The Durrell Family is a 2021 BC Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductee in the category of family.
Harry (Henry) Durrell was born the 5th of 11 children on December 3rd, 1870 near Pembroke, Ontario. As he got older, Harry found that Ontario was a bit too conventional for him. He was the first of his siblings to head west in 1891, first landing in Manitoba stooking grain for $2/day, and then onto Calgary where he worked on the CPR telegraph line before heading to Vancouver to work on a surveying crew. The wet coastal air didn’t agree with him, and he headed north to the Nicola Valley where he worked as the storekeeper and timekeeper at Douglas Lake and fetching the weekly mail at Quilchena. The travelling bug soon hit again, and this time Harry headed for Barkerville. Finding little to interest him, he headed back south, walking to Riske Creek where he got a job on the Beaumont Ranch putting up hay. In 1893, he pre-empted some land along the Chilcotin River just below Big Creek and decided to try his hand in the cow business. The Wineglass Cattle Company was established, and the iconic and historic Wineglass brand was registered for use on cattle and horses. In 1900, Harry took up the Raven Lake meadows and pre-empted more land on the east side of the Chilcotin above Farwell Canyon. In 1903, he went to work as a timekeeper on the construction of the first Sheep Creek bridge built, crossing the Fraser River and was the first person to drive a horse and buggy across it.
In the fall of 1916, he met Kay (Catherine) MacPhail at Chilco Ranch where she was staying as a lady’s companion to Mrs. Tretheway. Kay was a city girl from Vancouver and Harry and Kay were married there on November 24th, 1917. They honeymooned in Ontario before returning to Ashcroft (the end of the rail line) where Harry had left his saddle horse. Henry bought a cutter and with the saddle horse tied on behind they arrived back at the ranch in Riske Creek before Christmas.
Harry and Kay ranched and raised three children, Jack, Don and June, on the homestead they built above Farwell Canyon, homeschooling the kids other than the year they boarded and attended school in Meldrum Creek. Harry acquired more land along the Chilcotin River in 1929 where he developed an alfalfa hay ranch. There, he built extensive ditches so that the land that could be flood irrigated out of the river. He then bought out a couple of neighbours in upper Riske Creek: French Henri in 1939 and Kim Slee in 1942. Harry now had what he called a “Little Big Ranch.” Harry wasn’t your typical cowboy and rancher; he “couldn’t rope worth a damn and never dressed a cowboy”, preferring his battered fedora hat and work boots. But he was a good businessman, and he understood how to handle cattle and horses with minimal impact. Harry died of a heart attack on September 20th, 1950. Kay was also very unwell by this time suffering from Parkinson’s disease and was placed in a nursing home in Vancouver where she died November 22nd, 1951.
Their son, Don joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941 and was stationed in Europe during WWII as an air gunner in a bomber. He was killed when the bomber was shot down over Kassel, Germany on October 22nd, 1943. In 1994, the BC Government renamed one of the buttes on Bald Mountain above the ranch, Durrell Butte in his honour.
Daughter, June married Bert Buckle in 1946 and raised children Donna, Lorne and Diane. Bert died and June remarried John Klassen and had one more son, Steven. She also raised three stepchildren. June acquired a third of the ranch upon Henry and Kay’s deaths. She operated her share for a short period before leasing it back to her brother Jack and then selling her share completely to her nephew Brian in 1990. June passed away in 2008.
Jack married Florence Cassils in 1949, who had come from Deloraine, Manitoba to cook for the ranch’s haying crews. Together they raised three children, Don, Linda, and Brian, who were all homeschooled on the ranch.
Although the hay ranch on the river had been established for over 20 years and a couple of cabins had been built, no one had lived there except when haying or feeding cattle.
Submitted by the In 1950 Jack and Florence built a house on the river. As the road wasn’t completed until 1953, any piece of equipment taken down to the river stayed there.
Jack always said his father (Harry) had gone a bit cow mad towards the end. As Jack wanted to improve the grassland, he immediately cut the cow numbers down, built new cross fences, and seeded crested wheat grass in places. He was well known for saying that he was raising grass, not cattle, and that cattle were only a means to harvest the grass. He also figured that if he needed cows, he might as well have good ones, so he started buying better quality Hereford bulls. Jack bought the ranch’s first tractor in 1957, and by 1965 the teams of horses were no longer used for haying. 1970 was the last winter that cattle were fed with a team. In 1984, Jack added more land and bought a 1200-acre lease from the TH Ranch.
Even though he had never completed grade 6, Jack was a well-educated man. Because he had an inquisitive mind, he read a great deal and there was no subject that he was not interested in. He also didn’t believe in life after death, but just in case the preachers had it right he thought he would cover all bets and go talk to the Minister at the United Church a couple times. Florence was well known for her skills both in the garden and in the kitchen and cooked for the irrigators and ranch hands until well into her 70’s.
Jack always said he was just caretaking the ranch for the next generation, and in 1980 Jack told his son Brian that “It’s still my name over the door, but it’s time for somebody else to take the reins.”
Jack died in May 1986 after a short battle with lung cancer. Florence remained on the ranch until she moved to Williams Lake in 2005. She passed away suddenly in April of 2006.
Don, the oldest son of Jack and Florence, left the ranch in 1968 to work building roads up north n 1971 he married Dorothy Boyd and had three children, Devin, Della, and Dustin. He and his wife Evelyn Hansen now reside in Williams Lake.
Linda, daughter of Jack and Florence remained living on the ranch managing much of the flood irrigation, milking cows, feeding orphan calves, helping with the large garden and orchards, calving heifers, and keeping many years of immaculate birding records. Linda moved to Williams Lake to join Florence in 2005 and passed away unexpectedly in December 2018.
Jack & Florence’s son, Brian married Jane Eagle in 1984, built another log house at the river in 1987, and raised three children, Erin, Keely and Iaian Durrell, all while continuing to build and run a successful ranch and build a high-quality black angus herd throughout the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. In 1993, the Wineglass Ranch was honoured with the Century Ranch Award recognizing that it had been run by the Durrell family for 100 years. Erin, Keely, and Iaian were all homeschooled and competed successfully in amateur and high school rodeos across Western North America. Although none of the children are still on the ranch, they are all very involved with cattle, performance horses, and agricultural industries.
Brian and his wife Linda Steele reside in 150 Mile House. The ranch continues to be operated as Wineglass Ranch under Jane Eagle.
Erin and her husband Jeremy Kishkan now ranch along the Fraser River towards Quesnel. Erin is very involved in the cattle industry and has sat on numerous boards of directors across BC and Canada for many years. She is quite involved with raising and riding performance horses on the side. Erin and Jeremy have one daughter, born in 2017, who was named Henri-Rose in honour of her great-great grandfather Henry Durrell. She also has a stepson, Trenton.
Keely and her husband Jeff Taylor also ranch along the Fraser River, just a few miles down the road from Erin and Jeremy. Keely has a very successful career riding, training, and raising performance ranch horses. Jeff and Keely have two children, Izzy (Isabella) born in 2018 and Jack (Jackson) born in 2019. Jack was named in honour of his great grandfather Jack Durrell and born 100 years after his great grandfather was.
Iaian has a successful career as a professional reined cow horse trainer. After many years cowboying and training horses in the Chilcotin, he recently moved with his wife Sheila from the Williams Lake area to train horses in Okotoks, Alberta.
Submitted by the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin and BC Cowboy Hall of Fame.