National Register of Historic Places

JO Ranch Rural Historic Landscape

Carbon County

Date Added to Register

Monday, November 22, 2010

Smithsonian Number


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The JO Ranch represents a rare and well-preserved example of late nineteenth and early twentieth century western sheep ranching operation in southwestern Wyoming. Established in 1885, the ranch reflects the growth of the sheep industry after the devastating livestock losses suffered in the winter of 1886-1887 that crippled the cattle industry and ended the open range system of ranching. The decline of the cattle industry allowed the fledgling sheep industry to grow especially along the Union Pacific Railroad corridor in southern Wyoming, which provided a means for sheep to be efficiently shipped to distant markets. The JO Ranch also represents traditional Spanish sheep management practices that developed in Wyoming rather than the English system employed in the early Atlantic colonies. In Wyoming, large heards of sheep were grazed by individual herders across the public domain rather than in fenced pastures. JO Ranch sheep were driven to the nearby Sierra Madre Mountains in summer, and then wintered at lower elevation in the Great Divide. Herders and their flocks radiated out from the JO Ranch headquarters in all directions, grazing freely on the public domain, until the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 required permits and grazing fees on public lands.

The log, stone, and wood frame buildings and structures reflect vernacular architecture using locally available materials. Considerable craftsmanship is exhibited in the stone architecture of the oldest buildings built in ca. 1890. The ranch headquarters reflect a practical layout for maximum efficiency of use that was specifically adapted to the sheep ranching industry. In addition, the engineered irrigation system used to develop the hay meadows along the creek assured proper water distribution. The hay meadows were key agricultural components that provided additional winter feed and seasonally provided more nutritious forage for horses, sheep, and cattle.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources