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Circle L Ranch

Claresholm, Near

Other Names:
Lucasia Ranch
Lyndon (Circle L) Ranch

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Circle L Ranch is a collection of historic buildings and landscape features associated with cattle ranching and rural life. The buildings include the ranch house and several ancillary buildings, such as the bunk house, ice house, spring house, log barn, machine/buggy shed and hay shed. Situated around these buildings are landscaping and natural features including a spring, duck pond/holding pond, garden, caragana hedges, and groves of maple and poplar trees. The site is situated on 3.4 hectares of land in the eastern slopes of the Porcupine Hills, which is in the foothills of southwestern Alberta. It is located off Lyndon Road approximately 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) west of Claresholm.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Circle L Ranch lies in its excellent representation of an historic small-scale ranching operation in southern Alberta.

In the late decades of the nineteenth-century, the rolling hills of what would become south-western Alberta attracted attention as prime grazing land ideal for cattle ranching. Spurred by the ranching-friendly agricultural and protectionist policies of the federal Conservative government, a number of ranches were soon established. Although the most prominent were large operations financed through capital from eastern Canada and Great Britain, a number of smaller ranches were established. These small ranches were often family-owned and were typically started by American cowboys and small businessmen seeking new opportunities north of the border. In the early 1880s, Charles Lyndon, a storekeeper from Salt Lake City, arrived in the Porcupine Hills area with his family. He took out a grazing lease on which he established a small ranch. The ranch prospered for nearly fifteen years when the 1896 election of the Liberals under Wilfrid Laurier brought about a change in agricultural and settlement policy. The government's focus shifted from ranching to homesteading and grain farming and smaller ranch operators were encouraged to start a new life as rancher-farmers. While many small ranchers left because of the new restrictions, the Lyndons saw opportunity and expanded their operation.

In 1896, Charles Lyndon claimed the quarter on which the family had been living. He also filed for homestead on the quarter-section immediately to the south west. This quarter-section contained a spring, around which Lyndon would construct the nerve-centre of the ranching operation. Lyndon's structures were constructed of squared logs joined together with half dove-tail notches. A looped roadway provides access to all areas of the ranch compound. The residential area of the ranch, located to the east of the spring, consisted of the main house, a bunk house, ice house, outhouse and a garage. The Main House, which was built in 1896, is a hip-roofed, one-and-a-half storey structure with a shed-roofed, wrap-around veranda and tall narrow dormer windows on the south and west elevations. Stucco was applied to its exterior in the 1930s. The bunk house, ice house and garage are all basic gable-roofed log structures. The working portion of the ranch compound is located to the west of the spring. This area consists of a barn, hay shed and a machine shed. The barn, constructed in 1919, is a gable-roofed structure with a shed-roofed addition. The machine shed is a gable-roofed structure with large door openings on its south elevation. Perhaps inspired by his time in Utah, Lyndon built a small gable-roofed log structure over the spring. A series of flues diverted the water from this structure to a holding pond and into the ranch house and cattle watering troughs. Caragana hedges and groves of poplar and maple trees protect the ranch yard on the north and west sides. The residential section of the compound is further protected by poplar trees on the west side and caragana hedges on the north, east and south. Other historic features include the remnants of a garden located directly behind the house, and old cattle trails leading from the barnyard to the neighbouring pasturelands.

Between 1896 and 1904, the ranch expanded by purchasing nearby quarters from former neighbours, the Hudson's Bay Company and the federal government and through additional homestead filings by family members. Soon after the First World War, the ranch, now fully owned by William Lyndon, owned nearly 14 quarter-sections and was still able to utilize grazing leases. The ranch stayed in the Lyndon family's hands until 1966.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 2109)

Character-Defining Elements
Key elements that define the heritage value of the Circle L Ranch include such elements as its:

General and Landscape
- location in the Porcupine Hills;
- situation around a spring and on the banks of a creek;
- looped roadway;
- arrangement of the site's structures into clearly defined residential and operational areas;
- hedgerows of caragana and maple and poplar trees;
- remnants of the historic garden and cattle trails.

The Main House (1896)
- mass and form;
- fully-squared log construction and log post and joist support system evident in the cellar;
- stucco cladding (1930s) on the exterior walls;
- wood-shingled hip roof with projecting rectilinear cap on crown of roof;
- shed-roofed veranda located on the main elevation and a portion of the northeast elevation;
- two narrow, gable-roofed dormer windows situated on the main elevation and a single, gable-roofed dormer window on the southwest elevation;
- historic fenestration pattern of single-hung windows;
- shed-roofed porch located on the northwest elevation;
- centrally located main entryway and subordinate entryway located in the porch at the rear of the building;
- central hallway interior floor plan with slightly off-centre, stacked reverse staircase leading to the cellar and second floor;
- extant historic interior woodwork and wall paper finishes.

Bunk House (ca. 1896)
- wood-shingled, side gable roof with cedar planks in the gable ends;
- half squared log construction;
- centrally-located chimney projecting through the ridge pole;
- centrally-located entryway with a large sandstone platform on the front (southeast) elevation;
- small rectangular windows on the southwest and northeast elevations.

Ice House (ca. 1896)
- front gable roof sheathed in fir planks with cedar planks in the gable ends;
- half-squared log construction;
- centrally-located entryway in the southeast elevation and a single, square window opening with frame in the northwest elevation;
- original fir plank door with hand-forged latch.

Garage (ca. 1915)
- wood frame construction;
- rafter-supported gable roof;
- fir plank clad roof and exterior walls;
- hinged double doors on the southeast elevation;
- square window opening in the northeast elevation;
- wood plank floor;

Spring House (ca. 1896)
- situation atop a natural spring;
- water diversion system, including the system of pipes, sluices, flumes, livestock watering troughs and manmade holding/duck pond;
- fully squared log construction;
- front gable-roof with a deep overhang on the front elevation and wide eaves on the side elevations;
- fencing at the rear of the building, which encloses the spring;
- interior cabinet with screen for cooling milk and foodstuffs.

Machine Shed (ca. 1896/1914)
- rectangular mass and form of the original 1890s building and the slightly smaller 1890s addition;
- half-squared log construction;
- log post and beam supported gable roof, 1880s roof sheathed in planks and wood shingles, the 1890s roof clad in sheet metal;
- four bay layout;
- hinged vertical plank, double doors on the original portion and two open bays on the addition;
- extant original interior cabinetry and shelving.

Barn (ca. 1880s/1890s)
- gable-roofed main structure (1880s) with a shed roofed addition (1890s) on the east elevation;
- log post and beam construction;
- exterior walls of half squared logs joined by dove-tailed notches;
- cedar planks in the gable ends;
- log timber cross beam and "tipi" style roof supporting system;
- Dutch doors on the ground floor and double French doors in the loft, all symmetrical placed on the north and south elevations;
- interior configuration of a central corridor and stalls and bays on either side;
- immediately adjacent corrals, pens and fenced yards.

Hay Shed (ca. 1920s)
- log post and beam construction with log cross bracing;
- use of peeled and unpeeled logs;
- log rafter supported roof;
- floorplan divided into east and west bays.


Street Address:
Community: Claresholm, Near
Boundaries: Portion of Legal Subdivision 15 in Section 27-12-29-W4
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 7
Landscape(s) or Landscape Feature(s): 7

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
15 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
50.032735 -113.878492 Secondary Source NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2004/06/10

Historical Information

Built: 1896 to 1896
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Extraction and Production
Peopling the Land : People and the Environment
Historic Function(s): Food Supply : Farm or Ranch
Current Function(s): Food Supply : Farm or Ranch
Context: HISTORICAL CONTEXT: As the American Northwest began to fill up with farmers and ranchers following the Civil War, many drifted across the 49th Parallel to do business. With the signing of Treaty 7 with the Blackfoot Confederacy in 1877, vast tracts of land became available for settlement in what is now southeast Alberta. Where the land seemed suitable for dry land farming, it was subdivided into quarter sections and made available for homesteading, or for purchase from the Canadian Pacific Railway or the Hudson's Bay Company. Where the open range land seemed more suitable for raising cattle, it was given over to such by the government by means of grazing leases. The latter was the case with much of the southern foothills, and when it was learned that the Canadian Pacific Railway would be traversing this region on its way to the Pacific Ocean, several large ranching companies were formed, such as the Cochrane, Oxley, Winder and Quorn Ranches, many of them with British and eastern Canadian capital. A number of smaller family ranches also sprang up tin the area however. Many of these were established by migrant American cowboys who were determined to get away from the huge Montana ranches, which had lately been plagued by bitter and violent range wars.

Among the Americans determined to start their own ranches in Canada was a storekeeper from Salt Lake City named Charles Lyndon. In about 1881, he, his wife, Margaret, and their eight-year old son, William, made their way to the Porcupine Hills district west of present day Claresholm, and east of the large Walrond Ranch. Here, they took out a grazing lease and built a crude dwelling with a barn and corral. With cattle and supplies purchased at Fort Benton, Montana, they proceeded to establish their ranching operation. For a few years, Lyndon drove his cattle south to Fort Benton to market. However, once the Calgary and Edmonton Railway was extended south to Fort Macleod in 1892, the new railway centre of Claresholm became a logical marketing point. By this time, other small ranches had been carved out in the area, and so, in 1893, the government decided to extend postal service to the district. This was located on Lyndon's grazing lease at SW35 Township 12 Range 29 W4, and, so, the post office was named Lyndon, as was the creek running by it.

For years, the ranchers on the southern foothills prospered from the high tariffs maintained by the federal Conservative government, which guaranteed them a market in eastern Canada for their beef. However, once the Liberals under Wilfred Laurier took office in 1896, the federal perspective began to change, and more emphasis came to be placed on settling the west with small, independent farmers. As a result, some of the grazing land in the foothills began to be subdivided into quarter sections for homesteading. Those small ranchers who had lived on this land, and had made improvements on it, were given the right of pre-emption of the quarter-section on which they dwelled and were encouraged to begin new careers as ranch-farmers, but many found this too restrictive and so they moved on, even though extensive areas were still left open for grazing leases. Among those to stay was Charles Lyndon, who obtained a pre-emption for the quarter on which he and his family lived, and, in December 1896, he appears to have built the log ranch house that is still standing on this property, possibly as part of his homesteading requirements. This quarter was hardly enough room to maintain a ranch, but there were then still many sections given over to grazing leases in the immediate vicinity, and, on these, he would continue to raise his cattle, which were mainly Herefords. He called his ranch the Circle L, which was also his cattle brand.

By the turn of the century, much of the Circle L ranching operation was in the hands of William Lyndon. As more and more grazing lease land in the district was turned into homestead land, the Lyndons sought ways in which to maintain their ranch. In 1896, all of Section 26 was purchased from the Hudson's Bay Company, while William himself took SW34 as a homestead. When she passed away in 1911, William Lyndon and his second wife, Clara, were thus in charge of 11 quarters of land, sufficient for a small ranch, but made bigger with the continued use of much land to the south which was still given over for grazing lease.

William Lyndon, who had helped organize a local unit of Alberta Rangers (23rd Division) in 1906, was with this unit when it served overseas during World War I. He eventually gained the rank of Major. Though he was wounded during the war and would be hospitalized for shell shock, he would return to his ranch in 1919 and reassume business. He would obtain two more quarters by purchase and still use grazing leases to the south, and would concentrate on raising horses as well as cattle. He also engaged in some dry land farming near a dam his father had built on Lyndon Creek. After he passed away in 1938, the ranch passed on to his sons, Lawrence and Charles, under whom its operation was contracted out to various foremen, primarily Alec Patterson.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The historical significance of the Lyndon Ranch buildings lies in their representation of small-scale ranching in southeast Alberta during the turn of the 20th century, where, amongst several large corporate ranches, many smaller operations were maintained. Many of these would not survive the decision of the government to subdivide much of the rangeland into quarter sections for homesteading, but others, like the Lyndons', would be sustained by taking homestead quarters, purchasing other quarters as they became available, and utilizing what land was still open for grazing leases. The buildings are important also in their association with the early independent rancher, Charles Lyndon, and his son, William. Though not so prominent as to be mentioned in Victor Kelly's The Range Men (1912), or in later studies on ranch life in southeast Alberta by Lewis G. Thomas, David Breen or Henry Klassen, the Lyndon Ranch was a prominent concern in the Porcupine Hills district west of Claresholm.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0892
Designation File: DES 2109
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 32628
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (Des. 2109)
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