Ranch History- How it all Began

One of the questions most often asked by guests at the Ranch is “How did it all begin?”. Well, the story actually begins in Wales, England, where George Lloyd Reese- the father in this picture- was born.

He was the son of William Lloyd and Mary Jane Lloyd Reese. William (born March 5, 1831) was the son of Edward and Elizabeth Cadell Rees- successful silversmiths and landscapes architects. The spelling of the name Rees began with no “e” on the end, but at some point the spelling was changed by William and Jane to Reese- the way it is currently spelled. William’s brother John kept the original spelling. William and John did not follow in their parents’ footsteps. They began a lucrative Oyster exporting business, but moved on when John became a Welsh explorer. William became a very skilled carpenter and master ship builder, and married Mary Jane Lloyd (Jane) on June 1, 1855. They started their family in Wales, and were living comfortably.

William’s brother, John, made his way to America and traveled many of the same trails as Lewis and Clark. He eventually settled in Logan, Kansas never to return to Wales. All the while, urging William and Jane to come and explore the wonderful opportunities of the new land.

Jane’s brother, Captain Thomas Lloyd, was a Naval officer, whose travels also led him to America from time to time. He, too, gave glowing and exciting reports of the opportunity and adventure available in America.

William and Jane were doing well, though, with their growing family. They re-located from Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire to Dorchestershire in 1863, where they made a new home, William re-established his carpentry and ship building business, and also became involved in the Lloyd Export Oyster Company. There’s those oysters again 😉

By now, though, both William and Jane’s parents had died, the economy in Wales wasn’t doing so well, and both their brothers were encouraging a move to the United States. The recent Potato Famine of Scotland resulted in a huge number of refugees fleeing to Wales, which had shaken things up. The opportunities for education, and profitable futures for their children were not as readily available as they would have liked. They gave thought to the Homestead Act that Abraham Lincoln had signed into act on May 20, 1862.

After much consideration, on Christmas Day 1869, William and Jane decided to uproot their family and move to America. They had no close relatives remaining in Wales, and their children were young enough to all come along and adapt to the changes.

After much planning, they decided that William would go first, sending money back to Jane and the children while he got established there and set up a home. They knew that as a carpenter and ship builder, he would find work easily. So, early in the year 1870, William boarded a vessel in Liverpool, England headed to the US. He worked diligently and lived frugally, establishing a home for his family.

Just over 2 years later, on March 17, 1872, Jane and the 6 children (ages 4-13) boarded the “Princess Elizabeth” for the 23 day trip to America. Our George, who was 4 at the time, was the only one who didn’t get terribly sick in the rough and stormy seas. William was waiting for them on the dock in Boston Harbor when they arrived.

They enjoyed life in Lynn, Massachusetts (now part of Boston), where they lived for 6 years, and 2 more children were born. Jane’s brother, Captain Thomas, would visit when he came to port, but was sadly lost at sea. William’s brother, John, had settled into Kansas, so they decided to join him there.

Around March of 1879, they loaded up their possessions, and the family of 10 took a train to Hays City, Kansas. From there, they traded trinkets from Wales for a wagon and purchased a yoke of oxen, and possibly a team of horses. It is said that William is credited as the first to ever drive a team of horses into Logan, Kansas. They made the 60 mile trip across the prairie to Logan, where they took possession of a homestead 4 1/4 miles east of present day Logan. They all worked hard to settle in to a new place and develop their homestead. In addition to establishing the homestead and farming, William continued construction work and cabinet making.

Barely a year after leaving Massachusetts, William became ill while working on a house, developed pneumonia, and died, despite all care, at the age of 48. Jane and their 8 children, ranging in age from 5-20, remained on the land and struggled to get by. Jane was granted title to the homestead by fall of 1881. William’s brother, John, who never married, homesteaded next to them and probably helped where he could. The children grew, adapted, and worked hard. Receiving a little schooling along the way, they all learned to read and write the English language. They were often asked why they had left such a beautiful country in exchange for the dry, windy plains of western Kansas. Not people to complain, they never dwelt on the past, but would seek to live in the present and anticipate the future.

Jane remained active her whole life and witnessed all of her children getting married with homes of their own. She remained in the sod and frame house that William had built, and died of a heart attack while preparing a family dinner in 1902, at the age of 70.

This brings us to George Lloyd Reese (Brad’s great grandfather- and the original homesteader of the ranch), who came over on that ship from England. He was born May 9, 1868. He is pictured here with his wife Grace Ann Farley Reese, and their 5 children. This picture was taken in 1912 or 1913, shortly before their journey from Kansas to Wyoming. He was certainly no stranger to hard work and adaptation.

From left to right are- Neva Leola, George Lloyd, Charlie Loren (Brad’s grandfather), George Lloyd, Jr., Grace Ann, Raymond Lester, and in front, Leonard.

George and Grace were married July 4, 1901. Grace Ann Farley was born June 20, 1872, and had been apart of the “Stitch and Chatter” club, a group of 6 women, including her sister, Blanche, and George’s sister, Susie. They planned community programs, designed and wore their own apparel, and chased coyotes on horseback. Her sister Blanche, married George’s brother, William.

The Farleys lived across from the Reeses, and with 8 kids in both families, the area was getting crowded and there was little room for expansion. George’s younger brother was running their family’s homestead and George and Grace were renting a place. In addition to the crowding, the Farleys, as a rule, were a very rough, drinking crowd, and Grace greatly disproved of drinking. So, in 1914, George and Grace packed up their family and headed for Wyoming. They homesteaded south of Shawnee, and had to live on and work the land for 5 years before it was theirs. Life was not easy in Wyoming. They built a sod house and worked hard once again to establish a new home. It was very important to Grace that the kids all received proper schooling. Once they “proved up” on their half section of land, they rented it out and got a mortgage, returning to the place they had rented back in Logan, Kansas where they farmed wheat, corn, and oats. The kids received their diplomas and were each given a gold watch as a reward. Brad’s grandfather, Charlie Loren, graduated from Logan High School, along with sister Leola, and cousin, Calvin, on May 15, 1924. Charlie then attended Grand Island Business School. It was too dry in Kansas, so sometime between 1928-1930, the family packed up two old cars and headed to Missouri, where they rented another place about 3 miles from Mt. Grove. Raymond brought 6 horses and the farm equipment needed to raise corn.

Sometime after they moved in, they began attending church at a country schoolhouse on Pleasant Hill, also known as “The Spotted Hog”, about 4 miles to the west of their farm. This is where they first encountered the Vining Family, who would soon become apart of our story. Having 2 cars, the Reeses quickly found themselves in the middle of all social activities, as cars were pretty scarce around there at the time.

Roberta (Bertie) Vining was born January 9, 1910, on her family’s farm in Nebraska. Being 1 mile north of the Kansas line, her address was Mahaska, Kansas. She was the second oldest of the 5 surviving children of Harry and Katheryne (Kitty) Vining. Two of the children had died of typhoid and scarlet fever. Bertie had almost died of pneumonia and they had nearly lost another child when building a home on their new farm in Norwood, Missouri. Three year old Bertie was with her parents, cutting wood for the roof, when the tent they were living in, and where 1  1/2 year old Virgil was napping, caught on fire. 6 year old Cecil rushed into the burning tent and rescued Virgil, unharmed. The family later moved back to Kansas, where Bertie started school at the age of 6, before re-settling in Missouri in 1919. Bertie’s mom, Kitty, was cheerful and outgoing, a hard worker who drove the horse and buggy, and later the car- even fixing a flat with Harry looking on. Harry was strict and held back, always working hard to make ends meet. The family sold cream and eggs, and they sold their cattle every year to purchase dry goods to get them through the winter. Bertie grew into quite the beauty, loved to look good, and was very popular.

Back to the Spotted Hog. It is said that Bertie, while trying to decide between Charlie and Leonard (Dude), dropped her handkerchief on purpose, as a test, to see which one would pick it up. Charlie “gallantly retrieved” the hanky, and after courting for a while, they were married on March 5, 1931. Dude never did marry, so it’s a good thing she didn’t wait on him! Charlie was described by Bertie’s brother, Virgil, as being forward, healthy, hard-working, and a friend indeed. He described Dude as fast and hard-working.

With the onset of The Great Depression, and some dry farming years, the Reese family was all headed back to the homestead in Wyoming. They had stuck it out in Missouri for several tough years, and in addition to tending to their own farm, the Reese brothers traveled to other areas to help shuck corn, harvest strawberries, or whatever they could to earn some cash. Sometimes they took Bertie’s brother, Virgil, with them. He was quite the worker, and later joined the Navy where he was captured and held captive by the Japanese for several years (he wrote a book about it here). Bertie and Charlie’s sister Leola even went along on one strawberry harvesting adventure. Dude was the fastest, then Virgil. Bertie liked to sing as she worked, so she was the slowest, and with Charlie sticking pretty close to Bertie, his yield wasn’t very good either.

The rest of the Reese family had gone ahead to Wyoming, about a year earlier, in 1 or 2 cars, and George and Raymond in a covered wagon with a couple of cows and 6 horses. It took 3 days by car, and over a month in the wagon. Charlie stayed back to court Bertie. After the marriage ceremony- there was really no wedding celebration- Charlie and Bertie immediately headed for Wyoming in their Model T.

Bertie remembers that, upon their arrival, everyone was busy working and building. George was up on the hill using a horse-drawn scraper to level the ground for house building. Their original sod home had been burned down by the renter. And so, once again, the Reese family was hard at work re-establishing a home and settling into a wild, new country.

Thanks for reading! I will continue the story in another post.

Here is a fun video- the song is written by Brad’s brother, Brett, and sung by Brad, Brett, and Norm. Brad’s dad, Charlie, and our son, Chase portray the Grandfather and Grandson in the video. The song is inspired by the struggle of the years and the pictures and places are from our family, and the stove spoken of in the song and shown in the video is actually the stove that kept the family warm in the harsh winter of ’49. The hammer belonged to Brad’s grandfather, Charlie.

Leave a Reply