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The State Historic Preservation Office is Seeking Nominations

Friday, April 26, 2013
The State Historic Preservation Office is seeking nominations for the upcoming Wyoming Centennial Farm and Ranch Awards. These annual awards honor families that have owned and operated the same farm or ranch in Wyoming for 100 years or more – many because of the 1862 Homestead Act and its successor laws.

Third generation ranchers, Chester and Evelyn Hejde were one of 18 recipients of the Centennial Farm and Ranch Awards in 2012.

“It meant a lot to us to receive the Centennial Farm and Ranch Award,” Hejde said. “This country is changing and too many families are moving out. I’m very proud to have this Centennial sign on my property that says we’ve been here this long!”

The original Hejde Ranch holdings near Aladdin, Wyoming in Crook County were acquired under the auspices of the Land Act of 1820 and the Homestead Act of 1862. Hejde explained that his great-grandfather Janes Hejde and his brother came to the United States from Sweden in bondage of John Pearson.

“They worked out the term of bondage at the Pearson Sawmill west of Aladdin after which time Janes filed for three separate parcels of land on Hay Creek between 1891 and 1902,” Hejde said.

Historically, when General George Custer explored the Black Hills in 1874, he established camp in July of that year on an area that is part of the present-day Hejde ranch. William Illingsworth, a photographer with Custer’s expedition, took photos of the surroundings from a place on the ranch known locally as “Red Hill.” Today, the ranch is leased out but as always, though, produces beef cattle, hay and small grains.

Nancy Weidel of the State Historic Preservation Office and the Centennial Farm and Ranch Awards coordinator, agrees that many of the ranch and farm lands are disappearing across the country at an alarming rate.

“Those Wyoming farmers and ranchers, who have withstood the test of time deserve to be recognized,” she said. “This award honors their endurance. To be able stay and work the land for a hundred years is really amazing considering drought and manmade and natural disasters.”

Weidel added that the Centennial Farm and Ranches are not just history but they remain vital today and highlight the importance of agriculture to Wyoming.

The Homestead Act of 1862 has been called one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the United States. Signed into law in 1862 by Abraham Lincoln after the secession of southern states, this act turned over vast amounts of the public domain to private citizens.

Under the act, homesteaders claimed and settled over 270 million acres, or 10 percent of the area of the United States. Interestingly, 93,000,000 people alive today (or rather in 2007 when the stats were compiled) are descendants of homesteaders.

The Centennial Farm and Ranch awards are presented during the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas and are attended by the Governor and the States’ Congressional delegation. To nominate yourself or someone else, log onto or call Nancy Weidel at 307-777-3418.

Message added by SPCR at: 9:39:48 AM

100 Years Centennial Centennial Farm and Ranch SHPO

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