Charlie and Mary Jane Dougherty stand with their ten children. Their only son, Charles the 2nd, was born in 1929. Photo courtesy of the B.C. Cowboy Heritage Society, Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin.

Cariboo Calling: The Old Home Place

Written by Virginia Ambler

The weekend of July 27-29, 2012, was chosen by the descendants of Edward and Elizabeth (Ebert) Dougherty to celebrate 150th anniversary of Maiden Creek Ranch, acquired by Edward in 1862.

Edward was the son of Edmond and Sarah Dougherty who came to Canada with their large family in 1848 from the Isle of Mann, settled in Woodstock, Ont., and went into farming. Edward left his home in Ontario in 1853 heading for the northwest goldfields. When he arrived in British Columbia, he travelled by foot up the Cariboo Wagon Road to the gold rush in Barkerville.

This little gem of a property on Maiden Creek caught his eye on his first trip north, He returned and purchased it in 1862. This marked the beginning of the ranch we know today. He went again to Barkerville where he met Elizabeth Ebert, a trained midwife now a Hurdy Gurdy Girl.

Elizabeth had left her family in San Francisco, where they had settled when they came from Europe. Edward brought Elizabeth to Clinton. They were married in the Clinton Hotel on the occasion of the fourth Clinton Annual Ball. This annual ball carries on today and is believed to be the oldest continuing annual event in Canada. Edward then later applied for and got a homestead about four miles up on the mountain where Maiden Creek runs. He built a log cabin, barn and fences. The family refers to this as “The Little Ranch.”

Edward and Elizabeth had nine children. Five sons and four daughters.

Edward Dougherty contracted Pneumonia in 1897 and died the same year, leaving the ranch and other properties to his wife and living children. Charles was only ten years old at that time and his older brothers, Edward II and Thomas, ran the ranch until Charles was old enough to take over. Charles married Mary (Sissie) Pollard, the daughter of a local rancher in 1912. They had nine daughters and one son, Charles II. Charles lived his life on the ranch and died in 1968, leaving the ranch to his son.

Charles II died at an early age, leaving the ranch in the capable hands of his wife, Helene, and their four children.

In the early days, Maiden Creek Ranch was well known as a stopping house for freight teams, wagons and travelling miners. The Dougherty’s were known up and down the road for hospitality, excellent food and beautiful ballroom dancing. The ranch was first known as Prospect Farm then later 23 Mile House because it was one of the many stopping houses on the road to the goldfields. The name was later changed to Maiden Creek Ranch.

The four remaining families got together for this July 2012 celebration. Close to 300 people came in motor homes, trailers, campers and many with tents. Each family wore shirts in the colour chosen for their family for easy identification. Some family members were meeting for the first time and others renewed relationships with those they already knew. There was music and singing by the Loon Lake and Maiden Creek Dougherty’s, dancing and much visiting. ‘The Flying Dutch,’ was a favourite dance of Edward was part of the celebration. The family prepared a barbecue that was served to the party of 300.

A family history tent was set up with a family tree and pictures of all those who came before. There were tables with newspaper clippings and items of great family interest. Some learned things they never knew before and enjoyed having memories to take home with them, including a memorial ‘heart bar’ brand (Edward’s brand) replica pin and an early photograph of the ranch and original ranch house. Items were brought for a silent auction to raise money to cover unexpected expenses.

Today, the ranch is a successful cow/calf operation with an indoor riding arena run by Charles II’s son, Ray, and his family. The ranch has been entered into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Williams Lake as the oldest ranch in B.C. still owned by the same family.

Needles to say, there are over 300 of us still feeling connected to ‘The Old Home Place.”

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Maiden Creek Ranch is considered a “century ranch” and is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the province. Photo courtesy of the B.C. Cowboy Heritage Society, Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin.

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