The earliest known mink rancher in Manitoba was J. P. Grenon of Winnipegosis. Fur Farming in Canada published in 1914 lists him as a fur farmer. In the May 1915 issue of the Silver Black Fox, we find the following advertisement. "From this year's litters of mink, we still have fifty pairs for sale. Price $50 per pair, shipping crates $2. extra. J. P. Grenon, The Winnipegosis Fox Ranch Ltd., Manitoba." There is no later mention of J. P. Grenon or the ranch so we presume that this enterprise did not survive the war.
The Dominion Bureau of Statistics (D.B.S.) for 1924 lists three Manitoba mink ranches. McLaren Bros. of Clearwater had foxes as well, but only appeared this one time. B. Bjarnarson of Langruth who continued to raise mink until 1932 and Wallace R. Waters, manager of the Blue Ribbon Ranch at Durban with whom we will deal more fully later on.
nbsp; Dr. J. A. Allen in his book "The Principles of Mink Ranching" published in 1940, says "the commercial development of mink farming in this province dates back to 1924, when W. Waters of Durban and C. H. Booth of Winnipeg started operations with two and fifteen mink respectively. The expansion was even and continuous until 1931 when the number of licensed operators reached one hundred and ninety-one. During the years of extreme depression many gave up the ranching of mink and by 1934, the lowest year, the number had fallen to one hundred and forty-two. The next year brought a marked revival in interest and at the end of 1937, three hundred and twenty-one of Manitoba's seven hundred fur farms were engaged in the production of mink."
Harold Carson in his comprehensive submission on Manitoba mink ranchers observes "Many of the early mink farmers did not obtain a license for their fur farms. Therefore no record was kept of these farms and it makes it difficult to trace accurately the start of many of these enterprises.
"In Manitoba it is known that we had at least two mink farms in 1924. These were Northern Canada Mink and Silver Fox Ranch, operated by H. L. Nixon and C. H. Booth of Winnipeg and the Blue Ribbon Fur Farm Limited of Durban with W. R. Waters as manager. Nixon and Booth had fur farm licenses in the years 1926 to 1932 while W. R. Waters had a license in 1927 only.
"In 1925 there were five licensed mink farms. This information is from the Manitoba Library and Archives. Unfortunately, no list was available."
We think that Wallace R. Waters was probably the second Manitoba mink rancher from the evidence we found in the early literature. In 1930, he moved to Quebec City in charge of mink for Dr. J. E. Laforest. The Laforest advertisement in the July 1930 issue of the Fur Trade Journal says "Wallace R. Waters in charge of ranch, thirteen years experience." This would mean that he started mink ranching in 1917. In 1935, we find the peripatetic Mr. Waters running his own ranch, the Esquesing Fur Farm at Milton West, Ontario. In an article in the May 1935 issue of the Canadian Silver Fox and Fur entitled `Climate does have some influence on mink matings' referring to his old records he says "July 3rd, 1917. Female mink gave birth to young last night. Did not believe this possible. Opened kennel and counted six kits. Separated this female from male on April 24th."
The late date of this birth is unusual under ordinary ranch conditions but the length of pregnancy of at least seventy days is within the published pregnancy record of seventy-six days.
We knew and liked Wallace Waters in his Ontario days, when he was happily known to his fellow ranchers as "Mr. Esquesing". He was opinionated and ready to leap into print on whatever side of the argument that was left open. From an historian's point of view his circumlocution and his generalities, in the many letters and articles that were printed in the magazines, were infuriating. He was great on dates and short on geography. Dr. Allen said he had two mink in Durban in 1924. In the quotation from his article he documents at least eight mink in 1917, but doesn't say where. In September 1944, the editor of the Canadian Silver Fox and Fur published an article entitled "Nelson Waldron, Canada's First Mink Rancher." Wallace surfaced in the October issue stoutly maintaining with much rhetoric, but no facts, that this was not so. One curious exhibit was offered, "I have a photograph, taken by myself, on an eighty pen mink unit shed in Western Canada in 1914." Again we know all the facts except who owned it and where it was located in western Canada. The editor published the photo with Wallace's letter and looking at it, as this is being written, we suspect that this is a picture of J. P. Grenon's Winnipegosis mink ranch. The facts of date and size are compatible with the Grenon advertisement quoted earlier in this chapter.
Charles Simpson of North Kildonan began fur farming in 1920, raising coyotes and timber wolves. On one occasion he startled Winnipegers by travelling down Portage Avenue in a sleigh drawn by a husky and a timber wolf.
In 1922, silver foxes were added and in 1925 he purchased mink from the Stanstead Fur Farm in Quebec. His accomplishments in mink breeding were matched by his genius in designing pens and sheds that were far ahead of their time. The `Simpson Corridor' shed was well known and widely copied.
Jean Berthaudin of East Bay, was born in France and came to Canada as a young man. After a variety of jobs he settled down to cattle raising in the Crane River area near Lake Manitoba. Intrigued by the fact that his Indian neighbours were earning a living selling furs and seeing an advertisement by Stanstead Fur Farm in the North West Farmer offering a mink booklet, he sent for it. In 1925, he ordered three mink from Stanstead. Shortly after, while walking along the shore of a small lake, he saw a mink going into a hollow log, suspecting that this was a den he hurried home for the necessary equipment. He fastened a bag over the hole and started to saw the log. The mother ran into the bag and was secured. The litter of five kits came home in his pocket. He bought another litter that was motherless, from the Indians, for $25.
Mink breeding stock prices were good so he started to advertise with great success. He wrote a pamphlet on "pens, plans and care of mink" which he sold for fifty cents. After fifty years in the mink business Jean pelted out and, at the age of ninety-three, he is still enjoying life.
J. J. Thiessen of Giroux started before 1926, when he took out his first license. Ranchers in those days didn't buy a license and then go into the mink business. It is likely that he started in 1925 and the purchase of a license next year was for the purpose of legally selling breeding stock as his first advertisement that we can find was in the January ,1927 issue of the Fur Trade Journal. We know Calvin Martin of St. Marys, Ontario bought breeding stock from him in that year, or the next.
In the September 1931 issue of the Fur Trade Journal, Thiessen specified "Northern Quebec mink shipped in crates which allow thorough examination before final payment." These were Quebec mink with a difference as you will see from Harold Carson's report: "He is reputed to have had the first really successful sale of ranch mink pelts in Manitoba. These pelts were sold at the Dominion Fur Auction about 1932. Al Hole has described the Thiessen mink as being quite brown in summer. However, the prime pelts were a very clear dark brown colour. Al said the mink were quite different to his, being lighter in colour, but larger. John Ateah saw the pelts that made this first successful sale. He described the pelts as large, heavily furred and very clear dark bluish in colour. The really outstanding feature was the tailoring job. A good window or viewing area, wide tails and very clean. John believes the selling price was $25 each. John and his brother Alfred purchased breeding stock from Mr. Thiessen."
Harry J. Stuart of Knausa started in 1925. The ranch never grew beyond 100 females but it produced a successful Manitoba mutation. We quote Harold Carson "Mr. Stuart had taken some females to a neighbouring farm and had them mated to a male mink there. In one of the resulting litters there was a black cross kit. This mink was perfectly marked with very pleasing shading on the sides. The mutation, being dominant, was quickly multiplied and in succeeding years was sold quite widely."
J. H. Kissack and Sons of MacDonald raised mink in 1925 in large, on the ground pens. "They were four feet wide by four feet high and six feet long with a big nestbox on the back. Some years later the ground pens became infested with parasites and the mink died from intestinal worms."
Mel Park of Carman copied the Kissack pen design in 1926 and started to raise mink. "For feed he fed a porridge which was cooked along with gophers, some chicken and some fish in the winter. He stayed in the business about three years and then pelted the mink." No mention of worms, probably they didn't like the diet.
Morley B. Pirt worked in the Winnipeg grain exchange and in 1926, became enamoured with ranched fur prospects, purchased six mink to be the start of the Assiniboine Fur Ranch Company at Charleswood. Steady expansion in the succeeding years and strict selection for quality brought excellent pelt prices in the middle thirties. At this time Mr. Pirt made mink farming his full time business. In 1938, 5,150 kits were raised from 1,248 females. Evidently they had overexpanded as the next year the herd was reduced to 700 females.
Learning that I was resigning from the staff of the Ontario Veterinary College, Morley Pirt came to Guelph and offered me a two part job. I was to manage his Assiniboine Fur Ranch and be the nutritionist for Victor Fox Feeds Limited. As I had already accepted a position offered by Toronto Elevators Ltd., I could only thank him and wonder if I had missed the boat.
When mutations came, Morley Pirt was the first to seize the opportunity offered. Always willing to take chances and possessing business ingenuity, he cornered as many of the available mutations as he could and set up an international marketing plan for breeding stock. His untimely death brought an end to the Assiniboine Fur Ranch Company and to this ambitious promotion.
Kris Jorundson of Lundar started in 1926, when he bought a few dark mink from a rancher in Sasketchewan. He continued to ranch mink for many years to supplement his fishing operation on Lake Manitoba. His mink pens, at that time were five feet high wire enclosures. It was thought that mink needed to be kept in their natural habitat. Kris' brother Franklin also had a few mink in 1929, but did not raise mink for very long.
Leo Hordal of Lundar was a cattle farmer. He had a small mink ranch for a few years.
The Alfred Ateah story is a mini history of the mink industry in Victoria Beach. Harold Carson's description of the man who was a father figure to his community and of his deeds, is penetrating and warm. "The first mink farmer at Victoria Beach was Alfred Ateah. The mink enclosure was a pen constructed from four old bed springs. This was in 1926. During the first year of the bedspring pen, three mink were kept. One was much larger than the other two and presumed to be a male. However, all three were females and needless to say, no young arrived. The next year with the introduction of a male mink a litter of five was produced.
"In 1932, Alfred had multiplied the mink stock to a point where he could consider selling breeding stock. By following the real pioneering spirit, neighbours could purchase, or borrow stock with repayment in the form of pelts or live mink and in some cases the breeding stock was a straight gift. Rex Lester got his start in the mink industry by receiving as a gift a pair of mink from Mr. Ateah. J. Hughes, a summer resident with the Ateahs became interested in the mink. He bought mink on shares and left them on Alfred's ranch. He sold his shares back to Alfred in 1937, after a six dollar and fifty cent average in 1936. (Hardly a Howard Hughes investment).
"In 1934, he started Charles David in mink. Mink until now were the old Manitoba type, reddish in colour. Alfred started getting involved with other ranchers and brought in Yukon and Labrador mink which were dark in colour with a bluish underfur. One champion male from Simpson cost $200, a very large sum in 1932. He also bought mink from Beckman, Rankin, Al Hole and La Page. About this time Alfred's brothers John, Eddie and Sam started raising mink. Jack Watling took up mink ranching and continued successfully for many years. He still resides on the same homestead at Hillside Beach. In 1936, Alfred gave his sister Freda Jonsson two females and one male.
"The following people acquired mink from Alfred - Allan Ateah, John Anderson, J. Hampton, Bill Hampton, Mrs. Rupert, F. Rupert, A. Anderson, Victor Scott a summer resident and owner of the Orchid Florist in Winnipeg, C. Malkman, R. Thomas, Jack Campbell of Victoria Beach and surrounding district.
"Although some of these people bought their stock many made settlement by giving part of their increase in payment. They would give him pelts in the fall for the livestock they received, as ready cash was hard to come by in the thirties. In 1938, Dan Anderson, Nick Joseph, L. Larivierre and C. Hampton, the Bergy Brothers, S. Taylor and Bill Martin acquired mink. Harold Martin received a pair of mink for the best attendance at Sunday School, from Alfred. Also Frank Olsen and son Doug started the same way. There were more as the records show but I believe this should give some idea of the involvement of ranching in the community. In 1938, George Milne of Dominion Fur Auction had some mink on shares at Alfred's ranch. In the spring of 1939, a huge sawlog rolled on Alfred killing him, ending the career of a very active pioneer in the fur industry. A special train was run from Winnipeg to Victoria Beach, so that Winnipeg friends could attend the funeral."
While out of step timewise, it should be noted here that in 1939 Charles David produced a couple of mink with white faces, a prelude to things to come. In 1940 a silver blue female appeared on Freda Jonsson's ranch. The following spring it lost its litter and eventually died without heirs.
A. Guilbert of Petersfield had a mink farm license in 1927 and probably was in operation earlier. This ranch, never large, continued for many years. Breeding stock advertisements were carried from 1930 on. In 1932, this farm had marten, fisher and raccoon as well.
Sven Klintberg of Birds Hill started the Winnipeg Silver Fox Company in 1921. It wasn't until 1928 that mink were added. Their success with foxes has obscured their mink history.
Alfred A. Hole, Eagle Lake Fur Farm and eventually at Rennie is another of these in depth histories so well told by Harold Carson. "Al Hole during the nineteen twenties worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway and had become an engineer. However, this type of work was not really what Al wanted. About 1928, the decision was made to try raising mink. The location was War Eagle Lake in the Whiteshell area. It was a most out of the way place. Feed was shipped by rail and then moved to the ranch by horse and stoneboat - if the horse could be located. It is possible that at times the mink food problem was solved by Al Hole's ability to handle a rifle. Wild game was plentiful. In 1937, the farm was moved to Rennie.
In 1939, a railroad worker picked up four small goslings along the railroad tracks. These were taken to Al Hole. They were fed principally hand picked dandelions. Later they were allowed to run loose with the chickens. A dam was built on a small creek. This was supposed to be for the benefit of muskrats, but was more likely for his four goslings. The second summer, a gander was procured from a park in Manitoba. This latest acquisition teamed up with the lone female of the original group and four more goslings were raised. Bands were put on their legs. In late summer, these four went south with other migrating flocks. They returned the next spring to Al Hole's pond. As well a few other geese returned with them.
"The number of geese nesting at the pond increased each year. After the first few years the Department of Mines and Natural Resources, also private individuals assisted with the sanctuary. More than 100 breeding geese nested in the sanctuary in 1959. Al Hole died December 23rd of that year. The sanctuary which had been a hobby for Al, now has become a monument to him."
Sanford Ernest Baldwin of Starbuck, laid the foundations of a fur business in 1928 with the purchase of four foxes and fourteen mink. For the next fifty years fox and mink ranching was the principal occupation of the Baldwin family.
Ernest Forman of Rivers started in 1928. The ranch remained small and was sold after a few years, the mink going on to an Ontario farm. Mr. Forman also raised foxes, coyotes and badger. These animals were either dug out or purchased from the Indians.
Isaac Spillet of Dauphin started in 1928. By 1935, there were 500 mink on the farm. He advertised breeding stock in the Free Press-Prairie Farmer throughout the year. When he died in 1941, George Dowler purchased the mink.
George Dowler of Dauphin started with foxes in 1928 and introduced mink in 1935. It is interesting to note that he bought the Blue Ribbon Fur Farm of Durban, Wallace Waters early ranch, and moved it to Dauphin in the mid-thirties. As a hobby he kept race horses and ran them in the summer meets.
A. E. Iredale was post master in Dauphin. He had been a Hudson's Bay Company employee but now dealt in raw furs and kept a very few mink in 1929 or '30.
Hubert Dandridge of Birtle, is still in the mink business today. Harold Carson has this to say "The Dandridges first attempted to raise mink in 1928. Hubert and his father were trapping along the Birdtail River and kept a few of these mink. They were not successful in getting them to increase. Their next move was to purchase a trio of Quebec mink from Dr. Bradley at Virden.
"The fur farm was diversified. Coyotes and fox pups were dug out and raised. The coyote operation was quite successful and in 1932 there were 92 coyotes in the pens. As well as the few foxes acquired from the wild, silver foxes were purchased. Fitch were added to the fur farm in the early nineteen thirties.
"Hubert operated without going through the formality of getting a fur farm license for the first three years of his operations. However, the coyotes were rather noisy and were not popular with the neighbours. Complaints about the animals were made to authorities and the result was the Dandridge Fur Farm had to go to the trouble of getting a proper license. This cost $5 which was a considerable amount of money at that time."
A. E. Holden of Melita had a license to keep mink in 1928. Foxes were included in his 1932 license. This farm specialized in dark mink with great success. It is difficult to raise really good dark pelts on the prairies. November is often too cord and does not allow the darks to finish properly. Housing and care made the difference.
Gordon Moir of Killarney started in 1928 and sold breeding stock for many years.
Frank King and Howard Cross were partners in a mink ranch west of Killarney Lake. They were noted for good stock, good care and a good share of the ribbons at field days.
Mark Teskey of Killarney, a lawyer and a fox farmer took up mink in the thirties. He is best known for inventing and patenting a power slicer for cutting frozen meat.
Other well known names at Killarney were the Mitchell brothers, Bill and Jack, and Mr. Hammond. These farms began operations during the years 1927 to 1935 but never became large.
J. S. (Joe) Sigurdson of Lundar became interested in fur production when he raised a coyote pup and sold the pelt for $25.50. In 1930, Joe bought his first trio of mink from a family friend and neighbour Leo Hordal. From this small start the business grew into Sigurdson Fur Farm Limited operating two ranches, the home one at Lundar and the LaPage Farm at Stonewall. Success at the shows and in the fur markets led on to leadership in various mink organizations. Joe's contributions and service are much appreciated by the mink industry.
R. D. (Bob) Laing of Stonewall first ranched foxes. In 1930, marten and mink were added. Marten bred successfully on this farm for a number of years. Later under his son Douglas it was principally a mink ranch.
Dr. E. J. Washington of Winnipeg started the Windsor Fur Farm in 1930. The ranch manager Sture Neilson was also a partner. They experimented with large enclosures with some success. In 1937, Sture Neilson took his share of the mink and set up his own ranch at Charleswood. There he built the celebrated Neilson Bull Pen that housed one hundred mink. He applied his considerable genius to designing nest boxes that when occupied by one mink became inaccessible to the rest. The nest boxes worked and the labor saved by feeding 100 animals at one feeding station cut down greatly on the ranching cost. Unfortunately, because of several insoluble problems, the pelts from the bull pen did not bring the cost of production. Neilson wasn't the first to "pasture" mink, nor was he the last, but his attempt was the best and came nearest to succeeding.
The Jack Blyth story is well told by Harold Carson. "The romance and glamour associated with the early fur trade days was not entirely lost in our time. Jack Blyth of Perfecta Fur Farm, Mclvor Avenue, North Kildonan helped preserve some of the excitement of that period. In England, he bred and raced both horses and greyhounds. As well, he handled at different times, fox, mink, persian cats, dogs, rabbits, fitch, muskrats and nutria. Jack was a good judge and caretaker of livestock and had considerable knowledge of breeding. His advertisements during the nineteen thirties indicated he was breeding Beckman and Gothier mink. However, much of his activity with mink was in dealing. He kept a constant watch for mink that might be in demand for breeding purposes and had a remarkable ability to buy and sell to advantage.
"England was his birthplace and he had served in the first World War. He came to Canada about 1926. In 1932, he took a shipment of bred female mink to England, sold them and returned to Canada. Almost every passenger on the ship made the trip down to the hold to see the mink. It is not known who had produced the mink. Mr. Blyth did not have a Manitoba fur farm license at that time.
He reached one of the major pinnacles of his career in 1937, when he had the grand champion mink in the Winnipeg Fur Show. This resulted in the sale of a good number of mink including the grand champion. This worthy mink was shipped through the C.P.R. express depot and in true Jack Blyth style, the crate was very clearly marked - Grand Champion Mink.
"Mr. Blyth had the empty shipping crates returned so that he could use them again rather than building new ones. When this particular crate was shipped again he neglected to remove the Grand Champion Mink label. An observer noted that this crate went out via C.P.R. seventeen times during the winter of 1937-38."
Jack Markson of Winnipeg, emigrated from Lithuania in 1927 and was employed by the Winnipeg Fur Auctions, later to be known as the Dominion Fur Auctions. As he grew knowledgeable in fur marketing, he decided to be a mink rancher and a fur broker. Both ambitions were realized. The Theissen mink pelts were bringing good money at the auction house so Jack bought 30 breeding animals from Theissen and placed them on a ranch at Scanterbury. In 1935, in partnership with Louis Drucker he established the St. Paul Fur Farm. To ensure feed supplies as this farm grew larger he bought the horse abbatoir, Manitoba Packing Limited. Later, when Silver Blus became available, they bought 250 bred females from Bock & Mohr in Wisconsin. Jack continued to act as a broker for a number of fur manufacturers and dealers until his retirement.
J. H. Sylvester gave us the mink history of the Carman area and tells his own experiences well. "In 1933, Have Sylvester set out to catch the wild mink that had killed some chickens and ducks that he was raising. He dug some wild mink out of the creek banks and then decided to keep them and to raise them. In 1937, he bought his first bred mink from Franks Fur Farm in Petersfield.
"Having no hydro in the early days of ranching, all the meat was ground and mixed by hand. The biggest problem of all, though, was keeping the meat from spoiling in the summertime. To alleviate this problem, we erected a building and inside this building we dug a big hole in the ground. In the winter we filled this full of ice and then with water froze it solid. We built a big box with a lid on it and set it on the ice. This box was completely covered with sawdust. With this type of refrigerator we had meat shipped twice a week in the summer. The meat arrived mostly unfrozen, and if the transfer did not bring a shipment during the week we were forced to go out and catch gophers which were very plentiful at the time. With this type of set up a lot of very doubtful meat was fed."
In later years, Mr. Sylvester developed a dominant white mutation mink that topped the New York white mink pelt market for many years. These mink were called Carman Whites by the fur trade. They were of large size and usually won the heaviest mink prize in the Manitoba shows. They weighed between eight and nine pounds which is extremely heavy for a mink.
C. M. Robbins of Thornhill purchased two pairs of silver foxes in 1930. 15 Coyote pups were dug out of their dens about the same time. Clayton continued to raise foxes for 15 years. The coyotes were never bred in captivity. In 1934 ,a few bred female mink were added to the farm. M. H. Borgford of Arborg began mink ranching in 1935. He was awarded plaques for topping several Soudack auction sales. Gieri Eirikson of Lundar started in 1935, raising mink on his cattle farm. The first recessive white mink in Manitoba occurred on his farm in 1940. He sold a number of them to Morley B. Pirt of Winnipeg.
The Royal Star Fur Farm of Thornhill has its history told by its founder J. A. Reichert - "In the winter of 1935, I started to enquire about mink and finally ordered two bred females, which were to be shipped near the end of March. On April 13th, I saw my first mink when they finally arrived at Thornhill railway station.
"So far my expenses were $40 for mink and $25 for pens etc. One female raised five kits, the other had none. I pelted two mink that fall and received $7 for the two. I also introduced a nice dark male at the cost of $40 for the next breeding season.
"In the years to follow, I increased my ranch in both quality and size by adding sapphire and blu iris mink. I bought a Black Cross male with a neighbouring rancher on a share basis (cost of this mink $750). The kits sired by this mink were large and well furred and only a few that could be called Black Cross (which became very unpopular) as most were reverting to almost white. On the advice of fur buyers, we pelted or sold our entire stock of white mink, a move which we later regretted. A white male, that a rancher bought from us, was to become a start of a strain of dominant whites that brought some of the highest prices paid for white pelts."
The Carson Fur Farm of Thornhill and Morden operated by Harold and Helen Carson to whom we are indebted for this Manitoba mink history will have its story told by Helen Carson. "Carson Fur Farm was started by brothers Joe and Harold. In 1935, they purchased four young mink - three females and a male. Next year the females raised seventeen young. Most of the few pelts were sold to Hudson's Bay Company for a $16 average. In 1938, Mr. Abe Permack purchased the pelts. Then in 1939, the pelts were first sold by auction. George Milne was the auctioneer and Jack Markson the fur grader. The pelts sold for $14, which was the highest average in the sale. In 1941. Joe sold his interest in the mink out to Harold.
"In 1943, the first mutation mink were purchased. These were Royal Kohinur from Percy Noble of Shallow Lake, Ontario. These mink were the basis for the famous "Carman" whites.
"The first Blu Iris mink were born in 1950 - the result of breeding our standard mink (Al Hole's strain) with a hybrid aleutian from John Adkins. These mink were very successful in the live mink shows as well as pelts. Breeding stock was sold in nine provinces in Canada, twenty-one states in the U.S.A. and three European countries.
"Among the mutations raised were Hope, Capucine, Pearl, Sapphire and Recessive Whites. The latest mutation to be produced is the sable type mink. These mink resemble the Russian sable. European buyers have bought a quantity of these mink for breeding stock.
"In January of 1977, Norman Baldwin of Starbuck, Manitoba, bought out the complete breeding herd of Carson mink, so ending an era which had begun 42 years previously."
Walter Keen started in 1937. A. P. Reichert and Harry Gudrien began in 1938. All were from Thornhill and all ranched for a relatively short time.
J. J. Drysdale and son Wallace began the Stoney Mountain Mink Farm in 1936. It became a large operation and Wallace and his two sons are running it today. Like many mink farms, the Drysdales have experienced some troubles. One of these concerned a stolen car. The car went out of control and ran off the highway. It crashed into one of the mink sheds and killed a number of mink. As J. J. Drysdale worked at the penitentiary, it is presumed that he was able to conduct the culprit to his rightful resting place.
Bert Johnson of Gilbert Plains started mink ranching in 1937. In 1939, he sold the ranch to his brother-in-law, Arthur Harris who made mink farming his full time life work. In recent years, all the mink are sapphires.
Murdock Brothers Fur Farm of Petersfield was established in 1938. This is currently a family operation - four brothers and two brothers-in-law. The farm was built up to 1,600 breeding females.
The All Star Ranch, Rural Route No. 1, Winnipeg, operated by A. M. Doyle - a transplanted Prince Edward Islander who started first with foxes, got into mink later. Arthur was a delightful person with a pixie sense of humour and an unusual approach to everyday situations, in other words he was a character. Most characters are larger than life and do things on the plus side. Arthur was a minus. He wouldn't carry a watch because he didn't want his life directed by a machine. When he built an enclosed mink shed he told the mink they didn't need nestboxes. They said they'd die first - and did. One day when I was driving him back from a visit to our experimental ranch, we ran into a milk wagon, not too violently, but Arthur's cigar was shoved down his throat when his head hit the windshield. I removed the cigar intact and when Arthur got his breath back he said "That's lucky, not even bent." He was referring to the cigar not the car.
W. O. Douglas was the manager of the Hudson's Bay Company Ranch at Bird's Hill. The ranch, started in 1934, had silver foxes, fisher, mink and marten. The Bay's wildlife specialists conducted research on them.
Fur trappers often took cats with them for company and for mouse patrol, to their lonely wilderness cabins. Sometimes these cats gave birth to kittens several months after they were in residence. Unaware of the travelling propensities of the dedicated tomcat, they believed the father of the kittens to be local marten. In time many people believed this implicitly.
W. O. Douglas decided, over the objections of his embarrassed technicians, that it was time to put this theory to the test. A few young female cats were paired with an equal number of young male marten and left together for several months. When I saw them at the end of the experiment, the marten were frisky but the anti-social cats were unhappy, unforgiving and unwed.