Lottie, Sig & Lucille
Lottie is Lottie Snedigar (married to George). We don’t know Sig’s last name. He might have been the cook’s helper. Grandma Lucille is on the far right, wearing the dude shirt with smiley pockets. Grandma had gone out to visit her friends. Knowing her though, first and foremost she was checking up on Uncle Kenny.
Although Lottie hired on as cook, I’ve been told that George always fixed breakfast. Didn’t matter if it was for one or for 35, you’d find George rustling up the morning meal. I found a single sheet of paper with three recipes from Lottie in my grandmother’s recipe box. It had been folded four times to make it fit, and the folds are beginning to separate. Lottie shared her pumpkin layer cake, brown sugar raisin icing and cornmeal yeast buns.
The most factual information I have about McNierney Livestock came serendipitously through my father. Dad didn’t miss too many auctions sales when he was alive. True, he was drawn by what he’d find among the offering. But, he was gregarious and found great joy in simply visiting with those in attendance. At the sale of saddlemaker Pete VerBeck, he bought a 1942 calendar adorned with a sepia tone photo of a herd of cattle being trailed. Printed beneath was "DDD Cattle in Montana, John McNierney Livestock, Albuquerque, N.M. and Miles City, Mont." Taped to the back of the calendar was a mid-1941 newspaper clipping telling about McNierney’s recent acquisitions in eastern Montana.
It detailed how several months previous, McNeirney had purchased the 100-section Howe Ranch (presumably belonging to the estate/widow of the late John W. Howe). That ranch was located at the mouth of Mizpah Creek, which empties into Powder River.
McNeirney was in the process of also purchasing the Brown Ranch—20 miles below Powderville—from Clyde O. Brown. (Twenty miles "below" Powderville would be north, heading down the Powder toward the Yellowstone. Located on the west bank of Powder River, Powderville had been one of three Montana stage stations on the 200-mile Miles City to Deadwood stage route. Prior to that, it had been a stop on the Fort Keogh to Fort Meade mail route. Even before that, the Fort Keogh to Fort Meade telegraph line ran through the area. The Texas or Northern Cattle Trail crossed Powder River approximately 20 miles "above" Powderville and then crossed Pumpkin Creek about 20 miles from where the Mizpah empties into the Powder.)
The real estate transfer between Brown and McNeirney was to take place Nov. 1, 1941. The Brown Ranch controlled over 200 sections—part owned, part leased. At the time of the sale it was running 3,000 head of cattle. McNierney was reported to have paid $200,000 for the ranch and 2,000 head of cattle, plus $5/ton for all the hay. Combined, the two purchases made his holdings one of the largest ranches in the state.
Montana Historical Society archives note that McNierney was still adding to his holdings two years after the Brown acquisition. In 1943, the Powder River Land and Cattle Company corporation sold all existing leases and remaining lands to John McNierney of New Mexico.
McNierney sold out around 1950. I have conflicting information and haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact year. (I tend to believe that these photos were taken in the last year or two of operation.) Being such a well-known ranch, it’s a safe bet that the sale was written up in the newspaper. A trip to the library in Miles City should provide the answer. I’ve been in touch with the staff there and they are aware of my quest.
Following the sale, the land that John McNierney controlled passed through a succession of investors and large-scale ranchers. It was leased by a gentleman from Colorado who owned a large Ford dealership and by a partnership bankrolled by a Las Vegas casino owner. Through it all, and to this day, the Brown Ranch continues to be referred to by that name—66 years after it first sold.