Mason-Lovell Ranch Timeline

1878 - Henry Lovell makes a scouting trip into northern Wyoming where he reconnoiters the open range for a possible cattle grazing operation.

1879-80 - Lovell and his drovers trail in three large herds of cattle from southern Kansas into the eastern Bighorn Basin. He locates the ranch headquarters west of the Bighorn River, along Nowood Creek.

1882 – 12,000 cattle are trailed into the ranch from Oregon. Lovell establishes a second ranch on Shell Creek.

1884 - Lovell moves the M-L home ranch to Willow Creek in the Five Springs area. For the next two decades ranch operations will be centered from this base. This move places the ranch 95 miles from Billings, the main cattle shipping point on the Northern Pacific Railroad.

1885 - The M-L Ranch has an estimated 25,000 cattle grazing across the eastern Bighorn Basin.

1886-87 - A brutal winter rages across Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas. Hurricane force winds, white out blizzards, and brutal cold last for several months. Hundreds of thousands of cattle die of starvation and dehydration. The average open range cattle operation in Wyoming suffers losses of approximately 75%. The M-L Ranch loses approximately 50% of its herd.

1888 – The M-L becomes one of the first ranch operations to take cattle into the Bighorn Mountains for summer grazing. The M-L herd quickly recovers from its losses over the preceding years and the herd grows dramatically.

1892 - Anthony L. Mason dies on November 20th. Over the next four years Mason’s estate divests itself from all interests in the M-L operation. The proceeds from the divestment go to Mason’s heirs.

1895 – Henry Lovell’s application for the M-L Ranch to become the Kane Post Office is approved. He is named postmaster. The post office operates for ten years.

1903 - Henry Lovell dies of chronic heart disease in Portland, Oregon. After his death, Lovell’s assets in the M-L Ranch operation are valued at $73,000 ($1.7 million in 2009). He owned 4,680 acres of grazing land in Big Horn County, Wyoming and 1,600 head of livestock and calves. His son Willard inherits most of the ranch.

1909 - Willard Lovell and his wife Isabel sell the M-L Ranch on November 2nd to Christian and Peter Yagen of Billings, Montana.

1909-1917 - The Yagen brothers, who owned multiple interests, employ foremen to run the ML Ranch. The ML is used as a headquarters where alfalfa and hay are raised to feed the Yagen’s livestock during the winter.

1917 - Willis and Charles Spear purchase the ML Ranch from the Yagen brothers. Willis was a cattleman who at one time grazed over 50,000 cattle east of the Bighorn Mountains. His brother Charles was president of the Billings State Bank. Charles became manager of the ranch. After a bad calf crop the first year, the cattle are sold off and the operation turns to sheep ranching.

1922 - The Spear brothers sell the ranch to Peter Warfel.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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