The Shiner family has been ranching in the upper Lemhi Valley of Idaho for generations — haying and raising cattle on thousands of acres of meadow and rangeland.
The cattle spend summers in mountain pastures and winters in the lower meadows and along the Lemhi River. The Shiner operation consists of several historic ranches stitched together.
The headquarters is one of the oldest ranches in the valley — homesteaded in 1868 by Thomas Pyeatt when he and a friend came west from Illinois after the Civil War to seek their fortune in the gold fields. They didn’t find gold, but found a valley where they decided to put down roots, and staked claims on adjacent pieces of land.
After building sod-roofed shelters they traveled back to Illinois to gather their families and supplies and make the long trip west again.
The Pyeatt Ranch was sold to George Yearian in 1871 and eventually grew to 2,500 acres as the Yearian family acquired nearby homesteads.
George’s son Thomas Yearian married Emma Russell in 1889, who was later known as the Sheep Queen of Idaho. At one time, she had more than 10,000 sheep.
The small settlement — stagecoach stop, store and post office — along the river was known as Yearianville for many years, until its name was changed to Lemhi.
The Shiner ranches are currently run by three brothers — Stephen, Dean and Mark — and their families.
Mark works as a heavy equipment operator for Lemhi County but helps with the cattle when he can.
Their sister Robin and her husband, Carl Lufkin, raise registered Angus at nearby Lufkin Cattle Company.
Their parents, Chuck and Beverly Shiner, first ran cattle on a ranch 5 miles west of Leadore, and leased the Donavan ranch in Horse Prairie, just over the mountains in Montana.
Horses have always been a major part of the ranching operation — quarter horses for riding and taking care of cattle on miles of rangeland, and draft horses for pulling hay wagons and sleighs for feeding all those cattle during winter. It takes about 22 tons per day to feed 1,000 head of cattle. Depending on the weather, the cattle are generally fed hay from mid to late December until early May.
“We built several hay wagons using the frames of three-quarter-ton pickups,” says Dean Shiner. “That way you have the brakes and springs. Those truck beds make good wagons. We can haul 4 big bales on those and feed about 200 cows per trip.”
Chuck was a great horseman and his love of horses is carried on today by sons Steve, who loves the quarter horses and is an accomplished saddle maker, and Dean, who is partial to the draft horses. Today the ranch has about 75 horses.
“We raise a lot of saddle horses and have 35 broodmares and three stallions. We have our own production sale every year and have done that for many years. Our horses have a good reputation,” Dean says.
The old horse barn was built by the Yearian family in 1904 and is still functional.
“We’ve had it repainted several times since we’ve lived here. The first time, a guy came from back east and needed a job. He was from New Hampshire and just showed up. We didn’t need any help, but he wanted to be here. He said, ‘If you’ll just let me live in your bunk house and feed me, I will restore your barn —replace some boards and paint it, and put shingles on the roof.’ So we let him do it,” says Dean.
That big barn has always been a great place to get the horses out of the weather and get them ready to ride or to harness the draft horses in the winter — and has been a familiar landmark at Lemhi for more than 100 years.