From Hope, the cattle were loaded onto boats and shipped to New Westminister and Victoria. The cattle travelled only 10 to 12 miles per day so as to arrive in good condition.
Thaddeus Harper was also contracted to supply cattle for the new CPR railroad that was progressing through the interior. As the railroad moved towards the interior of British Columbia . Cattle ranchers started to purchase more and more land at a dollar an acre.
They also bought out the existing leases and land that pioneers and early gold miners had pre -empted. Hoping to resell the property at a later date to the people coming in with the railroad.
Cattle in those days, did not sell by the pound. They were sold by the head. Pigs went for two dollars a head, and sheep for $2.50. Picture on right is one of the erliest pictures of two Gang Ranch cowboys in San Fransisco after the long drive.
Placer gold claims that produced large volumes of gold both in fine and nugget form, were the 'Cameron' claim which is reported to have mined over a million dollars in gold. It is said' a dozen pack horses left the Barkerville area laden down with gold''. Cameron was heading home with a fortune for the time.
Then, there was the famous 'Dillar' claim that took out over a quarter of a million in gold. John Dillar was a young lad that had come from the eastern states and pleaded with his poor mother to allow her to give him a meager stake from the few dollars she had. That stake, would enable him to travel to the widely publicized gold strikes in New Caledonia. He told his mother that he would head for the gold fields in Canada, and return home with gold from his claim and look after her forever. John Dillar left home with the little money his mother had saved, boarded a ship, and sailed around the Horn to New Caledonia.
When he arrived, he was almost broke and meeting hundreds of discontented miners that were poorer than when they arrived. All had been to the rich gold fields, and lost everything but the shirt on thier backs.
This did not discourage the young lad though. When he reached the gold fields, everything and anything that was worth staking was staked by the previous miners that had arrived before him.
Many of the miners had told him that it was a waste of time.
John Dillar, did not travel half way across the continent to give up that easy. After all, he had promised his mother he would return a wealthy man and make life a lot easier for her.
The only area unmarked with pegs, was a deep canyon that nobody wanted to tackle and go into. An old timer said to John '' the canyon could be a natural sluice if it can be conquered.'' He took in a couple of young partners and together they descended into the canyon gorge.
There, they dug tunnels and shafts with great difficulty, and a lot of sludge would enter the shaft.
The work these men did was unprecedented in mining at the time. After some unbelievable tunneling, and shear determination and stubbornness with many empty buckets of nothing but mud, they hit pay dirt. There was a natural crevasse that caught the heavy gold as it traveled down through the canyon. Over 100 pounds of nuggets were taken out in a couple of days.
They made a great haul and cleaned the crevasse out of it's riches. Dillars partners returned to Barkerville and lost their fortune on the gambling tables and the girls of the night. Young Dillar was not about to squander his hard earned wealth on the bright lights of Barkerville and the Hurdy Gurdy Girls of the night. He returned home with a fortune, back to his small farming town back east.
He had accomplished, what he promised his mother he would do. Upon arriving in his town that he had left two years earlier, he arrived to see an auction being held on his mothers property. She had fallen on very hard times, and was selling off everything she had, lock, stock and barrel, including the property.
John Dillar was a much older person now, and was not recognized by anyone in the community.
The two absent years in Northern British Columbia, had taken its toll on the young man, both the weather and tough life, had aged him considerably. He now toted a long beard.
He sat in the auction and every time a bid was made on one of his mothers household belongings, he would bid it up and took possession of the item. People would look at the young man, but nobody knew him. Finally came the deed for the property, which he also acquired in the bidding.
When the estate was finally over, he walked over to the lady that had everything for sale and gently put the deed to the property back in her lap. He also put a pouch full of very large nuggets, and bank certificates in the amount of thousands of dollars in gold. All coming from the claim that she had staked him on.
John Dillar was true to his word and returned to take care of his mother as he had promised her two years earlier. He became a prominent businessman in the area, purchasing a hotel.
Probably the most famous packer in British Columbia was Cataline. His real name was Jean Caux, but the locals called him ''Cataline'', and that name remained with him, his entire life.
Born in Catalonia in the Pyrenees on the border of France and Spain, he came up from Oregon in the 1860's and operated the largest mule train from Yale to Barkerville and beyond. His pack trains had consisted of up to three hundred mules in different locations, on different trails and routes. Most pack trains had from 15 to 35 mules operating with packs.. Mules could carry up to three hundred pounds per animal.
Cataline, could speak English, French, Italian, Chinese and Indian, and would include all of this when he talked, sometimes in one sentence.
''His name was Poison, and was well known all over the
country. This horse was about nine or ten when started, and put a lot of cowboys in hospital. They claimed this horse should have been put down, because he was so mean. Jack was riding through this ranch, and the old rancher hailed him in. He said “Jack, you take this here brown horse, you conquer him and get him rode, and I will give you or you can take your pick of any horse on this ranch''. Jack did not want to do it, but took it on. Everyone hated the horse. He kicked everything in the barn and even when the gate was open, he might decide to go through the corral instead of out the gate. Long Into the summer, Jack got the horse going real good, and later said ”when you had your saddle on him, you were mounted for the whole day.” Later that fall, Jack rode Poison into town and had him tied up near a bar. I guess the old rancher who owned him came staggering out of the bar with some whiskey in him and slapped old Poison on the ass and said ''Jack, I see you got the brown horse broke after all?'' Poison let fly with both hind feet, missing the rancher's head by inches.
Things got very quite and the rancher grew quite pale. Finally the old rancher said, ''Come out to the ranch and get whatever horse you want, but I never want to see this brown SOB again.'' Later, Jack met a cowboy who figured he could handle him, so Jack traded Poison off for a team. After the trade and a few day later, the cowboy had his fill of Poison. No one quite knew where he ended up.
Roys grandfather John William Williams around the time of the Civil War left Virginia and came out with an Ox team. He was twenty one years of age, and had a young bride with him who was expecting a baby. They stopped in Virginia city. They had between them five dollars in cash. He homesteaded over near Deer Lodge then later moved into the Galatin. Roy said later on My grandfather Ira Williams, his brother Jim, and a real estate man from the Galatin area, went to Mexico. There they purchased 40 square miles of land”. Roy said, I came pretty close to being born a Mexican.
Before they could return to get their families and move there, Pancho Villa was running every one off. They were hanging gringos and dad lost everything in Mexico. John Williams finally ended up with a Livery Stable in Bozman, Montana and started a ranch in Eastern Montana.''
These cowboys are part of the group that drove the cattle from the Gang Ranch to San Francisco in the 1870's
There are several other large Cattle Empires around the Gang ranch, the lower cariboo and the Chilcotin. The Pavillion Mountain Ranch situated just west of Clinton on a high plateau is one. It was operated and owned by a Victor and Frank Ross Spencer. The old Lillooet and Clinton Hyway runs right through the ranch on Pavillion Mountain. The Douglas Lake Ranch near Merrit has holdings of over 500,000 acres and had a herd of over 10,000 head of cattle.
There is the Canoe Creek Ranch near BigBar Mountain in the Cariboo which was founded by the Kosters. This ranch a few years later was combined with The Empire Valley Ranch across the Fraser River. This ranch borders the Gang Ranch on the West side of Churn Creek.
The name of the combined ranch was then changed to B.C. Cattle Company. There are many other ranches across the province, but none of them are as well known as the Gang Ranch.
Jerome and Thaddeus Harper along with many other cowboys checked into the famous Clinton Hotel. From there, they travelled out towards Dog Creek and the Fraser River. It is from that location, they saw miles upon miles of rolling bunchgrass side hills as they descended to the mighty Fraser River.
You can look down river from below Lone Cabin Creek and as far up river to the forks of the clear Chilcotin River where it meets the murky Fraser River.
You can see Poison Mountain in the distance, Red Mountain and Black Dome all nestled just of the Fraser River. On a clear day, you can see as far back as Relay Mountain and Lost Valley and the Coast Range. Later, the Gang Ranch would run cattle all the way back to Relay Creek.
This is today one of the most spectacular sights one could look at, it is realy a sight to behold.
Gang Ranch cowboys: Wayne Robinson( manager), with Roy williams and Jimmy Rosette.
Probably the two finest hands to start all the young horses were Loren Wood and jack shearer.There were several good hands, but none with the experience that these two cowboys had.
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Meter Started: Apr 12, 2007
Roy Williams on a fine cowhorse and several cowboys at the Williams Lake Rodeo in 1964
The famous packer Jean Caux (cateline) booking into the Clinton hotel. also first known signing of Jeromme Harper's name in the Cariboo.
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