Historical Details

Ord, Robert Charles and Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 02/22/2021


by Mrs. Roy Chamberlain

Robert Charles Ord, pioneer educator and rancher, was born March 7, 1869 in Pawnee City, Nebr. His family tree traces back to King George III of England, and he was a cousin of General Ord, one of the out­standing generals of the West.

Robert Ord was raised on a farm near Pawnee City by good Christian parents who instilled in him a deep faith in God. He was graduated from Peru State Teacher's College and took graduate work at Nebraska Wesleyan at Lincoln where he later became a professor.

On Aug. 24, 1899, he married Mayme Agnew, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Agnew of Chadron, Nebr. Robert had first met his bride-to-be when she was a student at Peru. Mayme Agnew had lived with her parents and two older brothers in Chadron, Nebr. since about 1889 when the family had moved west from Pennsylvania. Her father was Scotch Irish and her mother could trace her ancestry back to John Alden and Priscil­la.

Robert and Mayme Ord lived a happy, busy life, following their wedding. They made their home in Lincoln where Robert served as Dean of the Education Department of Nebraska Wesleyan University.  To them was born a daughter, Frances Marjorie. When the hours of study and close work began taking a severe toll on Mr. Ord's eyesight, he decided to give up his teaching profes­sion and to go into something entirely different thus it was that he became a rancher. He and his brother-in-law, John Agnew, decided to come to Wyoming and look for a good ranch.  In 1902 they purchased the Rawhide Buttes Ranch near Lusk from Russell Thorp, Jr. and his mother Mrs. Russell Thorp, Sr.

The Rawhide Buttes Ranch during the 1880's was a stage station for the Black Hills Stage Line which was also owned by the Thorp family. On Feb. 9, 1887, after the coming of the railroad, the stage made its last run from Cheyenne to Deadwood. How­ ever, the Thorps had retained one of the stagecoaches, and it was this stagecoach, (which was later presented to the Museum in Lusk by Russell Thorp, Jr. drove to Lusk to meet Robert Ord and his wife, Mayme and little daughter, Marjorie, when they arrived on the Chicago Northwestern train to begin their life in a new state, a new business, and a new era. Although Bob Ord and John Agnew had come out earlier and purchased the ranch, this was the first glimpse of Wyoming for Mayme.

Mayme was a very attractive, vivacious young matron in her early 20's,.  She was slender, of medium height, and had dark hair and unusually large sparkling brown eyes.

She had her Irish ancestors' sense of humor and love of life with great enthusiasm for everything she did. To her, the ride to her new home on the stagecoach with the six horse team was an unforgettable experience. Robert insisted that she ride on top of the coach with young Russell so she could see the country as he had seen it when he made his first trip. The road was rutted, wind­ing, narrow and very rough, but also very scenic.

At Rawhide Buttes a log house was to be their new home. The old stage station included also a post office, bunk house for the hired men, barn, and sheds and a black­ smith shop equipped for shoeing horses.

Mayme set about the big job cleaning up the place. The Thorps, who had come from the East, were well educated, cultured people, but Mrs. Thorp had depended on hired help to do much of the work. As a result, when Mayme and her mother, father and brother John, and her husband, and baby daughter moved into their new home, they found to their great discomfort the old house was contaminated with bed bugs. The dreadful bugs came out at night from their hiding places between the logs. Mayme learned the only way to get rid of them was by scrubbing the logs every day with lye water. The rambling log house had several bedrooms, a library, a parlor, a dining room and kitchen and soon took on the aspect of home. In the parlor was a fireplace built from bricks which had been brought from Cheyenne on the stagecoach.

The father of Mayme and John William Agnew, became the postmaster of Rawhide Buttes and served in that capacity for a number of years. When the post office was discontinued, that space was diverted into a storeroom where the supplies were kept, not only for the ranch but for all the herders at the various sheep camps.

The young ranchers, John Agnew and Bob Ord, worked hard to build up a big ranch, running both cattle and sheep. There were no fences at this time, but ranchers con­trolled the land around the water holes or creeks where the deed land lay. It was necessary to ride frequently on the cattle roundups. Bob's horse, Niger, usually be­gan the day's trip bucking, but Bob Ord could stick to the saddle, and soon became known as "Bronco Bob".

The only social life was with the
neighbors. The closest neighbor was the Wolfe family, only a couple miles away, and a life­ long friendship developed. Family picnics at the various ranches brought the Wolfes, Hargraves, Blacks and Ords together in the summertime. The women enjoyed chatting on the party phone line which was built in about 1906. Few people now traveled the road of the old stage line. Occasionally, a band of gypsies stopped to beg for food or money and sometimes soldiers came through on their way from Ft. Robinson to Ft. Russell.  George Lathrop, one of the best of the early stage drivers, often visited the old stage station at Rawhide Buttes and became very attached to the little daughter of Robert and Mayme Ord.

In the spring of 1912 a terrible blizzard hit this part of Wyoming, and many of the Agnew and Ord Sheep were buried alive in the snowbanks. In spite of such setbacks, the Agnew and Ord Ranch kept growing, until in the summer of 1914, the two partners
de­cided to divide the ranch into two parts.

John Agnew took the south half and Robert Ord the north half. Mr. Ord took the R/ T brand and Mr. Agnew the 101 Brand.                      

Robert Ord rebuilt the old house on what had been the Mayes Ranch near a big spring on the upper Rawhide, and took his family there in the summer of 1914. By this time, he and his wife, Mayme, were the parents of four children. Marjorie, Gertrude, Jeanette and John Robert. For several years the family lived in Lusk during the winter months (in a house which Mr. Ord had purchased from Jessie Hall on East 3rd street) so that his children, as they reached school age, could be in school. Bob Ord spent most of his time on the ranch, but often rode horseback the 15 miles to see his family. He took interest in the town, as well as the ranch, and he and his wife were early workers in the Congregational Church.

In 1917, when oil was discovered in Lance Creek, Mr. Ord had an interest in the
first well. From that time, he was inter­ested in oil as well as real estate in Lusk. At one time, he owned an interest in The Ranger Hotel, The Silver Cliff Hotel, The Royal Apartments and the laundry.

Because of Mrs. Ord's health, Mr. Ord, who for some time had been feeding cattle at Wood Lake, Nebr., decided, on the advice of a physician, to take his family to Omaha for the school year. The lower altitude was beneficial to Mrs. Ord's health, and the children entered the Omaha schools. Each member of the family, however, was thrilled when summer came, and all could be together at the ranch again. By this time cars had replaced the horse and buggy as a mode of conveyance, and the trip to Lusk from the ranch was made in about forty-five minutes, a distance of 15 miles.

Like many others, when the oil boom burst, Mr. Ord suffered heavy losses. He then turned his attention principally to ranching with the same courage he had shown all his life, ready to build again what he lost. In the summer of 1923 the family gave up their home in Omaha to be with Mr. Ord at the ranch. In spite of financial reverses, Mayme Ord never complained. She was always ready and willing to do her part, and she and Robert insisted that each of the children would continue in school and have a college education.

Robert Ord always led a clean healthy life and was in perfect health at the time of the freak accident in 1932, when he was tragically hurt by a run-away team of horses. Although he lived for two days without the benefit of antibiotics which we have today, it was impossible to save him and he passed away June 23, 1932.

Robert Ord lived as Christ would have him live, constantly thinking and doing for others and forgetting self. The doctor who tended him on his death bed paid tribute to his great courage. He had, indeed, the true courage and honor of the real pioneer, and did everything possible to make the world a better place in which to live, and to set a good example for his children.

His only son, John Robert, who had just completed his junior year in pre-med at the University of Nebraska, was a great comfort to the family, but the death of the husband and father was a tragic loss.

Jeanette, since 1929, had been married to Harry Sager who had bought an interest in the ranch and was working with Mr. Ord. Mrs. Ord continued to live at the ranch home with them and their young son, Harry Charles Sager.  However, more tragedy lay ahead, as in Feb. 1933, John Robert, about to receive his degree from the University of Nebraska, where he had been working his way, died of ruptured appendix. This tragedy, so soon after the father's death, was heartbreaking, but faith in God, the faith handed down to the children from both the father and mother, kept everyone going. Marjorie, at this time, was married and living in Rochester, N.Y. with her husband, George Darrow, and two sons, George and Robert. Gertrude was teaching in the high school at Lusk, having received her degree from the University of Nebraska. The depression and the drought of the 1930's caused Mrs. Ord to decide to sell the cattle and lease the ranch in the fall of 1935.

Mrs. Ord lived in Lusk from that time until her death in 1950. For awhile, she served as librarian at the Niobrara County Carnegie Library. Jeanette and Harry Sager separated, and Jeanette and her young son, Harry Charles lived with her mother in their family home which now belongs to Marjorie and Menno Kaan on 5th and Linn.

Robert Charles Ord was a charter member of Harmony Lodge, #24, A.F. and A.M., and also joined the Consistory and received his 32nd degree. Mayme Agnew Ord was a charter member of Niobrara Chapter #26, Order of the Eastern Star, and of the Luke Vorhees Chapter of the D.A.R.

Mr. and Mrs. Ord were devoted to their God, their family, community and country, and passed down to their children only the highest of ideals, and the memory of a Christ-like love. Today, their three daugh­ters, Gertrude Chamberlain, Jeanette Sager, and Marjorie Kaan still own the Ord ranch.

One of the grandsons, Robert Ord Darrow, successfully operated the ranch for 12 years on a lease basis for the Ord Livestock Com­pany, and is now an account executive for the brokerage firm of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith Inc., in Denver. His older brother, George Darrow, of Billings, Mont., is a geologist and resource consultant and has served in the Montana Legislature. Harry Charles Sager, a petroleum engineer, is vice president and production manager for Dubai Petroleum, a subsidiary of Continental Oil Company, in Dubai, Trucial States, on the Persian Gulf.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Ord, Robert (03/07/1869 - 06/24/1932) View Record
Obituary Ord, Mayme (06/22/1875 - 01/27/1950) View Record