Historical Details

Kruse Ranch History

Courtesy of Family Sources, 01/15/2019

Kruse Ranch

As told by the Kruse Family and used with permission

William H. (Bill) Kruse was born August 27,1891 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to VonWilhelm and Pauline Ebert Kruse. He was the oldest of three children. While still a small boy, he moved with his mother and some of her family to Ardmore, South Dakota. His boyhood was spent at Ardmore with his mother and stepfather, Jake Forster, on a homestead. During this period, he went to school and helped his stepfather build dikes with a slip and teams of horses.

At the age of 16, Bill and a friend left home and headed north on horseback to Montana to make their living as cowboys. Bill wintered on ranches and some years returned to Ardmore to spend the winter with his uncles, the Eberts. In 1911, while riding south from Montana, he ran into the Shaw roundup wagon. Because his horse was lame, he hit the foreman up for a job. He was told he could have a job if he could ride the string of horses that one cowboy couldn’t. He tried, hoping to last long enough to give his horses a rest. He was able to ride the horses and stayed all summer and fall. In the fall, the roundup gathered the beef to be shipped, and moved to Lost Springs, Wyoming to load them on the train. They started that night with temperatures falling to zero or below with snow and wind. During the night, the cook tent blew apart so the cowboys went into town the next morning to the saloon. They had butchered a beef the day before which they took in and traded for food, a warm place to stay, and whiskey. Bill remembered the day well as it was the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year.

Bill spent the winter on Big Lightning Creek with a friend, Ike (Sourdough Ike) Baker. He had a cabin on his homestead which was later purchased by the Sides family. They had very few groceries except for a hundred pounds of Navy beans. It was a long, hard winter with very little grass or feed for the horses so they were forced to cut cottonwood trees so the horses could eat the twigs and bark to survive in the late winter. The men survived on boiled beans, three meals a day, until spring. They were glad to see the snow go off after the hard winter of 1911-12 so they could get out and go back to work.

Bill went up the creek from Sourdough’s Ike’s and filed on his own homestead in 1912. That fall, after the roundup, he fenced his homestead by cutting cottonwood posts on the creek and dragging them up with his saddle horse. He got enough used wire from some of the drift fences that the government had forced Richards and Comstock (of the 77 Ranch) and Jake Mills to tear out because they were fencing government land. He wintered on the creek in a sheep wagon and at times thought he would freeze to death before he could get up and build a fire in the stove. During that winter, he built a two-room house on his homestead. The following fall, he saved enough wages to buy supplies. He borrowed a team and wagon from a neighbor,Charley Wright, to go to Lusk and buy groceries,lumber, doors, and windows to finish his cabin. The only tools he had were a cross cut saw, axe, and hammer. He spent many evenings with a pocket knife, fitting the latches into the doors.

Shortly after leaving Ardmore, South Dakota, Bill had borrowed money in Crawford, Nebraska and bought some Percheron horses which he turned onto the open range. After he acquired his homestead, he traded some of those horses for a few cows.

Jennie Lynn Flores was born in Belle Plain, Texas on October 27, 1880 to James Peter Flores and Georgianne Ricketts Flores, the sixth of seven children. James Peter (J.P.) Flores was a Confederate soldier and returned to Texas to join the cattle drives, ranch, and in later years become a lawman. The family moved north to Amarillo, Texas where J.P. was a bodyguard for the man who started the town of Amarillo. Jennie attended the first school there which was located in a tent. The Flores family had the first house built in the area, a one-room board house. J.P. ranched with his brother-in-law, Clabe Merchant, and later on his own. Jennie learned the millinery and dress-making trade. When two of her brothers moved north to Billings, Montana and later to Sheridan, Wyoming, she moved with them to ply her trades in those towns.

When her brother, A. D. Flores, sold his interest in a bar in Sheridan and bought a ranch on the Cheyenne River west of Newcastle, Wyoming, Jennie moved with him, filing on her own homestead. She met Bill Kruse at her brother’s ranch and they were married in 1917 in Thermopolis.

In March 1918, a son, A.D. Flores, was born at the Kruse ranch on Lightning Creek. After a telephone call from the Rochelle Ranch, a doctor, accompanied by Frank DeCastro, made the trip from Lusk to care for mother and baby.

Later that spring, Bill went to Newcastle to receive a bunch of southern steers which he had purchased. He trailed them toward home and finally turned them loose on the open range on Cow Creek; however, the water had dried up until it was black in color from the mud. That fall, he gathered as many of the cattle as he could find after a dry summer and took them home. He purchased hay at one hundred dollars a ton, delivered, and cottonseed cake at one hundred and fifty dollars a ton but they could only be trucked within four miles of the ranch because of the snow. It had to be hauled the rest of the way with a team and wagon. They cattle were starving but they smelled the slough grass hay from Nebraska, they would just turn and walk away. The steers purchased were run until they were four years old and topped the market the day of the sale but lacked ten dollars a head of the initial cost for Bill.

Kruse cattle were run on the open range until it disappeared in the early 1920s, and then homesteads were leased for pasture.

In 1927, Charley Wright’s ranch was purchased. Charley went to Bill and Jennie Kruse and asked what they could give him for the ranch. They told him they couldn’t give as much as the big ranches could so he’d have to sell to one of them. Charley said he wasn’t asking them who he should sell the ranch to, but instead, “how much they could give him for it.” A deal was made that greatly increased the Kruse ranch but then the Depression hit and Bill and Jennie couldn’t make the payments on the Wright purchase. However, Charley told them to pay what they could. He said, “the Depression won’t last forever and when it breaks you can catch up on the payments.” When Bill and Jennie married, they traded titles on their homesteads. They lived on Bill’s original homestead on Lightning Creek and Bill mortgaged Jennie’s original homestead on the Cheyenne River. Bill’s cows were also mortgaged but Jennie never signed the mortgages and continued to run her cattle under her brand. During the Depression, the bank foreclosed on Bill’s notes but Bill and Jennie still had the homestead on Lightning Creek and her cattle to continue ranching.

Their only child, A.D. Flores Kruse, attended grade school and the first two years of high school in Lance Creek. He then graduated in 1936 from Lusk High School and worked his way through the University of Wyoming, graduating in 1940. He worked for the Farm Home Administration in Gillette and then Lander until he was drafted and entered into the army on the 28th of October, 1942 and served until he was released on the 13th of February, 1946. A.D. was selected for Officer Candidate School and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He was then assigned to the 133rd Engineer Combat Battalion. Lt. Kruse landed on Normandy Beach immediately after the initial assault and began clearing land mines so General George Patton’s tanks could spearhead the attack. He fought across Europe building bridges, roads, and clearing mines in advance of the armor. A.D.was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart as well as other medals. He also achieved the rank of Captain.

After discharge, he opened a Soil Conservation Service office in Dubois. In November of 1946 he married Hazel May Rowse from Riverton. They had met earlier when both were working in Lander.

Katherine was born to A.D. and Hazel in February of 1948 in Lander. That fall, the family moved back to the ranch on Lightning Creek and Bill and Jennie bought a house in Lusk, partially retiring with A.D. running the ranch. James was born in April of 1949 and Paul was born in November of 1951.

In 1957, A.D. and Hazel purchased the Nern and Baker ranch, adding to their land holdings. They lived and worked on the family ranch until their deaths, with Hazel passing in February of 1996, and A.D. in November of 2006.

James (Jim) Kruse returned to the Kruse Ranch in November 1975 after receiving a B.S. degree in Animal Science, January, 1972, and after being discharged from the army on October 3, 1975. He entered the army as a Second Lieutenant on February 26, 1972. Jim had a three year assignment with the 26th Signal Battalion in Germany.

Jim and Linda Sue Dickinson, from Minatare, Nebraska, were married in March, 1978. They met at the University of Wyoming when both were on livestock and meat judging teams. Linda also received a B.S. degree in Animal Science and in 1976 became the first female Agriculture Extension Agent in Wyoming, serving Carbon County.

Jim and Linda had two sons, James born in March, 1979, and Joseph (Joe) born in August, 1981. Linda lost a courageous battle to breast cancer in January, 1996.

After an exciting life of being a high school and college basketball star, teacher, and attorney, Paul Kruse died of heart failure in February 2009.

The Kruse Ranch is presently owned by Jim Kruse, Kathy Kruse-Morgan, James P. Kruse, and Joe Kruse.

Kathy Kruse married David Morgan in June 1969. They have three children: Pat, married to Kim (they have two sons); Dana, married to Steve (they have a daughter); and Brian, married to Stacy. David Morgan passed away in 2012.

James P. is a 2002 graduate of the University of Wyoming with a degree in Geology and was married to Katherine Volk (B.S. in Chemistry 2006, teaching certificate 2008 University of Wyoming, 2010). They have a son, Paul Kruse, born March 2013, and they currently reside in Casper.

Images & Attachments

Charley Wright with the last grey wolf killed NW of ranch, 1924
Bill and A.D. Kruse
The Kruse family, Jim, Kathy, A.D., Hazel, & Paul
Kruse Homestead 1947, All photos courtesy of Jim Kruse

Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary DeCastro, Frank (12/16/1860 - 02/10/1947) View Record
Obituary DeCastro, Frank (09/16/1916 - 10/18/1985) View Record
Obituary Kruse, Jennie (10/27/1880 - 11/06/1966) View Record
Obituary Kruse, Paul (11/13/1951 - 02/16/2009) View Record