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April 16, 2007
photo by Edna L. Campbell
photo by Edna L. Campbell
About the photos:
Jeri Dobrowski shared the following information and 1940s-era photos about McNierney Livestock:
Chuckwagons and cowboy-filled bunkhouses were already scarce on the Northern Great Plains when my maternal grandmother, Edna Lucille Campbell, took the following set of roundup photos (circa 1948). The neighboring McNierney Livestock, one of the largest ranches in Montana, sent a wagon out with the cowboys on the roundup that year. It was a big deal, and Grandma went out to visit and take pictures. Although we don’t know the exact location where they were taken, it is safe to say it was within Custer County, Montana.
"McNierney Remuda" is written on the back of the above photo.
McNierney Livestock was a sizeable spread and a ranch of some renown. The Three D, as it was called, had a ranch manager, another fella who oversaw the cowboys, the cowboys and a cook. One cook who I spoke with said she had five or six cowboys to feed, including her husband. They’d hire extra help as the season demanded. Evidently my uncle, Kenneth Campbell, was working this particular roundup. My mom says the paint in the rope corral belonged to him. He would have been around 13 at the time. (You can see the chuckwagon team to the far left. Something out of range of the camera has their attention.)
My grandmother had an 8x10" enlargement made of this photo. That’s McNierney’s chuckwagon and tent; the Mercury was hers. Grandma identified the cowboys as George Snedigar (left) and Joe "Johnny" Turner. I remember her talking frequently about "ol’ George Snedigar." He was quite a character. She described Turner as "pretty much an orphan" who ranch manager, Jim Rayburn, took under his wing.
While neither of these pictures were dated, we presume they were taken in 1948. My grandparents routinely bought a Miles City car dealer’s year-old Mercury when he got a new one. The car is pegged as either a 1947 or ’48. Add a year onto the age of the car and we have the approximate year. A rancher who lives in the area also guessed it to be 1948. He and his wife married in 1949. He doesn’t recall any big McNierny roundups after they were married.
For the day, the two horses are quite refined with better-than-average confirmation and pretty heads. My mother said McNierney brought horses up from Texas. She thinks the gray in the remuda with the XVX on his left hip was one. (If anyone is familiar with the brand, I’d sure like to hear from you!)I mention confirmation here because a great many horses back then had draft blood in their ancestry. You can see examples of this within the remuda and also among the horses corralled near the barn (below).
My paternal grandfather, William M. Janssen (who ranched and ran a mercantile at Coalwood, Powder River County, Montana, 56 miles south of Miles City), contracted with the Army to raise horses for the U.S. Remount Service. The government placed selected stallions with breeders who then bred their own mares to the studs. Granddad Bill received draft stallions. Government buyers purchased about three-quarters of the horses offered to them. Mounts rejected by the Army, and perhaps a few they never saw, made their way into everyday ranch and farm life, such as these.
McNierney used to ship cattle by train to Calypso, near Terry, Montana, where they were unloaded. A neighboring rancher mentioned a newspaper clipping that said McNierney sent a quarter of a million head of cattle to Miles City from Texas. Turner was in charge of trailing the cattle from Calypso to the Powder River Valley and distributing between 8,000-10,000 head of steers. The cattle went onto McNierney’s land and also on to smaller ranches. Some of the steers went onto my grandfather’s place. McNierney paid neighboring ranchers an agreed upon rate to run the cattle.
1944 Johnny Turner & Roland McMillan at Brown Ranch
Note the tapaderos (spelled "tapaderas" in some regions) on Turner’s saddle. I’ve had people tell me that Montana cowboys didn’t use the stirrup covers. A Wibaux County rancher told me recently that his father used them during the winter to block the wind and help keep his feet warm. McNierney and Rayburn’s ties to the southwest might have influenced the showy, protective gear in this particular case. But, there they are.
"Lottie, Sig & Lucille" is written on the back of this one. Lottie is Lottie Snedigar (married to George). We don’t know Sig’s last name. He might have been the cook’s helper. Grandma Lucille is on the far right, wearing the dude shirt with smiley pockets. Grandma had gone out to visit her friends. Knowing her though, first and foremost she was checking up on Uncle Kenny.
Although Lottie hired on as cook, I’ve been told that George always fixed breakfast. Didn’t matter if it was for one or for 35, you’d find George rustling up the morning meal. I found a single sheet of paper with three recipes from Lottie in my grandmother’s recipe box. It had been folded four times to make it fit, and the folds are beginning to separate. Lottie shared her pumpkin layer cake, brown sugar raisin icing and cornmeal yeast buns.
The most factual information I have about McNierney Livestock came serendipitously through my father. Dad didn’t miss too many auctions sales when he was alive. True, he was drawn by what he’d find among the offering. But, he was gregarious and found great joy in simply visiting with those in attendance. At the sale of saddlemaker Pete VerBeck, he bought a 1942 calendar adorned with a sepia tone photo of a herd of cattle being trailed. Printed beneath was "DDD Cattle in Montana, John McNierney Livestock, Albuquerque, N.M. and Miles City, Mont." Taped to the back of the calendar was a mid-1941 newspaper clipping telling about McNierney’s recent acquisitions in eastern Montana.
It detailed how several months previous, McNeirney had purchased the 100-section Howe Ranch (presumably belonging to the estate/widow of the late John W. Howe). That ranch was located at the mouth of Mizpah Creek, which empties into Powder River.
McNeirney was in the process of also purchasing the Brown Ranch—20 miles below Powderville—from Clyde O. Brown. (Twenty miles "below" Powderville would be north, heading down the Powder toward the Yellowstone. Located on the west bank of Powder River, Powderville had been one of three Montana stage stations on the 200-mile Miles City to Deadwood stage route. Prior to that, it had been a stop on the Fort Keogh to Fort Meade mail route. Even before that, the Fort Keogh to Fort Meade telegraph line ran through the area. The Texas or Northern Cattle Trail crossed Powder River approximately 20 miles "above" Powderville and then crossed Pumpkin Creek about 20 miles from where the Mizpah empties into the Powder.)
The real estate transfer between Brown and McNeirney was to take place Nov. 1, 1941. The Brown Ranch controlled over 200 sections—part owned, part leased. At the time of the sale it was running 3,000 head of cattle. McNierney was reported to have paid $200,000 for the ranch and 2,000 head of cattle, plus $5/ton for all the hay. Combined, the two purchases made his holdings one of the largest ranches in the state.
Montana Historical Society archives note that McNierney was still adding to his holdings two years after the Brown acquisition. In 1943, the Powder River Land and Cattle Company corporation sold all existing leases and remaining lands to John McNierney of New Mexico.
McNierney sold out around 1950. I have conflicting information and haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact year. (I tend to believe that these photos were taken in the last year or two of operation.) Being such a well-known ranch, it’s a safe bet that the sale was written up in the newspaper. A trip to the library in Miles City should provide the answer. I’ve been in touch with the staff there and they are aware of my quest.
Following the sale, the land that John McNierney controlled passed through a succession of investors and large-scale ranchers. It was leased by a gentleman from Colorado who owned a large Ford dealership and by a partnership bankrolled by a Las Vegas casino owner. Through it all, and to this day, the Brown Ranch continues to be referred to by that name—66 years after it first sold.
(If you have any information about John McNierney or McNierney Livestock, you can contact Jeri L. Dobrowski: 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621, 406-795-8168, email.)
Read Jeri Dobrowski's Cowboy Jam Session column and more about her here.
April 9, 2007
About the photo:
Yvonne Hollenbeck shared this tintype of her great grandfather, Ben Arnold. She told us:
The photo was taken at Dodge City after they had arrived from a trail drive from Texas. Often, after reaching a shipping point and drawing their pay, a cowboy would get a new suit of clothes and get his photograph taken. Perhaps this was the case with this photo. In 1922, a book on his life was published, entitled Rekindling Campfires, (recently reprinted by the University of Oklahoma Press as The Exlpoits of Ben Arnold) and in the book, he tells:
The old Chisholm Trail was as familiar to the people then as any one of the transcontinental railways is today. All herds from the South passed over at least a portion of this trail. The origin of many of the trail herds was in the vicinity of Austin and Fort Worth, the trail coming
northward through the Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, thence through Caldwell, Fort Dodge, Abilene, Wichita, or Newton, thence to Ogallala on the Platte, and then westward into Wyoming or northward into Dakota Territory.
At Ogalalla the herds were usually divided into small bands and delivered where needed.
One year I helped drive up eighteen hundred head of cattle in one band and in the following year helped bring up a drove of three thousand head.
We wore buckskin suits which, when soaked by the rain, stretched until they were all out of shape. As my pant legs lengthened I rolled them up from the bottom and suggested to Ed Monroe that he do the same, as his were hanging limp and baggy about his feet. But instead of rolling them up, he pulled out his knife and cut off about a foot at the bottom of each leg. That night after bedding the cattle down, we made a wickiup, built a fire, and dried our clothes. In the morning Ed's pants were so shrunken that they quit above his knees and in that striking garb he had to ride all the way to the Ogallala Agency.
Undoubtedly, Ed Monroe had to purchase new trousers when he got to Ogallala, and perhaps this enabled him to easily tuck his trousers into the tops of those stovetop boots.
Elsewhere, in her occasional My Home on the Prairie column, Yvonne writes that Ben Arnold wrote "The Campfire Has Gone Out," and includes comments from her grandmother about how the poem became a song.
Don Edwards includes the song on his Last of the Troubadours CD. In his his book 2003 book, Saddle Songs, a Cowboy Songbag, he writes, "This song, like so many old songs, has probably been passed around so often that the author or authors have been forgotten or passed into history without due credit. It is possible that it might have been written by Ben Arnold Connor, an old-time frontiersman and cowboy..."
Here's the poem as Jack Thorp included it in his 1921 edition of Songs of the Cowboys:
The Camp-Fire Has Gone OutAuthor unknown. First heard this sung in San Andreas Mountains. I think it was by 'Gene Rhodes."
Through the progress of the railroad our occupation's gone;
So we put ideas into words, our words into a song.
First comes the cowboy; he is pointed for the west;
Of all the pioneers I claim the cowboys are the best;
You will miss him on the round-up; it's gone, his merry shout,—
The cowboy has left the country and the camp-fire has gone out.
There is the freighters, our companions; you've got to leave this land;
Can't drag your loads for nothing through the gumbo and the sand.
The railroads are bound to beat you when you do your level best;
So give it up to the grangers and strike out for the west.
Bid them all adieu and give the merry shout—
The cowboy has left the country, and the camp-fire has gone out.
When I think of those good old days, my eyes with tears do fill;
When I think of the tin can by the fire and coyote on the hill.
I'll tell you boys, in those days old-timers stood a show,—
Our pockets full of money, not a sorrow did we know.
But things have changed now; we are poorly clothed and fed.
Our wagons are all broken and our ponies 'most all dead.
Soon we will leave this country; you'll hear the angels shout,
"Oh, here they come to Heaven, the camp-fire has gone out."
from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921
Read more about Yvonne Hollenbeck, including some of her poetry in our feature here.
April 2, 2007
About the photo:
California poet Janice Gilbertson shared this photo from June, 1955. She told us:
This picture is my childhood friend, Dan Nation, and me. As you can see, I was an animal lover and a cowgirl from a very young age. I was not yet six years old when this picture was taken. Unfortunately, my friend Dan lost his life in an accident when working on a ranch in Northern Oregon when he was fifty years old.
It was important at the time this picture was taken that real cowpokes had "Levi" jackets. That is a Maxwell Coffee can sitting beneath the faucet shadow. Those are actually Danny's pets. I loved them all. The picture was taken at Danny's home in the beautiful Arroyo Seco Canyon of the Santa Lucia mountains of California.
Janice still lives among the Santa Lucia mountains, and she hasn't changed much:
Read some of her poetry here.
March 26, 2007
About the photo:
California poet Pat Richardson shared this circa 1900 photo of his great, great maternal grandmother, Celesta Ann Twitchell Hickok (1849-1933), probably taken about 1900.
Celesta Ann is said to have been the first white child born in Sutter's Fort at Sacramento. The gold discovered in 1848 at Sutter's Fort began the great California Gold Rush.
(In 1839, John Sutter received a land grant from the Mexican government, which he developed into an agricultural empire. It was the area's earliest settlement and the first non-Indian settlement in California's Central Valley. The official Sutter's Fort web site notes, "In 1847 Sutter sent aid to the Donner Party, a group of immigrants trapped in a winter storm in the Sierra Nevada Mountains." Those familiar with Pat Richardson's infamous "The Donner Party" poem might find an ironic connection in that fact.)
Pat, with his usual humorous irreverence, says that he has no idea who the child is, but "...the cow does look a little embarrassed being seen with them. They say the old lady was just as mean as she looks."
One of Pat's sisters sent him a transcription of a newspaper clipping, probably from 1925:
Sutters Fort "Baby" will be in Parade. Woman, 76, to Wear Gown made for Mother.
Wearing a gown made for her mother in 1854, Mrs. Celesta Ann Twitchell Hickok, 76, will ride in the Admission day parade this morning with a delegation of Native Sons and Daughters from San Joaquin County.
Mrs. Hickok was the first white child born in Sutter's Fort at Sacramento. Her parents came to California in a covered wagon and she was born July 6, 1849.
Her first husband, by whom she had nine children, was William A. Stowell, whose parents were killed in the Mountain Meadow Massacre. The boy escaped and lived for a while with Indians. He joined General Johnston's army and came to California with it. He died in 1915 and his widow married William Hickok, Civil War veteran. Although Hickok is 82 years old he is active, and yesterday drove to San Francisco from their home in Lockford to enjoy the Diamond Jubilee Celebration.
Mrs. Hickok is the mother-in-law of George Marshall of Oakland, descendant of the discoverer of gold in California, past State commander of Spanish War Veterans and assistant to John J. Deane, Controller of Customs at San Francisco.
This photo, from about 1925, shows Celesta Ann Twitchell Hickok wearing a commemorative sash.
See more about Celesta Ann Twitchell Hickok and William Hickok in the San Joaquin Biographies:
She died in 1933, and this obituary was printed in an Alameda, California newspaper:
Funeral Set for 'Covered Wagon Baby" of 1849
ALAMEDA, May 29: Arrangements are complete for the funeral of Mrs. Celesta Ann Hickok, 84, a "covered wagon baby," who died Saturday at the home of a daughter, Mrs. George A. Marshall, 3363 Fernside Boulevard, after a short illness. Mrs. Hickok was known to thousands as the first white child born in Sutter's Fort, before that pioneer community became Sacramento. She was born just as a "prairie schooner" driven by her father drew up to the fort gates July 6, 1849, from Iowa. Her birth was a matter of celebration by the early miners of the district.
She married William Stowell in 1864 and lived for a time in San Benito County. Later, Stowell died. She then married William Hickok, and made her home in Lockeford, San Joaquin County, until last October, when she moved to Alameda.
She was the mother of William A., George D., Henry T., Seth M., Fred B., and Frank A. Stowell and Mrs. Ellen L. Rardin, Mrs. George A. Marshall and Mrs. Jeanette Wendling.
She was a member of "Covered Wagon Babies" and the Women's Relief Corps of the Grand Army of rthe Republic.
She is to be taken to Lockeford for burial.
Read some of Pat Richardson's poetry here. His Will Rogers Medallion Award-winning book, Pat Richardson, Unhobbled, includes more family photos and tales, along with his artwork and poetry.
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