Centennial Bootheel 7 Livestock succeeds through four generations
Wyoming is rich with history from ranches as old as or older than the state. Since 2006, Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office has annually honored families that qualify in its Wyoming Centennial Farm and Ranch Award Presentation Ceremony.
“Originally, the program happened in 1990, but it was a one year thing. It restarted in 2006 and has happened every year since, so this is the 11th award ceremony,” said Erica Duvic, Historic Preservation Specialist and Community Preservation Coordinator at the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office. “Usually it’s primarily for farms and ranches that hit 100 years in that year, but some people didn’t hear about it before. We have one from 1898.”
The Wasserburger Family, north of Lusk, and operators of Bootheel 7 Livestock is one of 27 farms and ranches being honored this year.
At the ceremony Aug. 20 in Douglas, each family was presented a plaque and sign by Governor Matthew H. Mead, United State Representative Cynthia Lummis, and United States senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso. They will also be published in a yearbook, which they will receive, and the public may purchase from the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office. Past yearbooks are also posted online at http://wyoshpo.state.wy.us.
Bootheel 7 Livestock is a family-operated ranch that was established in 1916 by Henry Wasserburger. After Henry’s son Henry II operated the ranch for some time, it was handed down to Henry’s grandson J.D. Wasserburger. He and his wife Laurie, along with two of their three sons, Andrew and Eric, currently operate the ranch. Jason is involved with the ranch but does not live on the premises. A grandson, Henry B., son of Andrew and wife Anne, continues his great-grandfather’s name and another grandson is due Sept. 23 to Jason and Hilary.
The family hosted a celebration in Lusk on Saturday evening inviting the town and a Sunday morning family tour and lunch with relatives traveling from as far as Wisconsin.
Growing up near Harrison, Nebraska, Henry, the oldest of fourteen children, left home at the age of 13, working for friends and family. He eventually landed long-term work in Wyoming for his Uncle Christ Ruffing on Old Woman Creek, thirty miles north of Lusk.
“There was just no room down in Harrison,” Henry II, son of Henry and Ann, said in an interview with The Lusk Herald in 1979. “There was no chance of getting anything done down there. We tried to buy land but there wasn’t any.”
The current Wasserburger spread has grown since its original 640 acres Henry was able to acquire by filing a claim at the age of 21. When Henry’s younger brother John turned 21, he was able to claim an additional 640 acres. The brothers continually acquired more land, buying out ranchers in the Buck Creek area.
The ranch has remained in the family through the years despite grasshoppers, droughts, floods, and debt troubles, nearly losing the ranch in 1930 when Harrison State Bank went under and Omaha State Bank purchased its loans for 10 percent of their worth. President Roosevelt’s moratorium on foreclosures and a government loan of $4,000 saved the ranch.
Henry and his wife Ann lost nearly all their sheep in 1945 to a flood. The swollen waters carried approximately 1500 sheep as far as Edgemont, South Dakota, but he still had 500 sheep remaining after the devastation. He bought 200 more sheep the next day and continued on.
Henry also bought a share of a little bank in Edgemont, where the banker loaned money until he went broke. He cleared a little money from the short career in banking and purchased lots in the then oil-town of Edgemont, though the oil-boom died down shortly thereafter.
“I paid taxes and paid taxes, on those lots,” Henry said to The Lusk Herald in 1979. “A fellow from Mule Creek wanted to get into real estate, so I traded the lots for a few hogs and milk cows.”
Henry II took his place on the family ranch in 1950 and married wife Lorraine and raised five children, including J.D.
In 1978, J.D. returned to the ranch and in 1979, Henry II and Lorraine partnered with J.D. to form Bootheel 7 Livestock, named for Henry I’s brand. The ranch has nearly tripled in size since J.D. returned to the ranch and an oilfield operation as been added as well.
Henry was present at the Centennial Celebration over the weekend. Lorraine passed away in 1999 and Henry II married Bonnie Baures in 2000. They currently live in Casper, but Henry B. Wasserburger lives on the ranch as the first of the fifth generation of Wasserburgers to live 25 miles north of Lusk down the dirt road that first began as 640 acres.