Today’s s story starts out about goats but it will soon turn to sheep. Without the other nuisances, the story would not be complete. It is a very interesting story of the early part of the sheep industry in the state.
Lester was born July 18, 1894. While the family lived in Star Valley, he bought his first goats, two, with money he had earned. The herd was built up to 25 to 30 head. He worked the goats in the beginning with his dad. Lester sold the goats to a member of the family and the goats may have ultimately been sold to Harry Hibben, a sheep man who had a sheep outfit north of Williams. This was all prior to 1906. (This is the first time Hibben’s name has been mentioned with the sheep industry. Obviously more information is needed to determine who he was and anything about his sheep outfit).
His next venture was with cattle which he purchased with the money he made from selling his goats. When he purchased the cattle is uncertain but it wasn’t long before he lost them as cattle prices fell after WWI. Lester went to work for Lute Hart Sheep Company in 1922 as he was friends with Lute. Lester remarked that even though cattle prices were down, sheep prices were still good! He worked until 1925 as Lute’s foreman then went to work for Verkamp who had 4,000 sheep. Verkamp summer permit was south of Clear Creek on Dane Ranch. This area is near Winslow and the Chevelon Butte. Lester brought the sheep down to the Salt River Valley over the Mud Tank Driveway that fall.
In July 1928, he was offered a job with Colin Campbell Livestock Company. The company had 35,000 sheep between Ash Fork and Seligman and a winter permit on the Verde River on Forest Service land. This job continued until February 1930 when the depression hit hard. The sheep had to be divided between the bank and the owners of Colin Campbell Livestock Company.
He was now looking for a job for the first time in his life. He worked part time for the Federal Intermediate Credit Bank counting sheep and cattle. A bank owned many of the sheep at this point and had someone running them for them. In 1930 Lester was appointed state sheep inspector. He was appointed again in 1931 for 6 months. He did a variety of jobs after this including for a loan company counting sheep, counting cattle and sheep at a ranch that belonged to John Jamison who lived near Oracle and had been a neighbor of the family when they lived in the Mogollon Mountain. He worked for part time at each of these jobs until March 1934 when John Simpson, general manager of the Grand Canyon Sheep Company asked him to work for their outfit. At this time, they were considered to have the largest sheep company in the state and the biggest in the United States.
Stayed tuned for part II as the story is long.