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The DHS Ranch

Introducing 2008 Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame Legacy Award Inductee…

                                                                                                  The DHS Ranch

The DHS ranch was established at the head of Fords Creek on the east side of the Judith Mountains in what is now Fergus County, Montana, in 1880. The brand's origin was derived from the three owners' names:  AJ Davis, Samuel Hauser, and Granville Stuart.

The DHS claimed the area west to the Judith Mountains, north to Box Elder Creek, south to Flatwillow Creek, and 50 miles east to the confluence of Flatwillow and Box Elder Creeks. Some 25,000 head of cattle wore the DHS brand at one time.  Since the prairie was open range, the only way one could hold the land was to occupy it, and that was done quite effectively in this case!

By 1881, surrounding ranges were taken up by notable ranchers such as James Fergus, Conrad Kohrs, Bielenberg, Power Bros., Robert Coburn, and Henry Sieben. It was decided on by the different outfits to "pool" their efforts; hence the roundup method was installed. All these outfits gathered for a meeting - held at the DHS Ranch on May 29, 1882 - to decide on how to organize the first roundup.  At the meeting, details were decided on for the benefit of everyone. It was decided that each stockowner would furnish one rider for every 1,000 head; one man was elected captain of the roundup, and a group was established to inspect bulls and decide on which were too old to be of service with the owner replacing that one with a bull calf. It was also decided on when and where the spring roundup would begin in May, as well as the fall calf roundup, which was immediately followed by the annual beef roundup.

In 1883, Conrad Kohrs bought out the Davis-Hauser interest in the DHS, thereby becoming a partner with Granville Stuart.

By 1884, the railroads were getting close to Eastern Montana, causing the steamboats coming up the Missouri River to lose revenue. This in turn caused the local woodcuttes (also called woodhawks) to lose income since they were cutting firewood and selling it to the steamboat operators. Because there was little or no law for the woodhawks to deal with, they turned to rustling cattle and hoses.  On July 20, 1884, after much secret planning, the Stuart Stranglers, a group of ten riders from the DHS and four from the Fergus ranch, rode to the Missouri River Breaks to deal with the matter. Granville Stuart led the group. Upon approaching the horse thief camp, the cowboys deployed in such a manner as to wreak havoc on the rustlers, some 14 in number, in a short and violet exchange of gunfire. Three or four of the thieves escaped downriver but were caught and dealt with later. Thereafter, rustling became very unpopular in that area!

By the winter of 1886-87, due to low cattle prices and severe drought followed by a terrible winter, the DHS herds were decimated.  By 1888, the ranch ceased to operate. However, the DHS is still regarded by historians as one of the largest and finest to operate during the 1880s.

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