100 Year Birthday Gift: Philanthropist, rancher and businessman Bill Siebens gifts historic Alberta ranching property to the Calgary Stampede Foundation


Local philanthropist, rancher and businessman Bill Siebens has made a remarkable gift to the Calgary Stampede Foundation, and presented the Foundation with the almost 8,000-acre southern portion of the historic OH Ranch, in southwestern Alberta. The gift also includes the OH brand and the ranch’s historic buildings – such as the 1885 ranch house, the old cookhouse and replica North West Mounted Police cabin.

“Everyone is familiar with the legendary generosity and community vision of the Big Four,” said Steve Allan, vice-chair, Stampede Foundation, referring to the financial backers of the first Calgary Stampede. “Today Bill Siebens has shown his community vision and generosity is as powerful as that of our founders. We are truly grateful to Bill and his family for their gift of this historic ranching property.”

The Stampede Foundation will work with the Stampede to develop a management plan for the ranch that furthers the organizations’ shared mission to preserve and promote western heritage and values. In operation as a ranch for close to 130 years, the OH ranch consists of deeded (private) and leased (public) land. Siebens’ gift is valued at more than $11 million and is the largest private gift ever received by the Stampede Foundation.

“Alberta has been my home for 54 years. I made my career in the oil business, raised my family here and have a deep attachment and love for the Foothills country west of Calgary,” said Bill Siebens, who also owns the neighboring Tongue Creek Ranch. “Things turned out well for me and I want to make this gift to the Calgary Stampede Foundation for a few reasons. The Stampede is 100 years old this summer. I’ve been at 54 of those Stampedes. I know that in their hands the southern portion of the OH Ranch will be well cared for the next 100 years,” noted Siebens. “This is my gift to the people of Alberta. The Stampede is way more than 10 days of rodeo, corporate parties and fireworks. It is an important link to Alberta’s past – the ranchers, the homesteaders, the cowboys and the Aboriginal people. This land will give Albertans a big, beautiful connection to their past – a connection that will endure for many future generations.

“I know this corner of Alberta very well. I have ranched out here for over 33 years. My kids and my grandkids and I ride out here, fish, chase cows and enjoy the wonderful scenery. I want my kids and grandkids to remember that, and I want other Albertans to have that as well. I want people from all walks of life to be able to bring their kids out here to see a working ranch with working cowboys and horses and cows and all that,” said Siebens. “Thanks to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the OH Ranch will always be protected against development. That is, of course, what I want for the part of the OH Ranch I am keeping, and that is what I am most excited about for the land I am giving to the Stampede Foundation.

“The Calgary Stampede – the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth – was and is run by volunteers. I know that the volunteers now, and the next generation of volunteers, will honour my wish to encourage and allow Albertans and others to come out and enjoy this special place. That is what is important to me. That is what the Calgary Stampede Foundation and I have agreed to. The Calgary Stampede has celebrated Alberta’s culture for the past 100 years, and this gift will encourage that for the next 100 years,” concluded Siebens.

At an announcement held this morning at Calgary’s Stampede Park, Siebens also handed over the OH branding irons, thereby giving the Stampede Foundation the rights to the OH brand – one of the oldest brands that has been continuously registered and used in Western Canada. The ranching property given to the Stampede Foundation will continue to carry the OH Ranch name.

“The OH Ranch is an authentic, living embodiment of Western Canada’s ranching heritage,” said Allan. “This historic land will further the work of the Calgary Stampede Foundation and the Calgary Stampede – to promote and preserve western values.”

The OH Ranch is Alberta’s second ‘heritage rangeland’ protected area, and operates under an easement agreement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada for the purposes of the protection, conservation and enhancement of the environment, biological diversity, natural, scenic and aesthetic values, natural habitat and similar purposes. As a historic rangeland, the ranch is not focused on recreation opportunities and the area is under grazing lease – with hunting and access restrictions.

About the Calgary Stampede Foundation

Since its inception in 1994, the Calgary Stampede Foundation has worked to preserve and promote our western traditions, culture and heritage through charitable giving as well as promoting and advancing character-building youth programs. The Foundation is currently working with community leaders and philanthropists to develop world class programs that ensure our western legacy is preserved for future generations. The Calgary Stampede is a shareholder and sponsor of the Foundation, which is responsible for a number of youth-oriented programs including Stampede School, the Stampede Band and the Young Canadians. More information is available atwww.stampedefoundation.com.


Historical Backgrounder – the OH Ranch

In 1881, a mule skinner and trader named Orville Hawkins Smith and buffalo hunter named Lafayette French began ranching operations as squatters near the Highwood River. They purchased some cattle and registered the OH brand, using Orville’s first initials. Two years later Frederick Ings, from Charlottetown, P.E.I., bought all 300 head of OH cattle and established his own ranch on the Smith and French land. Fred’s brother James Walter joined him in 1883, and they named the ranch “Rio Alto” (High River) – a tribute to the time the brothers had spent in Spain. The Ings built a log ranch house in 1885, which still stands on the property today.

During the particularly harsh winter of 1886/87, the well-known cowboy John Ware stayed at the OH while rounding up a herd of cattle that had wandered south from the Quorn Ranch. Harry Longabaugh, known as the Sundance Kid, also crossed paths with the OH when he saved the life of Fred Ings during a snowstorm in 1890, while working for the Bar U Ranch.

In 1890, the Northwest Mounted Police established a detachment on the Rio Alto Ranch that operated until 1900 from a log cabin just west of the Ings’ ranch home. This cabin burnt down in 1961, but was later recreated to represent an integral part of the ranch’s history.

In 1918 Walter Ings bought out Fred’s interest and sold the ranch, the cattle and the OH brand to Pat Burns – one of the Calgary Stampede’s “Big Four” sponsors. Burns immediately sold the property to the shipping company Mayer & Lage, buying it back again twenty years later. In 1950 the Burns Estate began to liquidate its holdings and the ranch was offered for sale in sections; however, to keep it intact, C.W. (Kink) Roenish and Bill Ardern purchased the entire property. The name was legally changed at this time to OH Ranch Ltd.

Bert Sheppard, a legendary figure in southern Alberta and one of the top Hereford breeders in Canada, was hired to manage the OH Ranch in 1950. He became a full partner in the ranch in 1957, along with Bill Ardern’s son in law, A.D. (Doug) Kingsford.

Offered for sale again in 1986, the OH was nearly acquired by Canada’s Department of National Defense, for use as an artillery range and training ground. However, Calgary oilman Daryl “Doc” Seaman purchased the ranch, the OH brand and the herd of Hereford cattle, in order to preserve the ranch and its traditional use. In 2008, portions of the ranch were designated as provincial Heritage Rangelands. After Seaman’s death in 2009, the expanded OH Ranch was put on the market. The original OH Ranch, complete with the main ranch headquarters built in 1885, was acquired by Calgary businessman and philanthropist Bill Siebens in 2011. On June 19, 2012 the almost 8,000-acre southern portion of the OH Ranch – along with the historic OH brand – was gifted to the Calgary Stampede Foundation for continued preservation of its environmental and cultural heritage values.

About Bill Siebens

Bill Siebens is one of the Canadian petroleum industry’s first entrepreneurs to build an international exploration and production company. He got his initial taste of working overseas as a U.S. Air Force jet fighter pilot serving in Libya in the 1950s flying F86’s. His company, Siebens Oil and Gas Ltd., explored for oil in the British North Sea, Vietnam, and Yemen.

After moving to Calgary in 1958, Siebens founded an oil and gas leasehold company, Siebens Leasehold Ltd. Eight years later, he sold the company and established Siebens Oil and Gas Ltd., which went public and listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 1970. His company drew the industry’s attention by purchasing highly productive acreage among the freehold lands of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

In 1979, Siebens sold his company to Dome Petroleum Ltd. Soon after, he became president of Candor Investments Ltd., a private energy investment corporation. He has also chaired the board of Sovereign Oil and Gas, a North Sea oil producer. It was bought by Neste Oil, the Finnish National Oil Company. In 1994, Siebens joined ResoQuest Resources Ltd. as chairman of the board until it was sold two years later to Pinnacle Resources Ltd. He continued in the same leadership position with Pinnacle until it was sold to Renaissance Energy Ltd. in 1998.

Siebens served as a director of Petro-Canada from 1986 until April 2005, and was chairman of Freehold Royalty Trust.

He is a member of the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame and is a Trustee of the Fraser Institute.

Source: Nanton News