06 January 2011

Milton E. Milner Ranch Holdings

"Milner’s Holdings Described by Hinsdale Writer; Early Day Foreman Still Lives on Ranch. By F. B. Gillette.

Hinsdale, Dec. 17.—A recent Tribune story described in complete detail the big ranch home built by the late Milton E. Milner, a pioneer land and cattle baron, at the Shonkin ranch. The article also refers to the fact that Mr. Milner owned other ranches in the Milk river country, one of these on Square creek near the Missouri river and opposite the mouth of the Musselshell and another in Square coulee on Larb creek near Hinsdale, these being the ranches which served to cause Mr. Milner’s claims to the immense area east of the Little Rockies between the Missouri and Milk rivers to their junction as his range.

The hard winter of 1886-1887 practically put Mr. Milner out of the cattle business but he restocked the following year with Texas cattle and in 1890 W. W. Jaycox, now living on his Truax coulee ranch, was engaged as manager for the Square Cattle company, of which Mr. Milner was sole owner, in the Missouri-Milk river range. He continued in that capacity for 20 years, when Mr. Milner closed out his business because of his advancing years.

Shipped 15,000 Yearly. In the bonanza days of the cattle business in the northwest range states, cattle were “roughed through” the winters, no thought being given development of hay ranches, nor was more native wild hay put up than was necessary to winter a few teams and saddle horses. Several seasons were necessary to “climate” Texas cattle, and severe winters of the northwest made this an expensive process.

Jaycox prevailed upon Milner to accept his own theory that northern Montana was cut out for a maturing range rather than for a breeding country, whereupon Milner purchased young Oregon steers by the trainload for many seasons and shipped them to his Milk river range. Soon Milner was shipping beef cattle by the trainload to the extent of 15,000 a season and his wealth accumulated.

Traveling widely throughout the United States, a familiar figure in many of its great cities, especially Chicago, Mr. Milner had long been a cosmopolitan and raconteur above the average. His European travels and expeditions into spots of historic beauty gave rise to fantastic ideas in decoration of the big house on the Shonkin ranch and upon his return to the ranch from these trips, he frequently imported mechanics and artisans with instructions to decorate and finish certain rooms in certain “periods.” Often the work when completed fell short of his notion as to what it should be, whereupon it was ordered town out and a different plan adopted.

Water was piped to this ranch from an elevated spring at a reported expense of $10,000. Ornate fences and hundreds of miles of barbed wire fences, an abomination to the true range cattlemen, offered another outlet for expenditure of large sums of money.

Small and dapper, Milner nevertheless, was a man of character and was arbitrary and quick to wrath, despite which he retained the loyalty and devotion of his foreman and employes of long standing, to a number of whom he made substantial bequests in his will. To the mother of a cowboy drowned while on duty in his employ, he paid a pension as long as she lived.

Victim of Regulations. Milner usually appeared on the range about the time the beef roundups were due at shipping points but he exercised only nominally the prerogatives of the “owner.” In the chill of late October, a bed tent was used where earlier in the season each cowpuncher rolled out his own bed in camp wherever the notion struck him.

On one beef roundup Milner dropped into camp, in which, by the way, there was a hard and fast rule that there should be no talking, no smoking and no lights after 8 o’clock in the bed tent. This rule was to insure rest for all hands, as each man stood night guard two house on and four hours off. Milner was full of stories of Paris, London, New York and colorful adventures amidst the white lights and protracted his tales interminably after the hour of 8. After the courtesy due a guest had been exhausted, a couple of dog tired cowpunchers, after a whispered pre-arrangement, seized Milner from each side, dragged him unceremoniously from his bed and, throwing him over a bedroll, held him down securely, while others piled out of their own beds to chastise him, whaling him with stiff leather legs of a pair of chaps. In the darkness he could not recognize his assailants, but with sunrise he admitted the justice of his punishment.

On another occasion, between Malta and the Little Rockies, Milner arrived at the beef roundup and an engrossed were the roundup hands in his stories that they deserted their places in the circle in which the cattle were held awaiting cars. On his return to camp from Malta, Jaycox found the roundup spreading towards all points of the compass with no one on guard. Finding Milner in the center of an admiring, circle of cowpunchers the foreman ordered the “owner” back to camp and scattered the men to their posts. Milner wended his way to camp, stretched out behind the bed tent, after telling the cook “that Jaycox had hurt his feelings,” and forgot his injured sensibilities in slumber.

They tell another story about the cook. While moving camp, he met a long string of freight wagons and teamsters on the Zortman trail and imbibed too freely from whisky flasks. He was unable to cook supper and did not revive sufficiently to cook breakfast, the following morning. When ready to move camp again after the meal. Jaycox wrote out his check, rolled him, and his bed to one side of the road and drove off.

Disposed of Ranches. Milner, with the approach of age, finally sold the Square Butte and Shonkin properties about the time the Milwaukee built to the coast, the railway company purchasing real estate for town sites and one ranch for a clubhouse for officials.

The Square coulee ranch on Larb creek was sold to the American Cattle company, the “Milliron,” and later passed into the hands of Tom Garrison of Saco.

The Square creek ranch near the Missouri has passed into the hands of John Etchart of Glasgow and forms an integral part of his immense ranch in the old Carpenter and Gibson area.

Jaycox, a packer in the Crook-Merritt campaigns against the Cheyenne Sioux in the seventies, cowhand and roundup boss between the Platte and Powder rivers about the time of the “Johnson county war,” sheriff at Casper, Who. In days of heroic deeds and a cowman in north Montana for the last 40 years, now lives on the Truax coulee ranch south of Hinsdale. Well up into the seventies, Jaycox is erect, active, keen of intellect, deliberate in speech, bronzed by years of exposure and has kindly gray eyes and a mass of gray hair. In his remarkable memory is a mine of information on happenings and characters in the range country from Cheyenne to the Canadian line for the last 60 years.
[p. 4] [GFTD 18 Dec 1930]

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