The Big Ranches

By the turn of the century, ranching in the British Columbia Interior had evolved from a family occupation to big business. Large companies owned many ranches and used them as investments, installing management staff and carefully monitoring profit and loss.

A photograph of the Alkali Lake Ranch house, 1890-92.Click to enlarge,
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Alkali Lake Ranch House, 1890-92. Courtesy of the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin.

Most of these companies also had their own butcher shops in the booming cities of British Columbia. The Douglas Lake Cattle Company and the Gang Ranch were just two of many large consolidated ranches in the Interior. A syndicate, the Western Canadian Ranching Company, had bought the Gang Ranch from Thaddeus Harper in 1888. It was an immense operation covering some 60,000 acres of deeded land, plus pastoral land leased from the province. Like many of the big ranches, it had its own store and large bunkhouse for the cowboys.

In many ways, the establishment of large ranches stabilized the ranching industry by providing continuity through the cycles of good and bad winters, and through price fluctuations. These operations were also outlets where smaller ranches could sell their cattle.

A photograph of Douglas Lake Ranch buildings in the 1920s. Click to enlarge,
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Douglas Lake Ranch buildings, 1920s. F-01087 – Courtesy of Royal British Columbia Museum

This was especially true of the Douglas Lake Cattle Company, whose manager, J.B. Greaves, bought cattle from the ranchers of the Okanagan and Nicola. He would pay them in the fall and pick up his cattle in the spring, thus providing the ranchers with much-needed cash during the difficult winter months.

The trend toward consolidating smaller ranches into one large, efficient operation continued well into the twentieth century, and many of these ranches are still operating today.

Media Files

V1999:10/001.04 – A trip through the range lands of British Columbia – 1930? “A stray group of 10,000”
Old black and white silent movie of a small herd of Hereford cattle, part of the 10,000 cattle at the Douglas Lake Ranch.

A flash player with a video showing a silent movie of a small herd of Hereford cattle, part of the 10,000 cattle at the Douglas Lake Ranch.

You need the Adobe Flash Player to view the above video. You can get it by clicking here.

V1999:10/001.04 – A trip through the range lands of British Columbia – 1930? “Douglas Lake farm buildings”
Old black and white silent movie of the Douglas Lake Ranch headquarters.

A flash player with a video showing a black and white silent movie of the Douglas Lake Ranch headquarters.

You need the Adobe Flash Player to view the above video. You can get it by clicking here.