MHS Smarty Party: 20 October 2022

Manitoba Historical Society
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Historic Sites of Manitoba: Elphinstone Ranch (RM of Yellowhead)

A site near Newdale, in the Rural Municipality of Yellowhead, was once the headquarters of an 8,000-acre ranch established in 1879 by Scottish nobleman WIlliam Buller Fullerton Elphinstone (1828-1893). Elphinstone arranged the construction of several buildings, half of them out of local stone, including an eight-room ranch house as well as a barn with a full basement, with room for fifty head of cattle, in a beautiful spot overlooking the valley of the Little Saskatchewan River.

Elphinstone played an active role in the operation of his ranch; in the fall of 1880, local newspapers reported that he had purchased cattle to replaces ones lost during the winter of 1879 and he was going to attend personally to the mowing and stacking of hay to feed them. Lord Elphinstone visited his Newdale ranch whenever he came to Canada, the last time being in 1891.

After his death, it seems Elphinstone's heirs were not interested in cattle ranching. The livestock was sold at auction in 1894 and, in May 1901, the land was purchased by the Winnipeg real estate firm of March Brothers and Wells, led by Frank Morrison March. They intended to bring American farmers to settle on the former ranch land. Demand did not meet their expectations, however, because in 1910 the firm still had some of the land for sale, including the buildings at the main ranch site, that it offered at essentially the same price as it had paid nearly a decade earlier.

Remains of one of the stone ranch buildings were visible at the time of a 2021 site visit, on the edge of an agricultural field, about a quarter mile from the nearest road. A large depression near the house is probably the remains of the livestock barn. A commemorative sign near the site was installed around 2014 by Elphinstone resident Sylvia Dziver.

Remains of a stone house at the former Elphinstone Ranch

Remains of a stone house at the former Elphinstone Ranch (1972)
Source: Duncan Waddell

Remains of a stone house at the former Elphinstone Ranch

Remains of a stone house at the former Elphinstone Ranch (1972)
Source: Duncan Waddell

Remains of a stone house at the former Elphinstone Ranch

Remains of a stone house at the former Elphinstone Ranch (May 2021)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

Aerial view of a stone house at the former Elphinstone Ranch overlooking the Little Saskatchewan River

Aerial view of a stone house at the former Elphinstone Ranch overlooking the Little Saskatchewan River (May 2021)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

Elphinstone Ranch commemorative sign

Elphinstone Ranch commemorative sign (May 2021)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

Site Coordinates (lat/long): N50.41391, W100.23087
denoted by symbol on the map above

See also:

Memorable Manitobans: Frank Morrison March (1863-1944)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Abandoned Manitoba

Sources:

“Manitoba and the North West,” Manitoba Free Press, 22 November 1879, page 1.

“Minnedosa,” Manitoba Free Press, 9 September 1880, page 1.

“Gigantic sales of northwest land,” Manitoba Free Press, 8 March 1902, page 6.

“For sale, Lord Elphinstone Ranch,” Manitoba Free Press, 23 May 1910, page 3.

Our Story to 1984: The Rural Municipality of Strathclair by The Centennial History Committee, 1984, pages 27-30.

“New plaque shares Elphinstone history,” Erickson South Mountain Press, 10 October 2014, page 1.

This page was prepared by Duncan Waddell and Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 23 May 2021

Historic Sites of Manitoba

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