An aerial view of the Horton Ranch.The homestead house at the Horton Ranch.

The Horton Ranch meets Century mark

The Horton Ranch is 100 years old this year. The homeplace had been homesteaded (located near Interior, South Dakota) by Patrick Crotty. He was born in Iowa, of Irish-born parents. He was a railroad engineer with a wife and family living in Norfolk, Neb. in 1900. He was in his forties when he applied for his land. He received the “Patent” (showing he’d met the requirements of the Homestead Act) on his land in 1912. In 1914, he sold it to Ben Votroubek and went back to Nebraska. Ben was born in Nebraska of Austrian-born parents. His homestead adjoined part of Crotty’s. Ben (wife Sophie and daughter Anna) sold this, and what he’d bought from Crotty, to our grandfather, Charles Rabb Horton, on May 13, 1915. He and his sons added to their holdings: some bought from other homesteaders, some from the county when taxes or mortgages weren’t paid, some traded with the U.S, government (Badlands National Park land).
Charles Horton was born to Rhodah and Rachel (McGuire) Horton in 1877 in eastern Kentucky, the 24 of 25 children. His father died when he was eight years old. His mother and the younger children lived with older ones. At 16, Charles left home to work wherever he could. In 1905 he was a day-laborer in Sioux City, Iowa, and met Elza McFarland. She was born to Sam and Rebecca (Matthews) McFarland in 1883 in eastern Tennessee. She moved with family to Monona Co. Iowa, just south of Sioux City. They were married in December, 1906.
Charles worked as a cook while the railroad and telegraph lines were being laid from Pierre through Kadoka and Interior to Rapid City. He applied for a homestead just east of where the Cedar Pass Lodge is now. He received his Patent in 1911. He sold it to Walter Davidson in July, 1914. I don’t know where they were for the next few months. They may have worked for Davidson or since Elza had relatives near where they later moved, they may have lived with them. Charles also worked at an Interior bar, maybe during this time. 
Charles and Elza raised four children: Lona, 1908 (Harrell Warner, Lenoard Brown), Charles W. 1910 (Blanch Williams), Velma, 1914 (Jess Williams), Virgil, 1916 (Lillian Bagley).
Grandma told the story that the first night in their new home, Velma was very fussy. They lit the lantern and found her straw mattress was home to bedbugs. They made new mattresses! This house was moved to a place a mile away when their new house was built in 1928.
Virgil married Lillian Bagley, born in 1918 to Adam and Vera Bagley near Hurley, S.D. She had come west to teach in Wall. They met when Lillian worked for the Land Utilization office one summer. When they married in 1945, Charles and Elza moved to Quinn. Elza died in 1946 and Charles in 1947.
Virgil, with the help of several hired men through the 50’s and 60’s, took the ranch into new areas. He started a feedlot and grew much of the grains and hay (the smell of sileage is burned in my brain). When the city of Wall drilled their second water well in the early 60’s, Virgil and several other ranchers in the area had the same rig drill wells for them. Pipelines were installed to get water to pastures, making sure the cattle always had water when dams were low or dry. Crops now are winter wheat and alfalfa. 
Virgil and Lillian raised three children: Barbara (Terry Fuller, living in Rapid City), Kay (Terry Dahlquist, living in Sioux City, Iowa), and Rick (Nancy Clark, living on the ranch. Rick moved back to the ranch in 1980. Kristin, Janelle, Brian and Mark completed their family). Virgil and Rick ran the ranch together until Virgil’s death in 2000. Lillian divided her time between the ranch and the “Village” in Wall until she entered the Philip Nursing Home in 2013. She’ll have her 97th birthday in October. 
Rick and his family have run the ranch since 2000. Brian and Mark both worked in between getting their engineering degrees.
The descendants of Charles and Elza live all over the U.S., but many of them have visited the ranch over the years. This Western South Dakota ranch was their beginning. Some of us still feel like it is “home”. 

The Pioneer Review

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