THE KEELINE FAMILY
The Keeline outfit was started in 1874 and was known as George Keeline and Sons and they bought the first cattle at Frank Oscare Gee, Plum Creek Nebraska from Littlefield. These were Texas cattle consisting of 1,000 steers and 1,000 heifers. They cost $10.00 and 8.00 per head and were branded [brand #1] on the left side and were trailed to Jewelburg, Colorado and each spring they would buy a trail herd or two until 1877 when they moved north to Wendover, Wyoming. They forded the Platte at Scottsbluffs in June of 1877 and had around 10,000 cattle at that time branded [brand #2]. They bought Adams and Glover at the mouth of Cottonwood Creek on the Platte River and they started the [brand #3] which belonged to Oscar & Frank Keeline. They got 40 saddle horses and two teams of mules and about 1,000 cattle from Adams & Glover. Oscar was 17 and Frank was 19 years old. Up until this time Dan Boham was wagon boss and when Oscar and Frank went in the business for themselves and then Frank Keeline took the wagon over and run it until his death. At one time he had three brothers working for him and each had a different name. They were John Franklin, Tom Gardner and Jim Poke and had all killed from 1 to 3 men. They were Texas cowboys and were considered the top of the cowboys at that time. Frank Keeline was considered the tops of the old timers and cowboys and was considered one of the best men physically in the entire west and always worked the tough ones who came north as they were always good men. One spring he had 22 men with the Keeline wagon and everyone had killed from 1 to 5 men in their time. Oscar Keeline also worked for Frank Keeline and had his training under him. Jim Shaw who ran the [brand #4] Goose Egg outfit in those days told me about Frank Keeline and what a man he was. He spoke Indian and got along well as they worked north with the Indians. He died at 27 with a heart condition and the next foreman was Tom Hall and run it until George Amos took over.
They moved their big steers to Terry and Gardener, Montana and a man by the name of Wash Crof ran the Montana outfit. Dan Bohan was the foreman who moved these steers from the Platte River up there and Wash Crof ran the outfit up there until 1893 when they moved them to the head of Covia where George Amos was foreman. He had moved the cattle north from the Platte and at that time there was around 15,000 cattle. George A. Keeline was superintendent of the outfit at this time and it was still George Keeline and Sons and George Keeline died in 1900 and the estate went in the sheep business and in 1911 and 1912 they had 33,000 sheep to go in the winter which they loss 110% and still had 11,000 sheep left, the feed bill and expenses eat them all expense and 10% more.
O. and H. W. Keeline cut out in 1908 from the estate and bought the [brand #5] cattle and the Baird Ranch, the old 21 on the head of Black Thunder Creek, they called this outfit O. & H. W. Keeline and branded [brand #6] and when the hard winter of 1919 had about 25,000 cattle. George R. Keeline was wagon boss for the O. and H. W. Keeline from 1912 to 1922 when it closed out and from 1922 when they quit and had 5,000 acres of land and about 8,000 cattle branded [brand #6].
This is where H. W. Keeline & Sons started the [brand #3] Ranch, 1922.
When Oscar quit he said it was a young man's game, this ranching, and it would have to take the money out of cows and put it in land and he was too old to build a ranch so he gave my brother Joe and I his half interest and advised me what I had to do to be a rancher. So we started to buying land. The first 3 sections I bought was David Toughie and Tony Jones on Bacon Creek and when Oscar quit he said you always should have a goal to reach so we mapped out about 25,000 acres and he said now the fun of all business is to see how fast you can do anything and stay out of debt. So we accumulated this 25,000 and then he drew out a map of 50,000 acres and we went to work on this and bought this up and then went on to 75,000 and then to the 105,000. It seemed to me all Fever got done was build fence and tear it down. Then came the range program and we built 110 dams and drilled 30 wells and put in better fences and cross fence. Ralph Kintz fenced for me year after year and I am sure he built over 500 miles of fence for me before I sold out to Joe and H. W. Keeline in 1948.
They now have 10,800 acres of land and stocked.
Joe Jr. and H. W. II are the fourth generation to carry on the Keeline name.
There is a lot of happenings that I have forgot and this old stuff was all told to me by Oscar and my father.
In 1919 when the dry years hit we used to bring in 3,400 head of cattle to the herd which was 120 cars at this time, they could pull on 60 cars. We made a shipment every two weeks until they were cleaned up. We would cut these cattle, the big steers went to Chicago and then we would put so many cars in Omaha, so many to Sioux City and Kansas City and St. Joe and took our yearlings and two year old steers and young cows to Clinton, New Mexico when we got cleaned up we had 8,300 in New Mexico which we brought back in 1920.
Last Updated April 2005
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