Historical Details

Kruse Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 01/19/2021


by A. D. Kruse

William H. "Bill" Kruse was born August 27, 1891 at Philadelphia, Pa. to Von Wilhelm Kruse and Pauline Ebert. He was the oldest of three children. While still a small boy he moved with his mother and some of her family to Ardmore, S. D.  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 team 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 on the roundups. Bill wintered on ranches and some years returned to Ardmore to spend the winter with relatives.

In 1911, while riding south from Montana, he ran into the Shaw roundup wagon. Being desperate for a job, 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 ride. He tried, hoping to last long enough to give his horses a rest. He was able to ride the horses and stayed all summer.  The roundup gathered the beef to be shipped, and moved to Lost Springs with them.     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,  so they took that in and traded it for food, a warm place to stay, and whiskey. They remembered the day well, as it was the elev­enth day and the eleventh month of the elev­enth year.

That year, 1911, Bill had filed on a

homestead on Big Lightning Creek, along with a friend, Ike "Sourdough. Ike" Raker, for a place to winter. After the roundup broke up, Bill rode back to winter with Ike, since he had a cabin on his  place; it was later the Sides place. They had very few groceries except a hundred pounds of navy beans. It was a long winter with very little grass or feed for the horses, and they were forced to cut cottonwood trees so the horses could eat the twigs and tender 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.

The following fall he fenced his home­ stead 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 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 be­ fore he could get up and build a fire in the stove at night.  During the 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.  He had no tools but a crosscut saw, axe and hammer. He spent many evenings with a pocket knife fitting the locks into the doors.

Shortly after leaving Ardmore, Bill had borrowed money at Crawford, Nebr. from the bank and bought some Percheron horses which he turned onto the range.  After he acquired  his homestead he traded some horses for a few cows.

Jennie Linn Flores was born in Belle Plain, Tex., Oct. 27, 1880 to James P. Flores and Georgeanne Rickets, the sixth of seven children.

James 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, Tex., where J.P. was a bodyguard for the man who started Amarillo. Jennie went to school there in a tent for a schoolhouse. 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 dressmaking trade.

When two of her brothers moved north to Billings, Mont. and later to Sheridan, she moved with them to work in those towns.

When her brother, A.D. Flores, sold out his interests in Sheridan and bought a ranch on the Cheyenne River west of New­castle, Jennie moved with him.    She filed on a homestead and proved up on it.  Here she met Bill Kruse, a cowboy, and they were married in 1917 at Thermopolis.

They returned by railroad to Lusk, where they picked up a lumber wagon and team which Bill had left there. They loaded up their luggage along with supplies and started for home.   The route followed ap­proximately the old Twenty-eight Road.  As they dropped down the Breaks, they were surprised to see a wagon tire go rolling by them. That necessitated a stop to put the tire back on and secure it with some barbed wire from a near-by fence.

In the spring of 1919, a son, A.D. Flores, was born at the ranch. After a telephone call from the Rochelle ranch, a doctor, accompanied by Frank Decastro, made the trip to the ranch to care for mother and baby.

Later in the spring, Bill went to  New- castle to receive a bunch of southern steers which he had bought.   He trailed them to­ward home and finally turned them loose on­ to the open range on Cow Creek where the living water was located; however it had dried up until it was black in color from mud. That fall he gathered as many of his cattle as he could find after a dry summer and took them home. He purchased hay at $100 a ton delivered and cottonseed cake at $150 per ton, but they could be trucked on­ly to within about four miles of the ranch because of the snow. It had to be hauled the rest of the way with a team and wagon. The cattle were starving, but would go up and smell the slough-grass hay 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 per head of first cost.

Cattle were run on the open range until it disappeared in the early '20s, then homesteads were leased for pasture. In 1927, Charley Wright's ranch was purchased. Through the following years the leased lands were purchased from the original home­ steaders.

In 1948, Jennie and Bill bought a home in Lusk and A.D. and his wife, Hazel, moved back to the ranch with baby Katherine Ann. The ranch was run as a family enterprise, with Bill coming out nearly every week to work several days.  He continued to do this until his death in 1965. Jennie passed away in 1966.

In 1949, James William was born and in 1951, Paul Richard arrived on the scene.

The three children were reared on the ranch and attended Cow Creek school until Katherine entered Niobrara County High School.    All three were graduated tram N.C. H.S., with Katherine and James going on to the University of Wyoming, and Paul attend­ing the University of New Mexico.

In 1957, A.D. purchased the Nern and Baker ranch which consisted of leased lands and the Lulu Deuel homestead, her sister's homestead and Otto Koeberlin's homestead.

Katherine is now Mrs. David P. Morgan of Sinclair, Wyo. and has two children-­ Patrick, age 4 and Dana Kay, age 2.      They come over with their parents to the ranch and are learning to ride horseback. It won't be long before they, too can help with the riding.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Kruse, Jennie (10/27/1880 - 11/06/1966) View Record
Obituary Kruse, William (08/27/1891 - 03/09/1965) View Record