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History: Ranching in a Gold Field

Reprinted from the April 1953 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

By Gordon Thompson

I have travelled, lived in and read of cattle-pioneered countries to be followed by the farmer and oilmen but now have had the new experience of ranching in an old gold field.

As I sit at my desk in the old Walters’ house, stories of these frontiersmen are recalled. It was a Walters that helped introduce ranching into the Horsefly gold fields. Fate had willed that three of these hardy men should never see the fulfillment of their dreams. However, courageous and hard-working Glen Walters has more than realized any cowman’s dreams and ambitions.

Henry Lincoln Walters was born during the gold rush at 83-Mile House on the Cariboo road. His parents had moved from Ontario to settle at one of the milestones of the Cariboo. His introduction to Horsefly was made while driving the mail from the 108-Mile House to Horsefly. His route was the only road into the gold field. It is still known as the 108-Mile Road but no longer used since the highway was built to Williams Lake through 150-Mile House on the Cariboo Road.

Henry soon caught the gold fever and took a job with Hobson mine, overseeing a group of Chinese men. They lived en mass at what is now only a memory but a historical landmark called China Cabin.

Walters soon saw broader fields for his future. He took up a large block of fertile river-bottom land near the junction of Moffat Creek and the Horsefly River. Building a large hotel and saloon on the property, he collected much of the earnings of both miners and teamsters who drove their freight wagons from Ashcroft.

Proof of Harry’s imagination was to be seen in the nucleus of the Walters’ cattle ranch, one of the first on the Horsefly River. He was noted for his weird assortment of cattle. His herd sire was invariably a huge Holstein bull, because he produced size. Glen, one of the sons, laughed as he told me of these cattle, which were known as the Horsefly Durhams.

Of the family of eight Walters children, Hazel has the distinction of being the first white girl to be born in Horsefly. Glen and Lloyd were to become the ranchers, trappers and hunters of the old Walters Ranch.

In 1915 fate frowned on the Walters family for the first time. The hotel caught fire and burned to the ground. Harry and his boys built an impressive log house and barn across the road. This house, which is now my home, has long been a landmark of Horsefly.

Three years later Harry contracted Bright’s Disease and died at the age of 51. He was never to see the fulfillment of his plans.

Lloyd took over the home ranch. Glen bought the Murray place and settled about a mile below Horsefly. The boys continued to feed their cattle together during the winter. They owned several large meadows, eight and 18 miles distant, and put up swamp hay on these meadows. They would move their cattle from one to the other until the hay was fed up. Then they would be moved back home in early spring and fed on tame hay until the grass came.

During the fall and winters Glen and Lloyd hired men to look after the cattle. They had built up an enviable reputation as big game guides and grizzly bear hunters. They also made a good profit on their trap lines while their pioneer wives kept the home fires burning.

In October 1944, the Walters jinx raised its ugly head again. Glen had a hunting party north of Quesnel Lake. Lloyd was supposed to meet him to help with the party but he was never to hunt again. When returning from the meadows he shot a coyote eating a rabbit. While skinning the coyote he got some of its blood in a cut on his hand. On his return home he became ill with a high fever. Lloyd was rushed to Williams Lake hospital where several days were spent on tests to determine the nature of his infection. The final results proved that he had caught tularemia, a rare disease carried by animals. The serum to check the deadly infection had to be flown from Philadelphia but it arrived too late to save Lloyd’s life.

His wife, Dorothy, now Mrs. Chuck Newton, tried to run the ranch after Lloyd’s death but the going was tough without the income from hunting parties and the trap line. She finally sold out to Californian Kellog.

Four years after Lloyd’s death, tragedy struck again. Lloyd’s son, Harry, who Glen describes as a boy who was afraid of nothing, was to meet a fatal accident. He volunteered to descend into a mine shaft to turn off a pump motor. It is believed he must have been overcome by the fumes and fell from the ladder to his death in the bottom of the shaft.

The Walters-pioneered ranch again changed hands. Mr. Calloway from Philadelphia loaned C. Jameson the capital to buy and stock the place. After two years Jameson found he could not meet his commitments so turned it back. Mr. Calloway found himself with a ranch on his hands and two weeks of vacation left. I arrived in Horsefly looking for a place to start a ranch at an opportune time. Mr. Calloway retained me as ranch manager of what is now known as the Calloway Ranch.

Since becoming part of this beautiful rugged mountain country, I have found out all I could about the history of the inhabitants. I have formed a great admiration for Glen Walters who takes me back to the cattlemen I have known in the foothills of Alberta. He owns one of the best planned ranches in the Cariboo.

He has nearly four hundred acres of land under cultivation. One would have to see this mountainous country to appreciate this amount of arable land. His large herd of Hereford cattle would equal any I have seen for quality. Glen keeps nothing but the best of his registered bulls and is careful not to in-breed. He is also a good farmer, even compared with our standards in Alberta where farming is becoming a science.

The gold in Horsefly is but a memory, the moose and deer are disappearing, and the price of fur is so low that is hardly worth trapping, but the soil is rich and will raise enough feed to winter the increasing number of cattle following the game trails. I sincerely believe that in the future, Horsefly will become the centre of a great cattle industry.

‘Our History’ is curated by former Canadian Cattlemen editor, Gren Winslow.

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