Iconic ranch donated to Calgary Stampede Foundation

BIG GIFT The $11-million donation from rancher and businessman Bill Siebens includes 8,000 acres of rangeland, a historic brand, and an 1885 ranch house

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Alberta rancher and businessman Bill Siebens has donated the 8,000-acre southern portion of the historic OH Ranch to the Calgary Stampede Foundation.

The $11-million gift also includes the OH brand and the 130-year-old ranch’s historic buildings — an 1885 ranch house, the old cookhouse and replica North West Mounted Police cabin.

“Alberta has been my home for 54 years,” said Siebens, who also owns the neighbouring Tongue Creek Ranch. “I made my career in the oil business, raised my family here, and have a deep attachment and love for the foothills country west of Calgary.”

The OH Ranch is Alberta’s second “heritage rangeland” protected area, and operates under a conservation easement. The Calgary Stampede also owns and operates the Stampede Ranch near Hanna, where it breeds bucking horses for its annual rodeo. At this point it is not known whether that operation will be moved to the OH Ranch location.

The OH was established in 1881 by Orville Hawkins Smith and Lafayette French. The OH brand, one of the oldest that has been continuously registered and used in Western Canada, is from Orville’s first initials. Two years later, Frederick Ings bought all 300 head of OH cattle and established his own ranch on the Smith and French land. Fred’s brother Walter joined him in 1883, and they named the ranch “Rio Alto” (High River) — a tribute to the time the brothers had spent in Spain. The Ings built the 1885 log ranch house and in 1890, the Northwest Mounted Police established a detachment on the ranch that operated until 1900 from a log cabin just west of the Ings’ ranch home. The cabin burnt down in 1961, but was later recreated.

In 1918 Walter Ings bought out Fred’s interest and sold the ranch, the cattle and the OH brand to Pat Burns — one of the Calgary Stampede’s “Big Four” sponsors. In 1950, C.W. (Kink) Roenish and Bill Ardern purchased the property and the name was legally changed to OH Ranch Ltd. Bert Sheppard, a legendary figure in southern Alberta and one of the country’s top Hereford breeders, was hired to manage the OH Ranch in 1950.

Offered for sale again in 1986, the OH was nearly acquired by the Department of National Defence, for use as an artillery range and training ground. However, Calgary oilman Daryl “Doc” Seaman purchased the operation and after his death in 2009, the expanded OH Ranch was acquired by Siebens, one of the Canadian petroleum industry’s first entrepreneurs to build an international exploration and production company. His company, Siebens Oil and Gas Ltd., explored for oil in the British North Sea, Vietnam, and Yemen. In 1979, Siebens sold his company to Dome Petroleum, but remained active in the industry. He is a member of the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame.

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