In the early 1900s the Heckman family moved to a location seven miles north of present day Wildrose and created the Heckman Ranch on the open range.
By Kevin Holten
They ran thousands of head of cattle and hundreds of head of horses and then, after about 10 years, moved on to western Montana, leaving behind their daughter Daisy, who by then had married a neighbor rancher by the name of Fred Fortier.
Today the ranch is still a thriving operation run by the Heckman’s great-grandson, William Fortier, his wife Kay and their two sons, John and Jay.
Their story will be told this Saturday, April 16 at 5 p.m. CDT in a television episode of Special Cowboy Moments to be aired on NBC.
“The Heckman Ranch episode is an important one for me because my grandfather, Alf Alg, worked both there and at the Fortier Ranch as a horse wrangler beginning in 1908,” said Kevin Holten, a Wildrose native and the executive producer of the show. “The Heckman Ranch is such an important part of my past and is probably the reason why Ken Howie and I created Special Cowboy Moments in the first place. There is just so much history there, and like many places in North Dakota, if we don’t capture it, it’ll be lost forever.”
Built by Willow Lake, the Heckman Ranch is awash in cowboy, Native American and regional history because of its location by the lake. Many events were staged there during weekends and on holidays and the main Heckman barn, built in 1908, just up from Willow Lake, stands today as sturdy and strong and as it did back then, with cowboy’s initials carved into its wood.
“After the Heckman’s moved away the ranch was sold to a banker in Wildrose and when he died his family, who lived in Canada, owned it,” said William Fortier, the current owner. “My dad Charlie, who still owned the Fortier Ranch, was able to buy it back in the 50’s and we’ve had it ever since.”
The Heckman Ranch episode will be the 37th episode of Special Cowboy Moments produced by the NDCA and Ken Howie Studios.
“We intend to do many, many more,” said Howie, “because we’ve got a lot of history left to talk about.”
To view past episodes of Special Cowboy Moments, go to gatheringcowboyhistory.com. For other questions call (701) 590-3532. Special Cowboy Moments is sponsored by Shetler’s Construction, Saddle-Up Western Wear, First International Bank & Trust, Fisher Industries, Truck & Trailer Equipment of Wildrose, Johnson& Sundeen Law Office, Mondak Motorsports, Western Cooperative Credit Union and 4T Construction.