But for the foresight and sagacity of C. V. Alloway. old timer of ’70, the Canadian prairie buffalo would have been as extinct today as the dinosaur of prehistoric times. As it is though, there are three distinct herds totaling 8,000 animals, one at Wainwright Park, Alberta, consisting of 5,000 head; another in process of transfer from Wainwright to Fort Smith, North – West Territories, and a third at Banff National Park.
There are a few of the species in Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg. Their lineal grandparents were presented by the late Lord Strathcona, and a few in Yellowstone National Park, likewise presented, by the late James J. Hill, founder of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railways.
In an interview with The Tribune today Mr. Charles Alloway told just how he came to be the instrument of destiny in saving the remnant or the myriad hosts of buffalo whose stampeding hooves have been known to shake the earth-crust like an earthquake as they fled before prairie fires, or scarcely less pitiless horsemen, armed with high-power rifles.
“Back in 73”
“It was away back in 1873, began Mr. Charles Alloway, in reminiscent mood, “that I conceived the idea that the day might dawn when the vast buffalo herds would be depleted. I had bought as many as 21,000 buffalo bides from a brigade of Indian hunters, paying $3 for the average and $4 for the large ones. It didn’t take any higher mathematics to realize that this rate of killing them off couldn’t go on forever, especially when there were dozens of brigades out hunting at one time.
“Even then we didn’t pay any particular attention to this. We took our buffaloes and buffalo skins and pemmican as we now take our rain and crops as a matter of course, something that always had been and, presumably, always would be. Of course, in those days we never had any photographs or cameras on the prairies. We were a pioneer community and such things were luxuries and, anyway, the old – tintypes of those days were very little good.
“Hon. James MacKay, speaker of the first legislature, and myself decided in 1873 (Winnipeg was only a village of mud and deep ruts at that time) to send Feladoux Ducharme, a French half-breed hunter, to get us a domestic cow at Prince Albert. We were linked up with a brigade of half-breeds killing for pemmican. Pierre LaVeille was in charge. We joined his brigade with an oxcart and went with them.
Catch Three Buffalo Calves
“We wanted the domestic cow to sustain the buffalo calves which would be left when the half-breeds killed the mothers. We came upon the buffaloes southwest of Battle – ford on the Battle River. That spring we got three good calves, two bulls, and a heifer, which hung around our campfires in a pitiful manner after their mothers had been killed.. We either ran them down or lassoed them. It took all summer to bring them in from the western plains. We kept them at Deer Lodge and they really did well, once they got used to our domestic cow. The cow raised the three of them.
Two More Calves Caught
“The following spring, that of 1874, in April we struck west again with a large brigade of hunters. These brigades were really migratory tribes of Indians or half-breeds, having 80 to 100 hunters, their wives and families, ox carts, and horses, in all perhaps 2,000 human souls. We did not come up with the buffaloes until sometime in May and then they were west of Milk River, halfway between Regina and Moose Jaw, and near the International border. This time we also got three calves, one bull, and a heifer, all our cow could raise. But, in spite of all, we could do, one of the three, the bull, sickened and died. It is exceedingly difficult to make the calves take to a domestic cow.
“Thus the foundation for our Buffalo herd was laid. In 1877 there was a pronounced shortage of buffaloes. But a hunter I sent out got me 30 head quite close to Winnipeg, south of Pembina Mountains. Fires, or animals- preyers and hunters had driven them down there. In 1878 and 1879 they began to go away again and from then on they were practically unknown.
“In the spring of 1878 our little herd had grown from five calves to 13 animals pure-bred and three cross-bred to domestic cattle. By this value of the few, we had although we did not know that the prairie buffalo was practically extinct. We kept them at Deer Lodge in summer and Bale St. Paul in winter. We fed them hay and tended them in shelters much the same as domestic cattle.
“Mr. MacKay died in 1878 and then I made the greatest mistake of my life,” with a whimsical note of sadness for a lost opportunity. “I decided to realize on all my tangible assets and to go into the banking business with my brother, W. F. Alloway. We cannot see distant things from the all-absorbing present sometimes and my decision to go into the banking business illustrates that. But what’s the use, I have lived and enjoyed my life.
The Greatest Mistake
“In February 1878. I held an auction sale. I sold 400 head of horses for their fair market value at the time. They were mostly well-bred, mature mares, crossed by thoroughbred stallions from Kentucky. I sold the whole of my 16 head of buffaloes for $1,000 to Governor Sam Bedson. Lord Strathcona put up the money, I believe and received for payment 27 head of buffalo nine years later. Lord Strathcona gave Winnipeg five head: sent.15 to Banff National Park, and kept seven for himself. These seven he kept for some years at Silver Heights but later when he left Western Canada, he gave them also to the Banff Park.
“In the meantime, Col. Bedson had increased his herd to a total of 127 pure-bred buffaloes. The 27 he had given to Lord Strathcona wiped out the first cost of the herd. He then sold 100 head to Buffalo Jones, a famous character of the pioneer settlements of both sides of the line, for $35.000. Jones took them to Texas and kept them there for a few years until ‘ticks’ (cattle lice) started to make inroads on them. Jones was advised that he must move his buffaloes from Texas to Montana or they would all die. It was too hot for them down there. He had a very strenuous time getting them across the mountains and. when he arrived in Montana he was a very sick man. (This may have been discussed, but Jones never took these animals to Texas, they went to his ranch and then sold out to other places)
“Buffalo Jones, therefore, sold his herd to Charles Allard, who, with his partner, Pablo, had a big ranch in Montana. Very soon the buffaloes were becoming so numerous by natural increase that Allard and Pablo had extreme difficulty in preventing hunters in the country from killing them.
Canadian Government Buys Herd
“About this time it was coming to be realized generally that the last of the buffaloes as free, animals of the plains had been seen. The Canadian government, through some of its officials, presumably at the instigation of Lord Dufferin, whom I had given an exhibition of buffalo – busting through Allard who often worked for me during his tour or the west, got interested. The government, anyway, saw it was a good thing to buy the Allard herd, whose progenitors had been my five calves. The officials estimated that there were between 200 and 400 head, they couldn’t be sure which. The government bought the herd, agreeing to pay $350,000 for them loaded on freight cars. They would be worth $1,000,000 today and they slaughtered 2,000 of them two years ago!
“Only the outlaws, estimated at over 100, remained after Pablo rounded up the deliveries for the Canadian government, remained. The Ottawa authorities later entered into a contract with Allard s son that he would round up these outlaws and ship them to the Canadian park for $25,000. Allard got more than the minimum of 80 required by the contract end the government authorized its police to shoot the rest of the outlaws. This was done.
“Some of the skins of these slain outlaws were shipped to Winnipeg and stuffed by E.. W. Darby, the taxidermist. The stuffed figures were presented to various institutions in the country as specimens.
“The present movement of buffaloes from the 7.000 head at Wainwright Park shows how the animals will increase under natural conditions of peace and contentment. Every one of them came from my original group of three heifers and two bulls.
“I have been throughout the Peace River country. I heard of those immense bush buffaloes in the Fort Smith country down the Athabasca River. I am convinced that they are descended from some remnants of herds driven by hunters and wolves into the interior during some season when the waters were low enough to be forded. The change of environment would account for their large size and different-shaped horns.
Of Incredible Vitality
“The vitality of the Individual buffalo has always been a matter of astonishment to me. The morning after Governor Bedson bought my 13 buffaloes a cow dropped a calf. That same day the herd was moved 22 miles by road from Deer Lodge to Stony Mountain, round by Winnipeg. The same night they came back, 18 miles in a beeline, to Deer Lodge, the one-day-old calf with its mother tramping through the deep snow. The third day they were moved back to Stony Mountain, 22 miles, a distance of 62 miles covered by a three-day-old buffalo. No domestic calf could do one-quarter of that at the same age.
Some Hair Raising Adventures
“I have had my battles with the buffaloes, also. I don’t mean on horseback, shooting them down on the run, as the wild – westerners were doing every day. That was not adventure that was murder of the defenseless. I have done that, too. But one day we were camping in the Qu’Appelle Valley. We heard the steady tramp, tramp of their stampeding feet coming towards us. This was at 10 o’clock in the morning. They were racing for the ford of the river there. The Indians advised that we move our camp into the nearby bush. We did so just in time. For 24 hours longer they were coming in long, loping columns, passing up at the rate of 10 a second. I think I err on the side of conservatism when I say that I think 1,000,000 animals crossed that ford in slightly more than 24 hours.
Never Seen Stampede
“I have never seen the most spectacular sight of the prairies, hundreds of thousands of fear-crazed buffaloes fleeing before the onslaught of a vast prairie fire, their eyes flaming out fear of the doom which would be inevitable if the fire fiend wore them down. But I have known them to run a100 miles and eventually escape the terrors of the fire-swept plains by crossing a river.
“I have stood on rising ground and seen all round me nothing as far as the eye could reach to the horizon 10 miles away in every direction but buffaloes.
“I remember one time I was ringing the nose of a buffalo bull I owned. I thought I had the beggar stretched out tight enough that he couldn’t hurt me. But he didn’t like the ring. He made a sudden lunge forward, struck me flat in the chest in front, and knocked me 30 feet away. I hit my head on a heavy woolen bucket and when I came to I was lying in the house unable to remember how I got there.
“Another time I was trying to snub a lassoed bull over a post. I had some men to help me but they were not quick enough. A buffalo is tremendously powerful in his front quarters where all his muscles are. This fellow pulled me along by the rope, which tore through my hands incinerating them terribly. I have a scare from that encounter which I shall carry to the grave. But luckily there was a knot on the rope and this stopped the rope dragging and I was able to stop the bull’s flight. But I’m telling you I was always watching to see that I was at a safe distance from any harm. They’re ugly customers and one doesn’t want to take any chance with them.
“The same bull later killed a mule I owned. He chased the mule down a field to a tree stump, tossed the animal onto the stump and when I arrived, the mule was lying on the top of the stump stone dead, his entrails hanging out and head and tail touching the ground on opposite sides of the stump. I tell you this to let you know that they are ugly customers if they get to close quarters.
“But for all that the nearest I ever came to being killed was by a timber wolf. They tell you a timber wolf will not attack a man; I want to say that one will. It was on the Carrot River between Hudson Bay Junction and Prince Albert. I was walking along a bush trail without a gun nothing but a good used pocketknife. I saw what looked like the head and ears of a deer ahead of me about 200 yards. I shooed loudly and, to my amazement, a huge timber wolf jumped snarling wickedly into the road and began stalking up to me, apparently hoping that I would stampede, turn and run so that he could come after me. That was in March, the snow was deep and the huge brute hungry.
“Slowly I backed up, the wolf creeping stealthily after me gaining steadily if slowly. I felt in my pocket, took out my knife, opened it, tested it so that I would not close it by using the wrong side during battle. As I thought of the intending battle I decided to give him my left arm and to try and rip him open underneath with my knife when he took my arm. Of course, I was going to fight but, bless your heart, I would not have had a ghost of a chance against that 150 pounds of ferocious dog, trained in all the lore of the wilds in battling for his food in midwinter.
A Slow Retreat
“Slowly retreated. Consistently he gained on me. The distance between us was reduced to 400 feet. I could feel stark fear gnawing at my inwards. I was now the hunted animal instead of the hunter – roles reversed for once. Then I glanced sideways, hoping to see a stick of some kind I could use. I was backing up down the road through willow swamp. I crunched in the snow backwards to a stout-looking branch, trying to cut it down with my hands behind me. It was frozen. The wolf was still gaining on me.
In a frenzy of despair, I suddenly whipped the branch down with a mighty swish to the ground. You could hear the noise. The wolf stopped and looked behind him apprehensively. Another drag at the stick and the frozen limb broke off in my hand with a report on the still afternoon air like a rifle shot.
“Immediately the wolf turned and hounded away into the bush. I hit the ground and yelled once again. I heard my erstwhile hunter leaping away in the bush. I thudded the ground with my newly gained weapon, the willow bough, and tried to move off. To my amazement, the crisis past, I could not move my feet. All power was gone out of them. Eventually, by concentration, I succeeded in starting.
Poison Wolf – Hunter
“Dick Pritchard. whose brothers still live in the west, to whose house I was going (he’s dead now), asked me why I looked so white when I got to his place. I told him. The same night we went out with poisoned liver, got that wolf and another, three coyotes and some foxes, and I want, to tell you he was a magnificent specimen. I recognized my enemy all right. I had had sufficient time to identify him again as he went in on me on his last real hunting trip, that might easily have been mine.
“I have started cut and in one day have seen 16 different varieties of animals on these prairies. They tell you this country is short in game animals. Let me mention some of those I have seen in one day the early days: Buffaloes, moose, deer, wapiti, elk, caribou, and a round dozen of the fur-bearing species. A magnificent country still rich in wildlife, but a wildlife sufficiently cunning to outwit man and to prevent a repetition of the annihilation which so nearly overwhelmed the countless herds of buffaloes which once roamed these prairies, and which the government is now placing in the far north with their larger relatives.”
Calgary Herald Sept 9 1926
CHARLES V. ALLOWAY MEMBER OF THE WOLSELEY EXPEDITION, IS DEAD
(By Canadian Press) WINNIPEG, Sept 9 – Charles Valentine Alloway. Pioneer citizen of Winnipeg, who came west with the Wolseley expedition in 1871 to check the Reil outbreak in Manitoba and remained to become one of this city’s best-known residents, is dead here following a lengthy Illness.
Mr. Charles Alloway had traveled extensively through northern sections of the west and at one time was within sixty miles of the Arctic circle. He was one of the earlier visitors to Churchill, Man., and several years ago predicted that the Peace River district in Alberta would see heavy farm settlement.
Born in Ireland, Mr. Charles Alloway came to Canada with his parents in fancy. He lived at Hamilton, Ont, from 1855 to 1871. He was engaged in the banking business here for many years in partnership with his brother under the firm name Alloway & Champion, which, in 1920, was absorbed by the Canadian Bank of Commerce. Since that time he has lived in retirement He is survived by his wife and one son.