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Water a key to early Sioux County ranching success

Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 3:09 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - During a tour of northern Sioux county, we got a chance to learn about the origins of the Warbonnet Ranch, and how water played a big role in its success.

The house that sits on the Warbonnet Ranch is located about 15 miles north of Harrison. The ranch itself was established in 1878 by Benjamin Emmons Brewster. “Mr. Brewster came in from the east coast with investors and started this ranch,” First National Bank of Chadron President Steve Cleveland said.

When you consider just how remote this ranch is, many ask the question of just how a person would find and establish this ranch in the 1870′s. “Everybody has their theories,” Cleveland said. “My theory is that Benjamin Emmons Brewster knew uncle Frank Emmons who happened to be surveyor. He was on the crew that surveyed the 40th parallel between Kansas and Nebraska. Surveyors would have been in the know.”

The location of the Warbonnet Ranch is a desirable location, because it sits on Warbonnet Creek. “Like many open range ranches, these ranchers selected property that had live water,” Cleveland said. The ranch has a cistern that uses gravity flow on a hillside. “These people would trap the water, and utilize it to the fullest,” Cleveland said.

The early ranches in Sioux county were open-range style. “Basically these ranches did social distancing, to the tune of about 20 miles,” Cleveland said. “Each would select a range of a couple hundred thousand acres. In the fall, they would have a round-up, and they would round up the ranges, and separate the cattle.”

The Coffee family acquired the Warbonnet ranch in the 1950′s. The ranch is still a working cow-calf ranch. A family lives on the property, and helps with the work. However, the main house on the property is more of a retreat home today.

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