How Captain Sam Colt, ex-RAF and Capt. Ingersoll E. Haight happened to choose a site far up the south branch of the Halfway River to establish a dude ranch is a mystery. In fact, some old-timers speculate that there was more than one mystery about these men, well educated and well heeled as they appeared to be. Since they had organized a syndicate in Vancouver, perhaps a number of moneyed people there were jointly backing them. In 1919, Frank Beaton mentioned both of them in his diary as they traveled past Fort St. John.
The site they chose was, as the crow flies, only about thirty-five miles northwest of Hudson’s Hope. The Hope was then a river-port for a number of steamers but for a dude ranch, it was almost as far away as the moon. In the days before bush planes, getting dude-guests in and out in sufficient numbers to make the venture pay, would be almost impossible. The only passable trail, used in winter as late as the 1940’s, was the old Trail of ‘98 up the winding Halfway towards Fort Grahame. The ranch lay a dozen or so miles off from even that trail. One old-timer remarked, “It looked as if they kinda didn’t want visitors!” About one thing we are certain — the reason for Captain Haight’s departure from the scene. He shot a trapper and freighter, Guy Robison at Taylor Flats (reason unrecorded), was convicted in 1922 and sent to prison. Sam Colt abandoned the venture shortly after.
The enterprise had bad luck from the start. In 1919, one hundred and fifty head of purebred Hereford cattle were trailed in from Greer in southern Alberta, via Moberly Lake. It is not recorded whether they came by rail to Spirit River or Grande Prairie, or “hoofed it” all the way. Grande Prairie is the more likely, because there was already a trail via Beaverlodge to Old Dawson Creek, hence out to East Pine, across to Moberly Lake and on to Hudson’s Hope. Two trails went on to the surveyed area. The direct one was only an Indian pack trail. The other, the old Trail of ‘98 to Fort Grahame, made a long loop following the Halfway Valley. But the Ranch lay several miles farther up a tributary, the South Branch of the Halfway, now known as the Graham River.
A young Englishman, “Teddy” Green, was employed as cook. Two other ranch hands were Bill Carter, an ex-Royal Northwest Mounted Policeman who had helped cut the Mounted Police Trail in 1905, and Dan MacDonald, horseman and ex-surveyor.
It is evident that they were not able to cut enough wild hay for the severe winter that followed. No wonder! The mower and rake, disassembled and hauled on Indian travois must have arrived late. After such an arduous trip, the cattle could not have been in good shape to survive the change of feed and lack of shelter.
As the winter became more and more severe, the purebred prairie cattle — all but twenty-five of them — died. The valuable bull nearly died too, but the boys said later that they moved him into the cabin and “babied him along” on rolled oats intended for their own grub. Thus they saved the herd sire.
When Colt pulled out after Captain Haight was sent to prison, there was not enough money to pay Ted Green, who had stayed on from the first. Since unpaid wages take precedence over all other debts, the place could have been put up for forced sale to satisfy the lien. Someone who knew the principals says that Capt. Colt simply turned the place over to Teddy Green.
The new owner called the ranch “The Diamond G”. He farmed the arable land and did some ranching and trapping. He set up two small trading posts mostly to trade with the Indians. He freighted not only his own goods, but also the supplies sent out by the Indian Department for the hundred-odd Indians living in the area. As it happened in so many other ventures, ranching by itself was not able to provide a living. After Ted Green died, the government took over the land — supposedly because of unpaid taxes.
When the dam was built at Hudson’s Hope [ca. 1964], the Beattie enterprises at “Twelve Mile” and “Twenty Mile Flat” up-river, were flooded. A deal was made by which Bob Beattie acquired the old Federal Ranch in exchange for his holdings.
For some reason, the name of the Federal Ranch has been maintained longer than almost any other, in the talk of the day. Perhaps the mystery about the original owners, and about the evidently well educated English Teddy Green still intrigues people. His unexpectedly well furnished old ranch house and its wall of books — classics, history, philosophy and travel — still clings to the name and adds to the mystery.