Below are two historic items, the first is a series of articles from an interview with William Silas Skinner and the second is a written history provided by Robert (Bob) Harold Skinner.
FOLLOWING ARE A SERIES OF ARTICLES FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM SILAS SKINNER IN 1951
Thursday, April 12, 1951
THE ONTARIO ARGUS-OBSERVER
Daydreams of Pioneer Develop Jordan Valley
By Dottie C. Edwards
Official Historian, Malheur County Pioneer Association)
A lot of water has flown down Jordan Creek since that long ago
day when a boy sat on a hilltop and looked down over a flatland covered with
wondered if it were true that it would never be good for anything.
"Now, just supposing," he pondered to himself,' that the brush were gone - . . that land is mighty fiat . . and if somehow water —"
But he was just a young 'boy sent to look after the horses grazing below. and his father. Silas (Sam) Skinner, didn't take any truck with daydream's."Don't be so visionary!" he used to exclaim in exasperation. "You know nothing will grow where the brush is. Anyhow, there's enough good land along the creek where the overflow each spring keeps the brush down. That'll grow enough hay for us, and what else do we want?"
It did seem as if there were plenty to fill any existing need. There were the tolls from the toll bridge his father had built into Silver City, and all the passengers at the Trout Creek station to wait on, either to feed them at noon or at night or whenever.
Why, everybody went by on the toll road! The passengers from San Francisco and Oakland and Sacramento and Winnemucca. The mail from everywhere. And the Wells Fargo messenger on the box with the gun across his knees told of the 'bullion going out and the payrolls coming in for the mines in Silver City.
But W. S. Skinner, who is 80 this May, couldn't forget that piece of land. He was on a horse every day from the time he was seven except the two years his
folks sent him to relatives in Ohio where he could get some of the three R's and a little cultural atmosphere. And when he was riding around on the hills,
he always came back to this spot to get a better view and wonder if his father and the other oldsters were right.
In Ruby City. 1863
Silas, senior, had come to Ruby City, Idaho, in 1863 and the mining camp at that time had a population of around 900. When Silver City started up, it absorbed Ruby City and the town isn't even a ghost town today as all its soil has been washed down in placer operations.
However, a year after his arrival in the old Ruby City, Silas Skinner had completed a toll road to the present site of Jordan Valley, with the help of some partners, the first two of whom, the Jordan Brothers, were to be killed by the Indians. Some think that Jordan Valley got its name from the brothers, although of this W. S. Skinner isn't sure as there was another family by that name in the neighborhood.
Mr. Skinner feels reasonably sure, through. that Jordan Creek was named for the brothers.
In Ruby City Silas Skinner had fallen in love with a young lady visiting some friends there. She had come, as he had. from the Isle of Man, a small island off
coast of Scotland and this was a source of mutual interest from
the beginning to two young people so far from home. On her trip to this country, she had first visited some brothers and sisters in Ohio, and it was
these relatives young W.S. Skinner was later sent for his two years of schooling away from home.
After the young lady had returned to the Isle of Man., Silas Skinner decided he couldn't do without her, so he followed and the two were married back there, returning immediatly to this far away pioneer land and settling in Ruby City where young William Silas Skinner was born in 1871.
Builds Toll Road
The toll road which was cornpleted in 1864 was to see service for 20 years, or until the railroad came on through eastern Oregon, E. H. Clinton had bought the interests of the deceased Jordan Brothers from their estate and carried on as a partner with Silas Skinner,
A family by the name of Baxter took up some land where Jordan Valley is now. and built the first hotel and a store. That's why the town was sometimes called Baxterville but the real name of the place has been Jordan Valley on postal
records and otherwise," says Mr. Skinner today.
The stage from Winnemucca to Silver City and Boise to Silver
City went over the toll road, as did all the freighted supplies. the passengers
and the mail for
that place. My father traded the section of the road from Jordan Creek and Reynolds creek over the summit, kept the section from Jordan creek to Silver City until Idaho's Owyhee county bought the toll road from the Idaho line to the mining town and from Silver Ciity out to the desert.
My folks moved from Ruby City to the Trout Creek station about
1873, leaving Mr. Clinton’s father’s partner, to handle the toll road and my father to handle the station at the foot of the grade.
Stage stations were located at regular intervals for the changing
of horses, resting and feeding passengers, receiving and handling mails, etc.
Some stations were called sleeping places because in addition to the meals,
the travelers could also stay overnight. Dad's station was an eating place,
and this meant lots of work for the family
Drivers were changed every fifty miles, and the Wells-Fargo
express messengers always rode with the drivers. Other historic stations were
the Sheep Ranch,
Summit Springs, and Willow Creek.
Silver City probably had about 7,000 people when Father had the Trout Creek station, although some said the population was nearer 10,000. Mining was the only activity, although Silver City being a county seat town at the time, it was also the scene of official business.
The first school I attended," says Mr. Skinner, "was on the Oregon-Idaho line three miles from Trout Creek, three miles from the present town of Jordan Valley. It onlv ran three months out of the year, the summer months.
The next school was down nearer the town, also a three months school, for which the teacher was Miss Mary Mahoney, later Mrs. Jake Deary. The Deary’s lived out of Jordan about 25 miles; they raised family out there didn't seem to think they were isolated at all. Mrs. Arthur Lee, present post-mistress at Jordan Valley, is daughter of the Deary's and they had two sons one of whom lives in Boise, the other at Mountain Home. Of course, Mrs. Deary has been gone for some time.
Some of our neighbors at the Trout Creek station were the Mills
family. Three of the boys, Ben, Jim and Tim, are still living in Jordan Valley
and their sister, Mrs. Billy Helm, now lives in Boise. You know the mercantile
firm of Helm
and Yturri which was so long in business in Jordan. That's the one.
And the Maher family. Bill Maher and I were kids together. Billy now lives in Boise, too.He sold out a few years ago, but he has three brothers, Ambrose, Ed and Charlie, still in the stock business.
Parties were really an event in mv childhood. I can remember
oldtime hoedowns at the Trout Creek station for which many of the guests had
spent two days traveling time to get there, they lived sixty miles away. All
frontier girls could ride and their young blood would go after his girl with
a spare saddle poncho for her use. Twenty and twenty-five miles were nothing;
in fact most people lived at least that far apart!
"My parents, used to providing big meals for the traveling
public, for which they usually had the assistance of a Chinese cook, would
give a big supper for the dancers at midnight and perhaps breakfast in the
morning for they danced all night. And sometimes, fortified with another meal
and a few hours sleep the dancing would start all over again."
APRIL 19, 1951
THE ONTARIO ARGUS-OBSERVER
By Dottie C. Edwards
Official Historian, Malheur County Pioneer Association
Editor's Note: The beginnings of a pioneer cattle ranch career
county were described in the first installment of the life of W.S. Skinner,
prominent rancher of the Jordan Valley country, who will be 80 next month.
This second installment tells of raising horses for use on horse-drawn street
cars in San Francisco.
"My father ran the Trout Creek station on the toll road
until 1873," says W. S.
Skinner well known old time cattleman of the Jordan Valley, continuing his
account of pioneer days begun in last week's issue of the Argus-Observer. "Then
he traded it for part of the ranch I now live on. Father had been accumilatmg
some stock and wanted more land to run them on. C. D. Batcheler took over
the station and ran it as long as the Trout Creek station was held open, but
the railroad finally put an end to all of that. By 1886 all travel except local
goings and comings had completely vanished from the old road.
"The first buildings on the ranch didn't amount to much
and Father soon built
again about a mile and a half north from the first houses," says Mr. Skinner.
"Jordan Creek overflowed each year and where it covered adjacent land, no
sagebrush grew. It was there the ranchers of sixty and seventy years ago
grew whatever they were going to grow for livestock feed. gardens, etc. The soil
was rich and ready-cleared and for that time supplied all their wants,
The creek ran through a beautiful valley Hat and large, with
only this little bit of cropland along its banks. When I had to look after
the horses, or ride there for any reason. I had a favorite lookout spot where
I used to pause and look out over that land wondering how it would be if the
brush were gone, etc. I tried to talk Dad to my way of thinking but he couldn't
see it; thought I was
spending too much time in idle day dreaming."
Mr Skinner stops to think of the Skinner ranch today. "I've
what he would think if he saw these 2,000 acres now—the original holdings
and the 1600 acres I took out of the brush with the aid of some Piute Indians.
Why the wood that big sagebrush made was nothing like one can find today: it
was real wood. And I had a hunch if land would grow brush that big, it would
probably grow a lot of other things equally well."
But all that was later, much later. Silas Skinner sold his new
land in 1880 and
moved six miles up the road and bought another ranch. This is commonly
referred to today as the "old" Skinner ranch but when young William Silas grew
up and married, he bought back his father's oldest ranch and made it the
beginning of the present holdings.
However back in the '80's, his father remained not too satisfied
second place. He had nothing against the ranch but it was time to think about
sending his growing family to schools and schools were something still to
come. He sent young William back to some relatives of his wife's in Ohio where
the boy got in two years, but that was only a stopgap and not an answer to
schooling for the rest of the children.
Horses were the principal commodity of the old Skinner ranch,
as well as the
liking of nice horse flesh being an attribute of the family. Silas Skinner had
imported from Kentucky a standard stallion and five standard bred mares that
being the technical description of the cream of the crop.
Skinner had decided that the Napa Valley was a pretty attractive place. So
when he was looking for a place which would be nearer educational facilities,
he decided to buy a ranch in the Napa Valley and divide his time in Malheur
county. The standard bred horses were moved to the Napa Valley ranch where
they were nearer the track and society markets.
There Silas Skinner died in 1835, leaving young William Silas,
not quite 14.
as head man on the Skinner spread, and the school room. as far as his
personal education was concerned, was a thing of the past.
The Napa Valley ranch was only about half paid for when his
father died. and
William and his brothers, counseled by their mother and sisters as much as
the times permitted, worried over this, other bills of the big move which had
counted up. and the horse market which William felt was due for a decline. An
old familiar refrain of increasing expenses, decreasing revenue. What to do?'
Mission Street Cars
The problem grew instead of lessening as young Bill Skinner
rounded up horses
at the ranch on Jordan Creek for sale in California. The Skinners, father and
sons had, among other outlets for their range horses, a contract with the old
Mission Street Car company of San Francisco, calling for the supplying of 125
to 150 head of horses a year to be used on the California city's famous horse-
drawn street cars. This contract lasted for several years.
Talking things over with his family, William Silas decided they
had to sell the
standard bred horses from the Napa Valley ranch. He wanted to spend
all year, instead of just half a year, at Jordan Creek and he....
A big auction was decided for the standard bred horses, ads
were placed in
all strategic places in the California cities, the Southern Pacific ran a special
train to Napa Valley, hacks and busses were run free from San Francisco and
Sacramento, and the Skinner family served a big free lunch.
At the close of the sale three hours and a half after it started
all 43 of the fine
horses were gone at prices averaging betterthan a thousand dollars apiece and fewgoing at $5,000.00 each, and $46,000.00 was discovered cleared when
everything was added up.
With this sum. young Will Skinner and his family were able to
pay off the rest
of the debtedness against the Napa Valley ranch leaving it in the clear for his
mother and the other children. The sum left over, added to the sale of the
current range horses from the Jordan Creek ranch, cleared the last of the
$53,000 owing on bills and ranch payments, and left a small capital to begin
In California, Will Skinner alsomet the love of his life, the
talented, vivacious Ella Sackett. They were married in California and after
the big sale, when the affairs of the family there could be safety left, young
Will Skinner brought his
bride back to Jordan Creek and the small homestead house still standing,
set down in the midst of acres of gigantic sagebrush and a small hayfield or
THE ONTARIO ARGUS-OBSERVER, THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 1951
By Dottie C. Edwards (Historian, Malheur County Pioneer Association)
Skinner Brings His Bride To Cattle Camp Cabin
The beginnings of a pioneer cattle ranch in Malheur County were
described in the first two installments of the life of W. S. Skinner prominent
the Jordan Valley country, who will be 80 next month. Here he tells of bringing his bride, the former Ella Sackett, a city girl from California, out to the frontier shack of two rooms and a lean-to porch to start their married life together.)
"I sure had a nerve," he says today, "bringing
a city girl, used to a good home and conveniences and educational background,
out to a hard frontier life like that. but Ella never complained. She went
right ahead with everything like she had been used to it all her life, was
none too easy.
"This first house, a true old-time cattle camp cabin of
weathered, unpainted boards, small windows, and a lean-to porch, is still
standing on the old place
of my father's which I bought back. This was his first holding in the county and not to be confused with his last, which is sometimes today spoken of as
the 'old' Skinner place.
"I had bought the old place and now set about clearing
the brush, keeping in mind those early day dreams of mine which my father
thought were just that. For three winters I had the assistance of about ten
Piute Indians who grubbed the sagebrush for me at prices ranging from $2 to
@3.50 an acre.
"This doesn't sound like so much but you must remember
a dollar bought lots more in those days and this was just part of what they
received. If you had ten working for you, it usually meant you had about 100
camped on the place and they all had to be fed from the huge stocks of supplies
we maintained on the ranch.
"Also, they all had horses with them and we had to feed
them through the winter, too. The squaws added to the family income by cutting
all the big brush into stove wood and stacking it in tiers for which they
were paid $1.25 a tier.
Bigger than Today
"The big stacks of wood were like none of the sagebrush
seen today," says Mr. Skinner. "We had enough fuel from the 1,600
acres we cleared to last us for years.
"With the 400 acres of the old ranch, etc. the place today
has 2,000 acres under irrigation and 3,000 acres of range land for the cattle
that replaced the horses we first sold.
"Two of our nine children were born in that cabin. I moved
the family to the house on the adjoining Ruby ranch when we just simply couldn't
crowd in any more, and when I had managed to build a slightly better house
near our present site, we moved back but it was always too small, even so.
"Five of the children were born in this little house, which
is still standing in the midst of our present corrals. There's a screened
porch and four or five small rooms. I don't see how Ella managed to take care
of us all from it, -but she did, and the family always had fun, company, plenty
of good food, and music. "My wife was an accomplished pianist .and she
early instilled in the children a love of family singing and enjoyment of
Mr. Skinner pointed out the well which is still being used on
the ranch to put water under pressure around barns and feedlots.
"That was where all our water came from then, only we didn't
have it under pressure, After we had pumped it, it still had to be carried
the fifty or a hundred feet to the house, and then carried out again,
"Wash day was a real problem," says Mr. Skinner. "I
used to get up early for many years to help get the water on and the fires
started before I went about
my work. The washing had to be done on tub and board, and everything white was boiled, just like my Mother had had it to do. Occasionally an Indian woman would help if one were around; they understood how to wash clothes but they couldn't help with any thing else in the way of housework.
"It was a big day when we got what I believe was the first
washing machine in the valley, one of the kind you operated by hand. We really
though we had
come a long way!
First Power Washer
"But the really big improvement came years later when we
also had the first power washer in the community. Not a machine like you know
today. I simply
took two of the hand run machines and hooked them up to a gasoline motor set between them with an overhead drive. Washdays really were speeded up and
many came to see the 'improvements' at the Skinner ranch.
"All through our married life, Ella and I used to plan
for the house we hoped to have some day which really would have enough room.
When Ella would com-
plain about the size of the bedrooms, no room to make a bed, no place to put clothes, etc., I'd remind her that we would have enough in that NEW house of
"That's the reason there isn't a bedroom smaller than twelve
by fourteen feet in the present ranch house, and some of the room could hold
three single 'beds
"My wife was a capable frontier hostess, too, and we always
enjoyed having people at our house and they seemd to like to come. Company
was an event which broke the isolation and nothing was too much trouble to
provide some amusement and happiness for those around us.
"However, when lack of space crowded our hospitality, I'd
say 'Just wait for our own big house. We'll make provision for these boys
and girls of ours to have fun without taking out the furniture.'
"When it came time to feed the extra hands at haying time,
I'd say 'Our new dining room will have room for everyone to sit down at once,
no matter how
Will Skinner's voice, quiet and steady as he approaches the
80th birthday, hesitates a moment and then continues.
The Promises Come True
"All these promises were kept. When we built our present
home in 1915, completing it in February of 1916, we had four big bedrooms
on the second floor, and a big party room the width of the house along one
end on the same floor. We had a sleeping porch that held six beds for the
use of the boys and their friends. We also had two bed-rooms on the first
floor and a third floor that could be pressed into use for extra cots.
"The kitchen was built as convenient as was possible for
the time, and we had the first pressure system in the valley. This was a lifesaver
as compared with all the gallons of water that had been lugged in and out
in earlier years. Today, my son Kirtland Skinner, has had the place electrified
and every convenience is now available.
"Our new house was the first plastered house in Jordan
and we were constantly being advised about the dancing that went on in the
room, our friends and neighbors telling us we would ruin the entire house. Finally we made two large bedrooms out of the ballroom and let the young folks hold their parties in the living and dining room below, which could be opened up, with other rooms and a large enclosed porch to handle quite a crowd. The entire house had 14 rooms, none smaller than12 x 14.
"Our dining room was large too, like I had promised my
wife. By extending two big dining tables side by side, each holding places
for about twenty, we were able to sit down and eat at once and this meant
quite a lot during the long haying seasons when I used to hire 35 or 40 hands
for extra help."
Problem of Schooling
From the time of the first of their nine children, Mr. and Mrs.
W. S. Skinner had always worried about the problem of sending their youngsters
to school. Distances were so far to even the most meager of educational advantages,
and Mr. Skinner, who had been sent east to relatives for two years schooling
when he was a little fellow didn't want that for his boys and girls.
Mrs. Skinner had been teaching them herself as best she could
with the shortage of time and room at her disposal; giving them along with
the three R's" a fundamental knowledge of music on the piano and teaching
them to sing family harmony.
"We never had any opera stars," says Mr. Skinner today,"but
we sure had a lot of real enjoyment."
"In the big house, I completed part of the third floor
to be used as a schoolroom to carry on the children's education," he
adds, "and here we installed blackboards, desks and seat, and the wife
and I hired our own
teacher. I can remember how well she used to screen -the applicants, looking into references and family background, etc Ella was very particular about
who taught the children.
'This had an important after-effect, for my wife really selected
two daughters-in-law by doing so. Johanna Murray was one of the teachers who
the family as the bride of our son Kirt, who now runs the ranch, with his son-Bob.
"Another was Edith Jones who came from Indiana to teach
the Skinner school and remained as the wife of our son, Harold Skinner, now
"Our youngest son, Hugh followed in his brothers footsteps
by marrying the teacher who came to teach the district school several years
after our private school had ended. She was Merle Boswell, daughter of Mrs.
C’Ceal Boswell of Vale. They now live at Redmond.
After the school year spent n their third floor schoolroom,
the young Skinners would go away from Jordan creek to take the state examinations
through the county superintendent's office and they unfailingly passed with
good marks. The good marks continued as they went on to higher education,
some to ' business college, a number to Oregon State, and Oregon, Idaho and
California schools all conributed.
May 3, 1951
THE ONTARIO ARGUS-OBSERVER
Warm Reception Given To Visitors At Ranch
By Dottie C. Edwards Historian, Malheur County Pioneer Association
Editor's note: In the first three installments of the life of
W. S. Skinner, widely- known rancher of Jordan Valley, the writer told of
the beginning of a pioneer cattle ranch in Malheur county and how Skinner
bride. Miss Ella Sackett, to a two-room cattle camp cabin. In this installment the writer continues with the problem of education for the children and giving Gov. Walter Pierce a good meal.
"With the children being given their grade school education
at home, to have any contact with the outside world at all meant that we had
to bring the
young people to the ranch,“ says W. S. Skinner, pioneer cattleman of the Jordan Valley. Consequently it was always open house at Skinner's
When the children went on to higher education, they brought
their friends home with them for days, weekends, weeks or an entire summer's
No matter how many, we had room for them, for we could accommodate twenty to twenty-five guests at a time and quite often had them!"
To appreciate the size of this Pioneer home, one has to walk
around it and look up at the root three stories away above the basement. And
then remember, as Mr. Skinner has said, that of all the fourteen rooms the
smallest is twelve by fourteen and most of them are larger than that.
Take a good look, too, at the two enclosed porches, one above the other. The boys' sleeping porch is said to have held six double beds at once; to today’s visitor it looks as if it could hold much more than that. Even the front step must be ten or fifteen feet wide.
When today's guest comes in sight of the old ranch house after
miles of empty land in between it and its neighbors, it is still more impressive.
Not that Mr. Skinner feels it is isolated, nor do any of the
younger generations of'the family. “It has never mattered our neighbors
seventy miles away. We've always considered anybody as a neighbor in that distance," he explains.
Forty Extra Hands
The ranch used to hire 35 to 40 extra hands during the haying
season, and treasures a picture showing seven mowers strung out over a field
of wild hay high as a man's head.
"All hands ate in the house too,” adds Mr. Skinner
"By putting in two big long dining tables, each seating twenty or so,
we had plenty of room"
"When my folks ran the Trout Creek station, they often
had a Chinese cook, than which there is no better. We had a Chinese cook on
the ranch in the early days, too, but when the last one got too old to work
any more, we weren't able to find any other. The Chinese really know how to
cook and how to manage.
"When we didn't have any help in the kitchen, my wife and
the girls had to carry on. Like other oldtime ranches, we always fed people
passing by too, and Ella always saw that there was something on hand or ahead
to fix a meal in a hurry long before we had refrigerators and other conveniences.
The Governor Stops
"I remember one time in fairly recent years, long after
the days .of horse travel, that we had an autoload of sightseers stop at the
ranch in mid-afternoon. Bill Hanley, the famous Harney county cattleman, was
in the party. and Governor
Walter Pierce and several others.
"I said, 'Have you gentlemen eaten?' They looked pretty
tired and hungry. 'No', they answered, “We missed the noon meal and
will have to wait till supper time now when we get in town.”
“I asked Ella if she could fix them something and she
said,"Why, of course!' and in a little over a half hour she set them
down to a 'fine meal that included hot biscuits, home cured ham, and a lot
of other things. They never got over having a ranch dinner cooked for them
on a hot mid-afternoon, and Governor Pierce mentioned our hospitality in several
political introductions and speeches he made after that. It wasn't anything
out of the way for an old ranch, but he thought the custom had long since
"My wife was a very hospitable woman and she was happiest
when those around her were happy. When the young folks gave dancing parties
in the ballroom, she was willing to play all night on the piano to provide
music for them it it were necessary. She never seemed to tire of music and
Another attraction in the social life at the Skinner ranch was
the 'big five-gallon ice cream freezer which the young men would take turns
The ice we used came off the creek; we stored it in the ice house in sawdust and used it as we needed it. Most of the old- time families had their own ice houses. Our big freezer had few equals, however, and it got a constant workout.
"In addition to providing us with a nice home life, my
wife was concerned with the outdoors around her home, too," adds W.S.
Skinner. "She set out vines and shrubbery, packing water to them by hand
until we got water on the yard. She planted all the lilac bushes growing around
our big lawn, and carried water to get them started.
MAY 7, 1851
THE ONTARIO ARGUS-OBSERVER
Skinner Operation is Big Business;
Sons Help Run Jordan Valley Ranch
By Dottie C. Edwards
Historian, Malheur County Pioneer Association.
Editor's note — The history of the old Skinner ranch on
Jordan creek is
brought up to date in this concluding installment. Five generations of the family have appeared since Silas Skinner first came to Ruby City. the old mining town across the line from Jordan creek and its valley. The narrator has been William Silas Skinner, eldest son of Silas Skinner, who will be 80 this month, but still plans on riding the range this summer. Of his children,
grand-children and great- grandchildren. many of them still reside in Malheur county or the Snake river valley. The story continues:
When the Skinner ranch ran mostly horses, it had about 1100
to 1200 head, says William Silas Skinner.
"John Strode had around 1500 head and Con Shea, brother
of Tim, ran about 2,000. The stock wintered on the desert where they seemed
to thrive on tall
dry grasses they found."
After changing to beef cattle, the Skinner ranch ran aboutt
5,000 head of whitefaces up until a few years ago, when the family thought
the peak of good
beefsteak prices was reached and 'sold off, down to three or four hundred head. So now, things are sort of marking time compared to the former operation.
However, in addition to the big meadows that still look full
of cattle to the unpracticed eye, the ranch is continuing in the raising of
grain begun long
years ago when the Skinners had the first big grain producing operation in the valley and other ranchers used 'to come there to purchase their supplies of wheat, oats and barley. Kirt's son, Bob, takes an active hand in this for his father and grandfather.
Old Time Families
"Some of the other old time families of the Jordan Valley
in addition to the Mills family mentioned earlier, included the Bill Manning,
the Kelloggs, the
Baxter family who started the first buildings in the town of Jordan Valley, the Billy Parks family, Dick Hart, the A. F. Canter family who owned what was called the Hot Spring's ranch.
"Then there was the A. C Goodrich ranch, the David R. King
ranch (you remember hearing about Will R. King in Congress — 'David
was his father).
Bert Hooker lived on the ranch now owned by Sam Ross. The Cables family were next up the creek, living on the present Coggill place, now owned by Ted
Coggill, and his sister, Mrs. Barlow," recalls Mr. Skinner.
"Anawalts still own their old ranch; the grandparents took
it up and 'filed on it, never anyone else on it. A bachelor named E. A. Trycross,
now gone many
years, was next, and then there was the I. W. Sharpe place. All these ranches lay west of Jordan Valley on Jordan Creek, right down the stage road to
"Then there was the Compan ranch, owned .by Pete Deiseroth,,
now the Robinson place It was called the Company ranch on account of being
station. Then came the old Skinner place, the second ranch bought by my Father, and now owned by Jeff Anderson. The next .place was owned by P.S.
Gordon, another bachelor, and then the Skinner ranch, thirteen miles from Jordan Valley. Next was the Ruby or Beers ranch also a stage station.
The First Basques
"J. P. 'Merrill owned the Sheep Ranch and stage station
which came next. The ranch go its name through a bunch of sheep being killed
there by Indians. This ranch is today owncd by Fred Eiguren, a nephew of Joe
Navarro who came with the Azcuenaga Brothers to Jordan Valley in 1886, the
first Baques to arrive. All three went to work for Tim Shea, the sheepman,
and this was their start ii
the sheep business now follows by so many of the Basques around Jordan.
"And speaking of the Sheep Ranch," Mr. Skinner interrupt
the reminiscences, "my Father and D. L. 'Shirk, the old Indian fighter,
were holed up there
three days back in the late '70': when we were having Indian trouble. The Indians did their best to drive them out, even trying to set the roof afire, but
they managed to stick it out until the wandering war party left.
"This was about the time all the families were rounded
up and 'brought into 'the stonehouses several of the ranches had, where they
stayed until it was safe to return home. Then was a stone house on the Station
Line Ranch and another at the Gusman place.
"The Dan Dnscoll and then Tom Wilson families were other
oldtimers North of Jordan or upper Cow Creek were the McIntyres. Sid Knight,
Con Shea (the 'biggest cattle operator we ever had here), then Geo. B Glover
family, the old James B. McCain ranch.
"The James E. Gusman family was south of Jordan. The Philip
Clegg family still live on their old home place, and then Glass Brothers were
about the last neighbors to the south."
Of Silas Skinner's children four of the six survive including:
William Silas. The other three are Tom Skinner, a younger brother, and two
sisters, Mrs. Carrie Norton of Berkeley, Calif., and Mrs. I. Q. Hampton who
lives at Douglas on the Isle of Man. Their mother was able to make several
trips home to the Isle of Man during her life time.
Tom Skinner was with the family at Napa Valley when his older
.brother returned to Jordan Creek, and he went to school in California. However
when he, too, struck out for himself he came back to Jordan Creek, and also went in the cow business. His wife is the daughter of George B. Glover, and a niece of Con Shea.
The 3rd, 4th and 5th
Wiliarn Skinner's sons and daughters are Kirtland, the eldest,
who runs the home place on Jordan Creek today; Harold, of Caldwell, Idaho:
Geen, Sr., (Ruby Skinner) of Ontario; Mrs.'E.Van Matre(Verna Skinner) of Spokane "Mrs Ella Skinner Carlson, Portland; William Skinner, Pocatello; Beatrice Skinner Owings. Oakland; and Hugh Skinner, Redmond. Their mother died eight or ten years ago. There are 29 grand children living and two lost in recent years in aviation accidents, one service connected and to date there are 17 great grandchildren.
"Maybe that last figure should be revised," laughs Mr. Skinner, as he concludes with the fifth generation."I just can't keep up with then all. It might be more any minute!"
FOLLOWING IS A WRITTEN HISTORY PROVIDED BY ROBERT (BOB) HAROLD SKINNER IN SEPTEMBER 2004
HISTORY OF THE SKINNER RANCH AND IT'S PEOPLE
Silas Skinner was born in the Isle of Man, a small island located between England, Scotland and Ireland, in early 1834. According to his wife's obituary in the Ramsey Courier & Northern Advertiser, May 25, 1928, he had gone to sea at the tender age of nine. This may have been a custom of the area and also the times, as seafaring seemed to be one of the main occupations of the Manx people. At any rate he must have seen some of the world at a very young age and at least one of his ventures was to America where he visited Ashtabula, Ohio. It was there that a number of Manx citizens had settled. Whether by chance or by design, he either met or renewed an old acquaintance with one Annie Jane Callow, a girl from his home town in the Isle of Man. Granddad Skinner (Will) always told us the two families lived near each other, near Andreas, I.O.M. She had immigrated to the USA some years before the time of this meeting, and had become a seamstress by trade and was living with relatives. She had originally come to the US to be with her grandparents who had come to America for health reasons. Some relatives of the Callow family still live in the area of Ashtabula. I have corresponded with a Frank Callow who is really into genealogy and has much information on the family.
Ann (Annie) Jane Callow was born Jan. 25, 1846 at Balla Callum which was the ancestral home of her family. As Granddad told the story, and also was repeated in Ann Hampton's "My American Family", Silas, being a neighborhood youth, was sent for the mid-wife or doctor at the time of Annie's birth. She came to America with an uncle, a ship captain, at age eighteen on one of his voyages in 1865 and continued to live in Ohio for about 6 years before her marriage to Silas. The house at Balla Callum was partially standing in 1953 when my parents and my sister Joanne visited the island, however in 1983 when we were there, it was mostly a pile of rubble with berry bushes growing over it. Part of the stone fence was still standing. Not a lot has been written about Annie but, judging from her successful business enterprises, and the high esteem in which she was held by her peers, she was an outstanding person in her own right. After her husbandís early and untimely death, she managed her family and her businesses in a very professional manner. She accepted the challenges of the times while living in a raw undeveloped area, and not only survived, but lived to a ripe old age of eighty one.
It could have been on one of Silas' visits to Ohio, or perhaps it was earlier in the IOM that a romance started to bloom, but like most seamen he returned to his job which in l862 led him to Sacramento, California. More of the romance story will come later. The lure of gold, and the chance to "strike it rich", must have captured his interest and he decided to leave the ship and try his luck at something new and more challenging. California gold mines were booming and just recently gold had been discovered in Idaho. In the company of one other man, whose identity is lost in history, with two burros to carry their possessions, they set out for the Idaho country. It was late in the year, so they spent the winter in Carson City, Nevada. The next spring (1863) they continued their journey north, through Nevada, eastern Oregon, and southern Idaho, to Idaho City, Idaho, which at the time was a prosperous mining area.
Some time after his arrival in Idaho, a group of prospectors, came into the Owyhee Mountains searching for new gold mines, and of course the story of their find at Discovery Bar on what is now Jordan Creek on May 18, 1863 is well documented. Michael Jordan, the leader of this party of prospectors returned to Idaho City with the news, and when he returned to his new found claims he was accompanied by Silas Skinner. The two became close friends and business associates.
Michael Jordanís diary has many entries mentioning trades, sales, purchases, trips etc. in which the two were involved. The diary is now in the Owyhee County Museum at Murphy, Idaho. Silas, or Sam as he was referred to by his associates of the time, had several mining claims, but soon saw the urgent need for a road into the quickly developing area. Silas, in partnership with James Jordan (Michaelís brother), and Peter Donnelly, applied to the State of Idaho for a franchise to build a road from Silver City to what was thought to be the state line at the Owyhee River.
Construction of this road commenced in 1863. Work was done with pick and shovel, dynamite, ox teams and chains. While this road was under construction, Silas and another partner, H. C. Laughlin, purchased the road from Reynolds Creek to Silver City. Silas spent much of December 1865 at the Third Idaho Territorial Legislature seeking the franchise to operate both roads. Both franchises were granted on January 3,1866 and the roads were formally declared open for traffic. A toll station was first set up at Ruby city, which was about two miles below the present Silver City. The toll fee was set by the legislature. As I understand, after Silas and his partners purchased the road via Reynolds Creek to Silver City, they were granted a franchise for both roads at the same time and the toll station was then moved down Jordan Creek to the point where those two roads, one from Winnemucca and the other from Reynolds came together.
The following paragraph is a summation of information gathered from David L. Shirks book, "The Cattle Drives of David Shirk" published in 1956 by The Champoeg Press at Reed College, Portland, Oregon. During an Indian uprising in November 1867 Silas and a helper David L. Shirk were doing toll road maintenance work on a grade near what is now the community of Arock. They camped for the night in a stone cabin at the Sheep Ranch and were attacked by the indians. After a rather harrowing experience during the night, they spent the next day walking (their horses had been stolen) to the Bachelor Ranch (now part of the Skinner Ranch) and then on up to the Farnman Ranch, which is now owned by Forrest and Nancy Fretwell. There they found the bodies of Michael Jordan and his brother who had been killed by the Indians.
Note: As there seems to have been three different Michael Jordans, it is difficult and confusing to attempt a differentiation of their activities.
Now back to the romance. Dad (Kirt), always liked to tell this story with a mischievous smile on his face. It sounds like it could be right--you decide. Anyway, Silas had been busy with his travels and adventures while Annie was waiting back in Ashtabula. She had established quite a business with her sewing and some say, a millinery. She became quite impatient with her wandering paramour, and sent him a letter telling him that she wanted to know just what his intentions were, as she had another opportunity. Shortly thereafter, arrangements were made for a trip back to Andreas, Isle of Man, where they were married in Kirk Andreas Feb. 24, 1870. Ann Hampton(a granddaughter), in her writings said it was a very elaborate wedding and that Silas threw coins to the children on the sides of the street as their carriage, pulled by four horses, took them away from the church. At this date the church is still standing, is being used, and when we visited we were granted the privilege of sitting in the family pew.
After their marriage they returned to the US and made their way back across the continent to Winnemucca, Nevada, and probably then by stage coach to Ruby City, Idaho (two miles north of present day Silver City) where they made their first home. Their first son William Silas was born there on May 8, 1871. Silas busied himself with his toll road until 1878, having built a hotel or inn at the foot of Trout Creek grade east of Jordan Valley to accommodate travelers, freight teams etc. traveling the road to and from the Owyhee County mines. Three children, Carrie (March 31, 1873), Annabelle (February 18, 1875), and Thomas February 1877), were born while living at Trout Creek.
Most of the details of another story about the Skinners are probably lost forever now but we know that on one of his trips to the east he went via Kentucky and purchased some very fine Standardbred trotting horses. This could have been on his way home from the IOM after their marriage or at some later date. I seem to remember Granddad saying that there were seven head, some mares and at least one stallion. They were the beginning of a herd of horses that was very well known in harness horse racing circles in the west. Granddad spent lots of time in his very young years herding the horses on the open range during the day and returning home with his herd in the evening. There were very few fences to control their movement in those days. The colts were naturally very good trotters and their skills were honed by a man named Goldsmith. Silas, by that time, 1891, had leased the Goodrich Ranch (now known as the Acarregui or Potts ranch and is currently part of the Skinner Ranch) and a training track was made north of the house and corrals. Those young horses that showed promise were taken to California and raced with the best of them. The breeding from that herd reached down into the Skinner horses until about 1947 or 1948 when the last gelding with Standardbred blood, (Buck) was sold after a long and useful life as a ranch saddle horse. Famous names of some of the trotters were Alcona, Alcona Clay, Alcona Clay Jr., King Orrie and one Woodside who was sold to finance a trip back to the IOM. A filly whose name has slipped my memory set many records on the California tracks. In later years Dad (Kirt) sent an inquiry to the Western Livestock Journal regarding the line of breeding from which those horses came and received some information about them. They descended from one of the most famous thoroughbred sires of the time. He also received some information on some of the horses named above.
Horses had always played a big part, not only as a cash crop but as the power supply in the development of the Skinner Ranch. With four sons, all of whom loved horses, Granddad always had a crew to break all the colts that they needed on the ranch. They also provided many well-broke teams for travelers on the Idaho to California road, which passed through the ranch, and to a great many ranches in the area. The horses were well known for their excellent quality. The last big group of draft-type animals was sold, almost for a song, in late 1942 or early 1943. Tractors had taken over as the source of power by then and work horses were slowly being put out of business, even though we had a few teams until about 1960. The saddle stock mares were also sold sometime in the early 1950's. The Skinner Ranch had become strictly a cattle operation except for the saddle horses that have been purchased.
In 1878 Silas and E.H. Clinton, a partner he had taken into the business, traded their interest in the toll road and Trout Creek Station to C.D. Bachelor for a tract of land located on the bank of Jordan Creek in what is now one of the hay fields of the Skinner Ranch. Silas and Annie lived at that ranch, until 1880, having developed a herd of cattle and also horses. Their son Horatio, better known as Ray, was born there February 26, 1879. In 1880 they sold their interest in that place to his partner and neighbor E.H. Clinton, and moved to what became known as "the old Skinner place". This ranch, which Silas had purchased from a Mr. Stickland, is located about six miles east of the present headquarters and was on the toll road. A daughter, Sarah Ellen, was born here April 7, 1881 and died in 1882. Their youngest daughter Mona, was also born here April 9, 1883. It was while living here, 1881, that Silas leased the Goodrich ranch nearer to Jordan Valley and used it as a base for his Standardbred (trotting) horses he brought from Kentucky.
In 1884 Silas suffered a fall with his saddle horse near what is now the junction of Danner Loop Road and Hwy. 95, five miles west of Jordan Valley. His injury was serious enough that after some time the doctor recommended a more moderate climate and lower elevation.
They then purchased land on Big Ranch Road near Napa, California, and the family moved and made their home there, but retained ownership of the livestock in Oregon. Silas however remained active for some time and made several drives with herds of horses to Napa. Granddad wrote an account of one drive he made with his father, two other men, and his little brother Tom on the camp wagon with his father. The route followed the Skinner Toll Road to the Owyhee River, then probably along the old Military road to, or near Lakeview, then into northern California and on down to Napa. He mentioned places like Fort Bidwell, Alturas, Madeline Plains, Susanville, Paradise and others on the way down to Napa. Silas died in 1886 at 52 years of age from TB (consumption as of that date) which was at the time thought to be a result of his fall. To the last he remembered his old friend and associate Mike Jordan. His daughter, Annabelle Hampton in one of her letters to my parents said one of his last statements was "Itís alright Annie, Mike is beckoning over there for me, canít you see him?"
Will, although a boy of only fifteen, assumed much of the responsibility for running the livestock operation in Oregon and Idaho. For some years he made an annual trip, except the first year, when he made the trip twice to California with the horses that were for sale. His last trip was in 1891, a short time before he was married. An important asset to the operation during this time was an employee named Tom McCain. He had worked with Silas for a long time and Granddad quoted him often, always giving him much credit when it came to the management and handling horses. Also, he must have been a great mentor for a young boy growing up. I have found very little written about McCain but he is buried in the Jordan Valley cemetery. The horses taken to California would be kept for a time at the Napa property and sold as coach horses etc. Many went to the city of San Francisco for use in pulling street cars and fire wagons. ,
Annie continued the management of the Napa Ranch and the raising of their family, which now consisted of six children. In some of her last letters she expressed a desire to locate and visit Sarah Ellenís grave in Jordan Valley, but I donít think that ever happened. It was located much later and is now marked with proper identification. Annie was known to be a shrewd and capable manager who was respected by her peers. The Napa Ranch was sold a few years later, about 1890 or 1891, and Annie moved to Berkeley where she had a home at 2332 Haste St. now part of the campus of the University of California. She maintained a strong connection to her Manx friends and was always recognized as one of the stalwart supporters of Manx culture. She made many trips back to visit her family and kept a financial interest in some of the livestock in Oregon until she was a very old lady. She died May 17, 1928 when she was 92 years old.
Will Skinner had been taking an active part in the total operation since his fatherís death and had been working with E. H. Clinton who owned the north part of what is now the Skinner Ranch. Silas and Clinton had been friends and business associates since the time of the early discovery of gold in the Owyhee Mountains. They had been partners in the toll road and also the Bachelor property. Michael Jordanís diary has many references to both of these men. This diary is now in the Owyhee County museum in Murphy, ID.
After E. H. Clinton died in 1899, his brother George came up from Sacramento to take over the property. George managed it for several years until his death in 1904. Both Clintons were buried in Sacramento. Their holdings then became the property of their many heirs. Burgess, Polhemus, Spaulding and other names are mentioned in the settlement of the estate. Will managed the property for them until 1908 when he and a friend Willis G. Thompson (known as "Tompy" by family) purchased the property. We have several letters from a Frankie Spaulding regarding the transfer of ownership of the ranch. Will and Tompy first became friends when they both worked at a quicksilver mine near Napa.
While the Skinners lived in Napa, the family became well acquainted with other families in the community including the Sacketts, Imries, Garfields and others. As a result, Will and Ella Sackett were married in Napa, November 11, 1891. His friend Will Imrie married Margaret Sackett. I think Granddad never enjoyed anything more than to gather a group of his grandchildren around his knee and relate the stories of the parties, dances, picnics etc. that were held in the community. These families remained close friends until all of them were gone.
After Will and Ella were married, they came to Jordan Valley and moved into the old home, the "Old Skinner Place", where Silas and Annie had lived previously. Their two oldest sons Kirt, Nov.27, 1892 and Harold, Mar.6, 1894, were born there. Will always loved to tell about a flood that occurred several days after Haroldís birth. They had to put Ella and the two children in a row boat. Using saddle horses, they pulled them about a mile up to the stage station which was run by Henry Scott where they stayed until the flood water receded.
About the same time, Will was doing anything he could to make a living for his new family and one of his jobs was buying horses for the Mexican army. That took him all over eastern Oregon and he dealt with such notables as Pete French, John Devine, Shirks and anyone else who had horses for sale. This probably resulted in the sale of one of his fancy Standardbred stallions (Woodside) to John Devine, of Alvord Ranch fame, who was known as a fancier of good horses. He rode horseback, leading the stallion to the Alvord Ranch. A road off Big Ranch Road in Napa also bears the name Woodside. Will also spent time working in a livery barn in Caldwell, and during that time their first daughter Ruby was born February 4, 1896. Next we find them living in Napa where Will had a job in the near-by Etna quicksilver mine where he met "Tompy" who later become his partner for a time and also a friend for life. Second daughter Verna was born in Napa September 25, 1897.
By 1900 the family had moved back to the Clinton Ranch, (presently Ranch headquarters) living in what later became the bunkhouse. A small house nearby which had been moved from itís location on the original site of Clintons homestead was occupied by Mr. Clinton, and after his death was used as a cook shack. The bunkhouse had become too small for a growing family. It consisted of one large room and two smaller rooms which were used as bedrooms. While living here, the family grew with the birth of Irma Oct.26, 1898, William C. Aug. 5, 1901, Ella Jan. 12, 1903, Beatrice Mar. 26, 1907 and Hugh Jan. 5, 1909. During this time they added two rooms, and later this house served for many years to house the ranch crews.
In 1909, the Skinner family leased the Ruby Ranch from Mrs. W. P. Beers and continued to run both places until the spring of 1916. It was while they were on the Ruby Ranch in 1913 that they hired a young lady from Scotland, as a teacher for their private school, who later became our mother. Johanna Murray and Dad were married Oct.16, 1917. Edith Jones, who hailed from Indiana was hired for the same job in 1914 and she later became the wife of Harold June 24, 1919.
During 1915 much progress had been made on the construction of a home on the part of the Skinner Ranch that Granddad owned. Most and probably all of the lumber was hauled in from Caldwell on wagons with six or eight horse teams. First occupied early in l916, it was a large spacious home that would accommodate the large crowds that would later spend time visiting the Skinner family. Moving into that big, new, beautiful home of their own must have been cause for great excitement and celebration. It also set the stage for an expansion movement that would lead to many unforeseen troubles.
It was during this time, 1922, that Dad and Mom built a small home of their own on a piece of property that they owned and called "The Homestead". It was our home most of the time from then until 1929 when we finally moved to the big ranch house for good. Members of our family who were born at the Homestead were Kirt, August 28, 1922, Christine, July 3, 1924, Dan, August 12, 1926, and John, April 10, 1929. Bill, the oldest was born in Boise, Oct. 25, 1917 and I was born in the "big house" June 26, 1920. Joanne was born November 22, 1932, after we moved back to the "big house".
During the 1920ís, times were good and, in addition, the economic climate appeared to favor a larger outfit. Both the Ruby Ranch, and the Dave Somerville property were leased with an option to purchase. The Somerville property, included the Reservoir Ranch (now called "Grassy") and the Star Ranch on Juniper Mountain. A large herd of both horses and cattle along with equipment was purchased in the deal. Large crews were hired to care for the stock and operate the ranches. Both Kirt and Harold assumed much responsibility in the management and operation, as did Verna with management of the kitchen as well as the bookkeeping. Every one chipped in with the work, as time and other things allowed. Hugh managed a band of sheep for a time in the twenties. He was the third Skinner son to marry a teacher of the local school when he wed Merle Boswell of Vale. Bill had already married Edna Mae Matheson, Ruby married Evan Gheen and Verna married Elvin Van Matre. Irma married Cecil Palmer and Ella married another school teacher Clifford Carlsen, both weddings being held in the in the living room of the big house, and Beatrice married Norman Owings. I will leave the telling of their stories and history to members of their families.
Along with the growth of the operation came the inevitable. Times were good and, to them, the future looked bright but expenses began to mount. A $125,000.00 loan was applied for and granted in the form of bonds, from Lumbermanís Trust Bank of Portland, Oregon. That was a large sum, in days when wages were one dollar a day. At this date it is not known how many of those bonds were sold but the amount was considerable.
Perhaps the first indication of trouble was when the bank sent a representative, George Dickson, to live, work and aid in the management of the ranch. He involved the ranch in a huge cattle feeding operation in Wilder and Homedale, Idaho. This involved housing and feeding large crews, 75 miles from the home ranch. It was also a five hour trip over bad roads by automobile and at least a four or five day trip while driving cattle.
The ranching operation continued to grow with the purchase of more cattle along with the pasture and feed necessary to maintain them. It was a complicated operation when the crash of 1929 struck. The ranch found itself in the same situation as most every other business in the nation. In the fall of that year the ranch went into foreclosure and the cattle and machinery were sold. Everything went from good times to the worst of times in a hurry. The sky had fallen. The bottom had dropped out.
All signs pointed to a complete move for the whole family. They were threatened with eviction and no one knew what to do. Grandmother suffered a stroke and was partially paralyzed. Perhaps Granddad thought getting her away from all the trouble would be of help to her so he took her down to Berkeley, CA to stay a while with the Gheen (Ruby) family. It was only a short time until she suffered another severe stroke which left her completely paralyzed with no speech or body control. Just before that stroke she wrote the most pitiful letter I have ever seen to Mom, asking her to please get all of her things out of the house before they had to move. She gave very explicit directions about what to do with each one of her treasures. We still have the letter that tells this very sad story.
Through all of this Kirt and Johanna were able to lease the place from the stockholders or whoever had possession at the time and, "by hook or by crook", they were able to stay and get a new start. Harold and Hugh both worked here on the ranch at different times, however, by this time they were both living in Caldwell.
Much of what happened during the next few years is not all clear to me, although I remember well the consternation and worry that took place with all of the family. Many trips to Portland were made in an effort to straighten things out and get the ranch back. We have many letters Dad wrote to Mom while he was in Portland and they all painted a very dim and heartbreaking picture.
I think the situation was something like this: After the foreclosure, the ranch was sold on the courthouse steps at Vale, and the bondholders who had purchased bonds bought it in an attempt to recoup some of their investment. At first the dealings with the bondholders committee did not go well. After a time, and mainly through the efforts of their chairman Mr. M. G. Gunderson from Silverton, OR, they began to see that the best deal they could get was to sell the ranch back to the Skinners. In 1938 Dad and Mom were able to complete a deal with the bondholders, and purchased the ranch for approximately $40,000.00.
Mom and Dad were able to put the ranch back on solid footing and were beginning to enjoy the benefits of their efforts and sacrifices, when their oldest son Bill was killed March 30, 1942 in a plane crash in Boise. As a flight instructor, he was giving a student pilot a flying lesson. While practicing landings, a close encounter with a large military plane created too much turbulence and their small plane crashed. Billís death took an enormous toll on Mom and Dad. I donít think they ever fully recovered.
Also our countryís involvement in World War II began about that time and Kirt and I were called to the army. Help was almost impossible to get, and times were not good again for a few years. Dan and John were pressed into service as ranch hands at an early age, as were a number of other boys who were too young to be in the military. Several men almost too old to do ranch work were hired during that time. It was a time when every one did their best to aid the country in the war effort as every able bodied person was in the military. Consequently, most of the horses and cattle were sold to keep the ranch solvent. Dan and John both served lateróDan during the Korean conflict and John, the only one to serve overseas, spent a year in the South Pacific during the A and H bomb tests.
Sara Morgan and I were married November 9, 1946. We had met while I was serving in the army at the Richmond Army Service Forces Depot, Richmond, VA. She had been working at the Depot as a civilian. We decided to come back to the ranch and give it a try even though she had been a city girl all of her life and this would entail a drastic change of lifestyle for her. Life on a ranch in the eastern Oregon desert was an abrupt change from the verdant hills surrounding her home in Roanoke, Virginia. She still wants to stand and salute when she hears "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny".
Our three children, Bob, Nancy and Sally have also always been very supportive and now Bob is the active manager aided by his wife Karen,(another teacher) son Silas and his family, and son Mike. Their older daughter, Robbin, is married to a local rancher, Mike Eiguren and the other daughter, Kimberly, is married to Morgan Johnsrud and teaches in Meridian, ID. Bob and Karenís grand children represent the seventh generation of of Skinners to live and work on the Skinner Ranch. Our daughters, Nancy and Sally both entered the education field and have been very successful in their choice of endeavor. Nancy and Ray now live in Rocklin, CA and have two sons, Jeff who works with his dad and Adam, a senior at St. Maryís College. Ray is involved in Real Estate while Nancy is curriculum coordinator for the Loomis School District. Sally lives in Boise and is now principal in the Highland School, Boise, ID. She has a son, Christopher, who is about the thirtieth Skinner family member to attend Albertsonís (College of Idaho to us older folks)and a daughter Sara Jo, a senior at Centenial High school. Bob, Nancy and Sally are all graduates of The College of Idaho.
Dan and I formed a partnership with Dad, back when a postage stamp cost only five cents, and entered the business that we called S. K. Skinner and Sons. In 1953, Dan and I leased the real estate and made a deal for the cattle and machinery, then purchased the ranch in 1966. This arrangement lasted until we incorporated in 1979 when son Bob was taken into the business and we changed the name to Skinner Ranches Inc. In March, 1991 The Acarregui Ranch (the same ranch where Silas trained his trotting horses) near the town of Jordan Valley, was purchased from Laz Mendieta and Ted and Dorothy Payne. That added about another 300 head capacity to our operation.
Dan also joined a long list of Skinner men who married teachers when he and Cathy Ross were married June 2, 1973. As age was creeping up on Dan and me, we reached an agreement in June 2001 that if all goes as planned, Dan and Cathyís interest will be purchased a few years down the road.
As of this writing, the year 2004 makes the 126th year that the Skinner family has run a ranching operation either from this ranch or the "Old Skinner Place". The latter place was sold about 1917. There have been two breaks in ownership of the real estate since the time that Silas and Annie traded the Trout Creek Station for part of what is now the home place. One time was when Silas sold his interest in the Skinner-Clinton holdings to his partner Clinton, and once again when the ranch went through foreclosure. During both breaks Skinners stayed in business and continued to run cattle and horses, (sometimes sheep) using this and other property as a base.
Ranching was a much different "ballgame" in those early days than it is now. Livestock ran on the open range 12 months out of the year and required only superficial management compared to the closely managed program necessitated by the change in times and ways of modernized ranching. Now cattle spend at least seven months on the ranch and less than five on public range.
What the future holds will depend on many uncertainties. I would hope, that as long as there is a descendent who would like to continue, that the ranch can go on in the family. By the same token, I do not wish to place a burden on anyone not fully committed to, or happy with this type of work. Ranching has become more technical and involves so many facets of the business world. It requires a lot of dedication, commitment, determination and hard work.
It is my sincere belief, that it is a wonderful place to raise a family, to live and enjoy a good life, to appreciate the outdoors, and care for and work with animals. Values that come with the freedom of operating your own business and working with and seeing new life in plants and animals, accepting the storms with the pleasant weather, experiencing the changing seasons, watching the sun come up in a blaze of glory as the day begins and enjoying the serenity and gorgeous sunsets at days end, are only a few amenities that create the quality of life that, in my view, are unexcelled when you make your living on a ranch.
THATíS WHY WE STAY.