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Wood Livestock Company, Spencer, Idaho

In the early '80's the late J. D. Wood, who was at that time mining in Idaho, began the acquirement of land in Custer and Fremont counties with a view to developing a small livestock interest. In his youth and early manhood he had bought cattle throughout Missouri and Illinois and driven them to the Chicago market, thus acquiring a knowledge and taste for the livestock business which at a later date bore abundant fruit.

Mr. Wood's original intention was to engage in the cattle business, but, owing to the extremely high price of cattle at that time, he decided to try sheep. His first venture was the bringing overland by trail from Umatilla County, Ore., of 6,000 head of young ewes. These he placed upon the range near his ranch in Pahsimaroi Valley, a tributary to Salmon River, Custer County, Idaho.

In 1887 Mr. Wood sold a one-fourth interest in his livestock business to his stepson, F. J. Hagenbarth, who assumed the management of those interests. The business steadily grew until 1896, when the company was incorporated as the Wood Live Stock Company, at which time Mr. H. C. Wood and J. Barnett acquired interests in the property.

The years 1893 to 1896, inclusive, were very lean years for sheep husbandry, owing to the passage of the Wilson Bill, which removed the duty from wool. However, in 1896, Mr. Wood and the others interested, being firm believers of the election of Mr. McKinley and of the inauguration of a protective tariff era, had trailed up from Oregon over 50,000 head of young ewes. The sheep were bought at an average price, laid down in Idaho, of $1.35. Immediately after the election, during the months of November and December, the company disposed of a large number of these sheep at $3.50 and $4.00 per head.

The following years were very prosperous, and in 1900 the capital stock of the company was increased to $500,000, fully paid up. During the interim since the beginning of the business, the company began the systematic acquirement of lands and had extended their operations so as to cover parts of Custer and Lemhi counties and had acquired interests in Bingham, Blaine and Fremont counties.

One reason of the great success attained by Mr. Wood and associates in the live-stock business was their early realization of the fact that young lambs four months old could be shipped from the Western ranges to the Eastern markets and sold at approximately as high a price as two or three year old wethers. The company engaged in this business on a large scale and were shipping many trainloads per annum. The present year, 1909, the company will sell on the Chicago market upwards of 60,000 head of young lambs, which will net them, all expenses paid, about $3.50 per head.

In conjunction with the growing of lambs for the mutton trade the company has imported from England into the United States the best strains of mutton blood obtainable in England. They now have on their range, near Spencer, Idaho, the largest and best flock, size considered, of pure registered Hampshires in the world. The lambs from this flock readily top the Eastern market.

The Wood Live Stock Company was the first concern to introduce on the open range the shearing of sheep in large numbers by the use of machinery. They had in operation last year three of these plants, two in Idaho and one in Montana.

Since 1900 the company has extended the area of its activities into Madison and Beaver Head counties, Montana, where they have acquired extensive real-estate and range holdings. At the present time it owns in fee simple and controls by lease or otherwise, around 100,000 acres of choice farming and grazing lands in Idaho and Montana. The summer range is located along a spur of the Rocky Mountains lying southwesterly from the Yellowstone National Park. The headquarters and general offices of the company are at Spencer, Idaho. The company practically owns this town where it has erected a large three-story office and commissary building and has built cottages for the use of the foremen and their families. Its buildings can be readily distinguished by their color, which is uniformly yellow trimmed with white. Here the organization and system which prevail throughout the activities of the company can be readily noticed. The commissary department in itself is interesting. Everything that could be required for use on the range or ranch is there to be found in quantity. Canned stuffs, sugar, etc., are bought in carload lots and distributed from this point. Hardware, machinery, wagons, etc., are kept in quantity. The company manufactures its own sheep wagons, which are models of convenience and comfort.

In addition to the sheep interests, the company is engaged in a large way in the breeding of horses and the handling of cattle. They were likewise largely interested in the cattle and lamb business in Old Mexico. These interests have, however, been recently sold.

The personnel which comprises the actual management of the company at the present time is as follows: F. J. Hagenbarth, president and manager (Mr. Hagenbarth succeeded the late J. D. Wood as president); Mr. H. C. Wood, vice-president and assistant manager; Mr. J. Barnett, treasurer; Mr. C. W. Hardy, secretary; Mr. John W. Hart, director and ranch superintendent; Mr. Sam Sample, range superintendent.

At the present time the net resources of the company amount to about $2,000,000. The annual output in the way of wool, mutton, cattle, horses and products of various kinds from the ranches will approximate $500,000. The annual pay-roll and expense account is about $200,000.

The brief history of this company is the best possible commentary that could be had on the opportunities and possibilities of acquiring wealth and permanent interests that have been and are still afforded by the magnificent State of Idaho. Mr. J. D. Wood's original investment in the ranch and live-stock business, when inventoried in 1885, amounted to only $20,000.


Source: Sketches of the Inter-Mountain States, Utah, Idaho and Nevada, Published by The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1909 



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