The McLeod Family in Idaho
By Mayor Jim Reynolds
For three generations, the McLeod Family have been visionary leaders in the Treasure Valley. Hailing from Scotland, Colin McLeod conceived a sheep ranch to dwarf those of his native land. Colin Jr., or Smokey to his friends, saw what could become of the Spring Valley sheep and cattle ranch. The most recent, Colin III, or Sandy, saw the difficulties ahead for medium-sized ranches, and envisioned an environmentally-friendly development with a small town feel that would honor and celebrate the McLeod legacy. Today, the McLeod vision is known as Avimor
Born in 1880 in Ardgay, Rosshire, Scotland, young Colin McLeod headed to America in 1898 to seek his fortune. Finding his way to western Alberta, he supposedly boarded a train and told the conductor to take him as far south as his last $3 would take him. Fortunately, that turned out to be Caldwell, Idaho.
Scottish Highlanders have a long history of raising sheep, and Colin soon hired himself out to a local sheep rancher. After six successful years, young Colin started his own sheep business partnership with 10,000 head. In 1907, Colin married the young widow, Anna Bruce and had four children with her: Ruby, Connie, Eleanor and Colin Jr. By 1916, Colin, Sr. was able to purchase a portion of Spring Valley that is now Avimor. He trailed his 35,000 sheep from Scott Mountain near Loman to Jump Creek, just south of Caldwell during lambing season.
Colin, always in a white shirt, hat, and suspenders, was well known for his candor. His handshake on a matter was his bond. Much of Spring Valley at that time was populated by homesteaders, many of whom were relatives. During lean times, the McLeod’s would feed their families. It was not unusual on a supply trip to Eagle to learn that Colin had settled their accounts in full with Orville Jackson and the other merchants. Always the visionary, he encouraged his Basque and Scot employees to learn English and to assimilate into society. During the Great Depression, many of the homesteaders fell on hard times, and left the land for jobs in town. The McLeod’s acquired many of the abandoned homesteads for delinquent taxes, and further grew their legacy.
Smokey McLeod was born in 1920. After graduation from Caldwell High School, he earned his degree from the University of Idaho. He married De Layne Miller in 1944 and built the red brick house in Spring Valley near the old stage stop. Like his father, he loved the sheep and cattle industry and saw the potential for Spring Valley Ranch. Smokey revered the land, its people, and the livestock, carrying on his father’s habit of feeding and clothing needy friends, family, employees, and even strangers. He was an avid hunter, fisherman, and scratch golfer, as well as being very active in local sheep and cattle organizations.
Sandy McLeod arrived on a cold March day in 1952. Like Smokey, he was a top student and highly competitive in all sports. He excelled at golf, basketball, and rodeo team roping. He played freshman basketball on a scholarship to the University of Idaho, but found his true passion lay with horses, roping, and rodeo competitions.
After graduation, he joined his father in business, becoming very proud of the Spring Valley Brand, and vehemently opposed selling any of the land. Sandy was also very generous and fair in his dealings. He followed current events and did not hesitate to render his opinion on a variety of subjects. His wife, Terri, and daughter, Megan, survive to carry out the McLeod legacy of generosity and stewardship.
Next year, the McLeod’s will celebrate 100 years in Spring Valley.