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Last updated 03/04/2009

Miles Ranch

History of Dawson, Nebraska

(This account of the Miles Ranch was written by Mrs. Elma Heim Griffiths in 1976 for the Dawson Bicentennial.)

The Miles Ranch, part of which lies within Grant township, and Dawson, its nearest town, was the first ranch in the west.  It came about with a grant from the United States Government of several thousand acres of land, and a contract with Stephen B. Miles to transport the mail between Independence, Missouri, and Salt Lake City, Utah, by pony express and a stage line in 1855.  More acres were added from time to time until it was composed of several thousand more acres and became the showplace of southeast Nebraska.  A post office was established in the first crude home.

    The ranch was a city unto itself, employing many men to do the work. Even rope was made there for the needs of caring for the horses that were used by the riders and the stage drivers.  The ranch was a rest and recuperation place for the stock needed to operate these businesses for Mr. Miles.  Homes were built for the hired men and their families.  Food was raised and processed for all these families and the Miles family.

Two Story Bunkhouse and Home

Two of the original silos to hold feed for early cattle operation on Miles Ranch west of Dawson, Nebraska

Sign of Miles Ranch Entrance near Dawson, Nebraska

Wooden Peg Old Bank Barn

    In 1871 Mr. Miles withdrew from the mail contract.  Cattle raising and feeding became the main industry and new records were set in the cattle markets.  A mammoth cattle barn was built, an elevator with a capacity of 10,000 bushels of grain, a sawmill and a blacksmith shop, all for the work needed on the ranch, and a water system supplying the home and out buildings.  Huge silos were built, three of them, in later years, the first seen in this part of the country.  The effort to top the market in Kansas City was usually successful.

    When a new home was needed for the Miles family, lumber was ordered from St. Joseph, Missouri, which was sent up the river to Rulo and hauled to the ranch by teams and wagons,  there being no railroad in Dawson at that time.  The best of everything was bought for woodwork, furniture, rugs and other household details.  Even a piano for the parlor was ordered from St. Louis.  Mr. Miles owned the first top buggy in the country and a team of coal black horses, all bought in St. Louis and shipped by boat to Rulo and brought overland from that port.

    Stephen B. Miles passed away in 1898.  Since then major portions of the Miles Ranch have passed into other hands, however there are still many acres of the original ranch owned by heirs of S. B. Miles and the big house built in that early day is still in use.

  

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