Friday, February 5, 2016

Alberta Ranch Winter Photos



While searching for winter ranch images, I came across the wonderful collection of Hugh Beynon Biggs, an Alberta rancher who took hundreds of photographs of his family and their Drumheller area ranch. Born in India in 1875, Hugh immigrated to Canada in 1893 and shortly afterward bought the Springfield ranch.

I found Hugh B. Biggs on a 1901 Canada census record for The Territories in the district of Alberta. (Alberta wouldn't become an official province until 1905.) At the time, Hugh was single and living on a ranch along with 3 bachelors. It's interesting to note that their names, ages, occupations and annual income were recorded as:
Hugh, 26, Rancher, 1000
James, 20, Cow boy, 60
Harold, 20, Ranch hand, 60
Francis, 34, Farm Labourer, 300

Although many of the photographs in this post show ca1900, I suspect the ones with people in them were actually 1910 since Hugh didn't marry until 1906, and his first of 4 daughters wasn't born until 1909. However, I'm leaving the official photograph captions as I found them at the Glenbow Archives

This first photograph shows the Biggs ranch as it would look in the summer. Such a pastoral setting.


Springfield [Biggs] ranch near Beynon, Alberta ca. 1900, Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.

And this is what it looked like in winter when everything was slapped by the snowy force of the prairie wind.


Springfield [Biggs] ranch in winter, near Beynon, Alberta ca. 1900. Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.

I suspect digging coal may have been a winter chore, much like logging, as there usually wasn't time for such things during the rest of the year.



Coal being dug from bank, Beynon area, Alberta ca. 1909. Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.

Sometimes logging with the family was a great way to spend a winter day. That's probably Hugh's wife, Mabel Florence James, and their first two daughters enjoying the ride on the logging sleigh.


Woman and children on sleigh with load of logs, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta.  ca. 1900. Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives

Ranching in winter is no fun, as can be seen here where one of the guys is loading up a hay sleigh from a huge hay stack. (I'll be showing summer pics of this in a few months.)


Haystack, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1900. Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.


From other photos of the Biggs ranch, I can tell you that the horses and hay sleigh are travelling on the frozen river, which is the easiest way to get back to the ranch.



Hay on sleigh, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1900. Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.

Whoopsie! He's definitely tipped, however, I don't know if he was trying to pass, or if it's an easy way to unload some hay into the other sleigh. It doesn't look like fun either way.



Tipped hay sleigh, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta ca. 1900. Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.

Here they are pitching hay off the sleigh to feed the cattle that stay on the range through the winter.
Cattle in winter, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1900. Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.


This next photo of the cattle grazing on the snow could have been taken in fall, after the first snowfall, or it could be in spring after an light snow year, but after the feed has run out.

Cattle, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1900 Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives. 

The caption for this next one simply says, cattle, but from the geography, as well as the shiny surface on the bottom right, I'd guess the cattle are standing on ice and trying to get a good lick or two.

Cattle, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1900 Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.


And now for some fun. I don't know if these are the four Biggs daughters, because their ages don't match what is recorded at Alberta on Record, and I couldn't find any other census records for them, so they could be visiting children out for a day of sledding. Whoever they are, the seem to be enjoying themselves. 

I'm posting these in order of sequence as to tell the story of their day's adventure.



Children playing with sleds on hillside in winter, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.


Children playing on hillside in winter, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1910-1915 Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.

One thing I love about snow in the country is that when it covers everything, it dulls sound. Without leaves rustling in the trees, and other sounds of summer nature, you can hear cows bawling, dogs barking, and coyotes howling over a mile away. And looking at the happy faces in these pictures, I believe I can hear them. Listen...

"Look at me Dad! Look at meeeeeeee..."

Children playing on hillside in winter, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1910-1915 Photographer Biggs, H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.


Children playing in winter, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1910-1915 Photographer Biggs H. B, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives.

I am grateful to Hugh Beynon Biggs, rancher and photographer, for his images of life, work, and play on an Alberta ranch. I'm especially thankful to the people who saved his life's work, and to the Glenbow Archives for posting it online and thereby making it available to everyone. 

Would you like to see another post or two on the work of H. B. Biggs including photographs of cowboys, summer chores, and women on the ranch? 



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Anita Mae Draper's stories are written under the western skies where she lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. When she's not writing, Anita enjoys photography, research, and travel, and is especially happy when she can combine the three in one trip. Anita's current release is Romantic Refinements, a novella in Austen in Austin Volume 1, WhiteFire Publishing, January 2016.  Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at  www.anitamaedraper.com




8 comments:

  1. Fabulous post, Anita! I love the way you've interpreted the photos for us--and found them all, to begin with. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great photos! Awesome post! I just love this blog! Learn so much! =) Annie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Annie. Nice to see you here again. :)

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. Sounds great, Kim. I'll start working on it. Thanks. :)

      Delete
  4. Great research Anita, and all shared on social media so others can read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Christine. That's very much appreciated.

      Delete