The X-L is a 200 acre family-run
ranch near the tiny rural community of Jaffray in the south-eastern
corner of British Columbia. It has 165 head of Simmental and Red
Angus cattle, 120 acres in hay, and another 30 acres in pasture.
Vital to its success is 7000 acres of crown rangeland which is
adjacent to the home ranch. The story of the ranch is much more
than the story of the land and the livestock or the simple chronology
of events that makes up its particular history. It is even more
than the story of the family who created and still operates it.
The progress of the X-L is a reflection of the much larger saga
of late 19th century North American settlement patterns, ethnic
and social values, and technological changes throughout the 1900s.
Perhaps the only thing that has remained constant over time is
the independent spirit of family members as they choose to remain
on this land and to persevere in the lifestyle associated with
The X-L was established in 1944
by Elmer and Mary Matson, but the story begins a generation earlier
with Elmer's parents. Gabriel and Hilda Mattson, Scandinavian
immigrants to the United States in the late 1800s, were the first
of the family to settle in Jaffray. Gabriel was born in 1859 in
Korsnas, Finland. The Finland Gabriel left behind was a sparsely
settled land of lakes and forest and the men and women who lived
there were reputed to be hardy, honest, independent and strong.
Rural isolation nurtured Finnish individuality, taciturnity, and
lifestyle. Men lived by hunting, fishing and trapping and families
resided in one-room log houses made of interlocking timbers. The
construction technique of "dove-tailed" corners , imported
to North America, became the recognizable mark of a home built
by a Scandinavian settler. Many settlers were experienced loggers
and farmers who grew oats, barley, rye, hay and root crops of
turnips, beets and potatoes on Finland farms. Bears, wolves and
elk inhabited the forests. Skating, hockey, ice fishing and skiing--which
the Finns are reputed to have invented--were common recreations.
Finland was, in short, not unlike Jaffray, British Columbia, and
Finnish settlers adapted to Canadian life quite easily.
By Katherine McCauley