George Lane was a unique figure around early Calgary. Whereas most of Calgary’s first settlers were from eastern Canada, Scotland, Ireland and England, Lane spent most of his childhood in the West. Born in Iowa in 1856, he soon emigrated with his parents to Kansas (now Oklahoma). When he was only sixteen, he rode on a cattle drive from Oklahoma to Montana, where his destiny was sealed – Lane was now a cowboy for life.
He joined a ranching operation in Montana, where he stayed for 20 years. He served as a scout for the U.S. Army in the Indian Wars of the late 19th century, but he spent most of his time working on the ranch, accumulating knowledge that he was to put to much use in the years ahead.
In 1884, Lane crossed the border with Canada to work as a foreman for the Bar U ranch, owned by the North-West Cattle Company, where he soon developed the reputation for being one of the best cattlemen on the range. And ranges they were – thousands of acres of unfenced pasture where the herds were controlled by a miniscule amount of human input. Lane was meticulously scientific with his herds, stating that """"every step a steer is run is a pound of beef lost off him. """"
After seven years of duties as foreman and saving as much as the Scotsmen he was surrounded by, in 1892 Lane struck out on his own and founded the Y.T. Ranch, south east of the present town of High River, a short distance south of Calgary. During this latter time, he worked with another prosperous rancher, Pat Burns, supplying meat to British Columbia and later to the Blood Indian Reserve. In 1893, Lane bought the Flying E Ranch and remained there until 1900 when, along with some partners, bought the sprawling Bar U with its approximately 155 000 acres of crop and pasture land and 6 000 head of livestock.
Lane made the Bar U famous for its prize-winning Percheron horses; he bought 32 from Montana and proceeded to build up the largest Percheron stud ranch in the world. When Lane died in 1925, there were 700 Percherons on the Bar U, and it remained a large operation until 1950.
Throughout his long career as a rancher, Lane remained focussed on ranching. Undoubtedly his efforts made the Bar U famous around the world. Royalty from such distant spots as Japan visited the ranch, to get an authentic taste of the frontier, and Lane became friends with Edward, the Prince of Wales, who, on Lane’s advice, bought the Beddington Ranch located next to the Bar U. Lane married Elizabeth Sexsmith in 1885, and had eight children. Schools were """"few and far between"""" out in range country and in the late 1890’s, Elizabeth and the children moved to Calgary.
Along with Patrick Burns, Alfred Ernest Cross and Archie Maclean, Lane was one of the """"Big Four"""" who bankrolled the first Calgary Stampede in 1912. Lane was elected to the Alberta Legislature in 1913 for the riding of Bow Valley.