By age 17, John Leakey had left home and was on the trail driving cattle from New Mexico to the Yellowstone River of Montana. He arrived in North Dakota in October 1893 to work on the Towers Gudgel Ranch. He was involved with the last big North Dakota roundup–of about 30,000 head–in 1894.
Born in Texas in 1873, John worked for the OX. The next year, he went to work for Pierre Wibaux’s W Bar and stayed for four years. By 1904, he bought the old John Cornell place six miles east of the Trotter’s post office and his first bunch of cattle.
John was a tall rangy man who stood six feet six. He became acquainted with many of the hands who rode the North Dakota-Montana ranges around the turn of the century.
In 1910, John married Margaret Trotter, widow of his ranching friend, Lee Trotter. Margaret brought four children to the marriage. They sold both of their ranches and moved to his McKenzie County homestead with 1,000 head of cattle. The Leakey ranch grew to 44,000 acres and about 5,000 head of cattle by 1916, the result of hard work and good management.
The tough years came and during the 1930s he lost most of it. The next six years were spent taking care of about 600 head of J.C. Kenney’s cattle and steers from John Shaw. By the late 1930s, he was buying cattle again.
By the mid-1940s, John’s wife was not well and he sold the ranch, packed up his family and headed for Texas to reconcile with his family there.
In 1929, John helped found and became the first president of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, serving for 10 years. He was later president of the Western North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and was selected to the North Dakota State University Hall of Fame, Fargo.
In addition to ranching, he is noted for his book, Grandad and I, about the early history of his native Texas where his grandfather homesteaded and memories of his adopted land, North Dakota. John died in January 1959 at the age of 86.