High River Times: George Lane receives prestigious western honour

By Kevin Rushworth


The Bar U Ranch National Historic Site welcomed dignitaries this past weekend as George Lane, a founding father of the Calgary Stampede and larger than life figure from Alberta's history, posthumously received one of the greatest honours in western culture.

Lane, a former Bar U Ranch owner and famed Big Four member, was inducted into the prestigious Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Previous great westerners include Buffalo Bill Cody, John Chisum, Charles Goodnight, Ronald Reagan, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt and Charles Russell.

As a legendary stockman, businessman, innovator, rancher and politician, Lane exemplified western heritage and left a massive footprint on the region, explained museum board member Michael Nicola.

“The one thing that runs through every successful person—and George Lane is the epitome of it—is they have direction, purpose and faith in what they're doing,” he later told the High River Times.

Special guests included John Barlow, MP for Macleod; Highwood MLA Wayne Anderson; Pat Stier, Livingstone-Macleod MLA; Delilah Miller, MD of Foothills councillor and Neil Wilson, MD of Willow Creek reeve among others.

Lane's grandson George Lane travelled from Calgary to attend the ceremony and was proud to speak about his grandfather, who he never had the chance to meet as he passed away before he was born.

“George Lane loved people, cattle and horses,” he said, adding that he made an impression on many historic figures including Charlie Russell, President William Howard Taft and the Prince of Wales.

“I have the impression that he was a very versatile guy and in his own way, kind of modest, not motivated so much by money or fame as he was by vision,” Lane said.

He added that Grant MacEwan, a former mayor of Calgary; MLA and lieutenant governor, once referred to his grandfather as having “the courage of a lion and the heart of a child.”

Situated under a bronze statue featuring Lane and his storied gunfight encounter with five wolves, those that attacked him while on horseback, speakers shared more about the pioneer himself.

Born in Iowa in 1856, his family moved to Montana where they were miners. A respected cowboy and scout himself, Lane was soon hired to move 1,800 head of cattle into what would become Alberta.

By 1883, Lane was foreman at the ranch site—operated by the North West Cattle Company (NWCC) and in 1902, he had formed a partnership to buy the Bar U Ranch.

Through his efforts and under his leadership, the site received international attention and a reputation for cattle excellence and for its herd of 1,000 Percheron horses, according to Nicola.

George Lane also helped supply Percheron horses for allied troops during World War I, he added.

“That says a lot about a guy who is not just in it to make a dollar; it's about perpetuating that western culture of values and integrity,” Nicola said.

During the ceremony, which was held July 5, he told attendees that Lane filled all criteria for being inducted into the hall and that the decision came after a unanimous vote by board members.

Yet, the journey to Lane's induction started with Scott Hardy, a fifth generation stockman and Longview silver and goldsmith, two years ago. Hardy has known about the museum since 1998.

“Growing up with men like George Lane, I felt somebody deserved to be in that Hall of Great Westerners from Alberta, from this area,” he said.

Often, Hardy would invite museum staff to Alberta. Trail rides would always end at the Bar U Ranch and he would tell them that Lane should stand among the museum's other prestigious inductees.

Even as Americans will begin learning about George Lane's historic accomplishments at the ranch and across Alberta, Nicola said Canadians can learn about the museum in Oklahoma City as well.

“I hope we'll see a lot of people from western Canada, Alberta specifically, who will come down and realize they're just as big a part of the museum as anyone in the States,” he added.

Looking out over his grandfather's former Bar U Ranch site, George Lane, a retired professor and educator, said the induction affirmed his grandfather's vigour, his interest in life and character as well.

“It's nice to see that he's being honoured in this way,” he said.

Staff with the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum will officially present the Wrangler trophy to the Lane family on April 16 in a ceremony in Oklahoma City.