THE McKENZIE LIVESTOCK COMPANY
From 'Fanning the Embers', published 1971, Range Rider Reps, Miles City, Montana
By Viola McCrorey McKenzie Sieler
In the early 1880's G. F. McKenzie went in the cattle business at
Bozeman, Mont. This venture ended with the disastrous winter of 1886. He then hauled supplies by wagon and horses to Castle, a booming mining town in the Castle mountains, 80 miles from Bozeman.
His wife died at Bozeman, leaving him with two small sons, Kenneth, 6, and Harry, 3. While freighting, McKenzie left the boys
with a lady near his home. One day Harry and his rag doll fell into a stream of water. Kenneth made haste to a bridge crossing downstream. Like other three-year-olds of those days, Harry wore dresses. Kenneth grabbed him by his skirt and pulled both Harry and his doll onto the bridge; skirts were credited for Kenneth being able to save his brother's life. I prefer to think a guardian angel was nearby during his rescue. This incident may have helped their father decide he would send his sons to live with their mother's parents in Maine.
G. F. McKenzie moved to southeastern Montana and bought improvements on land. He managed to buy 800 sheep. He told me, "I did not have money to buy a coat that first winter; I herded those sheep with a blanket around me."
I G. F. married the second time to Ida Hart from Mandan, N. D., June 24, 1893, at Miles City.
On Oct. 19, 1894, G. F. made application to become a citizen of the United States of America. His witnesses were H. B. Wiley and J. S. Truscott.
Kenneth was 13 and Harry 10 when they retuned to Montana in 1894. The boys, with their father, were the McKenzie Livestock Company. Their range was east of big Powder River from Powderville. G. F. was President-Treasurer, Kenneth was Vice-president and General Manager and H. D., Secretary. This company eventually owned 22,000 sheep, some cattle and hundreds of horses. H. D. had the club brand, the same as in a deck of cards. Kenneth's brand was a heart bar T connected; my son now owns this brand. G. F. had a crescent for horses on the right shoulder, Crescent MK for cattle. The McKenzie Company crossed their wild mares with German Coach stallions, the cross produced horses that sold well.
Harry McKenzie told me the following: "Our first trip selling horses through the Dakotas and Minnesota was in 1897. We had three gentle horses with us. We went by the way of Camp Crook, S. D., over the jump-off country, down the Grand River to the big Missouri.
"We had a three-hour night guard as there were only three of us. The usual morning stunt was to rope and tie down two wild horses, hook one to the wagon, saddle the other one while he was on the ground. One mar) on the half-gentle horse we had worked pulling the mess wagon the day before would turn the horse on the ground loose, he then got to his feet with a rider on his back.
"Theoretically we were on our way. After horses had been under herd for awhile their one idea is to stay with the herd. So when we stampeded out of camp, if the green horse balked or sulked, we just let him sulk awhile. When he decided to move he would try his best to get with the herd. If he got with them you would get the hell kicked out of you.
"When we crossed the big Missouri an ancient redman was out checking on his set lines. We decided to get the horses over fast. A horse got one of the Indian's lines twisted in his tail, with a catfish weighing about five or six pounds flapping just above his hocks. That horse really did some fantastic bucking. The Indian took off, right after the horse. When the fish got bucked off, the noble redman picked it up and went home.
"We could ferry across the Missouri River at a place called Vanderbilt, not far from where Evarts is now; we did this on our return. I cut out at Browns Valley, Minn. Kenneth and G. F. went north, then back to Redfield, S. D., where they joined me. We stayed there all winter and arrived back at Powder River the following April.
"On the way back down Grand River, to the Missouri, we had a good share of the Indian Police with us, also plenty of information about staying off the Reservation then and thereafter. We must have been the last horse outfit to cross the Indian Reservation."
While on horse roundup the next spring a horse fell with G. F., leaving him with a broken ankle, and he was unable to go on the next horse-selling trip. Harry also stayed home to help at the ranch. Kenneth, W. B. "Bill" Richardson and Lorin Gilman took 300 horses by way of the Black Hills.
Crow Creek empties into big Powder River at the McKenzie ranch. In 1900 G. F., his sons and Guy Moore built a dam in the creek to irrigate the meadows. They worked with horses and scrapers. The boys told me the following spring the lake filled with water and the dam "busted" two hours later.
Later on an irrigation system was built that really worked, and many tons of native blue joint and alfalfa hay were in stacks on the McKenzie meadows every year. G. F. said to me, "When spring comes after a long winter it is good to see some haystacks left over, just like having money in the bank."
In 1908 Kenneth was married to Violet Kinnick Maguire of Walkerville, Mont. He dissolved partnership with the McKenzie Livestock Company and he and his wife moved to a ranch on Crow Creek he bought from Osborne Pemberton. Kenneth told me his father gave him stock and equipment valued at $20,000, his share in the company. He and Violet had two daughters. Gladys Francis and Maude Cecilia. Their parents were divorced in 1916.
H. D. McKenzie married Louise Bonner from England, They had three sons. Donald is in California, Kenneth is in Wyoming and Keith is in Missoula, Mont.
G. F. and Ida had four daughters, Ella, Agnes, Lila and Alice. Mrs. Ida McKenzie is at the Custer County Rest Home at Miles City.
I met Kenneth in 1915: Oct. 24, 1918, we were married at Miles City, Mont. We made our home on the Crow Creek ranch for four years and in 1919 his two daughters came to live with us. Our son was born in August the same year. Our daughter was born July 19, 1922, at Belle Fourche, S.D.
Jan. 3, 1923, Paul McLean, the sheriff of Carter County, gave Kenneth the job of Deputy Sheriff. We moved to Piniele where we resided for one year. The ranch was leased and sold later; Manley Moore now owns the land.
Kenneth was appointed Undersheriff and we moved to Ekalaka, the county seat of Carter County. We lived there a little less than five years. In 1927 Kenneth had an opportunity to get back into the livestock business. I disliked to break the family circle again because of school. We sent the two older girls to Miles City to attend high school and moved to Powderville to live on G. F. McKenzie's ranch.
H. D. and Kenneth leased the Crescent Ranch for a period of ten years. There were around 4,000 sheep, I believe. and together H. D. and G. F. must have had 300 cattle. I do remember well that Kenneth and I borrowed money on life insurance to get started.
We stayed there four years. G. F. died in 1930, also Kenneth's oldest daughter, a schoolteacher, died in 1931. Drouth caused us to leave years before the lease expired.
Kenneth and I bought some sheep, a few cows and moved to land he leased on Timber Creek. A very good sheepman, Colin Munro, ran his sheep with ours and herded them for six years. He and Kenneth had known each other for years and they made a good combination in the sheep business. We were very happy to be on our own again. Before he died of leukemia in 1939, Kenneth had bought 1,200 acres of deeded land. After his death I managed to buy enough land to enlarge the home base to more than 3,000 acres. Mortgages, delinquent taxes and a depression made grazing land sell cheap. My children and I ranched a few years. I leased the land and stock to my son and son-in-law. I served six months in the W.A.C. at Ft. Des Moines, Iowa, was discharged and was told by a doctor to live in a dry climate.
I returned to Montana; my son and I sold the livestock and leased the ranch. He was drafted into the Navy and I went to Riverside, Calif. My discharge from the W.A.C. helped me in getting a good job at a war defense plant. I felt lucky indeed; I was near my son and saw him every weekend. I think memories of the drought years of the 30's helped greatly to keep my son from returning to the ranch. I sold it to Leslie Wilson from Wyoming.
When I think of the Mckenzie family and others who came here earlier, I do not feel I am a real pioneer; however, one has to admit that 58 years in one state is a long time in anyone's life.