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Wyo. ranch has stayed in same family since 1918

Published on June 3, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on June 3, 2011 6:18AM


Gillette News Record via Associated Press

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) -- Jacob Adams didn't like to be around other people.

When he and his son decided to homestead in Campbell County in 1918, they picked the most isolated spot they could find.

"My grandfather didn't like people very well," recalls 92-year-old Erma Rumph. "He lived in Colorado and he didn't like that. He said he was going to move to a place where he couldn't hear his neighbor's roosters crowing. So he moved up here."

They found a spot near Olmstead Creek on a high divide between the Big Powder and Little Powder rivers in northern Campbell County. A hop and a skip from the Montana border, it was good, fertile land.

Moving with him were his son, Courtland Adams, son-in-law, Raymond Weischedel, and daughter, Ada.

"When we first came to Wyoming, there was one fence, a drift fence, between our place and Morse's and the grass brushed your stirrups all the way," Weischedel once said. "Later, there came to be 60 wire gates on the road to Gillette and a round trip took two days in the Model T Ford."

Weischedel wasn't yet 21, so he couldn't apply for a homestead. Then he was drafted into the Army during World War I.

When he returned to the area in 1919, he homesteaded nearby.

The Adams-Weischedel homestead patents were approved in 1920, after the area was finally surveyed.

The ranch was only 640 acres to start with and the three sections combined made up about 1,900 acres.

Since then, the 93-year-old ranch has grown to about 6,500 acres, not including 400 acres of Bureau of Land Management land the Weischedels lease.

"It was never a very big ranch. It was rather small," said Weischedel's daughter, Erma Rumph, who was born in the Adams' homestead in November 1918.

"We were kind of considered at the end of the line, anyway, way up here next to the Montana line."

But the Weischedel Ranch certainly played a role in Campbell County's homesteading era.

When the area went through another homesteading boom in about 1926, neighbors were thicker.

"After the war, a lot of people came in and they kind of just started settling up," Rumph said.

"A lot of them came in and stayed on the place a year and proved up, and then they'd leave," added her younger brother, Ted Weischedel, 83.

The isolation was a draw during Prohibition, which existed from 1920 to 1933.

"During the Prohibition days, there was a lot of people who made illicit liquor," Rumph said. "They lived along the Wyoming-Montana line. Of course, that was a good place to be, because it was 60 miles from Gillette and that was where the sheriff was located."

If the sheriff made one of his rare trips to the area, she explained, the moonshiners "just had to step over the Montana line and be in another state."

Soon, the Weischedel Ranch became the site of weekly baseball games in the summer. Their small community of neighbors mined coal in a seam nearby, gathered for card games and dances, and cut and hauled ice from the Weischedel's reservoir in the winters.

There finally were enough children to have a school, too.

Ada was among the first teachers. She'd bring her oldest three children, all girls, to school with her.

Erma and Ted are now the only surviving children of Raymond and Ada Weischedel. Two Weischedel children died young from sickness, Edna in 1920 and Inez in about 1924. Seven grew to be adults.

Following Erma in order were sisters Carol, born in 1920, Betty, born in 1921, and brothers Jake (1922), Harold "Toot" (1923), Rich (1925) and Ted (1927).

"My mother always said that with such a long name like Weischedel, she had to give us all short first names," Rumph said.

While Ada kept the family running smoothly, Raymond, was the inventor. He kept his family entertained and busy.

Raymond, one of 11 Weischedel children from Colorado, loved baseball, especially the Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. He built an antenna that stretched from the west end of the house outdoors about 50 feet off Olmstead Road. It was nearly 20 feet in the air and he could pick up distant radio signals with it.

Weischedel's passion for baseball fueled their sports days every Sunday in the neighborhood too, Ted said. In fact, Raymond built a baseball diamond in the front yard of the ranch.

Weischedel, a mechanic who also worked as a carpenter and blacksmith, built many of the toys for his growing number of children.

Those are still vivid memories for Erma and Ted.

The family also enjoyed popcorn.

So they raised corn and filled a 5-by-8-by-5-foot crib with ears of corn every year. Then they'd shell the corn.

"Sometimes all we had for supper was popcorn," Rumph recalled. "We liked popcorn. My father just liked popcorn, so he grew his own corn."

Nearly every Weischedel did their part during World War II. The four brothers all served in the Army or Navy.

When Ted left the military in 1949, he began work for the federal Bureau of Reclamation. When he retired at age 55 in about 1982, he returned to the ranch. He and his brother, Jake, had bought the ranch from their parents before their dad died in 1964.

Jake ran it for some years and the Rumphs also leased it in the intervening years at times.

But since Ted returned to the ranch, he's revived production of the hay land and continues to put up hay himself, even at age 83.

At one point Ted had a cattle herd of about 200 on the ranch. Now, he leases land to the Rumphs to pasture cattle in the summer and sells them hay, too.

"It's a cattle ranch and he's made it a very diversified operation," said Dick Rumph, 63, who began working on the ranch with his grandfather at age 10. He credits that background with fostering his love of ranching and agriculture.

"He (Ted) has kept his hand in it. He doesn't know quit," Rumph added. "It's a good, producing ranch. ... It's higher in elevation and there's no irrigation. It's a good rainfall area."

Rumph has worked on the ranch over the past 50 years and he's learned to cherish it.

"I love it because of the fact it is family and the history there. In a valley, among the trees, there's the homestead where my great-grandfather and his wife came. My mother was born in that cabin. It's neat, but there's not much left of it now, just the walls. It's down in a creek bottom with foliage all around.

There's also a part of the ranch, on the top of the divide, where you can look into Montana.

"It's a very interesting place," Rumph said. "What it really is, is a history of the homesteader era in Campbell County. It speaks more of the era of homesteading.

"It's an important part of our operation and I'd love for it to stay in the family, but that's up to Ted and his family."

Ted isn't sure if it will continue in the family, either.

But no matter what, Rumph predicts, the ranch will continue in operation.

"The future is probably unknown, but somebody will continue to use it," he said.


Information from: The Gillette News Record - Gillette, http://www.gillettenewsrecord.com

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


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