By: Eric Bedke
"Throughout the generations, we have taken pride in our heritage. Ranching is more than what we do, it is who we are."
It all started with my great grandfather, Frank Carl Herman Bedke. He was born in 1844 in Stettin, Prussia, along the Polish border, now part of today’s Germany. The Bedke Family were millers. They owned and operated a grist mill and ground grain into flour. Story has it that Great Grandpa (whom I will refer to as Granddad) and the family had some kind of disagreement. Not much is known about this, as he passed down none of the details to his children. This we know, he left home when he was 16 years old, lied about his age, joined the German Navy and boarded a ship bound for America. When the ship approached New York harbor, Granddad and a few others, jumped ship and swam to shore. To avoid being caught he pretended to be mute, since his German tongue would have given him away. Though we don’t know all of his activities before he came west, it is assumed he worked as a merchant marine sailing up and down the East Coast. He saved money and bought passage on a ship that left from the Boston Harbor for San Francisco, sailing around Cape Horn. This must have been a rough voyage, as his sons remembered their father telling of the severe storms around Cape Horn. This would have been close to the end of the Civil War in 1864–65. The gold rush of 1849 kicked off the boom of San Francisco and the city that was being built. Granddad figured he would be able to make his living in the forested areas as a logger, for much new lumber was in high demand. It turned out he didn’t love the timber business, and decided to try his hand at mining. He followed different silver mine strikes around the northwest, though he had decided he wasn’t all that fond of mining either.
He started building a cowherd, beef cattle as well as some dairy cattle, and started making his living selling milk and some beef to the miners. He was near the Bozeman Montana silver mines when the Park City Utah silver strike hit. He decided to trail his cattle from the Bozeman area down through Idaho on his way to Utah. As he passed through a large basin in Idaho, east of present day Oakley, Idaho, it caught his eye. He thought it looked like good country for cattle, and that it would make a fine place for a ranch. He made mental note of the basin and continued on his way to the Park City Utah strike, approximately 1870.
The story passed down through the generations is that he met a Mormon girl by the name of Polly McIntosh, in Utah. She was younger than he, and her father made it clear that he wasn’t interested in his interest in his daughter, and ran him off. Discouraged, granddad made up his mind that he was going back to that basin in Idaho that looked like a good spot for a cattle ranch. In 1878, he gathered his herd, branded a “FB” on the left hip, and made his way back and settled here. In an interesting turn of events, the Mormon people were sent in different directions from Salt Lake City to areas in the west to settle. In 1882, the Mormons in the Grantsville/Tooele Utah area were sent to Idaho to settle the Goose Creek valley. The Solomon Parks McIntosh family, including Polly, was sent here and they homesteaded in an area about a mile and a half from where Granddad had homesteaded. An old romance was rekindled, and she told her father that she was going to marry Frank Bedke, whether he liked it or not, and we are still here today punching cows because of her fortitude.
Their son, my grandfather, S. Ray Bedke (who I will refer to as Grandpa), born 1884, expanded his own cattle business interests. He acquired further grazing lands and hay ground in the Oakley area and further up Goose Creek. The Jews Harp Ranch, just north of the Utah/Idaho border, and the Winecup Ranch, in the north east corner of Elko county Nevada (three state corners), were among his acquisitions. He branded his cattle with a “hat” and continued the family business.
My older brother Scott (1958) and I (1960), brought our wives back to the ranch, Scott in 1982, and I in 1984. We have raised our families here, and like our parents and grandparents and great grandparents before us, have enjoyed all that ranch life has had to offer. It has been a great way to raise a family. Scott’s son Mitchel, and my son, Ryan, and their wives and families, are here now continuing on the family business and tradition of ranching with us.
Throughout the generations, we have taken pride in our heritage. Ranching is more than what we do, it is who we are. Each generation has strived to improve on what the generation before has been able to accomplish with the ranch. Times have demanded that we make alterations to the way we have worked our operation. This spring marks 144 years that the Bedke family has been here in the cattle business. We hope to be able to build on the foundation of hard work and attention to detail, that has been laid for generations before us, and to be able to continue to do that for generations still to come.