Mason-Lovell Ranch Part Two - A Cruel Winter To The End Of An Era
The Harsh Winter of 1886-87
The weather took a terrible toll on the open range. The M-L lost half of their cattle, with losses numbering over 10,000. Yet the M-L had come away relatively unscathed compared to other open range outfits. It is estimated that the average ranch operation in Wyoming lost 75% of their cattle during the winter of 1886-87.
In the years that followed the winter of 1886-87, Lovell began to restock the range with the financial backing of Mason. The M-L herd once again grew into the tens of thousands. Even after Mason died in 1892 and his interest in the operation was sold off, Lovell brought in cattle from as far away as eastern Washington and continued to range the M-L herd all across the eastern Bighorn Basin.
At the time of his death the M-L Ranch land and all associated property was valued at $73,000. That would be $1.7 million in today’s terms. The majority of Lovell’s estate was bequeathed to his 18 year old son Willard. By 1909 the property had been sold to other ranchers. Henry Lovell’s death and the beginning of the 20th century mark a watershed in the history of the open range.
Homesteaders and sheepmen began to diversify use of the land. The vast Bighorn Basin was sectioned off as a considerable amount of the public domain was settled and became privately owned. The era of massive open range cattle operations soon faded away, but the legendary legacy still lives on today at the M-L Ranch
Did You Know?
The bighorn sheep disappeared from the area in the 1800s. In the 1970s, Montana and Wyoming state game agencies translocated sheep into nearby areas. Descendants of these sheep moved into the range along Bighorn Canyon and today the estimated population is 150 to 200. More...