Historical Details

Petz, Henry Biography

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 01/26/2021


by Greta Alexander

He was born in Omaha, Nebr., Sept. 23, 1876, the eldest child of John and Barbara Poeppel Petz, both of whom emigrated to the United States from Bavaria, Germany, about 1870.  The couple located in Omaha, where John Petz was a stonemason. Here also Theresa Petz McGinnis (Tracy) was born in March 1879. When the railroad came to Lusk in 1886, the Petz family came also and homesteaded 10 miles north of Lusk.

Henry's formal education ended in the fifth grade with the move to Lusk and at the age of 10 he went to work for neighboring ranchers on the open range. He took a calf as his first payment, preferring this to money, and this was his earliest start in ranching. The homestead home had a dirt floor and sod roof and they lived here for 17 years. His mother Barbara Petz, walked two miles each day to hoe her garden and then home again.   She climbed windmills to grease them and chopped ice in the tanks on bitter winter days. John Petz often worked as a stonemason away from home to earn extra money and he died in Steamboat Springs, Colo. in 1903.  At one time when the family was so poor, the father sent $10 home for them to live on. When Henry and Tracy opened the letter on the prairie, the wind blew the money away. They looked until dark for the bill, but never found it. This represented a real hardship at that time.

At age 14 Henry went to work for John B. Kendrick of Sheridan.  He rode back and forth from Sheridan to Lusk whenever he had to return home for any reason.This was during the Johnson County War and he stated that there were always men with shotguns along the river he had to cross to get to the Kendrick ranch north of Sheridan. You had to prove yourself to them before they would let you cross and go on about your business. One time at age 16, while working for Kendrick, he and the other ranch hands were holding a large herd of horses on the range outside of Gillette. All the other men were older than Henry and went in to Gillette for a good time, leaving the youth to hold the horses until their return.

They had such a good time they stayed for two days and the boy held the herd alone until their return. He said he was never so glad to see anyone as that group of men when they rode into view the third day. Henry worked alongside the experienced, older ranch hands during his stay with Mr. Kendrick and everyone slept out in bedrolls in all kinds of weather, even 40 below tempera­tures. They ate from the chuck wagon and took turns riding night herd (often singing softly as they made their rounds to quiet the cattle). After Mr. Kendricks became United States Senator and visited the front in Europe during World War I, he told Henry that the living conditions of the soldiers weren't as bad as those "poor devils" on the roundup  had in the late l800's.  During these days Henry's monthly pay was $30. He and Mr. Kendrick became very fond of one another - Mr. Kendrick being the idol and ideal of Henry and Henry being referred to by Mr. Kendrick as "my son".

At age 21 Henry came back to Lusk to record his "H" brand and start his own herd of Herefords. Mr. Kendrick urged him to stay on with him, but Henry felt it his duty to come home and help his mother, who had been keeping the homestead together during the seven years he'd been with Mr. Kendrick. He later bought the Ed Daley place which became the home ranch until his death in October, 1958, at age of 82.

In August, 1914, he married Edna Scace of Wayne, Nebr., and two daughters were born to them, Greta Chantel and Barbara Lucille.

Tracy Petz McGinnis died in 1933, Barbara Poeppel Petz died in 1943 at age of 91 and Edna Petz died in 1964 at age 73.

Henry Petz was truly a self-made -quiet, unassuming, hard working, whose word was his bond and he was proud of it .He never smoked or drank, but lived his whole life by self-discipline and hard work.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Petz, Henry (09/23/1876 - 10/14/1958) View Record
Obituary Petz, Edna (10/31/1891 - 12/18/1964) View Record