The 110-year-old Taylor Ranch is situated in the sandhills of McHenry County, the third most populous cattle county in North Dakota. The four Taylor brothers arrived in Towner in 1900 from Montgomery County, Indiana. They operated a livery stable in town, a brick plant east of Towner and the cattle and horse ranch toward the southeast.
In 1927, part of the livery stable was moved to the ranch by teams of horses. That barn is still in use today. Cattle and horses were grazed on Taylor pastures and on unfenced and unclaimed surrounding land.
The Taylors were raising registered Purebred Herefords as early as 1915 and, although a series of tragedies took the lives of the three men on the ranch within two years, their widows regrouped, put the cattle out on shares and moved into town with the children. Pearl, the matriarch, had bought those Herefords with her school teaching pay and in her own name. When Pearl’s youngest son Bud turned 18, he moved back out to re-claim the family’s cattle- and horse-raising legacy.
After serving in the South Pacific during World War II, Bud came back home and began ranching again. The Taylor family helped build the rodeo arena in Towner for the first RCA Rodeo in 1951. And it was the Taylor Ranch that introduced one of the area’s first registered Quarter horse studs in 1956. Ryan Taylor is the fourth generation to own and run cattle on the same place, with a fifth generation in the wings and learning the ropes.
He says, “The ranch isn’t the biggest in the state, comprising 3,200 of mostly contiguous acres of sandy rangeland and native hay meadows, but it’s never been a passive investment for distant shareholders or a holding that came without great hardship and sacrifice. It’s not a farming outfit, as 90 percent of the ranch land has never been broken. It’s a cowboy outfit that’s still managed from the back of a horse.”
Three significant factors about the Taylor Ranch are:
It’s a family homestead that was started from scratch—no railroad acres, open range or land purchases made with outside money.
Strong, resilient ranch women persevered and kept the ranch intact.
There are cattle in that area because there is abundant grass and hay as the land is too poor for farming. Where there are cattle, there are horses to work the cattle. Where there are horses and cattle, there are cowboys and ranchers, genuine ones and good ones.