A History of Jaffray

June 9th, 2023 22 Minutes

Waldo Stockbreeders’ Livestock Association Cattle Auction and Sales – 1942 – Image credit Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History

Jaffray Then and Now – ‘Forests, Farms, Families a history..’

By Spencer Clark, Galloway B.C.

As I sit here on this evening, A vision comes to me

It’s a vision of old Jaffray And the way it used to be

Where Sand Creeks join together

And the lands that lie between

Came and settled hardy people

Amid the fields of varied green.

Prospectors dug the hills up

Tie hacks cut the trees Gandy dancers built the railroad

That stretched between two seas.

Came the farmers and the ranchers

And the roar of many mills

Spewing out their lumber

Whistles echoed through the hills

Soon here and there, a schoolhouse

And a little church with preachers.

They brought religion and education;

God bless those early teachers.

There were English, Scotch and Irish, Russians, Swedes,

Finns, and Norwegians too.

Lord help me, does it matter

What nationality were you?

From every other province,

Across oceans wide and USA.

Came people into Jaffray.

Some reside here to this day.

But its mostly their descendants

Who now hold down the land.

And Lord, they do it proudly!

Isn’t your community just grand!


The Jaffray Brothers: Alex, Arthur, Bob, William and Jim – Image credit: Forests, Farms, Families a History…”


Jaffray was founded in the early 1900s and named after senator and vice president of the Crowsnest Pass Coal Company, Robert Jaffray. It was initially a siding depot and steam locomotive water shop, according to the 

Flashback Committee in Forests, Farms, Families A History of the Jaffray Galloway and Sand Creek Communities.

The Jaffray Brothers settled in the area briefly, working in the lumber industry before leaving for Alberta. 

Others had staked their claim to Jaffray land before the brothers’ arrival, beginning with Frank Desrosier when he purchased D.L. 3055, followed by Robert Elmsby, gifted crown land consisting of 200 acres in lot D.L. 3543 in the fall of 1900.¬†

Elmsby’s portion still makes up much of modern Jaffray. And finally, Andrew Rosen purchased 320 acres at that early stage for $343 when he bought D.L. 5807 on December 18, 1900.¬†





Two cowboys on the range – Image courtesy of the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History


Former Waldo Stockbreeders’ Livestock Association Secretary-Treasurer Dorothy Durham’s account of the formation of the organization:

Rob and Dorothy Durham September 9, 1967


“Wild horses couldn’t tear them apart” is a well-worn phrase, but it took a literal interpretation in the case of the Jaffray and South Country area ranchers. The presence of actual wild horses spurred the convergence of their interests.

In 1939, a gathering of ranchers and residents convened to address what they perceived as a predicament involving horses roaming freely on Crown Range. Among these equines, some were untamed, while others belonged to private owners but had strayed for grazing purposes.

The concerns associated with the wild horses were twofold. Firstly, there were indications that specific individuals were afflicted with sleeping sickness or equine encephalomyelitis, which could prove fatal and affect humans. Secondly, the growing population of horses posed a threat to the availability of grazing land, potentially disrupting the organized management of domestic cattle and sheep.

Once organized, the newly formed Stock Breeders Association established committees to round up the horses that roamed on Crown lands, with a government bounty of $3.00 offered per head for the wild horses, usually resulting in their unfortunate demise. In addition, vaccinations against sleeping sickness were administered to domesticated horses, albeit with controversy arising from the fact that some privately owned horses met the same fate as their wild counterparts.

Simultaneously, a conflict emerged between sheep and cattle owners in the area. The need for better organization of grazing rights on Crown lands became evident, prompting livestock owners to turn to these lands for sustenance.

Recognizing the urgency of addressing these issues, William McGillveray, the District Agriculturist in Salmon Arm responsible for the East and West Kootenays, advised several ranchers in the area to form an organization. Acting upon this guidance, Jack Aye from Jaffray and Jack McDonald from Grasmere took the lead.

The organizational meeting of the nascent group took place on May 16, 1939, with Ellis Sweet assuming the role of chairman. During the meeting, a motion was put forward by Clem Marcer and Hudson Hunt, stating that any stray horses should be sold, with the proceeds being channelled into the newly established organization. Membership was set at a nominal fee of one dollar.

The Association defined its geographical boundaries at a subsequent meeting in June of that same year. These boundaries stretched along the west side of McDonald Range from the international border to Bull River. They extended down the Kootenay River to Plumbob Creek, crossed the Kootenay at Plumbob to Gold Creek, followed Gold Creek to Gold Mountain, and continued directly south to the International Boundary. These boundaries were later expanded to include Fernie and Elk Valley ranchers reaching as far east as the Alberta Border.

Formally chartered on September 23, 1939, as the Waldo Stockbreeders’ Livestock Association, the organization elected Ellis Sweet as its inaugural president. William Dilts assumed the role of Vice-president, while Marguerite Aye served as the secretary-treasurer. Five directors were also chosen to augment the executive, which later increased to six, representing a different area within the Association’s jurisdiction.

Waldo Stockbreeders' 50th Anniversary

¬†Waldostockbreeders’ Livestock Association 50th Anniversary Film


Interestingly, many of the thirty founding members of this organization had little involvement in agricultural production. Among them, Gus Costanzo was the sole remaining charter member who owned a few horses at the time. Another member, R. Williams, operated a store. Some possessed only a small number of cows, horses, or a modest herd of sheep. Yet, whether motivated by the desire to eliminate horses from the range or driven by other reasons, these diverse individuals united to form an association that would ultimately achieve remarkable feats.

Initially, membership in the group was open to individuals holding animal permits for Crown Range. However, in 1975, this criterion shifted to encompass those involved in cattle production.

The Waldo Stockbreeders’ Livestock Association was pivotal in securing range tenure and facilitating organization for regional ranchers. In 1939, Crown lands remained open, allowing individuals to introduce animals onto government lands for varying durations. As a result, some animals grazed on government land year-round. With guidance from the local Ranger of the Ministry of Forests, Association members could secure allocated range areas for sheep, cattle, and horse grazing. They also wielded influence in the allocation of range units to individual ranches. This collaborative decision-making process, involving the local Forest Ranger and District Agriculturist, expedited resolutions on local matters, even in the face of controversial subjects subject to majority voting, which was a striking contrast to the present times, where ranchers are left pondering decisions made by bureaucratic bodies from various Ministries.

The Association proved to be a dynamic force dedicated to improving the quality of rural life for all South Country residents. Their endeavours extended to developing a thriving Christmas tree industry, cutting and selling Christmas trees as a supplemental income source for ranching families and others within the community.

The Association successfully brought electric power to the rural areas through negotiations. Their efforts led to an arrangement where Lincoln Electric from the United States provided temporary power to a significant portion of the South Country until the British Columbia service could expand and provide full power coverage to the area.

The Association’s lobbying efforts also resulted in improved rural mail delivery. Moreover, they proudly supported establishing one of British Columbia’s first 4-H clubs within the South Country. This productive 4-H group has remained active since its inception, nurturing the development of young individuals in the area.

The Waldo Stockbreeders’ Livestock Association implemented various initiatives to enhance the Livestock Industry. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, designated areas were introduced for two prominent breeds, Black Angus and Hereford cattle. Additionally, a program was launched to bring in purebred bulls from Alberta for breeding purposes, with fees charged for their use. This approach allowed ranchers who couldn’t afford to purchase a bull outright to cover breeding costs based on the number of cattle they owned. Regulations and standardization were also established for bull control areas, such as designating specific ranges for particular breeds, introducing only virgin bulls, and limiting the number of years a bull could remain on the range. These rules significantly improved cattle herds in the South Country. Still, the true revelation regarding good animal husbandry would occur when the stockmen initiated the sale yard in Elko, British Columbia.

Despite the ongoing war, financial limitations, and local opposition, the Waldo Stockbreeders’ Livestock Association successfully constructed a cattle auction sales yard in Elko in the spring of 1942. Acting on the advice of District Agriculturist William McGillveray, the members secured a lease from the Canadian Pacific Railway at Elko and constructed pens and corrals. They acquired a 10-ton scale from William Mullins to launch the operations. Ellis Sweet oversaw the yards as foreman, while Bill Belanger was the foreman in the woods. The Association counted twenty-five members that year.

“The first Community Stock Sale took place October 17, 1942, and was opened by the Honourable K.C. MacDonald, Minister of Agriculture for BC,” Forests, Farms, and Families.

According to accounts by the Cranbrook Courier, it exceeded all expectations. Four hundred and thirty heads of cattle and 514 sheep were sold before the end of the first day. 

Eventually, the sale became the event of the year. It ran successfully until 1953 with the help of local groups like the Triangle Women’s Institute (TWI).¬†

The sales were cancelled following the arrival of the infection of Vibriosis (which negatively affects the reproductive process of female cattle)in the local bovine population. Following that, transportation via truck became prominent, ending cattle sales for good. 

The agricultural community was also severely disrupted by the ‘Libby Pond Fiasco.’ The provincial government destroyed approximately 17,000 acres of ranch land for constructing the Libby Dam as part of the Columbia River Treaty, which was realized by 1970.¬†

“Over the project, there were promises made and broken, more lies told and made believable and more distrust of government created than any other time in the history of the Stockbreeders,” said Dorothy Durham.¬†

The organization remains a strong voice in cattle production across the South Country. 

“I feel most fortunate to have been associated with these men and women and trust that my research has presented an accurate early history of their endeavours. A glowing affection and sincerest respect for each of the Stockbreeders and their personalities remain a profound and lasting part of my life experience,” said Durham.


The Libby Dam: According to Jack and Marguerite Aye



“The unfortunate part of the story, as far as my wife and I are concerned, is the flooding of the valley behind the Libby Dam. Quite a few other people who lived in that valley felt the same way about the flooding. They used most of us worse than criminals. They just drowned us out of there like a bunch of rats; they gave us no chance at all,” – Jack Aye


Jack Aye – 1924 – Image credits ‘Forests, Farms, Families a History..’

Marguerite’s accounting of the experience, based on her chronicles of life in the South Country in Two Lifetimes a Retrospective of the East Kootenay by Jack and Marguerite Aye:¬†



Marguerite and Jack Aye

The Columbia River, one of the largest river systems in North America, originates in southeastern British Columbia. Its journey begins with a northerly flow of 200 miles before making a sharp turn and heading south, eventually crossing the U.S. border just south of Trail. The river then finds its way to the Pacific Ocean, entering between the states of Washington and Oregon. Adding to the Columbia’s waters is the Kootenay River, a significant tributary. The Kootenay rises east of the Columbia, flowing primarily southward and crossing the border a few miles south of Baynes Lake and Waldo. Upon entering the U.S., it continues in a south, west, and north direction, eventually re-entering Canada south of Creston. After a brief distance, it turns westward again, merging with the Columbia River within Canada’s territory.

For a considerable period, the United States had expressed a desire to harness the power of the Columbia River system and manage flooding in the U.S. territories along both rivers. Discussions regarding a treaty between the U.S. and Canada to facilitate these benefits have been ongoing since 1944. This treaty encompassed the construction of three dams on the Canadian portion of the Columbia River, which were eventually built at Mica Creek, High Arrow, and the Duncan Lakes. As part of this treaty, a fourth dam was planned for construction at Libby, Montana, situated on the U.S. segment of the Kootenay River. The resulting flooding caused by this dam was expected to extend 42 miles into Canada, leading to the submersion of approximately 17,600 acres of agricultural land within the Kootenay River valley.

In 1949, despite the treaty remaining unsigned, surveying pins suddenly appeared in the Kootenay Valley, delineating the projected extent of the flooding resulting from the proposed dam. Correspondence from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Jack Aye in 1949, 1951, and 1957 revealed that significant progress had been made in planning to construct the Libby Dam. However, the commencement of actual construction was still under consideration‚ÄĒthe 1957 letter provided intricate details about the dam. However, in the same month, General A.G.L. McNaughton, Chairman of the Canadian section of the International Joint Commission, penned a letter expressing that the governments of Canada and British Columbia had reserved their positions pending the completion of studies. General McNaughton voiced regret at the lack of definitive information available. This stark contrast between the meticulous planning by the U.S. and the apparent lack of planning and knowledge by Canada and British Columbia defined the entire project.

In January 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower and Prime Minister John Diefenbaker gathered at the White House to officially sign the Columbia River Treaty. This momentous occasion occurred just days before Eisenhower departed from the presidency. During the signing ceremony, Eisenhower praised the relationship between the United States and Canada, considering it a model for the rest of the world. Diefenbaker, in turn, expressed his belief that the treaty exemplified the potential of nations coming together through joint efforts to promote the economic well-being of humanity. Senator Mike Mansfield, the U.S. Senate majority leader and representative of the state where the Libby Dam was slated to be constructed, expressed his hope that Congress would allocate funds that year, enabling the commencement of dam construction.

Before the treaty’s ratification, there was a need to address the financial aspects involved. In 1961, the projected construction costs for the three Canadian dams amounted to $458 million. Under the agreement, the United States agreed to make an upfront payment of approximately $274 million, in addition to additional sums for flood control benefits following the completion of the dams. Both countries were also set to benefit from the power generated by the dams. As for the estimated cost of acquiring properties in the Kootenay Valley, it was anticipated to range from $7 to $12 million. Canada would bear the expenses for this acquisition since the dam would provide flood reduction benefits in the area where the Kootenay River re-entered Canada at Creston.

Furthermore, before the treaty’s signing, the Canadian government needed to reach an agreement with the government of British Columbia, designating the latter as the responsible entity for executing and enforcing the treaty’s terms. Interestingly, the B.C. government still needs financial support from the Canadian government to cover the expenses associated with acquiring properties in the Kootenay Valley.

On September 16th, 1964, the Columbia River Treaty was officially ratified by President Lyndon Johnson, who was undertaking his first trip outside the United States since assuming the presidency following the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy. Prime Minister Lester Pearson and Premier W.A.C. Bennett of British Columbia joined him in this significant event. The ceremony occurred at the Peach Arch near Vancouver, serving as a backdrop as President Johnson handed over a check amounting to approximately $274 million. The subsequent year marked the commencement of construction on the first of the three Columbia River Dams, specifically the Duncan River Dam, located 50 miles north of Nelson. In 1966, plans were announced for constructing the Libby Dam, with tunnelling operations being completed by June 1968. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the entire project’s construction.

In September 1968, representatives from the British Columbia government participated in a public meeting at Baynes Lake School. The purpose of the gathering was to provide an overview of the plans for preparing the reservoir for flooding and address any inquiries from the attendees. However, similar to previous public meetings regarding the flooding on the Canadian side of the border, there needed to be more factual information provided, leaving the participants with only general statements and vague assurances. This situation was disconcerting, considering that the surveyor’s stakes had been in place for nearly two decades, indicating the need for more concrete details and transparency.

In that same year, the B.C. Department of Lands, Forests, and Water Resources published a pamphlet that echoed familiar platitudes and appealed for the cooperation of those who would be displaced. The pamphlet’s closing statement emphasized their commitment: “We are committed to providing you with compassionate treatment, fair compensation, and reasonable support to assist you in your relocation.” In their pursuit of more specific information, Jack and Marguerite Aye took the initiative to write letters to various representatives, including their Member of Parliament (M.P.), Member of the Legislative Assembly (M.L.A.), federal and provincial cabinet ministers, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, and even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which served as their primary source of information. Their correspondence aimed to gather concrete details and address their concerns directly.

In Montana, the residents who the flooding would impact were kept well-informed about the advancement of construction and their rights as property owners, including the appeal procedures. The property slated to be flooded was acquired through a fair market value assessment. If a property owner was dissatisfied with the offered amount within two months, they could apply for a hearing to address their concerns. Upon signing the contract, the vendor knew they would receive 80% of the total compensation upfront, with the remaining 20% being paid once they vacated the property. Moreover, the vendor was allowed to repurchase any movable belongings from their house for a symbolic amount of $1.

Knowing the planning and property purchase procedures proved beneficial for the residents of Montana affected by the flooding, enabling them to relocate with relatively fewer challenges. Some of these residents opted to settle in Canada, acquiring land that Canadian ranchers were interested in but unable to purchase. On the other hand, most Canadian ranchers were left in the dark until the final moments regarding the compensation they would receive for their land or the specific payment terms. Forestry employees sometimes began clearing privately owned land well before its actual purchase.

In British Columbia (B.C.), the government exercised its power to confiscate one property, leading the owner to contest the compensation received. The courts ruled in favour of the owner’s appeal, resulting in a substantial increase in the compensation amount. Following this incident, the government refused to expropriate any additional properties further.

This unfair situation effectively stripped the owners of any opportunity for a fair settlement. The land was flooded in numerous instances before a purchase agreement could be reached, granting the government the advantage of acquiring the land at a significantly lower value. Consequently, the government’s actions bred resentment and jealousy among families who had been friends for many years as they observed inconsistent pricing practices. Moreover, payments were only made once the ranchers had vacated the property, further complicating their ability to purchase alternative land.

For the ranchers in the valley, uncertainty had become a persistent aspect of their lives for an extended period. Chris Christenson, a key figure in establishing the Waldo Stockbreeders Association, began feeling the weight of advancing age and decided to sell his property early on. Unfortunately, he incurred a loss when he sold to another individual, as that person later managed to double their investment. Similarly, an elderly couple who desired to retire in their homeland chose to hold onto their property, hoping for a price that would allow them a comfortable retirement. However, the government’s payment for their land could have been more accurate and significantly delayed, rendering them too old to return to their homeland or purchase alternative property. Consequently, they were forced to move into an extended care facility, unable to fulfill their retirement plans.

In addition to subjecting the people to prolonged waiting, the government employed coercive tactics. Previously, grazing permits were issued on a ten-year basis, providing some level of stability. However, permits were only granted seasonally under the new arrangements, further exacerbating the already challenging task of planning for the ranchers. To make matters worse, ranchers who had invested in fencing or other improvements on Crown-owned land for cattle grazing were informed that they would not receive any compensation for their efforts. It was suggested that certain operators consider reducing their overall livestock inventory, implying that downsizing operations might benefit some.

The ranchers joined forces and established the Libby Reservoir Property Owners Association to bolster their position and advocate for their rights. Lloyd Sharpe, who owned a substantial 876-acre property, much of which had been acquired by his father Brownie, was appointed as the chairman. Additionally, Lloyd Sharpe leased an additional 871 acres of Crown-owned rangeland and managed a herd of 300 Hereford cattle. His operation represented the largest enterprise in the valley, which collectively supported approximately 5,000 cattle before land acquisition commenced.

Lloyd Sharpe assessed the value of his land and business at $230,000, considering the replacement costs. However, he received an offer of $147,500, which fell significantly short of his expectations.

During this period, the established method for assessing the value of ranchland was based on the “cow unit” formula. Each cow unit, including the cow itself, was worth $1000. This valuation considered the land’s capacity to sustain one cow yearly and a fair share of associated outbuildings. However, the value did not encompass the worth of any existing residential structures.

In the case of John and Ernie Derosier, who owned the 367-acre property that originally belonged to their father, Joe, they initially received an offer of $175,000, which was later increased to $205,000. The land held comparable value per acre, but the Derosiers had constructed a new house. With approximately 200 head of cattle, the offer they ultimately accepted closely aligned with the valuation provided by an independent appraiser.

Across the river, Bob Totten owned a similarly sized property of comparable quality that supported a similar number of cattle. Surprisingly, he received an offer that was 40% less than the valuation determined by the same independent appraiser.

This appraiser, Mac Grant, held a respected reputation within his profession. Following a negative experience with another appraiser, the ranchers had come to rely on Mac Grant’s expertise and competence. The Minister of Lands, Forests, and Water Resources, Ray Williston, suggested that all parties engage the services of the same appraiser. However, this suggestion has yet to be implemented. While the government enjoyed the advantage of working with a single trained appraiser, the ranchers had to navigate interactions with multiple government departments involved in the appraisal and negotiation processes.

The Department of Highways assumed the responsibility for acquiring the land, while Ray Williston’s Lands, Forests, and Water Resources department oversaw the remaining aspects. Within this department, the Water Resources branch coordinated the overall displacement program, while the Forestry branch handled planning and land clearing. Unfortunately, the lack of communication and cooperation between these branches and the separate Department of Highways introduced additional hurdles for ranchers and their appraisers.

The government representatives limited knowledge and experience in the field of appraisals became a source of frustration for Mac Grant, prompting him to write a letter to Peter Graham, the government’s lawyer. In the letter, Mac Grant expressed his exasperation with the situation: “We are completely fed up with having to educate the government staff and representatives on appraisals for farm and ranch land.”

The ranchers and their appraisers faced significant challenges due to the government’s lack of expertise and coordination, making the appraisal process more arduous and complicated than necessary.

In addition to the pursuit of fair prices for their properties, the issue of relocation weighed heavily on the minds of most ranchers. Ray Williston had promised that Crown land would be provided to ranchers for this purpose. However, when this land was finally offered, it consisted of small five-acre parcels at Baynes Lake. This limited availability of land proved to be of little use to most ranchers, except for those who opted for retirement. Even for them, the cost of acquiring this land was $200 per acre, without any buildings or existing improvements.

For most ranchers, the offers they received for their properties ranged from $35 to $75 per acre, which included their homes and the progress and improvements they had made over the years. This stark contrast between the cost of available land and the compensation offered for their established properties created a significant challenge for ranchers seeking a viable relocation option.

Ranchers were determined to receive compensation for their land and the various outbuildings and improvements they had made over the years. These included essential structures like barns, bunkhouses, haylofts, fences, and corrals. They also sought clarity on how their land was being valued in the compensation process. However, the ranchers found themselves in a disadvantaged position. The anticipation of the valley being flooded persisted for over two decades, which had a detrimental impact on property sales during that period. Prospective buyers were scarce, and prices remained low despite the advantageous proximity to cattle markets.

Those few interested in purchasing property in the area were unwilling to pay the same prices they would typically spend elsewhere. As a result, ranchers had been unable to sell their properties at a value that would enable them to relocate for the past 20 years.


A History of Jaffray to be continued:




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