The Convoluted History of the Buckeye Ranch

Bisected by Highway 11 in the Centennial Valley lies a ranch with a curious name.

“Buckeye” refers to a tree not common in Wyoming. The most authoritative book written to date on local ranches, Wyoming’s Pioneer Ranches (commonly called The Ranch Book), recounts that the Buckeye Ranch was named by one time owners David and Thomas Dole who were thought to be from Ohio. Hence they supposedly gave it the same name as the nickname of their home state.

The name did come from the Buckeye State, however, it was Ohio native Charles Bussard who founded and named the ranch.  He is recorded as using the land as early as 1868 as a base camp for his timbering operation in the mountains.  Early newspaper accounts also noted Bussard occasionally put up hay for his horses on the ranch.

Within a decade, however, it appears the property became a full time working ranch, fencing in nearly 4000 acres. The Laramie Weekly Sentinel of August 28, 1878 reports its splendors noting, among other outlandish claims, that the area received little snow in the winter. The report apparently caught the eye of Edward Ivinson, local banker and investor, who purchased the ranch from Bussard in 1879 for $2,000.

Ivinson only held onto the Buckeye for a short period.  He made a handsome profit on the ranch when he sold it to Charles Hecht and brothers in 1882 for $12,000. Charles bought out his brothers in 1883 and from that point forward the history of the ranch is convoluted for two reasons.

First, shortly after he bought it, Hecht put it up for sale. The Dole brothers from Massachusetts, known as the Bay State, agreed to buy the ranch and its cattle. Hecht offered them two choices: pay for the land and count and pay for the cattle separately, or buy it as a package. The Doles, much to their regret, chose the latter.  It was a mistake to accept Hecht’s estimate of the herd size.

When the Doles arrived, they found far fewer cattle than they had been told. So David Dole sued Hecht in Albany County District Court, where he lost. At that point, his brother Thomas gave up on pursuing the issue and returned to the Bay State. David appealed to the Wyoming Territory Supreme Court. The lawsuit drug on over three years with the court eventually deciding in favor of Hecht.

Newspaper accounts indicated that David Dole went broke due to the cost of the lawsuits. He too returned to Massachusetts. Contrary to what has been long believed, after the Doles left Wyoming, they did not move on to Hawaii and start the Dole Pineapple Company. They remained in the Bay State for the remainder of their lives.

The second reason the history of the ranch is hard to follow is that the Doles mortgaged the property to pay for the lawsuits. Because the legal title to the property was in doubt and the Doles had run out of money, the mortgage was foreclosed. Between 1885 and 1888 the ranch was broken up in separate parcels and at least nine sales were recorded. Much of what is now called the Buckeye was purchased by William Forrest and John Clay in 1888. Since that date, various parts of the Buckeye changed hands at least 17 times before what is now known as the Buckeye Ranch was purchased by Norm and Joan Kinsey in 1991. The Kinseys retained the ranch property until 2013, when they sold it to Tad and Anne Herz.  “Bay State Ranch” might be a more apt name, for all the travails suffered by Massachusetts native David Dole.

Kim Viner

Caption:  Main house of the Buckeye Ranch. The house was built in the late 1800’s. The house sits just to the west of State Highway 11 which was originally called the Keystone Road (later, Albany Road). The path of the road was moved slightly east to its current location in 1893 by county surveyor Robert Burkhardt to better avoid winter snow drifts. There was a post office at the Buckeye Ranch from 1909-1935. Photo courtesy of James Rinehart, Western United Realty.