Fonds 599 Kleskun Lake Ranch collection

Kleskun Lake Ranch collection. — 1920-1922.

Back to Finding Aids

Agency History

Around 1918, Ed Thompson, from Camrose, organized a company which included Frank Pike, manager of the Merchants Bank of Canada in Edmonton; Jim Pike, manager of the same bank in Camrose; and Mike Sheady, a western railway contractor. They had little problem getting a grant from the Government of Canada, and additional support from a firm of Boston bankers called the Cochrane-Harper Company, and the president of the Burlington Railroad system, Charles W. Perkins. The new venture, called the Kleskun Lake Ranch Company, was capitalized at half a million dollars. The object was to establish a 45,000 acre cattle ranch capable of producing cattle of the highest capable of producing high quality beef for the British market. The lake was drained in 1918, which reclaimed 18,400 acres of land, and the company purchased 1,600 acres south of the lake. They also leased 25,000 acres northeast of the lake, bringing it to 45,000 acres. The next step was to bring in a thousand head of cattle by rail, which were unloaded at Sexsmith and driven to the Kleskun Lake Ranch. By 1922, according to an article in MacLean’s Magazine, the herd had doubled to 2,000. The article added that “The Kleskun Ranch was divided into five camps, the Home Camp being located on Kleskun Creek in the heart of the twenty thousand acres that was once a marsh and lake, the leased ranch of 25,000 acres lying to the east and extending north to the Bad Heart River.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of two articles about the Kleskun Lake Ranch, the first from Agricultural Alberta in 1920, and the second from MacLean’s Magazine in 1922.



Agricultural Alberta, 1920
Volume 1, Issue 2 of Agricultural Alberta, published at Edmonton, Alberta in August 1920 contains an article titled “A Page from the Past and Present” by author Harry W. Laughy. It tells a highly romanticized tale of the Kleskun Hills and Lake, first as it was used by the “Indian”, and then by the developers. A main feature of the article is a description of the buffalo jump at the top of the Kleskun Hills, “the Cache of Fat” from the season’s bear kill on the side, and the making of pemmican. The next part is about Ed Thompson’s dream of draining Kleskun Lake to “reclaim” the land and grow hay to feed thousands of cattle. The article concludes that “the west is ripe with opportunity.. With wealth undreamed of.
Location: 599.01
MacLean’s Magazine, 1922
This article, titled “Ranching on the Bottom of a Lake” written by Charles Christopher Jenkins, was included in the March 1, 1922 issue of MacLean’s Magazine. It suggests that the idea of draining Kleskun Lake by gravity to the Smoky River was initially that of James Kennedy Cornwall in the early 1900s, but it was Edmund Thompson who actually organized the project so that the lake was drained in 1918. This article claims that the Kleskun Ranch, Ltd. Was 45,000 acres, “one of the largest propositions of its kind under the British flag.”
Location: 599.02
Back to Table of Contents