Cattle from “Valley of Champions”
By Dick Perue
Carbon County, and especially the Upper North Platte River Valley, has long been cattle country. Stories from a long time ago supported this statement, with the Saratoga/Encampment area known as the “Valley of Champions” when it came to cattle production. We offer these stories:
Registered Hereford bulls from the fertile Upper North Platte River Valley in south central Wyoming captured several top prizes at the 1916 Denver, Colo. Stock Show.
Grand Champion Hereford bull named Wyoming, a senior yearling sired by Beau Carlos II from the Davis Ranch located along the North Platte River between Saratoga and Encampment, was bred and shown by ranch owner L. G. Davis and sold in the livestock sale for $5,000, the highest price ever paid for a bull at the time.
According to an article in The Saratoga Sun, Capt. Davis established the JX ranch eight miles south of Saratoga on the North Platte River in about 1900. He was known as “Captain” after returning from serving with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War.
Enterprising and energetic, Capt. Davis experimented successfully with irrigation and the raising and feeding of alfalfa and native hay. Irrigation ditches he plowed at the turn of the last century are still in use today. His Hereford cattle gained a national reputation and in addition to topping the Denver sale, he also received the highest price paid for a carload of steers at the Kansas City, Mo. market in the 1910s.
When he established the valley’s first herd of over 100 registered Hereford cattle, the Laramie Boomerang reported he had started a Hereford breeding revolution: “The cattle were a departure from those of the past – heavier bone, shorter legs, longer barrel and heavier weight,” all of which contributed to greater meat development.
Louis Grant Davis married Helen Elizabeth Turnbull in 1891 in Saratoga. She came from Illinois to teach in the valley.
She was a college graduate which was most unusual for women at the time, according to a family history account. They had two children, Dorothea and Robert (Bob).
Louis was one of the most colorful and well-known members of the town of Saratoga, and he and his wife frequently entertained the governor and well-known leaders of the state at the Davis Ranch. An undated picture in the Martin/Perue collection shows President Teddy Roosevelt and Capt. Davis on horseback at an undisclosed location, possibly the Davis Ranch. Others in the photograph include former Wyoming Gov. Bryant Brooks and former Wyoming Sen. Francis Warren.
A natural leader, Capt. Davis was president of the Saratoga Valley Stock Growers Association in 1900 when the organization’s first action was the printing of a brand book.
When the Saratoga State Bank was chartered on April 1, 1899, Davis was a founding director for the Cosgriff Bros. When the Cosgriffs sold out in 1920, Davis became bank president. He held office until 1926 when the bank was sold. At this time, he also sold his ranch to R. J. Spears and then retired to Kansas City, Mo.
Presently, the ranch is part of the Kelly Cattle Co. Over the years, it was also known as the Lazy River and McIlvaine’s Lazy CJ.
Capt. Davis returned to his beloved Wyoming in 1951 at the age of 84 to be buried with military and state honors in the Cheyenne cemetery.