Note on terminology: Throughout this exhibit, the term "buffalo" is used. This is the colloquial term for plains bison (scientific name: Bison bison bison). It is used here for consistency with the terminology used in historic documents.
This website was researched and written by Amie Lalonde with funding from the Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, 2018.
Bringing Back the Buffalo
The Pablo-Allard herd and the reintroduction of Buffalo to the Canadian Plains
History of the Pablo-Allard herd
The Pablo-Allard or Flathead herd, sold to Canada by Michel Pablo in 1907, had its beginnings with a man named Walking Coyote (also referred to as Samuel). Walking Coyote, came to own four buffalo calves, two male and two female, it is said the calves had followed him home after a hunt in 1873 / 1874. About ten years later, the four calves had increased to a herd of thirteen, Walking Coyote sold ten of his buffalo to Charles Allard and Michel Pablo for $250 per head.
Charles Allard and Michel Pablo were ranchers on the Flathead reservation in Montana. Allard recognized that possessing a herd of an animal that was then regarded as practically extinct had the potential to be an immensely profitable investment down the line. He convinced his friend and fellow rancher Michel Pablo to join him in this endeavour. In 1896 Allard and Pablo increased their herd with 26 Buffalo bought from a Kansas man named Charles “Buffalo” Jones, who had himself acquired part of his herd from Colonel Samuel Bedson of Manitoba.
In 1896 Allard died and his half of the herd (approx. 150) was sold and dispersed. Meanwhile Pablo’s herd continued to grow, Pablo found it increasingly difficult to manage his ranch and large herd of buffalo, and eventually Pablo’s herd began to range wild along the Flathead River.
In 1904 the United States government notified Michel Pablo of their intent to open up the Flathead Reservation for settlement by selling off parcels of land. Therefore, Pablo’s grazing privileges were cancelled, he would lose the land on which his cattle and buffalo ranged.
A U.S. Government agent offered to purchase Pablo’s herd but at a price per head so low that Pablo decided to approach the Canadian Government. Alex Ayotte, the head of the Department of Immigration for Canada approached Howard Douglas, Superintendent of Rocky Mountains Park (now Banff National Park) who consulted with Norman Luxton, a businessman in Banff, as to how best approach Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior, regarding the purchase of a herd of buffalo. Oliver was open to the idea of purchasing Pablo’s herd, and in 1907 a deal was struck to purchase all but a dozen of Pablo’s buffalo and bring them to Canada.
Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/9, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Cast of Characters
• Walking Coyote (Samuel), ca. 1820-1886]: Owner of the original herd of ten buffalo sold to Michel Pablo and Charles Allard.
• Michel Pablo [ca. 1844-1914] and Charles Allard [ca. 1852] - 1896: Ranchers on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. Partners in purchasing Walking Coyote’s herd in 1884. Allard died in 1896. Michel Pablo and Allard’s son, Charles Allard Jr., orchestrated the buffalo roundup to send the animals to Canada.
• Howard Douglas, 1852-1929: was Superintendent of Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada from 1896 until 1910 and Commissioner of Dominion Parks, 1910-1911. Douglas was involved in acquiring buffalo from the Pablo-Allard herd for Canada. The round-up commenced in 1907 and was completed in 1912 with a total of 716 animals purchased.
• Frank Oliver, 1853 - 1933: Minister of the Interior (Canada) at the time of the sale. Edmonton, Alberta’s first MP
• Alex Ayotte, 1859 - 1932: Department of immigration for Canada in Montana. Alerted Howard Douglas of the herd and Pablo’s desire to sell.
• Norman K. Luxton, 1876-1962: Publisher and businessman, the son of Winnipeg Free Press co-founder William Luxton. After working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Norman Luxton travelled, then joined the Calgary Herald for eight years. Luxton bought Banff’s Crag and Canyon newspaper in 1902 and remained as publisher until 1951. Also in 1902, he established the Sign of the Goat Curio store which specialized in Stoney Nakoda handicrafts and taxidermy specimens. Other significant Luxton businesses were the King Edward Hotel and Livery, Luxton Bros. Insurance (with brother Louis Luxton), and the Lux Block, which included a hotel, the Lux Theatre, ands retail stores.
The Luxtons were important Banff “boosters” with involvement in numerous local organizations and events. Norman Luxton managed the Banff Indian Days from 1909 until 1950, was a founder of the Banff Winter Carnival, and was involved with the Calgary Stampede for 25 years. In 1953, Norman established a museum to house his collection of indigenous artifacts. The Luxton Museum was built in cooperation with Eric Harvie of the Glenbow Foundation of Calgary. After Luxton’s death, the museum continued to be managed by the Glenbow until 1992.
• Georgina (McDougall) Luxton, 1870-1965: In November 1904, Norman Luxton married Georgina (Georgie) Elizabeth McDougall, of the pioneer missionary McDougall family of Morley, Alberta. Norman and Georgina Luxton had one child, Eleanor Georgina, born in Banff in July 1908.
Michel Pablo. Malcolm Geddes fonds,V756/PS - 295, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Howard Douglas. V692/NA33 - 746, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Norman Luxton. Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D1/1/15, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Charles Allard Jr., Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/23, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Alex Ayotte. Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/69, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Georgina Luxton. Byron Harmon fonds, v263/I/A/I/A/NA - 3350, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Bringing the Buffalo to Canada
The roundup: in photographs
Luxton's photographs from the roundup in 1907, along with a document written by him in 1937, further illustrate the difficult task of rounding up Pablo’s buffalo and shipping them to Canada.
Charles Allard Jr. and his cowboys, Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/13, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Michel Pablo and his cowboys, Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/12, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"Dinner at the round up wagon," Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/21, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/52, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"Pablo would take charge and heeding [sic] out with the forty or fifty cow boys direct each rider to his psoition [sic], this always took the shape of a horse shoe, the riders being the horse shoe with the buffalo between the heels of the shoe. Careful riding, no noise, not even smoking was allowed, gardually [sic] the riders would draw closer to the scattered buffalo untill [sic] they were well bunched, then the slow treak [sic] forward in the direction the herd must be driver to the shipping corrals at Ravilli [sic] on the Great Northern Ry. [sic]."
Luxton Family fonds, Norman Luxton, LUX/I/D4/3/7/4, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/49, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/54, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"As we went along we learned, we found if we had more cows and fewer bulls we would some times get them to Ravilli [sic], a bunch of cows alone was almost a sure bet. It was the cows that we really wanted, a few bulls would do. So it took pretty well all that summer of 1909 [sic] to corrall [sic] enough buffal [sic] to load thirteen cars."
Luxton Family fonds, Norman Luxton, LUX/I/D4/3/7/5, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"Fifty head of buffalo after a forty mile run, getting close to the corrals," Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/14, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"Some times these drives went along with out any trouble of animals trying to break away from the bunch, no running ahead of the herd and just about the time we would really think we would get them into a strange country to them and off theyr regular grazing ground suddenly the whole herd Haulted [sic] as if come [sic] one had given the caommand [sic], they would face about to the direction they had come, stand if at ease, hardly an animal would be moving in perhaps the hundred or more animals we had been following. All the cow boys standing their horses with out a move, no smoking, no talking like it would have been if the buffalo had of been cattle. Then from a jump start the buffal [sic] would charge right into the horse shoe shaped riders, never sweaverings [sic] for any horse or horses, driveing [sic] straight ahead as if pocesses [sic] with the devil riding them, they were in their own country and apparently knew where they would end, even the big Pend D’Oreille river they took in their mad stampede, then it would be days again before they were thrown back across the river in dribbs [sic] and drabs of perhaps half a dozen at a time to be once more gathered for a drive to the dhipping [sic] point."
Luxton Family fonds, Norman Luxton, LUX/I/D4/4/3/7/4, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"Buffalo breaking away from the round up and taking to deep water," Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/7, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"Cooling off after a thirty mile run," Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/5, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"I rode most of the time with the Cow boys and got to know the country pretty well, one favorite break the buffalo always made was to swim the Pend D’Oreille, I had taken a lot of photographs already but wanted some of the buffalo swimming the rive [sic], so one day when a drive was on I stationed mysel [sic] opposite on the river where the buffalo always entered it. I was lucky for after a plesant [sic] afternoon among the cactus and rattle snakes, down the banks of the opposite side of the rive [sic] came the buffalo, I soon was in a very large tree which drooped over the rive [sic] with an excellent view to take pictures. I got some dozen good photos and I noticed how very high out of the water the animals rode. A man sitting on their back would never get his seat wet. All the herd had passed, one fime [sic] specimen of a bull was still standing up to his knees in the water, but thinking I could keep the trees between he and myself I started down to get my horse and away, but nothing doing every time I moved, he would raise his tail which was a sure sigh of a chrage [sic] to follow, The devil keep me thre [sic] for well over an hour and it was not untill [sic] two punchers came along and how they did rag me. Thye [sic] drove the bull out of the river, roped him from both head and hind heels and in a jiffy my lovely model was turned into a steer."
Norman Luxton, Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D4/3/7/6, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"A picturesque scene, a bull refusing to leave the water," Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/8, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
One day we managed to get some seventy five head of buffalo into a natural Corral by wing fencing out on to the range. The natural Corral was surrounded on three sides by sixty foot perpendicular cut banks, to make i it still better a creek of water followed along the bottom of the banks. by throwing a heavy snake fence of three foot timbers across the front of this grotto, we had an air tight enclosure for any kind of range animals. So we thought; and we all went to bed happy as could be for we had been travelling in bad luck the last few weeks. I was up next morning before day light, I could not see across the corrall [sic], neither could I hear the usual sounds of low grunt talking a herd of buffal [sic] generally gives out when things are strange to him. Close I got to the corralls [sic] and harder I looked to see, climbing the seven foot high long fence where I had a better view, I had come to the truth of the matter, there was not a Buffalo in sight. It did not take me long to alarm the camp and in a few minutes daybreak showed the yard empty. The fence was first esamined [sic] while others were following around the bottoms of the cut bank. some on top of the cut banks finally found tracks of the buffal [sic] leading out on to the range. Now what do you suppose really happened. The buffalo by working all night had cut a switch back zigzag path to the top of the banks from the creek level.
Yes they had hooked and pawed out a path that took turns and twists right to the grass roots above them. They moved yards and yards of earth and gravel. Not one or two busy “ants” had done the excavateing [sic], but every where along the face of the banks where there was a possible chance of geting [sic] to the top with a path one could see where perhaps every animal in the herd had tried his luck, a dozen or more engineers had been very successful to excape [sic] the entire herd.”
Norman Luxton, Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D4/3/7/7-8, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"Shipping corrals built especially for the buffalo. The fences are made of 2 x 10 inch plants. Often these were broken to pieces by enraged bulls," Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/16, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"Buffalo at rest early in the morning in the corrals at Ravalli," Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/15, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/35, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/37, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/24, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/30, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"The loading of these animals that weighed from a thousand pounds or more for the cows and a ton of more for the bulls was a job that would enjoy any rancher, Here was where we had the buffalo buffalo fades to a frazzel [sic], but patienc [sic] was the pass the word always. The corrals were so constructed that from the big yard were [sic] the main herd stood, a small corrall [sic] led from it and from this smaller yard a shute led into the car, These stock cars had been especially built for the job by the Railway Compnay [sic], reinforced from every angle with a water trough running down one side of the car made of iron and holding several barrels of water. …. Of course the joke was to get the buffalo into the car, for that matter it was a joke to get a buffalo any where to the place wanted. In this case the buffalo was driven into the small yard, then prodded and pushed up the shute [sic], half way up his head went into a loop of heavy rope a knock in the rope preventing it from chokeing [sic] the buffalo to death."
Luxton Family fonds, Norman Luxton, LUX/I/D4/3/7/5, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"Train load of 250 buffalo en route from Montana U.S.A. to Alberta, Canada. A distance of almost 1000 miles," Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/18, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
"Lieut. Governor Bulyea of Alberta and his wife, photographing buffalo at Lamont corrals, while unloading shipment from Montana," Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D2/4/20
In another letter, written on September 30, 1907, Luxton tells Georgina that he "got some very fine photos of the Buffalo, and expect to make a fine souvenir book of them." This souvenir book was published in  as The Last of the Buffalo.
In an undated letter to Georgina, Luxton further describes the process of rounding up the buffalo: "we [went] out to the Buffalo Ranch yesterday. Pablo the owner had 66 in the corrals from the day before. Yesterday we saw him and his cowboys round up some 200 hundred drive them for 15 miles as the [ ] run & everyone of them got away. Pablo is now getting together 50 cowboys, and on Monday we will see one of the [greatest] sights ever [beheld] I do not know yet if I will stay to the end. It is taking longer than I expected, as it will take all next week to get them to Pablo’s ranch & from there to the stn, about 30 miles."
The Last of the Buffalo souvenir booklet, printed in 1908, chronicling the history of the buffalo herd of the Flathead Reservation and an account of the great round up.
Luxton Family fonds, LUX/I/D4/10/9, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Bringing the Buffalo to Canada
The roundup: in letters
In the fall of 1907, Howard Douglas, Norman Luxton, Alex Ayotte, and Dr. David Warnock, a Canadian veterinary surgeon travelled to Montana to oversee the roundup of Pablo’s herd. Much of this first roundup is documented by Norman Luxton through letters to his wife Georgina, photographs, and a document he wrote in 1937 detailing the difficult task of corralling and loading Pablo’s buffalo that roamed wild on the Flathead Reservation.
In a letter to Georgina, written from Ravalli on September 19, 1907, Norman Luxton writes about the difficulties in rounding up Pablo's herd.
He states, "We have had very poor luck with the buffalo, so far only 80 have been corralled, they are just too wild for any thing charging right through a line of horsemen to get back on their range. They are going to give them one more trial, and then commence to load what they have got which means a week or 10 days more."