Early Pioneer Ranchers

This is a history of some of the early pioneer ranchers, how they came to settle here and their contributions to the areas around present day Wildrose. Of particular note is the Heckman Ranch which by 1905 had become a large working ranch, running thousands of head of cattle and hundreds of horses out of it. See link to “Heckman Ranch on Special Cowboy Moments” on bottom of page.

Taken from the Wildrose Golden Jubilee Book 1910-1960:

Frank D. Hankey and Big Meadow

   One of the earliest ranchers was Frank D. Hankey, who operated a ranch on the north side of Big Meadow. Mr. Hankey was born in Dubuque, Iowa, and received his education in Shakopee, Minn. He moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where he operated the first meat market in that city. Later he moved to St. Paul, Minn. and became a member of the Hanky Bros. Commission firm.

   In the year of 1900, Mr. Hankey struck out for the west, with a load of cattle, intending to go to Plentywood, Mont. but they were caught in a snowstorm in the Big Meadow country, so were forced to stay, waiting for the storm to abate. Instead it grew worse, so they remained. There was an abundance of hay, put up by parties from Kenmare, so this became the primary inducement for Mr. Hankey to locate here permanently, and he settled on the north side of Big Meadow. A well drilling outfit was shipped from Minot to White Earth, and hauled by horses to the ranch, a distance of twenty-five miles. Water was reached at a depth of 250 feet on Christmas Day.  In the meantime a barn, sheds and corrals were built. It was often related how the snow covered the tops of the corral fence, eight to ten feet high.

  There were other ranchers around at this time: August Biwer, A. O. Adams, and Frank Thompson. Each one had his brand, Mr. Hankey’s being Lazy K.

  There were many eventful happenings in the earlier days such as the big Canadian fire. The Big Meadow that year was full of water, so hay was brought in from the hills to the north and a great many tons of hay were stacked on a knoll. The prairie fire consumed the hay after a hard-fought battle. The cattle were then driven south to the Missouri river, and dealt out to anyone who had courage enough to winter them. For several years, checks were received from the St. Paul market for cattle bearing the Lazy K.

   Along about 1903, there was a scab epidemic confined mainly to horses and cattle, and the government ordered a quarantine on all animals in the area.

   The Hankey ranch was designated as a central dipping place, a large steam boiler was shipped in and a long vat with draining chutes was installed. Cattle for many miles around were dipped under government inspection. Mr. and Mrs. Hankey passed away in 1929. They raised four children.

William Heckman

   Mr. and Mrs. Heckman and their family came from Hope, N. Dak. to homestead in 1900 and settled on a ranch by Willow Lake. Seven miles north of present day Wildrose. They were born in Indiana and lived for some time in South Dakota. In 1912, they moved to Great Falls, Mont. Later moving to Plainfield, New Jersey, where they lived until their deaths.

Fred Fortier

   Fred Fortier was born in Austin, Illinois, and in early youth conducted a street car in Chicago; in fact, at age 16 he was the youngest conductor in that city. During his early homestead days, he broke horses and sold them the new settlers.

   Mrs. Fortier, formerly Daisy Heckman, was born at Sidney, Indiana and moved with her family first to South Dakota then to North Dakota by covered wagon, and with her parents the William Heckmans, settled on the ranch by Willow Lake. Close by on another ranch lived an enterprising young bachelor by the name of Fred Fortier. Daisy Heckman and Fred Fortier were married at Ray, N. Dak. May 6th 1904. They had four daughters Daisy, Ethel, Helen, Althea and one son Charles.

   It was stated in the 1960 Golden Jubilee Book that they celebrated their Golden Anniversary in 1954 surrounded by all their children.

   What was once the Heckman Ranch, now usually referred to as the Fortier Ranch, is still being run today by Daisy and Fred’s Great-Grandson William Fortier, his wife Kay and their sons John and Jay.

Heckman Ranch on Special Cowboy Moments