John “Jack” McCrory
Jack enlisted in the Union Army at age 20 and served with the Minnesota Infantry through the end of the war. He was stationed with a regiment to protect settlers in Minnesota and served under General Sibley’s command on the expedition across Dakota Territory as far as Apple Creek south of present-day Bismarck.
McCrory married Mary Parks in 1871and their only child, Thomas, was born in 1874. Jack had homesteaded near Alexandria, but remembered he liked the looks of Missouri River country. In 1877, he moved his family to Fort Yates where he started a dairy ranch. A year later, he relocated across the river to what is now Emmons County and began ranching near Winona.
Ranching was in McCrory’s blood. He established the 100 Ranch at Winona in 1878, the Cattail Creek Sheep Ranch near Dale in 1880 and the Little Missouri Ranch near the confluence of the Missouri and Little Missouri rivers (ca. 1884). He purchased the Horsehead Ranch from his father-in-law, Thomas Parks, in 1890, and he also ranched along the Cannonball River at Cedar Creek. Although much of McCrory’s land is inundated by the Missouri river today, the 1916 atlas shows he owned more than 4,000 acres of land.
The McCrorys persevered through blizzards, falling cattle prices and a prairie fire that nearly destroyed the Little Missouri Ranch and scattered the livestock for miles. He shipped carloads of cattle to Chicago, and he invested in others. McCrory partnered in a retail store in Winona and was a founder of banks at Braddock and Hazelton.
After Mary died, Jack retired from ranching. When he died in 1933 at the Soldier’s Hospital in Hot Springs, S.D., he was the last surviving Civil War veteran in Emmons County.
The legacy Jack and Mary McCrory built in Emmons County lives on. Five subsequent generations of McCrorys have continued to live on and operate the Horsehead Ranch.