The historical bow valley ranche at fish creek provincial park


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Pioneers

John Glenn  |  William Roper Hull  |  Senator Patrick Burns

John Glenn (Original Settler)
John Glenn, born in Ireland in 1834, emigrated to the Americas in the mid-1800's, at the age of 16 years. He found himself in the southern United States at the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War and was drafted into the Confederate Army. Glenn disagreed profoundly with the principles of the Confederacy and deserted their army. He made his way to Union-held territory and joined their army. Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, Glenn made his way across the United States and into the Canadian West. Working in mines in British Columbia, he was lured by the prospects of gold on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. He continued eastward, panning for gold on the Saskatchewan River. In 1873, after years of solitary wandering, the forty year-old bachelor married Adelaide Belcourt. The ceremony was performed in the mission at St. Albert, Alberta.

Searching for suitable land on which to settle, John and Adelaide Glenn packed all their worldly possessions onto the back of a single mule and made their way to the fertile soil in the broad valley where Fish Creek flows into the Bow River, establishing the first European settlement in what is now the Calgary area. Here in 1873, the Glenns built their first home, a log cabin, complete with sod roof, stone fire-place and chimney.

John Glen Building, circa 1910During the next several years, John Glenn made frequent trips to Fort Benton, Montana, freighting supplies and trading with the Hudson's Bay Company, the North West Mounted Police and the local native Sarcee people. On one trip home from Montana in 1874, John Glenn encountered Colonel Macleod of the mounted police and guided them into what was soon to be Fort Macleod.

During these same years, Glenn continued to improve his homestead. He started raising cattle and broke some of the virgin sod to grow grain. The soil was fertile and his crops flourished. Three years later, John Glenn's farm consisted of nine partially fenced acres sown to barley and oats, a hay meadow and a vegetable garden. Glenn also supplemented his income by selling hay to the mounted police as well as by undertaking labouring jobs for them. John Glenn became a vehement supporter of Settlers' Rights in the Canadian West and an avid proponent of the potential for development of the Calgary area.

Adelaide GlennAdelaide Glenn (née Belcourt) was a Métis woman from Lac Ste. Anne. She was no less a pioneer than her husband, raising six children, tending livestock, and providing room and board for travellers. She also provided vital emotional support to the early women settlers who arrived shortly after her pioneering settlement. Her services as a midwife earned her the nickname of the "Grandmother of Midnapore".

In 1879, John and Adelaide Glenn moved further up the Fish Creek Valley and established a second farm at the McLeod Trail crossing. Their original buildings were sold to the Canadian Government as a Government Supply Farm intended to help train Indian people in European farming techniques. John Glenn sold his first farm, together with all his improvements, including a cow and a calf for $360.

John Glenn always had great faith in the future of Calgary, which he thought with its splendid agricultural and stock raising capabilities, coupled with its enormous mineral resources, would one day grow to be one of the largest cities in the west. As a businessman, he was first class and most strict and honourable in all engagements. John Glenn died of pneumonia in 1886, at the age of 52 years.

By 1892, the remaining buildings and the land of Glenn's first farm were acquired by William Roper Hull who built the opulent Bow Valley Ranche House only a few metres from the original log cabin (the original log cabin still exists today and is currently being restored by the University of Calgary Archeology Department. Visit our Log Cabin/Trading Post webpage for information).


The Hull Era
Pioneer rancher, entrepreneur, land developer and philanthropist, William Roper Hull played a prominent role in western Canada's early economic development. In 1892, William Roper Hull and his brother John Roper Hull purchased the Bow Valley Farm from Quebec Lt.-Gov. Theodore Robitaille and renamed it the Bow Valley Ranche (formerly the Bow Valley Farm). The Hulls came to Canada from England about 1873 and learned the ranching business from their uncle in Kamloops, British Columbia. The brothers later purchased two ranches near Nanton, Alberta. Operations rapidly expanded, and by 1888 they owned the largest meat business across British Columbia and the North-West Territories. W.R. Hull began operations on his own. With the well-known A.E. Cross and M. Cochrane, he opened the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company. As a commercial real estate developer, he was responsible for many notable Calgary landmarks and other comparable buildings in British Columbia and Alberta.

Born in Somerset, England in 1856, Hull sailed for Panama with his brother John in 1873 when both were in their late teens. They crossed the isthmus by foot, travelled by steamer to Victoria, boated up the Fraser River toward Yale and finally finished their journey on foot to Kamloops, British Columbia. Later, they assembled and drove 1,200 head of horses over the Crowsnest Pass in the Rocky Mountains to arrive in Calgary where they sold them to the North West Mounted Police and the North West Cattle Company. In 1886, W.R. Hull opened a meat business in Calgary and expanded into ranching, after obtaining a contract with the Canadian Pacific Railway to supply construction crews in British Columbia with fresh beef. In 1893, he built Calgary's first opera house, a 1000 seat, two-storey sandstone theatre (Center Street and 6th Avenue SW). He also built the Hull Block (8th Avenue and Center Street SW) and in 1909, he built the six-storey Grain Exchange Building (9th Avenue and 1st Street SW), which was a skyscraper in its day.

William Roper Hull cultivated the social life of an elegant class of ranchers whose lifestyle was unique to the time period in which he lived. The Bow Valley Ranche became the focal point for their gatherings. When the original log home from the Government Supply Farm burned down in 1896, Hull built the Bow Valley Ranche House. The Ranche House represented the height of country luxury and grace. Hull wanted a home that would allow him and his wife Emme to entertain on a lavish scale and be a fitting monument to his financial success. Mr. Hull hired James Llewellyn Wilson, Calgary's most prominent architect, to design the house. The chosen design was simple, yet elegant and sophisticated. Wilson based it on the T-plan, common at the turn of the century. The floor plan, exterior design and landscaping provided front areas of leisure and back areas for labour. In 1896, The Ranche House cost about $4,000 to build. It has been acknowledged to be the finest country home in the Territories during that era and is a unique piece of architecture. Under the ownership of W.R. Hull, the ranch also became known for its irrigation system and crop production. Hay production jumped from 82 to 1,089 tonnes within three years and some oat crops stood 3 metres tall. Newspapers and reporters often referred to the ranch as Hull's Irrigation Farm.

In 1902, W.R. Hull and Emme moved into the little city where they had built another mansion which they named as Langmore. It stood on 12th Avenue and 6th Street SW, opposite today's Ranchmans Club. Hull's wife, Emme was described as "a sweet and always cheerful woman". Mrs. Hull lived at Langmore for 28 years following her husband's death in 1925. The Hulls were childless, but at the request of W.R. Hull, the largest share of his estate was dedicated to the development of William Roper Hull Home, a treatment center for troubled children. Now, with a broader mandate, the facility is called The William Roper Hull Child and Family Services and is a leader in developing effective, community-based programs for at-risk children and families. Other major beneficiaries of his estate included the Anglican Diocese of Calgary, the local Red Cross and various local hospitals. In 1994, in honour of his accomplishments and memory, William Roper Hull was designated a Canadian Historian at the Bow Valley Ranche in Fish Creek Provincial Park.


The Burns Era
Senator Patrick Burns purchased the ranch from W.R. Hull in 1902. Burns frequently offered the hospitality of the ranch to distinguished people visiting the Calgary area. the farm was an ideal location in respect to the Burns family meat packing plant. Many large cattle drives were brought to the site where the animals were bedded, fed, watered and rested before being herded to the stockyards.

The Bow Valley Farm became the functional headquarters of a great cattle empire covering over 450,000 acres. In 38 years, from the start of a small slaughter house in east Calgary, Senator Patrick Burns built up one of the largest packing and provisions businesses in the world. He purchased or built packing plants in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Prince Albert, Regina, Winnipeg and Seattle. During this period of tremendous growth, Senator Patrick Burns bought or started over 100 retail meat shops in the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. He also established 65 creameries and cheese factories, 11 wholesale provision houses and 18 wholesale fruit houses. He extended his empire overseas and set up agencies in London, Liverpool and Yokohama.

In addition to ranching interests, Senator Patrick Burns was a strong supporter of commercial enterprises involved in the development of the West. Included in these ventures are the Turner Valley oil fields, oil well drilling activities, extensive coal leases and large real estate holdings. In 1912, Burns became one of the "Big Four", helping to finance the first Calgary Stampede. In 1913, he built The Burns Building at 237 - 8th Avenue SW, known at that time as one of Calgary's most distinguished office addresses. At the age of 75, he was appointed to the Canadian Senate and later, to the Canadian Agriculture Hall of Fame.

Born in Victoria County, Ontario, in 1855, Senator Patrick Burns was the fourth of eleven children of Michael and Bridgit O'Byrne. His parents emigrated from Ireland and the family name was shortened to Byrne and then later to Burns. Patrick, with an older brother, John Burns, left home and took a homestead in 1878 in Minnedosa, near Winnipeg, Manitoba. He worked on a railway gang and as a cowboy to earn extra money. He managed to obtain contracts across western Canada to supply fresh meat to railroad construction camps and in 1890, he came to Calgary where he built his first slaughter house. In 1898, he built a packing house in Calgary followed by others in Vancouver, Edmonton, Prince Albert and Regina. He then turned to ranching on a large scale and acquired large tracts of land. Senator Patrick Burns continued to acquire various properties which he added to his operation. Among these acquisitions were the Bar U, Willow Creek, Glengarry, Bradfield, Two Dot, Rio Alto, Linehum, Flying E and C.K. Ranches to name a few.

In 1901, Patrick Burns married Louisa Ellis, from Penticton, British Columbia. The Burns family residence, completed in 1902, was a baronial eighteen-room building, located at 510 - 13th Avenue SW. The house was later used by the Department of Veteran Affairs and then demolished in 1956. Senator and Mrs. Patrick Burns had one son, Patrick Michael Burns, born in Calgary in 1906.

Under the direction of Senator Patrick Burns, The Bow Valley Farm, as Senator Burns called it, became a functional unit within a cattle ranching network.

Eventually the Burns ranch included some 20,000 acres bounded on the north by what is now Stampede Park, on the east by the Bow River, on the south by 146th Avenue, and on the west by MacLeod Trail - a large property by any standards, but only a small segment of Pat Burns' 450,000 acre ranching empire.

Patrick Burns was one of the major forces behind the growth of ranching in Alberta. He purchased large herds of purebred Hereford stock, which he used to help fellow ranchers improve the blood lines of their own cattle. A pioneer of cold-weather ranching, Burns put up 250,000 tons of hay for winter feed, and convinced other ranchers to utilize winter feeding methods themselves. He renovated the corrals and feeding pens on his ranches, and also introduced modern feed-lot techniques to finish cattle for market. Charlie Yuen continued to welcome and personally supervise the comforts of any visitor to the ranch.

Special mention should be made of Patrick Burns' interest in conservation. Recognizing the value of the trees in Fish Creek Valley, he directed his foreman to erect fences around the groves of aspen and poplar as protection from the cattle. They also planted some 2,000 poplar along the MacLeod Trail adjacent to Bow Valley Ranche.

In 1928, Senator Patrick Burns relinquished personal ownership and control of his holdings and after a thirty-eight year history in Calgary was sold to Dominion Securities Limited. The 1929 corporate listing disclosed the extent of the company with corporate headquarters in Calgary, Alberta and a capitalization of $10 million.

Senator Burns hosted his last major social occasion in the summer of 1933, being a tea for old-timers held at the Bow Valley Ranche. After Patrick Burns' death in 1937, his nephew and business successor Michael John Burns came to live in Bow Valley Ranche House. Under his supervision, the ranching operation continued to prosper and he also preserved the established tradition of true western hospitality remembered by many Calgarians. In failing health, Michael John Burns moved to Calgary in 1950, and his son Richard T. J. Burns came to live at the ranch. Under his management, many more improvements were made, including the construction of a tennis court, a swimming pool, and a one-story addition to The Ranch House. Richard T. J. Burns lived at the site until 1970. In 1973, the Alberta Provincial Government purchased the Bow Valley Ranche from the Burns Foundation as part of the development of Fish Creek Provincial Park.

 


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