History of Oregon by Oregon Historical Society
homeSection 4Subtopic: Large Ranches...
Subtopic : Pre-Industrial Period: 1870-1910: Large Ranches

Themes: People and the Environment

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Branding on Deschutes River
SP&S Collection
OrHi 105040

Of course, not all the central Oregon ranches were small operations. The largest ranches in the 1870s and 1880s included the Baldwin ranch at Hay Creek, the Teal and Coleman ranch on Trout Creek, and the Farewell Bend Ranch on the Deschutes. The Hay Creek Ranch was especially famous for its superb stock of Merino and Rambouillet sheep. In 1880, John Y. Todd, who owned the Farewell Bend Ranch, drove 5,000 head of cattle collected from his ranch and that of a neighbor to market in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Around Buck Creek, in the upper Crooked River country, Bill Brown assembled holdings estimated at 140,000 acres of deeded and leased land. In 1917, Brown drove 10,000 head of his horses to market for the war in Europe. Other great central Oregon ranches included the Prineville Land and Livestock Company’s Big Muddy Ranch, the GI Ranch on the south fork of the Crooked River, and in later years the ranches of the Hudspeth Land and Livestock Company.

During the late 1870s, the cattle business began to fade as increased cattle production drove prices down. Kate Robbins estimated that 5,000 cattle had been sold from the Ochoco Valley in 1878. The prices had fallen to $10 for cows, and $12 to $20 for steers.  Abner Robbins had paid $40 for cows with calves in 1871, and “thought he was doing well.”  By 1880, 200,000 head of cattle had been driven east from Oregon and sold at liquidation prices. The winter of 1884 was especially severe throughout the West, killing tens of thousands of range cattle in deep snows.

© Ward Tonsfeldt & Paul G. Claeyssens, 2004.

Themes: People and the Environment

Regions: Central Oregon

Date: 1870-1890

Author: Ward Tonsfeldt & Paul G. Claeyssens

Through the 1870s and 1880s large ranches were established on some of central Oregon’s more favorable land.

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