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Ranch east of Peabody has a colorful history

Staff writer

The original Townsend Ranch, with headquarters three miles east of Peabody on U.S. 50, will be auctioned Oct. 19 at the ranch.

The ranch currently is owned by Ronella White, wife of the late Clay White. She lives in Arizona.

J.C. Barr, a native of Cottonwood Falls, will conduct the auction. The ranch will be offered in 18 tracts — 160 to more than 700 acres. It also will be offered as a complete unit.

On Oct. 20, approximately 400 spring-calving Angus cows will be auctioned as well.

T.B. Townsend of Ohio first established the ranch in 1886. He and his wife purchased 300 acres from the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.

Townsend was a savvy businessman. He was a stonemason who owned a construction company. He realized a need for access to the railroad, not only for incoming freight but also for loading and shipping of livestock to eastern markets.

Townsend deeded a 1.5-acre parcel to the railroad company for a siding and stockyards. To this nucleus was added a store, post office, hotel, depot, and the office of Townsend Cattle Ranch.

The village became known as the Horners.

In 1887, the large, limestone barn was constructed. Known as a Rockland barn, it measures 80 by 140 feet. It was completed in a year and cost $10,000.

The head mason came from Virginia and was paid $5 per day. Local men and teams of horses were hired to quarry, haul, and help lay the stone. They earned $1 a day.

Sand was hauled from a sand bank one-half to one mile east. The lime used in the mortar was made from limestone quarried in Fairplay Township. Remains of the kiln are still visible today.

The stone was quarried from across the road to the south and a quarter mile east.

The barn has a basement with a rock floor. The barn walls are plastered with lime and sand, and large timbers support the interior framework.

The beams are connected with wooden pegs, producing fine fitting joints. Ventilation ducts installed in the outside walls from basement to eaves provided ventilation for hay stored in the barn. Grain was stored in second-floor bins.

The basement was used for grinders and power units for grinding. It also provided shelter for hogs.

At one time, a large wooden windmill with a wooden wheel was used to provide power for grinding grain and pumping water. It stood to the west of the stone barn along with a wooden water storage tank. The water was piped from the tank to feedlots for cattle and hogs.

The railroad quit shipping cattle in 1947. Since then, the livestock have been shipped by truck and loaded out of pens by the barn.

A limestone ranch-style house complements the old rock barn. It is unknown when the house was built.

Although Townsend never lived in the area and visited only to conduct business, he is memorialized in a monument he built on his land known as the Indian Guide Monument.

Townsend found a pile of stones that had been part of a pyramidal marker made by Apache Native Americans to guide them from western Kansas to a valley in the Flint Hills.

He erected a 15-foot monument of concrete and stone and attached a bronze plate with his name and the date inscribed.

Townsend’s son constructed a new monument on the site in 1927 in memory of his father. It is made of concrete, 4 feet square at the base and 12 feet high.

The monument is located southeast of the ranch headquarters about a half-mile south of the highway. It is on private property and is not accessible to the public.

The Townsend Ranch was sold in 1937 and has had several other owners since then. The Whites purchased it about eight years ago.

The original ranch had approximately 2,800 acres. It now consists of nearly 7,000 acres and is still a working cattle ranch.

The headquarters includes the stone house and barn, a horse barn, four shop buildings, a hay barn, and pipe corrals.

An open house is scheduled for Oct. 2 and 3, starting at 10 a.m. each day.

(Auctioneer Barr provided much of this information as submitted to him by Ronella White.)

Last modified Sept. 29, 2010

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