Alec Oliver, JC and Tinka Oliver
In 1866 Joseph Cayton Oliver came to the United States from the Azores Islands of Portugal as a stowaway on a ship. With the gold rush in Canyon City he found plenty of work in the mines and cutting firewood to make money. With his hard work ethic and good humor he made friends very easy. After 12 years in the mines Joe wanted to begin working on a farm or ranch so he began working for a family just outside of John Day for $20 a month. August Gregg, the man Joe worked for, died one day choking on a chicken bone, so Joe stayed around and eventually married the widow Elizabeth.
The two pooled their two herds totaling up to 16 head of Shorthorn and Durham cows. Over the years Joe continued to work his land and help neighbors around picking up more ground as it became available. In 1878 they recorded the A2 brand and in 1895 gave 60 head of heifers to their 6 children. In 1906 a partnership was formed between Joe and his 3 boys Herman, George, and Frank. George died later that year and the other 3 children had left. In 1925 the brand was passed to Frank and Herman who operated the place as equal partners. In 1937 the ownership of the brand was expanded to their wives and children. Five years later Frank’s son Joe and wife Arlene joined the partnership.
In 1949 the partnership known as Oliver Brothers was dissolved and Herman and Eliza paid $5,000 to keep the A2 brand as their personal property. Joe Oliver, the 3rd generation, used the JO brand in which he was well known for his high quality JO Hereford Cows. As the years went on Joe’s son J.C. joined the operation where he soon met his wife Tinka and the two moved to Bear Valley a few years later.
Oliver’s have been on the same place in Bear Valley since 1889 and in the 1970’s they decided to simplify the operation so it would be easier for one man and some help compared the 30 plus employees that worked the land when J.C. and Tinka met. Now the ranch is run by the 4th generation J.C. and his son Alec who is the 5th generation. The two also now share the A2 brand as well as the ranch owning the JO iron.
A ranch that was once comprised of sheep and cattle is now a cow calf and yearling operation, made up of Hereford and Red Angus cattle. It also brings in outside cattle to help graze the additional grass that grows in the spring and summer.
In 2002 J.C. Oliver, Incorporated was awarded as being a Century Ranch thanks to a hard push by Arlene Oliver, J.C.’s mother. In 2012 the ranch was faced with a bit of a hardship when Alec had a motor vehicle accident and became Paralyzed from the sternum down; but with a stubborn attitude and incredible support from friends and family they have found ways to continue the ranching lifestyle with some modifications that allow Alec access to just about everything he did before.
Bear Valley sits at an elevation of 4700 feet. Spring rains play a big part in the summer grasses as do the winter snow packs. It has gone from a winter snow fall of 3-4 feet each winter to 1-2 feet. Being known to be -50 degrees in the winter and never above 85 in the summer, we now see -20 degrees and triple digits in summer. We have always lived by the theory of “Take care of the land and it will take care of you”.