Spearfish Livestock Association approaches 100th anniversary
for Tri-State Livestock News
A small brown ledger notebook, belonging to the Spearfish Livestock Association, contains a 100-year story, beginning in 1918. The cursive handwritten minutes share a glimpse of cattlemen as they moved their livestock “into the timber” each summer for grazing. After a meeting in February and March the first year, the cattlemen kept things simple, with one meeting per year and a page of written comments recording the activities of that meeting.
The meetings over the past century provided an opportunity to discuss permits, Forest Service guidelines, fencing and cattle losses.
Boyd Larson and Charles Nicholas, both of Spearfish, are two active members whose grandfathers, Lars A. Larson and William T. Nicholas, were charter members of the association. The Larson and Nicholas cattle operations have maintained their forest service grazing permits through the existence of the association. In addition, Boyd has served as secretary of the organization since 1957.
Boundaries for the Range District have been adjusted over the years. Original allotments included Crow Peak, Willow Springs, Game Refuge, and Boulder Park. The Nemo and Spearfish Range Districts were combined to become the Northern Hills Range District in 1973, according to Julie Wheeler of the U.S. Forest Service. Presently there are 12 allotments — Cement Ridge, Deadman, Little Spearfish, Pettigrew, Plateau, Sand Creek, Tollgate, Ragged Top, Idol, Grand Canyon and Stearns Park.
Through their present-day ranching experiences and in the years of family history, Boyd and Charles have lived the story of the Spearfish Livestock Association.
In the beginning, several rules were enforced about the bulls being allowed to run the open range with the cows. Now, the ranchers calve early in order to breed their cows before they are turned into the timber, according to Boyd. Influencing that change are that the allotments are now fenced, grazing season doesn’t start as early, and cattle aren’t run together as they were in early years.
Another change is the increase of multi-use permits which allow land to be used for a variety of uses including recreation. Boyd says, “The more multi-use permits the more issues we seem to have with gates being left open.” Charles comments there has been an increase in the growth of timber since the early 1900s which has changed the make-up of the land.
Peeking into the past through the handwritten records, glimpses of the association and the cattlemen are shared. In addition to election of officers, collection of dues, and other business, the association often had a county agent or forest ranger speak to them on a variety of topics.
Saturday, Feb. 2, 1918: A group of cattlemen gathered in the Commercial Club Room in Spearfish SD. Handwritten minutes of the meeting explain that “the group met for the purpose of organizing a livestock association for the benefit and protection of farmers and others using the Black Hills Forest reserve as a summer range.”
The Forest Supervisor Paul D. Kellitin of Deadwood outlined the object of the meeting and the benefits that would be derived by the members of such an organization. Recorded in the penciled day book was “a motion was made, seconded and carried by ballot that a permanent organization be perfected, after which Frank Thompson was nominated and elected permanent chairman, and P.D. Rundell was nominated and elected permanent secretary of treasury.”
A motion was made and seconded to approve the set of by-laws and constitution, which were furnished by Mr Kellitin. Upon ballot, the Spearfish Livestock Association was adopted as the organization’s name and annual dues were fixed at 50c a year. Forty-five individuals were listed as dues paying members at the first meeting.
At the March 2018 meeting, D.B.Hilton, Acting Secretary recorded the following bull rules outlined by F.S. Thomson:
Rule I. Beginning in 1919, only purebred bulls of a beef type were to be permitted in the grazing district to run at large and beginning with the season of 1920, that each permittee be required to exhibit the registration papers to the Forest Supervisor before entry into the forest.
Rule II. Beginning in 1919 each permittee to be required to graze one bull to every 30 head or major fraction there of cows or heifers of breeding age shall provide for bull service.
Rule III. Beginning in 1918, all unherded bulls to be placed in the District between June 10 and June 30 each year.
Throughout the years there were several items that were consistently discussed and acted on. These included specifics about bulls, providing salt for the cattle, dehorning, start and end dates of grazing, control of predators, rustling, and the annual election of officers.
In 1921 the minutes read, “they will notify the Deadwood Road & Gun Club that they favor their doing all they can toward the destroying of predatory animals such as wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions.”
An entry in the 1922 minutes reads, “The question of the transfer of the Forest from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of the Interior was discussed a marked interest shown by all present in doing all we could to prevent such a transfer, the said transfer being directly against our best interests as users of the Forest.”
During the same meeting, The question of bull service was brought up and discussed and a price of $1 per head of cows of breeding age be charged by a man using another’s bull, this arrangement of whose bull was used being agreed upon by provider of the bull and the main being provided, this price being considered a fair price for both parties during the season of 1922.
In 1923, the concern of rustling was addressed, The loss of stock in the forest was then discussed and it being found that an average of 2 head to each permittee was being lost. It was moved and seconded that the association offer a reward of $200 for information leading to the conviction of any person or persons either killing or otherwise appropriating any cattle that belonged to any member of the association.
A later entry at the 1923 meeting stated after listening to a talk from Mr. Hall the county agent on the standard type of beef calf it was moved and seconded that we adjourn.
Publishing a brand book was a discussion that reappeared throughout the years. In 1931 this entry was found, “President Thomson explains the mistakes that were made in the brand book and also accounts for the delay in getting them out; and giving pointers and ways of revising the book from time to time so the book can be kept up to date. It was moved and seconded that the fees of the association be raised from 50c to $1.00 until the note at the bank to cover the cost of the book can be taken care of. Carried.”
In 1933 it was written, ““Mr. Pike of the Forest Service talked of the bill before Congress relative to the matter of putting the grazing on the Forest in the form of a bid rather than a fixed montly charge. This bill did not reach the floor of either house, it having died in committee. The association went on record as opposing any bill relative to the grazing charge being in the form of bids and to use any influence the Association might have to keep the present methods of grazing charges in effect.
The Depression years were reflected in the minutes. In 1935 they stated, F.S. Thomson gave a general explanation of the National Livestock situation and explained the final result of the emergency cattle buying program. Ranger Harrison gave an outline of the probable course to be followed in regard to the grazing of the forest in the future. Moved by Alfred Sleep seconded by John Stannus that the Association go on record as endorsing the Forest Service’s suggested 25 percent reduction of the total number of cattle to be grazed in the forest in the immediate future.
Boyd and Charles explain many permits were lost during those years because the Forest Service required ranches have enough feed to winter the cattle. During the depression, many ranchers were unable to prove they could winter the cattle, thus were unable to receive a summer grazing permit in the timber. The permits were often consolidated with the larger ranchers, meaning there were fewer permit holders.
In 1940 a motion was made to hire a rider, carried by vote of 14 to 2. A rider was a cowboy hired to check on the cattle, watch for rustlers, take salt out, and shoot predators like coyotes. There was also a motion that year for the association to buy salt. The association voted to hire a rider for the forest in 1941, but that year everyone would buy their own salt and deliver it to the rider and report to the rider. Charles says, “The rider would sometimes hang the salt container off the ground. He carried the salt on horseback and wouldn’t have to dismount to fill the salt. ”
The treasurer’s report showed $307.80 paid to the rider. In 1944, it identified Ted Officer as the rider, paying him $379 for his services. It was collected from the ranchers with Rider dues, 1,642 head @ 25c each. That year $6.09 was paid for roofing rider’s cabin.
The treasurer report balance was low, as money was collected primarily as it was needed to pay out. In 1942, the final balance was $.18 and in 1943 it was $7.48. In 1946 and 1947, Ted Officer was again hired as the rider, and was paid 400 each year.
Comments of 1945, Motion was made and carried that salt should be purchased and delivered so that range was in good shape. Motion was made and carried that salt should be purchased and delivered so that rider could put it out before the cattle arrive. The bull rule: No bull except purebred, and 1 bull to 30 count cows was read for the benefit of those who did not know it.”
In 1949 rider fees were collected @ 30c for 1597 head totaling 479.10. That year dues were collected from 25 members for $12.50. Rider feel collected in 1951 included Charles Crago, 22.50, George Larson, 6.00, Joe Schenk, 12.00, Art and Chan Nicholas, 22.50, along with others. That year John Miller was paid $450 and $113 as a rider, and $25 was paid to Dick Trebelcok for a horse fence.
In 1953 dues were .50 with a total of $13 collected.
Check on cattle lost showed a loss of 30 calves and 11 grown (cattle). Frank Thompson outlined a letter from the Forest Supervisor on multiple use of the forest as set out when national forests were first set up. 1956.
In 1960, 23 stockmen were present, each paying their 50c dues. Others attending were Mr. Lee, Forest Supervisor, Custer, Mr Kennedy, Grazing Supervior, Dean Rassmusson, Assistant Ranger, Harvey Gibson,District Ranger,Spearfish, Bud Novac, Game and Fish Department and Dr.Durdal, Veterinarian.
Minutes from 1964 — After a discussion about underpasses on the interstate highway, a committee was appointed consisting of Gene Sleep, Oliver Swanson,Vince Crago, and Bill Thompson to look into it. Bill Thompson moved that rider fees be increased from 40 to 50 cents per head. Seconded by Art Nicholas. Carried.
1968 — Recognition was shown Frank Thompson who has served as president of our association with a desk pen and clock set with proper recognition being written on the plat that was attached. Mr Thomson has served as president since the founding back in 1918. Election followed with Frank elected as president again.
After 52 continuous years as president, Frank Thomson asked to step down from his presidency post in 1970. Nominations were opened with E.H.Reinecke and Cecil Nicholas selected. After a close election, E. H. Reinecke was elected to serve as president.
On Feb. 13, 1971 the minutes of the 1970 meeting were read by Acting Secretary Vincent Crago in the absence of Boyd Larson. Dick Cook of the Spearfish Forest office reported on some of the proposed changes concerning fencing allotments and boundaries. He pointed out that in 1935, 3500 head were grazed on the same allotment and now it is down to 1500 head.
The 1975 meeting was held in the City Hall in Spearfish. In discussion with Lyle Peterson, a motion was made by Cecil Nicholas, seconded by Richard Sleep to delay the elk season a few weeks in order for permittees to get their cattle out ahead of time. Motion carried. Death loss for the season showed eight cows and 20 calves lost.
In 1980, the association met at the Forest Service Conference Room in Spearfish. Minutes recorded, Meeting was called to order by Pres Wes Thompson with 14 members and several guests present. Grazing fees for 1980 have been set at 2.42 to be billed by April 10th. Ranger McCoy, Wayne Patner discussed with members Crow Peak Allotment Management Plan Revision, road closure.
In 1981, Chuck Edwards, local rancher, gave a brief report on the feeding of chopped or ground aspen for feed purposes. Wayne Paintner brought the members up to date on the forest plan report. The Crow Peak allotment management plan update is still in the planning stages.
The meeting on Jan. 14, 1984 was held at the County Extension Office in Spearfish. Twenty-three permittees were present County Agent Leo Orme, Forest Ranger Pete Johnson and Gordon Harr from the Weed Board were also present. It was suggested that speed limit and Livestock at Large signs be put up on the Tinton Road just out of Spearfish.
1987 — Ear tagging will continue with permittees being allowed to use their own tags but notifying district what kind and numbers. Fees for the 1987 season have been set $1.35 AUM (Animal Unit Months).
K.V. Funds and Betterment funds were used for range improvements including dams, dugouts and springs. National Guard will be in the Higgins Gulch and Tallgate allotments 2 weeks in June 1989. Dave Bradford also discussed timber harvest which has been cut back, thinning of 1,000 acres a year and road closures.
A report and discussion of the Black Hills Area Multiple Use Coalition was heard in 1992. Public Lands Council report was given by Vince Crago.
In 1993, the group decided to move their meeting date up a month earlier, as the permittees were calving early in the year. Since this was our 75th anniversary of the group a special cake was provided by Pres Donavon Nicholas.
1997 — Joe Colwell, District Staff addressed the group on noxious weed management telling us that there just wasn’t enough funding to go around. After many questions and discussions he commented on the plan to move self monitoring of our allotments.
Jan 19, 2002 — Multiple Use Coalition report was given by Tom Troxel. Discussion followed. On a motion by Richard Sleep and second by Darrell Nicholas that we continue our donation of $100.00.
The 91st annual meeting of the Spearfish Livestock Association was held at the Lawrence County Ext office conference room with 15 member present, death loss showed 6 cows, 22 calves and 1 bull.Chris Miller gave a short summary on the livestock ordinance that Lawrence County is proposing.
Jan 8, 2011- Forest Service activities was given by Tom Smith. Most discussion centered around the utilization of forage on the Northern Hills allotments prepared by the Sierra Club along with the Game & Fish. We will continue to monitor the results to its accuracy. In other business Eric and Chris asked about getting an ordiance passed in regard to fencing problems along Forest Service boundaries.
Page after page of hand written notes tell the stories of the Forest Service grazing permittees. Each year, the cattlemen answered roll call by sharing the number of cattle they had lost while in the timber. They elected a slate of officers for the upcoming year. They discussed weed control, multiple use coalition and Public Land Council.
The 99th annual meeting of the Spearfish Livestock Assc. was held Jan. 7, 2017 at the Butte Electric Meeting Room with 17 members answering roll call. Death loss showed 8 cows and 24 calves. Guest included Mike Kintigh of SDGFP, Silvia Christen SD Stockgrowers, Ben Wudtke B.H.Reg. Multiple Use Coalition, Matt Scott, Wes Hartmann, and Julie Wheeler, USFS, and Doug Anderson — Rider.
The members heard reports on hunting and licene permits, multiple use Coalition, Forest Serve Report, Public Land Council report. Secretary and treasurer reports were read. Dues were discussed. On a motion by Charles Nicholas and seconded by Don Hausle that we increas e our dues for 2017 to $25.00 a year. Motion carried. Election of officers was held with the same slate of officers continue: Pres – Ervin Thompson, Vpres- Casey Miller, Sec-Treas- Boyd Larson and Directors – Keith Haiar and John Swanson. Meeting adjourned.
When commenting about the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Association, Charles and Boyd were asked what plans they had for 2018. Boyd was quick with his answer, “Well, we will have a meeting.” Year after year for the past century, this group of cattlemen join together to discuss and review issues that affect their livestock operations as they take cattle into the timber. And yes, as they celebrate their 100th anniversary, they will have another meeting.
Note: The original minutes of the meeting, along with the treasurer’s report, from 1918-1957 are displayed at the High Plains Western Heritage Center. The book with records for 1958 to the present, is in possession of the secretary. It continues to be used each year in January when the Association holds its annual meeting. F
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