History of the Gang Ranch

Chronology of the Gang Ranch

The first area ranch to use a double-furrowed gang plough brought from England !!

This history is in constant update and revision. Please forward any comments/corrections or additions to Wanda Story. The goal is to make this account as accurate as possible.

Bruce Mitchell is currently doing research for a historic novel about the Harper Brothers and is interesting in sharing information.

- Jerome, born in 1826 and Thaddeus Harper, born in 1829, came from Harper's Ferry, in Tucker County, West Virginia in the USA.

1840s - In the late 1840's three Harper brothers set out to join the California Gold rush.

-Jerome Harper spent some time in Chili, South America, operating a store.   Business was good until a rebellion erupted.  Jerome was a confederate supporter and backed the rebels.  He then found himself banished to Patagonia where he was rescued by his brother Capt. Harper.

1852 - Jerome and Thaddeus Harper were farming in Santa Clara County, California.

1858 - At the Outbreak of Civil War the Harper brothers moved north.

1859 -The Harpers were involved in mining and sawmill operations at Yale.  They spent time in Victoria and joined in on a Confederate plan to outfit a ship.  They were accused of plotting raids on the northern states, so the Union pressured Victoria to have them move farther from the border

-The Harpers were involved in mining and sawmill operations at Horsefly, which was originally called Harper's Camp.

- Many years before white people were common in the Cariboo, Kalalest, a Chilcoten man established his family  across the Fraser, just south of where the Chilcotin's blue waters flow into the muddy Fraser. On this ranch he raised horses which he broke and sold to the Cariboo gold seekers, and later to the white people who came to settle. Among these newcomers were the Harper brothers, Thaddeus and Jerome. The brothers first sited Kalalest's property from the Dog Creek side of the Fraser River. They rode up the river until they were across from a Chilcotin Native settlement and made a smoke signal. The Natives came in a spruce log canoe and ferried the Harpers to the other side.  The Harpers liked the look of the land west of the Fraser and so they persuaded the old Indian Kalalest,  to sit down with them and make a white man's agreement. An imaginary line was drawn on the ground and, according to grandson Joseph Clement Kalalest, his grandfather agreed to let the Harpers use the land to the south of the imaginary line while his family was to keep the land to the north. 

1863 - Jerome and Thaddeus founded the Ranch, first called the Canadian Ranching Company, located about 46 kilometres north of Clinton. Cattle was purchases in Washington and Oregon and driven up to the ranch in the spring.  The first crown grant application was for 160 acres of land in what is now known as the Home Ranch Valley.   Jerome Harper drove a heard of 500 cattle from Washington and Oregon to the Cariboo.  The Harper brothers also were operating the first steam powered sawmill at Quesnelle Mouth.

- The horses and cattle stock of the Ranch were and still are branded with JH for Jerome Harper. They ran cattle at Riske Creek.

- Orlando Thomas (Tom) Hance joined the Ranch for a summer as a herder.

1870 - Jerome was kicked in the head by a horse and would never fully recover.

1871 - Jerome signified his intention to retire, and advertised his mills for sale.

1872 - In March Jerome moved to his native California to San Francisco for health reasons in March.

1873 - In February Jerome was reported to be 'hopelessly insane'.   A mortgage was let on the Hat Creek property held by Jerome Harper. He would lease the property to various managers.

1874 - Jerome died on November 27th, in Santa Barbara, California at the age of 48 years.  It is said that he drowned in the bathtub. His estate, valued at $150,000, passed to Thaddeus but only when the will had been upheld in court after relatives maintained that Jerome had been insane."  The Harpers had 1,000 hectares of land.

1876 - Thaddeus left on a beef drive to either Ogden or Salt Lake City, Utah. He wintered the heard in Washington. He then trailed them through Idaho to Utah. The cattle was then sent by train to San Francisco where beef prices were higher. The long hard venture turned out to be a financial failure. The trip of about 1,200 miles is the longest drive ever made from Canada.

1878 - A severe winter hit the Cariboo/Chilcotin area, 3,000 head of cattle were lost.

1879 - The severe winter and financial strain of the long cattle drive nearly broke Thaddeus Harper.

1881 - The Hat Creek Ranch property was sold.  Thaddeus is listed in the census in the Lytton & Cache Creek district of Yale, British Columbia.  He is listed as 42 years old, a protestant born in the US and of the occupation Stock raiser.  He is listed as living with 9 other men ranging in age from 26 to 38 years old, Robert Ward a Miller, James Black a Carpenter, Adolphe Florent a Carpenter, Thomas Barton a Hewer, John Williams a Miller, Matthew Wamsley an accountant, Charles Warren a Miller, Thomas Zuirk a labourer and Jack a Chinese cook.

1883 - Thaddeus Harper purchased what is said to be the largest lot about 8,900 acres, Lot 44 on the north side of the Chilcotin in BC from the government. He paid $1.00 per acre and the area became known as Harpers Meadow.

- The Harper Brothers, were early irrigators in BC.  Chinese miners had flumed water onto the river benches above Gaspard Creek. The Harpers finally found a route to bring the water down a side-draw in large volume to irrigate their hayfields. Large gangs of men were employed building ditches to irrigate Harper's Ranch. Many men were also hired to break the sod with gang ploughs. This was believed to be the first ranch in the area to use the gang plough and the cowboys began calling the ranch "The Gang".  

1884 - The grass pasture land of Lot 44 was Crown Granted (12, 146 acres). The Gang Ranch ran steers on this land and they built a cabin and barn for the range rider overlooking the north side of the river. The cabin became known as the Company Cabin. While out riding alone, Thaddeus suffered a fall from his horse and was kicked in the face. He was found unconscious a day later and spent six weeks in the hospital in Victoria. Thaddeus was beginning to be more and more interested in gold prospecting occurring in the Horsefly area and would spend considerable energy and money buying property and setting up a hydraulic mine there.   The ranch lands now totalled 15,600 hectares, but the ranch was in dept $100,000 to Thomas Dixon Galpin.

-William Pinchbeck found himself heavily in debt to the owners of the Gang Ranch and they eventually took over his property at Williams Lake.  While the ranch was for sale it was leased to Joseph Philip Patenaude. He and his sons, Ernest and Albert would work the farm until 1889.

1888 - Thaddeus sold the Gang Ranch out to his partners in the Western Canadian Ranching Company Ltd. in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid personal bankruptcy. It is said at this point the Gang Ranch was 38,472 acres total in BC.  It included ranch land at Canoe Creek, Clinton, Kamloops, and the Perry Ranch (17,000 acres) at Cache Creek but the Gang Ranch was always the considered the main ranch.

1889 - The old Pinchbeck farm, now owned by the Gang Ranch was sold to Robert Borland for $17,000.

1891 - The Western Canadian Ranching Company, headed by London publisher, Thomas Dixon Galpin, bought the financially strapped Gang Ranch and all its holdings. (Thomas Dixon Galpin was married to Emma Parr and was the Galpin in "Cassell, Petter & Galpin" London Publishers who published many books, including Canadian and American ones.)  The Western Canadian Ranching Company (WCRC) was incorporated in England to acquire, develop and manage ranches throughout the Province of British Columbia, Canada, and the United States. The WCRC was registered in British Columbia as an extra-provincial company on Jan. 3, 1898. Ranches under its management included the Harper Ranch near Kamloops, the Gang Ranch and the Perry Ranch, near Ashcroft. Throughout its existence, the company maintained its head office in England with a branch office in Victoria. The British Columbia Land and Investment Agency served as its financial agent. The WCRC wound up its business in the 1950s. 

1894 -James Douglas Prentice, who would later marry Thomas Dixon Galpin's daughter managed the ranch.  BC Archives holds a letter (MS-1256) from Theodore Davie, May 24, 1894, replying to a letter from Prentice stating that Davie had threatened to withhold money set aside in the estimates to reimburse the Western Canadian Ranching Company for road building if Prentice ran as an opposition candidate. Davie denies the accusation but expresses surprise that Prentice should ally himself with a group tending towards "Socialism and communism", and points out that the money had been granted because the government thought of Prentice as a deserving friend.

1895 - In the Directory of Dog Creek, J. D. Prentice is listed as the manager of Canadian Ranching Co., Thos Greaves is listed as on the farm.

 - BC Archives (MS1648) holds typescripts of two novels and two short stories, three of which take place on a ranch in the Cariboo-Chilcotin written by James Prentice.  (Manuscript of novel "Lost Valley: The Stuarts In The Cariboo" [234 pages], Synopsis of "Lost Valley" Manuscript of short story "Old Paul" [57 pages], Manuscript of short story "Bunch Grass" [13 pages], and the Manuscript of untitled novel: The Stuart family capture German spies in Newfoundland during World War II [227 pages].

1898 - Thomas Powell Morgan worked as the cattle buyer. While out riding alone perhaps near Lac La Hache, Thaddeus Harper suffered a fall from his horse and was kicked in the face. He was found unconscious a day later and spent six weeks in the hospital in Victoria. Thaddeus Harper died in Victoria on December 9th at the age of 65.

-A load of lumber was consigned for the ranch and Charlie Bambrick and two other men tried to deliver it by raft down the Fraser River from Soda Creek. The river was rolling high and the men were unable to bring the raft ashore at the Gang Ranch and were swept some 10 miles down the river before they could tie up. They had come ashore where the Canoe Creek Ranch was building so they sold the lumber to them instead.

1898 - Thaddeus Harper died on December 10, in Victoria.

1906 - There was a tough winter. Thomas Powell Morgan returned to the Gang Ranch after working for Allan Baker at the Loon Lake Ranch near Clinton. He stayed with the Gang for about 7 years.

1907 - Harper's Meadow was fenced by Henry Durrell.

1911 - Charlie Mulvahilll and his 8-horse team of Clydes and Shires hauled cables from Ashcroft to the Gang Ranch Bridge. The cables were so long and heavy they had to be hauled in winter and coiled onto two sleighs that were tied together.

1912 - Harry Marriot was the manager of  the Gang Ranch and would hold that position for three years until 1915.  Frank Witte and Frank Therriault worked one season in the hayfields and helped put up the first crop of alfalfa. The Gang ranch "bought out" Alec and Betsy Kalelest who owned the Home Ranch but the Kalelest family would continue to live on the Ranch into the 1930s.

1914 - William Walter Wycott died at the Gang Ranch on June 9th, at the age of 87.  (BC Death Registration Number 1914-09-238124, BC Archives Microfilm number B13114)

1924 - Thomas Wycott died at the Gang Ranch on November 24th, at the age of 63. (BC Death Registration Number 1924-09-360360, BC Archives Microfilm number B13127)

1926 -Nancy Peter Jimmy died at the Gang Ranch Creek on October 5th, at the age of 1 year.  (BC Death Registration Number 1926-09-011020, BC Archives Microfilm number B13361)

1927-1929 - Were considered the glory years of the Gang Ranch.

1929 - Red Bluff Charlie died at the Gang Ranch on August 8th, at the age of 92 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1929-09-013076, BC Archives Microfilm number B13361)

1930 - Cecil Henry and Walter Bambrick went to work at the Gang Ranch but left after only one month for the Chilco Ranch.

1932 - Henry Durrell traded his Ross Gulch Lease, about 2,000 acres and some cash to the Gang Ranch for Lots 45, 771, and 772 and several leases along the Chilcotin River.

1934- Alice Louis died at the Gang Ranch on December 17th, at the age of 4 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1934-09-019106, BC Archives Microfilm number B13363)

- The Gang Ranch Bridge was repaired.

-It is said that James Douglas Prentice the son of  the James Douglas Prentice who managed the Gang Ranch in 1894 managed the gang ranch before he served in World War II.

1936 - Mary (granddaughter of Alec and Betsy Kalelest) was born on the Home Ranch.

1937 - 5 people died in November at the Gang Ranch.  Robert Kalelest died at the Gang Ranch Post Office on November 19th, at the age of 21 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1937-09-021633, BC Archives Microfilm number B13363) Annie Kalelset died at the Gang Ranch on November 19th, at the age of 2 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1937-09-021634, BC Archives Microfilm number B13363)  Felix Kalelset died at the Gang Ranch on November 23rd, at the age of 2 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1937-09-021635, BC Archives Microfilm number B13363)  Harry Kalelset died at the Gang Ranch on November 19th, at the age of 11 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1937-09-021636, BC Archives Microfilm number B13363)  Three days later,  Permina Kalelset died at the Gang Ranch on November 19th, at the age of 14 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1937-09-021637, BC Archives Microfilm number B13363)

- The Gang Ranch continued to grow and in the 1930's the Kalalest's family were finally forced to leave their home and move onto the Alkali Lake Reserve. This was considered fair treatment towards Indians at that time.  Sons and grandsons of Kalalest had worked at the Gang Ranch ever since its earliest days and were paid wages for their work but they received not one penny for their land, or their buildings which they believed would be theirs for all time. Joseph Clement Kalalest did not seem bitter about this treatment. He just used to say, " We didn't understand we had to file ownership. We believed what had always been ours would always be ours as agreed. We didn't know enough."

-Frederick Pinchbeck was a blacksmith with the Gang Ranch.

1940- Bert Gaspard died at the Gang Ranch on December 25th, at the age of 4 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1940-09-582627, BC Archives Microfilm number B13170)

1944 - An article was printed in the Lilloet News about James Douglas Prentice, a local cowboy, previous manager of the Gang Ranch (1930s)who now was a Commander in the Navy.

1947- Helen Marie Duncan died at the Gang Ranch on January 26th, at the age of 1 year.  (BC Death Registration Number 1947-09-095053, BC Archives Microfilm number B13376)

1947 - Two Americans, Dr. William (Bill) Patrick Studdert, from originally from Alaska, but living in Montana and Floyd E. Skelton, from Idaho Falls, Idaho, bought the Gang Ranch for $400,000 dollars.  It included 6,000 head of cattle and about 2,000 yearlings.  Beef was selling from between 13 to 23 cents a pound.  Bill Suddert lived and managed the ranch but did not do well. Bill and Floyd also owned other ranches in Montana and Idaho.

1954- Baby Richard James Charlie died at the Gang Ranch on March 25th.  (BC Death Registration Number 1954-09-095096, BC Archives Microfilm number B13377)

1956- The JH cattle brand was registered to F.E. Skelton, & W.P. Studdert of the Gang Ranch.

1957- Betsy Kalelest died at the Gang Ranch on December 2nd, at the age of 74 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1957-09-014714, BC Archives Microfilm number B13235)

1959- Mike Rosette started at the Gang Ranch and work at the ranch off and on until 1985.

1960 - A school was built on the ranch that would run for about 10 years.

1964- Jack Hayes died at the Gang Ranch on October 28th, at the age of 32 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1964-09-015597, BC Archives Microfilm number B13269)

circa 1965 - Bill Studdert passed away leaving Floyd Skelton to manage the ranch from the US.   Floyd's other business partners, Melvin and Erwin Sidwell managed the ranch and Melvin Sidwell became the on-site manager of the Gang Ranch.  Erwin Sidwell was a large man and couldn't ride a horse into the camp and so would  fly in once a year to check on things.  It is said that the Sidwell's did not welcome the local Natives during Thanksgiving dinners as had been done in the past.  

1967 - Jim Farwell and his family moved to the Gang Ranch from California and took over as Cowboss for the next 3 years under Melvin Sidwell's management.  Cow camps were run at Relay Creek , Fosberry, and Hungry Valley.  A team of cowboys (and often their families!) would take a wagon and a pack horses and set up cow camp until fall.  It is said that Jim Farwell, being from California and not knowing a thing about bears would go in to camp  2 weeks ahead of the cattle and poison Grizzly bears with canned fish. It is said that Jim shot a record Grizzly the next year at hungry Valley that just about ate him.  He skinned it and sent it in to the main Ranch with a native and pack horse to get tanned, and in the fall when Jim returned no one knew where the hide was, and a few years later, our boss, "Erwin Sidwell" has his name in the Boone and Crockett Record book with Jim Farwell's bear saying he shot it! Below is a picture of Jim Farwell with HIS bear.

1968 - Several cattle froze to death in the cold winter of 1968.

1969- Dan Olof Jonsson died at the Gang Ranch on November 22nd, at the age of 37 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1969-09-017359, BC Archives Microfilm number B13300)

1971 - Scott and Jeff Fairless, grandsons of Floyd Skelton, worked at the ranch.  Donald Gordon Endersby died at the Gang Ranch on November 9th at the age of 25 years.  (BC Death Registration Number 1971-09-018682, BC Archives Microfilm number B13315)

1972 - Dymph Dewynter worked as the fall round-up cook at the Gang Ranch.

1974- Mike Fairless, son-in-law of Floyd Skelton was managing the Gang Ranch.  Baby Christie Lee Brown died at the Gang Ranch on May 26th.  (BC Death Registration Number 1974-09-020250, BC Archives Microfilm number B13339)

 - The Ranch, now consisting of a million acres,  was put up for sale.

1977 - The Alsagar family, under the name of the Alsagar Holdings Ltd, purchased the Gang Ranch for around 4.2 million dollars. This would be the first time this ranch was actually owned by Canadians.  The ranch holdings at this time was appraised at $15 million.   The main Gang ranch was worth $8.3 million, the Perry Ranch worth $2.5 million, equipment was valued at $1.2 million, the livestock was valued at $2.5 million and other supplies were listed as $667,000.  At this time the ranch included 38,000 deeded acres and 700,000 acres under lease.  Rick Alsagar would be the ranch manager, assisted by Oren and Denis Alsagar and Dale Alsagar became the accountant.

1981 - The main Gang Ranch was appraised at $8.38 million, the Perry Ranch was appraised at $2.5 million.

1982 - The Gang Ranch went into receivership on November 26th.

1984 - The Perry Ranch was sold to Mr. Kohler for $1.1 million in January.  In March Sullivan Pastures was sold for $27,000. In June the main Gang Ranch was sold to Melvin Nelson from High River, Alberta for $6.9 million.  A few months later the main Gang Ranch was again  sold to John Rudiger, Clark and Susan Borth, Ross Adams, Wilber Griffith and Saudi Arabian Sheik Ibraham Afandi of Jeddah.  The Sheik, would later buy the other investors out.

1985 - The Crows Bar property was sold for $450,000.

1988 - Saudi Arabian sheik, Ibrahim Afandi of Jeddah, under the name BSA Investments bought the Gang Ranch outright.  It is said that the Sheik has only visited the Ranch twice.

1990 - Tim O'Byrne took on the cowboss job of 4000 head of cattle at the Gang Ranch.

1993 - The Gang Ranch, run by Larry Ramstad and his wife Bev, is a well-run and productive operation, under the ownership of BSA Investments.

1999 - Arial photo taken of the Gang Ranch.

2003 - BSA Investments is listed as the owner of the Gang Ranch,  and Ibrahim Muhammad Afandi, a wealthy Saudi,  is listed as the owner of BSA Investments.  

The Gang Ranch included at one time or another, ranch land at Canoe Creek, the Kelly Ranch, the Harper Ranch at Kamloops, the Perry Ranch (17,000 acres, 3 miles from Cache Creek),  57 Mile property, Sullivan Pastures and  Meadow Lake near Clinton, William's Meadows, Fosberry Meadows, Big Meadows, Wycott Flats, Home Valley Ranch, Crows Bar (6,000 acres) but the Gang Ranch was always the considered the main ranch.

Additional Notes on the Gang Ranch:

Jerome Harper is included in the Canadian Dictionary of Biography.

There have been many movies shot at the Gang Ranch, as well as some commercials.  A Marlborough Country commercial was shot there.

It is said that Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, once looked into buying the Gang Ranch.

Books written about the Gang Ranch include: 
"Gang Ranch, The Real Story", by Judy Alsager (ISBN 09682883-0-8)
"The Incredible Gang Ranch", by Dale Alsager (ISBN 0-88839-211-7)
"She's downhill and in the shade", by Chris Kind (ISBN 0-9734686-0-2)

There is a poem a cowboy wrote called "We are the Gang Ranch Cowboys" (in the land that God forgot). Guarding the cattle with the JH brand for a buck and a half a day. When we die and Saint Peter rings that bell, he'll say come on in boys cause you've spent your time in hell.

Names associated with the Gang Ranch

Able, Quinn
Allen, Antoine
Alsagar, Ted & Irene, children: Donna, Dale, Rick, Judy, Oren (owners)
Auben, Joe "Skidrow"  cowboy 5 years in early sixtiesBambrick, Eddie (head rider)
Bambrick, Walter (worked only 1 month in 1930 at the ranch)
Billy, Francis
Boston, Mary (worked at the Gang Ranch from 1960-1973)
Bryant, George (manager of Perry Ranch)
Campbell, Ulysses
Conners, Charlie
Cooney, Tommy
Dodds, John (cowboy, early 1980s)
Dootoff, Lynn (secretary, early 1980s)
Durrell, Henry (contracted to build a fence around Harpers Meadow in 1907)
Fairless, Mike (manager in early 1970s) and sons Jeff and Scott (working in 1971)
Farwell, Jim (cowboss 1967, 68 and 69)
Galpin, Thomas Dixon (a one time owner of the Gang Ranch, 1891)
Gillespie, Shell
Gisler, Phil (cowboy)
Grinder, Grant
Greaves, Thos (on ranch in 1895)
Guthrie, Marvin Cowboss early sixties
Hance, Orlando Thomas "Tom"
(herder at the ranch for one summer in the late 1860's)
Harper, Jerome (one of the first owners)
Harper, Thaddeus (one of the first owners)
Harry, Jimmy  Dog Creek Indian cowboy early sixties
Henry, Cecil (worked only 1 month in 1930 at the Gang Ranch)
Holst, Brian (early 1980s, returned in the late 1980s)
Hurst, Walter  cowboy 4 years early sixties
Jack, Johnny  Chilcotin Indian cowboy early sixties
Jones, Lonnie (cowboss early 1980s, returned in late 1980s)
Kalelest, Alec and Betsy (said to have sold the Home Ranch to the Gang Ranch in 1912)
Kalalest, Clement
Kalelest, Isidore  Ranch hand/cowboy early sixties
Kalelest, James ranch hand early sixties
Kalalest, Joseph Clement
Keeble, Walter (managed the store)
Kind, Chris known as "Cactus", worked for 5 years in the early 60s
Lower, Don  ranch foreman early sixties
Marriott, Harry, (manager from 1912-1915)
McDonald, Don cowboy 5 years early sixties
McIntire, Jack (head rider for 20 years and then ranch foreman, he left the Gang Ranch to manage the Perry Ranch)
McMorran, Wallace (ranch manager)
Morgan, Thomas Powell (1898 he was the cattle buyer, he left the ranch and then returned in 1906 and stayed for 7 years until he started his own ranch)
Mose, Pigeon
Nichol , Ron cowboy 5 years early sixties
Oltheimer, Lisa (secretary early 1980s)
Patenaude, Joseph Philip and his two sons, Ernest and Albert leased the Pinchbeck farm for several years from the Gang Ranch until 1889
Patten, Dan (early 1980s)
Pinchbeck, Frederick - was a blacksmith for the ranch.
Prater, Susan
Prentice, James Douglas (manager in 1895)
Radford, Bernie (mechanic, early 1980's)
Ragan, Jim (in charge of steers on the north side of the Chilcotin River)
Ramstad, Larry (ranch manager in 1993)
Reynolds, Jim
Robinson, Wayne  Manager five years early sixties
Roper, Harry
Rosette, Jimmy (cowboy in 1942 until 1980s)
Rosette, Joe and Stella (lived and worked at the Gang Ranch until the late 1980s)
Rosette, Mike (born on the ranch, worked there 1959 on and off until 1985)
Rosette, Raymond (early 1980s)
Rossette, Wahoo  Indian cowboy fifties and sixties
Rosette, Willie and Celina (lived at the Gang Ranch leaving in the early 1980s)
Seargent, George  (Dog Creek Indian cowboy early sixties)
Sherrer, Jack Cowboy ( colt breaker ) early sixties
Sidwell, ?, Manager in the early 1970s
Skelton, Floyd
Squires, Newman
Stewart, Jim (gang foreman, died in Vancouver)
Stobie, Angus
Stobie, Walter cowboy early sixties
Studdert, Bill (ranch manager 1948-1971)
Therriault, Frank (worked 1912 at ranch)
Turton, Stu (mechanic, early 1980s)
Williams, Roy cowboy early sixties
Witte, Frank (worked 1912 at ranch)
Wood, Loren (Colt breaker) early sixties

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Comments and corrections always welcome !!

Last updated 27 January, 2005