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Jack Dillon remembered

History pages reprinted from the June 1948 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

antique photo of a rancher

Closing a colourful career, Jack Dillon passed away in Calgary on March 15, 1948. From the time he left his birthplace, Limerick, Ireland, at the age of three until his death at the age of 66, Dillon poured his energy into various activities ranging from law student, cowhand, rancher, commission agent, ranch manager, livestock association secretary, political organizer to rodeo and oil promotion.

Dillon and his family moved to South Chicago in 1886 where Dillon became interested in tales of ranchers and ranching in the West, and this lure of the West was in later years to cause him to give up his law studies at the University of Chicago and to journey into the Sand Hills of Nebraska where he worked on a horse ranch. But he was also interested in cows and soon he was buying cattle in the Dakotas and then went into the commission business at Sioux City, Iowa. He returned to Chicago only long enough to claim his wife and he and his young bride went to ranch at Elkalaka, Montana, 90 miles from the nearest town. When the First World War broke, the French government’s horse-buying commission came to the U.S. and it was not long before young Dillon was assembling and breaking horses for the commission in Montana.

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In 1918 he moved to Canada as manager of the OH Ranch, west of High River, Alta. It had been purchased by Mayer & Lage from Walter Ings and Dillon had been associated with the former in his horse buying activities. Soon he was to engage in the livestock commission business in Calgary. He became interested in the 1919 Calgary Stampede and was judge of the relay races and the Roman standing races. In 1923, he became senior bucking horse judge and later assistant to Guy Weadick in the arena and became arena director in 1932 upon the retirement of Weadick, a position he was to hold until 1946, when ill health forced him to take it easier. In 1947 he was made director of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede and it was while representing that organization in San Francisco, Calif., as director of the International Rodeo Association that he was to take an illness from which he failed to recover.

In 1919 when a group of stockmen organized the Cattlemen’s Protective Association of Western Canada Dillon became director. This group was active in the eradication of mange and in combating the high U.S. Fordney-McCumber tariff of 1922. Dillon made several trips with D.E. Riley to Washington, D.C., and to the Corn Belt states where he argued the case of the Canadian producer of feeder cattle. When the Protective Association took over the charter of the Western Stock Grower’s Association and assumed its name, Dillon became honorary secretary of the latter organization, a position he held for several years.

He became interested in local, provincial and federal politics, being organizer for the Civic Government Taxpayers’ Association in Calgary and a Liberal worker in the provincial and federal fields. In later years he became actively interested in oil development and was associated with C.C. Cross in the successful independent development of the now famed Leduc oil field. c

For more of the past from the pages of our magazine see the History section on the Canadian Cattlemen website.

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