Valley Voices: Jack Moilliet takes over sheep ranch

It was in December of 1935 that Tam Moilliet died very suddenly at the age of 52 years

Jack Moilliet carries a shovel as he goes out to divert an irrigation ditch. The photo was taken in 1987.

Jack Moilliet carries a shovel as he goes out to divert an irrigation ditch. The photo was taken in 1987.

Editor’s Note: The following story from the Feb. 12, 1975 issue of the Times was part of a series written by former Times reporter Ruth Phillips. It is continued from a Valley Voice that was in our March 24, 2016 issue, which in turn was a continuation of a Valley Voice in our Feb. 25, 2016 issue.

As told to Ruth Phillips by Jack Moilliet

It was in December of 1935 that Tam Moilliet died very suddenly at the age of 52 years. He had spent 30 years in the North Thompson Valley and had seen and accomplished much. His great love and capacity for adventure had endeared him to his family and his friends.

At the age of 16 years, Jack Moilliet was suddenly left with the reins in his hands and a large sheep ranch to manage. He was extremely fortunate in having good help at the time. Jack managed well, and the big responsibility was great therapy in overcoming his grief.

One year later Jack’s brother Ted left his government job and came home to the ranch. Ted was supposed to be on a one-year leave-of-absence from the government. The two brothers joined forces and were partners from 1936 to 1956 at which time Ted finally returned to his job in entomology. He still has a great interest in the sheep operation, and returns to the ranch from time to time.

DunnPeakSheepJack and Ted increased the size of their flock up to about 1,000 ewes. They also bought more property, and greatly expanded their operation, opening up new rangeland.

It was Jack who was to herd the flocks of sheep through the high pastureland while his brother was to stay and maintain the ranch.

Ted married in the year 1943, and, two years later in 1945, Jack married Alice Phillips. Their parents had been good friends, and they had known each other since childhood. Alice had helped Jack’s mother at her ranch in the spring of 1935, and she had come back for a visit in 1940. Having taken her course in paediatric nursing and also having spent two years in Newfoundland nursing, she finally came back to Jack. The two were married and their honeymoon was spent in the beautiful high alpine country that they both loved. Jack and Alice were to have four children: Jacqueline, June, Ian, and Valerie.

Ian was recently married, and lives in one of the log cabins on the Moilliet Ranch. He is now a partner of his dad and mom, and plans on carrying on through the ups and downs of ranching.

Jack’s mother, Mary (Molly), outlived her husband by many years. She eventually passed away in the year 1958, a remarkable woman of indomitable spirit, loved and admired by Jack and Alice.

According to Jack, rangeland unfortunately, is now disappearing. Much of it is being taken over by trees. The reason for this is fire control. Without the natural forest fires, rangeland will disappear.

Although prospects do not seem too promising, nevertheless, Jack doesn’t seem to be discouraged. Modern methods of logging are including clearcut logging. This will be preventing further deterioration of the rangeland.

 

 

To bring the article more up-to-date (with notes from Valerie Moilliet), Jack Moilliet passed away in 1997. His wife, Alice, was Clearwater Citizen of the Year in 1975 and passed away in 1984.

Of their children, Jacqueline lives in Calgary and has four married children, while June, Ian and Valerie continue to live on the ranch near Vavenby. All are married, and Ian and his wife Karen have seven children.

Ian and Karen’s fourth child, Joseph, is married to Cadence McRae of Vavenby and over the last few years has gradually taken over the running of Aveley Ranch

Shepherds are becoming harder to find and Valerie, Ian’s sister has been shepherding the flock in the high country. She is also president of the BC Sheep Federation. Ian (along with his wife Karen) pastor the little church in Vavenby and Ian has written a book, “The Shepherd’s Heart.”

“Many volunteers over the years have helped to keep Aveley Ranch going when there were no wages to pay out. For them we are so grateful – you all know who you are!” Valerie said.

The high country grazing that was saved by logging for about 30 years is now once again, growing into trees, thanks in part to the grazing of the sheep that encourages conifer growth by weeding and fertilizing the trees.

With predators (mostly wolves) increasing and the meadows turning into forests, it is hard to protect the sheep properly. Guardian dogs are used but can never be 100 per cent effective.

In 2003 when the BSE Crisis hit, the sheep industry was devastated with low prices. Aveley Ranch was forced to sell off more than half the flock and was down to 400 ewes for awhile. It is now back to 650. Hay sales and more recently agro-tourism and the woodlot help to garner income.

Lamb prices are slowly increasing and the ranch sells much more lamb locally.

“We will see what the future holds but the ranch is in good hands as it is passed along to the fourth generation to manage,” Valerie said.