Old Deseret Live Stock Company
A Stockman's Memoir
Publication Year: 2008
In the high country of the northern Wasatch Mountains, lies what is left of one of the West’s largest ranches. Deseret Live Stock Company was reputed at various times to be the largest private landholder in Utah and the single biggest producer of wool in the world. The ranch began as a sheep operation, but as it found success, it also ran cattle. Incorporated in the 1890s by a number of northern Utah ranchers who pooled their resources, the company was at the height of successful operations in the mid-twentieth century when a young Dean Frischknecht, bearing a recent degree in animal science, landed the job of sheep foreman. In his memoir he recounts in detail how Deseret managed huge herds of livestock, vast lands, and rich wildlife and recalls through lively anecdotes how stockmen and their families lived and worked in the Wasatch Mountains and Skull Valley’s desert wintering grounds.
Published by: Utah State University Press
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THE DESERET LIVE STOCK COMPANY in northern Utah was organized and incorporated in January 1891. “Deseret” is a Book of Mormon word for “honeybee,” a symbol of industry. Brigham Young and many of the early Utah pioneers hoped that the Territory of Utah would become a vast state named Deseret. Those early settlers knew that if they were to succeed in the high...
1: Expanding Horizons
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THE ELDERLY WILL SORENSEN WAS at my side, and I was at the wheel of the black Chevrolet pickup as we wound our way up the dirt road. I was listening, asking a question now and then, and also mulling over what Walter Dansie, general manager of the Deseret Live Stock Company, had told me a few days earlier in the company office in Salt Lake City. My major job would be ...
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BREAKFAST AT THE SHEARING CORRAL was substantial. Either ham or bacon and eggs were served, along with hash brown potatoes, hotcakes or hot biscuits, cooked or cold cereal, and stewed prunes or fresh-canned fruit such as peaches, pears, or apricots. The pretty high school girl kept the bowls and platters filled, replenished the syrup and canned jam, and made sure everyone...
3: The High and Glorious Summer Range
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WITH SHEARING COMPLETED, IT WAS time to close up the houses at the shearing corral and move to summer headquarters in the high country. The sheep operation was responsible for a summer fencing crew of six husky high-school-age boys, a man cook, and Bill Watts as fence crew foreman. Bill had worked for the company for several years before going off to fight in the U.S....
4: Great Trail Drives
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DURING THAT FIRST WEEK OF September, while we were still living on the summer range, Will Sorensen and I went to the Home Ranch to get a pickup load of baled hay. Ralph Moss told us that he did not have a bale of hay on the place. The hay was all stacked loose, but he would hook up a team to the old-time baler and bale a pickup load for us. There was a team of horses harnessed...
5: Shaping Up for Winter and Shipping to Skull Valley
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IN OCTOBER, WHEN THE MARKET lambs and cull sheep had been shipped east, Will Sorensen and I were discussing the work still to be done. I told Will we had 41,800 ewes and replacement-ewe lambs as we prepared for the winter. He told me that I should put these in fifteen herds for the winter, about 2,750 to 2,800 in each herd. He liked to put 500 to 600 ewe lambs in each...
6: Skull Valley
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THE DESERET LIVE STOCK COMPANY'S winter sheep headquarters was at the main ranch in Skull Valley, located in the old townsite of Iosepa, 20 miles south of the Great Salt Lake. “Skull Valley?” I muttered to myself. Just the name Skull Valley stirs the imagination. What kind of skulls? Ancient buffalo skulls? Skulls of wild mustangs? Or could it be human skulls? I had been told...
7: It Happened During Breeding Season
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DECEMBER 15 AND 16 WERE the days when the rams were scheduled to join the ewe herds for the six-week breeding season. The rams in the “buck feedlot” at the ranch were being fed plenty of grass/alfalfa hay, along with some grain, and were in strong breeding condition. They had to be. Some of them would walk thirty miles to the most distant herds. We started them on...
8: Old-Time Range Strategy
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GLEN HESS DID LOTS OF riding, knew the country where everybody’s cattle grazed, and knew where most of the hundreds of wild horses “hung out.” He always conferred ahead of time on things we did together. We butchered another twenty-one hogs on February 20, while the nights were still freezing. This process was a repeat of the one in December. That winter our family became acquainted with some enjoyable people...
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WHEN OUR FAMILY ARRIVED AT Wahsatch, the last herd had been unloaded off the railroad, and the sheep were grazing toward their lambing range. It was noticeably cooler here, at a 6,800-foot elevation, than down in Skull Valley. It was exhilarating, driving over the rolling hills for the three miles from the railroad station to the shearing corral. It was May, and we’d been...
10: Western Hospitality
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IN JULY 1947, IT WAS a marvelous, exhilarating experience to be back on the gently rolling ridges of the 9,000-foot-high summer range, fragrant with wildflowers, conifer trees, quaking aspens, and abundant grass. Kathryn said this was beautiful, but the living conditions were not easy for a family with two small children and expecting another. She was right. I told her we could...
11: A New Addition
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I WAS AWAKENED AT 5:00 a.m. by loud knocking at the door. When I opened it, Glen Hess told me that Kathryn had just phoned, and that we had a new baby boy, born November 5, 1947. She said everything was O.K., and that the baby weighed nine pounds. I thanked Glen, and told him I would call Kathryn later that morning. Now wide awake, I was thankful and happy. We...
12: Timely Moves
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WILL TOLD KATHRYN AND ME that he was going to town for a couple of weeks. He had eaten most of his meals, particularly breakfast and supper, with us for the past two years, and we missed him. Also, Austin Christofferson recently decided that he had enjoyed the far-out country long enough, and returned to his hometown, Spring City, to live. This left Kathryn cooking...
13: The Big Snow
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THE WINTER OF 1948–49 WAS the winter of the “big snow” throughout much of the West. It was my third winter as sheep foreman for the Deseret Live Stock Company. The feed on much of the winter range was extremely short, and to make matters worse, too much snow was piling up. It was a good thing Will Sorensen had married Vera and decided to stay on and give me...
14: Approaching Disaster
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THE SNOW CONTINUED TO FALL. The two D7 Caterpillars and drivers arrived from Evanston. One was transported to the ranch in Skull Valley, and one went directly to the west side of Cedar Mountain. For the immediate future, Will Sorensen would take primary responsibility for the herds of sheep in Skull Valley, and I would work to get feed to all seven herds on the west...
15: Looking Up
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ON THE WEST SIDE OF Cedar Mountain, at the edge of the flat area at the mouth of Quincy Canyon, lay the rusted-out shell of what was once a 2,000-gallon horse-watering trough. It had been installed in the early 1900s, when the Standard Horse and Mule Association grazed several hundred horses year-round in this area. This horse association had their last roundup in the...
16: A Great Recovery
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WHEN MR. DANSIE CAME TO the summer range a couple of weeks later, I pulled him aside for a conference. I told him word had come to me that Will Sorensen blabbed around Spring City that he really wanted to retire, but couldn’t, because now he had to train another new sheep foreman. I said, “If you fellows plan to let me go on account of last winter’s sheep losses, I need...
17: All in the Day’s Work
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ONE DAY, GLEN HESS TOLD me there were more than three hundred wild horses within twenty miles of the ranch. A couple of fellows who were experienced in rounding up wild mustangs were coming the next day and would spend two or three days gathering horses. They’d have a Piper Cub airplane to maneuver the wild bands in close to the ranch. Then Glen and the cowboys...
18: Moving Up
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THE INVENTORY COUNT OF EWES for December 31, 1950, showed 38,222 in Utah and 2,025 in California, for a total of 40,247. The cattle inventory was 5,058. The weather was favorable, an easy winter. At the annual stockholders’ meeting in Salt Lake City on March 26, 1951, Mr. Dansie reported that the sheep were in the best condition he had ever seen. At this point, Will...
19: The Best of Times
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DURING EARLY NOVEMBER 1951, BEFORE shipping to the winter range, Mr. Dansie had confided to me that in a month the company would like to send Kathryn and me to the National Woolgrowers’ Convention, scheduled for December 4 through 7, in Portland, Oregon. They would bring Will and Vera Sorensen out of retirement in Spring City to accompany us, and we’d...
20: The Dugway Withdrawal
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I LEFT A WHOLE DAY EARLY to receive the sheep at Wahsatch, and stopped in Salt Lake City to give the sheep counts and the schedule for shipping at Timpie, to Mr. Dansie. He told me that when he saw some of the herds a couple of weeks ago, they looked good; the winter loss was much lighter than in the old days. I replied that we now had four corrals on the west side of Cedar Mountain and...
21: Major Changes
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AT SUMMER HEADQUARTERS, MR. DANSIE informed me that the Deseret Live Stock Company was in the beginning stages of changing ownership. He had been told we should not put any more money into this new house. The buyers were successful businessmen, mostly from Salt Lake City. They were organizing a syndicate of a dozen or more investors to purchase the company...
22: End of an Era
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THE APRIL SUN WAS BEATING down as I drove my Jeep pickup west across Skull Valley, heading for Fred Cordova’s camp at the foot of Cedar Mountain, near Henry Spring, about four miles north of Eight-Mile Spring. I pulled up to camp, and Fred stepped out. I told Fred about the dates for shipping sheep off the winter range, and the herds scheduled for each day, so he would know...
23: Bad News
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I HAD INVITED MR. AND MRS. Malecote to make a visit to the summer range while we were still at the shearing corral. In about a week they arrived, just after noon. They had already eaten lunch and could stay overnight. After a two-minute tour of the rustic facilities, they chose to sleep upstairs in the new, unfinished house. Bill Malecote asked me why we hadn’t finished the house on...
24: Life’s Big Decisions
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BECAUSE OF THE FEED SHORTAGE on the winter range, shipping was delayed by two weeks for the Nevada herds and even longer for those going to Skull Valley. We had kept only 3,200 replacement-ewe lambs, and our total inventory was now 37,000. The newly hired sub-foreman going to Nevada was “Big Joe” Guerricabeattia, six feet four inches tall, a dark, handsome Basque from ...
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AFTER LEAVING THE DESERET LIVE Stock Company I lost no time in contacting Ivan Johnson, manager of his own insurance agency for Pacific National Life in Salt Lake City. Some time previously, he had suggested that if I ever left the Deseret Live Stock Company, he would be pleased to have me go to work for him. Mr. Johnson conducted a training session for me and other new...
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Page Count: 210
Publication Year: 2008