George Lane

George Lane

March 6, 1856 – September 24, 1925

George Lane was born outside Des Moines, Iowa to Joseph and Julia Lane. His parents had an adventurous spirit, having set out together from their birthplace Indiana westward. Even after George had been born his parents continued to move and explore, first to Kansas with George in stow and then to Montana, where his father was one of the men to discover the Alder Gulch mine. Although his parents eventually settled on a fruit farm outside Boise, Idaho their adventurous spirit had certainly infected its way into George Lane.

When Lane was sixteen he traveled up from Kansas through Nebraska and Wyoming before arriving in Virginia City, Montana where he quickly secured work on a nearby ranch. Throughout his work, Lane would frequently encounter fur traders and cattle herders who had been north to Canada, impressing Lane with their tales. After spending years on the ranch Lane finally made a trip up to Fort Kipp, Alberta in 1883 and upon his return announced his intention to move north to Canada.

Lane secured his immigration on recommendation from Canadian Senator Matthew Henry Cochrane who called for Lane and other skilled recommended cattlemen in 1884. The following year Lane married Elizabeth Sexsmith, an Ottawa native who had also traveled to Alberta, they would have eight children together over the ensuing years. Lane found employment under F.S. Simpson at the Bar U Ranch, where he worked for seven years before going into the stock business himself. In 1892 Lane purchased the Flying U ranch outside Stavely, Alberta, after securing a government contract to provide the Kainai First Nation’s Reserve with beef.

In 1898 Lane expanded his business, founding the Y.T. Horse Ranch on the Little Bow River. Lane invested in quality horses at a time when their price was low, seeing his profit boom after the turn of the century. He also took advantage of his resources by supplying the British military with thousands after the outbreak of the Boer War. Before the end of his life Lane’s herd of Percheron horses would become the largest in North America, winning many prizes and becoming an exceptionally lucrative breed.

Lane’s investment paid off and in 1903 he and his business partners purchased the Bar U Ranch, the very same he had first worked on when he first arrived into the country. Lane was elected Vice-President of the Western Stock Growers’ Association soon after. Before the end of his career Lane increased the cattle stock from 5,000 to 40,000, making the Bar U of the largest ranches in North America.

Lane’s cattle and horse businesses kept him wealthy but he also always looked to diversify, purchasing an irrigated alfalfa ranch around Brooks, Alberta when neither the plant nor the method were yet popular.

In 1912 Lane, alongside longtime business partner Pat Burns, entered the annals as one of the “Big Four”, primary financial backers of the Calgary Stampede. Lane capitalized on his clout and in 1913 was elected to the provincial legislature as the Member for Bow Valley. Although Lane would quickly resign to allow defeated cabinet minister, and future Alberta Liberal Leader, Charles Richmond Mitchell the opportunity to reenter government.

The Bar U Ranch frequently received illustrious visitor including the the Duke of Devonshire, Sir Roderick Jones and Prince Fushimi of Japan. Lane’s public prominence peaked in 1919 when Prince Edward visited Lane’s ranch and was so impressed he decided to open the E.P. Ranch nearby. Lane became the Prince’s ranch advisor and they considered each other as friends.

On September 24, 1925 Lane passed away as a result of high blood pressure. His legacy stands at the forefront of Albertan ranchers that rapidly expanded the economy of the province following its induction into Canada. Lane was inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1963 and the Calgary Stampede, which he first funded in 1912, brings over a million visitors out west each year.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture

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