At a bend in the creek, in a secluded little coulee, we find the remains of the GBB Ranch. There used to be a lot of structures here, a good sized house, numerous sheds, outbuildings and corrals and other stuff. Today, there’s a collapsed barn, a couple pieces of old metal out front, along with a stone-walled dugout, and a rustic cabin still used during cattle round ups.
The Ranch dates back to the mid-1890s, the original owners coming in from England. Of course, they were into livestock, which roamed the nearby countryside at will. There was no fences back then. The area was wide open with few people living here and big gaps between neighbours. You had better enjoyed solitude if you lived here.
The owners had ambitions outside ranching with an eye on coal mining and of course a railway to take the stuff to market – they even started work on a line to Calgary. Still, nothing much came of it overall…money problems you know.
With the unexpected passing of the Ranch owner, in around 1900, the property, lock, stock and barrel was sold. Included in the transaction was a one hundred and sixty some odd cows, many horses, machinery – everything, including the Ranch’s cattle brand which was all carried over to the new owners.
Over the coming years the Ranch traded hands many, many times. The last was the 1940s and it still belongs to descendants of this same person today.
Old photos (some undated) show a massive two story house on the property, just up from where the present day cabin stands. It looked big enough to be a hotel. Built back by the original owners circa 1896, it’s been gone a long time now.
The old barn makes an appearance in one or two of those photos. Horses can be seen in attached corrals. The creek since then, it seems, has encroached on the building more and is much closer now than in the old days. These images, as well, show a lot more trees on the property when compared to present day. We don’t suspect the barn will last much longer. It’s that close to totally falling down.
We could not spot the dugout in any of the pictures viewed. It was used for cold storage, that much we know. Stone work appears well done.
The cabin that’s still used is primitive with outdoor biffies and a wood stove. Does the job I guess. It’s used as a base during cattle round up operations. The current owners, like all those before them, own good sized herds. A vintage pump provides water. A grove of trees affords some shelter for wranglers, the creek running in behind. Not an unpleasant spot to BBQ a steak. Cows look on in horror.
Looking around the property, we find what we think is the outline of a foundation. Nothing matches up in the photos though.
The creeks gurgles away. It’s not terribly big, but a poke with a stick shows it deeper than it looks and all squishy with mud. Crossing it would not be as easy as it might appear. In fact old papers speak of lots of drownings taking place up and down the waterway back in the old days. In years past, mention is also made of the creek breaching its banks and flooding the house and other buildings here. The property is U-shaped with the water bordering on three sides, so it was rather vulnerable. Never the less, what a nice place to call home.
It’s a good kilometre plus hike into the property along a muddy track. Given the location, it’s well hidden, even if not terribly far away there’s a fairly busy road. Couldn’t even hear in when on the property, the coulee blocking all the noise. It was still and quiet, in the cool air of a spring morn.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: April, 2017.
Location: Kneehill County, AB.
Article references (and thanks): Local History Books, Glenbow Archives.
The GBB Ranch remains are on private property. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.