Letters to Arnon from Ben Myers
These letters were written to Arnon Laney from his brother-in-law, Ben Myers, who had
married Arnon’s sister Clara. Ben and Clara were living in Bozeman, Montana. The
letters are dated in the spring of 1883 and address the issue of Arnon’s possible move to
Montana to begin sheep ranching. Arnon was single and 22 years old at the time.
March 6, 1883
Bozeman, March 3, 1883
Mr. Arnon Laney
I fear you think I have forgotten your letter. I have been waiting for Alfred to return from
Helena as we have been talking of growing into sheep but he is still over there and I am
expecting him this week and will write you again as soon as I have a talk with him. Stock is
so high I think we will not handle anything outside our herd and it might be we will sell our
outfit this season but think not.
As for selling the advantages of this country over Kansas I am not able to but this is a good
stock country and sheep men claim it is a good sheep country but a man that starts in the
sheep business here must make up his mind to endure considerable rough weather as
when the storms are here right then is the time for a man to look for his herd and a man
starting in the business should get a location and put up hay sufficient to feed through the
worst storms but there are lots of men in this country that never feed at all.
I am going to make a proposition to you but I want to see Alfred before close this bargain
as I will want to use our firm name to get some of the money. As Alfred Myers we are
herders in business and it will be necessary for me to get his consent to use the firm and
now for the proposition. If you will come to this country and locate a ranch some place
where you can raise hay or where it suits you but I want you to get a ranch and if you will
stay with the ranch and sheep for five years I will go in with you and help you get (1,000)
one thousand ewes to start with. Now as for the profits of the concern I do not know what to
say as I do not know how much money you will have to put into the operation but I think the
ranch and horses wagon camp outfit, mower, hay rake, cabin and such things as we will
have to pay out money for sheep in [?] will cost from five to six say five thousand dollars.
Of course I am counting on going out some place and building a cabin. I think the sheep
will cost from $2.50 to 3.00 per head after they are sheared and possible without lambs but
either way there is enough left to fit out with but I am not well posted in regard to sheep as
there are no sheep men living here and I have been depending on Alfred Myers to get
posted while at Helena. And we are thinking of going into sheep this spring if things are
favorable when he comes here this week. And I do not want to make any positive
arrangements until I see him as I told him when he was here this winter to grow a herd and
make any arrangement he wanted to and I would stand in with him. So I will write to you as
soon as he gets here and I can have a talk with him. And I want you to write to me right
away and let me have your views about the matter, amount of money you can raise for a
venture of this kind. And if you decide to come out here I think I can arrange for a pass from
St. Paul to Bozeman so let me hear from you at the earliest time.
Clara and baby are both well. Baby is growing nicely. Mrs Heren was in visiting us for one
month. I took her home last week.
[Ben and Clara had four children–Ruby, May, Hazel and a son Benny. Based on
the pronoun “he” in the next letter, Ben is referring to baby Benny. Could Mrs.
Heren be Judge Heren’s wife Sallie, John W. Laney’s future mother-in-law?]
Give our love to all. Clara has received one letter in the last six weeks and it [is] to hard on
March 17, 1883
Bozeman, March 12, ‘83
Mr. Arnon Laney
I wrote you a few days since in regard to going into sheep with you but left it open till I saw
my brother Alfred. As he has come back and done no trading I will go in with you and start
a sheep ranch. If you will come to this country and take a ranch where you can cut or pay
hay for sufficient to feed sheep through storms that come sometimes in winter you. You
wanted to know the advantages of this country over Kansas. Well I can’t tell you them but
sheep men are well pleased with Montana and every man that has tended to his business
has made money. If you decide to come I think you had better come out the last of April or
the first of May. Alfred Myers will be in your country next month. I would like for you to see
him as he can give you information in regard to our country and the sheep business.
As to my advising you to come out here I am not going to do it but if you think you can
come and stand the work and hardships of camp I would like for you to come and go in
business and would be glad to have you visit us at any time. I came to this country on my
own accord and had no one to blame. And I am careful about encouraging anyone to come
to this country.
I think Alfred can get you a pass over the N.P.R.R. [Northern Pacific Rail Road] from St.
Paul to Bozeman if you see him. I will tell him to see you if he stays at Fathers while down.
Let me hear from you soon. I will go out to the ranch in a few days and be gone for a week.
Clara and baby are well. Baby is growing nicely and I think very bright for his age. Clara
thinks he is Chief.
Give my respects to all the family.
March 23, 1883
Bozeman, March 21, ‘83
Mr. Arnon Laney
I received yours of March 14th. I wrote you a letter a few days after that telling you I would
go in with you and start a sheep ranch. My notion has been to start in a small way and grow
up with the business and I have thought if we could arrange so as to be equal partners in
the business as equal in the gains of the concern, the sheep paying all expense. The month
I put in at the present time I will have to pay interest on as I have no money out of our
company but I have the right to use the company name to raise money and my intention
was to borrow money enough with the money you would have to buy a hous[?] and sheep.
As I thought that money do it to start with and if we were successful that we could and to the
business or if we saw a chance to buy a herd that we thought we could make some money
and of we would buy them if we had to borrow money.
You see I talked considerable about borrowing money the fact we have always used more
or less borrowed money until this present time. We have money ahead but that is loaned
and so we have no ready cash on hand but I can get all the money we want to use any day I
want it, but we will have money of our own this fall that we will not want to invest in cattle
again but I want you to think well of the matter as this is a different country from any you
have been in. And it is too far to come to see how you like the country. You must come to
stay and make the best of it. I wrote to you to see Alfred Myers when he is down home next
month. As for contract I will say this, all I want is just what is fair if you prefer when you come
out and look the country over I will endorse for you and you can go on your own book and
keep the interest paid on the money till you are ready to pay the principal. But I want you to
know that I cannot spend any of my time with the herd as I have more work than I can attend
to at present. I am going to the ranch this morning.
I have written this in last but hope you will be satisfied that it will not be hard for us to agree
as to the terms to come. And if you do not want to be partners in the business let me hear
from you soon. It is not necessary for you to be in a great hurry if you decide to come to this
country the last of April or first of May but use your own pleasure as to that.
Give my regard to all.
Your Brother Ben Myers
August 5, 1883
Livingston, August 4, ‘83
Mr. Arnon Laney
Miles City, M.T.
I received your letter, Was glad to hear you was down there and by this time or by the time
you receive this you will have determined what you will do. I met Mr. Holt from down there
and he said there was plenty of hay all over that country. I do not understand from your letter
how much Mr. Russel wants for his rams. I will try to come down when you receive sheep
but use your own judgment and do not let those people bull dog you into anything. You will
find they all can tell you what you had better do but then they all expect to get pay for all they
tell you. Take a look up Powder River. Russel will try to keep you down Powder River but
you look around and go where you want to. I received a letter from Clara were well at
From your brother,
[The History of Montana 1739-1885 edited by Michael A. Leeson records that
Perkins Russell was a stock-grower in Miles City, Montana. “In 1879 he
purchased a ranch near Bozeman, and in July 1881 he moved to Miles City
where he built the first house with a stone foundation. In December, 1883, Mr.
Russell erected the first skating rink. In connection with his son Milton M., he now
carries on an extensive sheep business” p. 1048]
Sept. 2, 1883
Livingston, Sept 1, ‘83
Mr. Arnon Laney
Miles City, Mont.
I received your letter a few days since. Am glad to hear you are getting along with your
haying so well. You will have to look out for yourself for if you defend anyone else you will be
left. I am afraid I can’t be there when the sheep are counted but you might make them
believe that I am coming and I will come if I can get off. I met Mr. Russel on his way to the
park and he talked as though the sheep would not be counted until he got back from the
park. I told him I thought I would go down [and] be on hand when the time agreed on comes
around. And be made aware they are going to try to make you take your full complement of
lambs. That’s alright. All I want is a fair deal all the way through and you must look out for it
if I am not there. Be sure all the sheep is rounded up when you cut out and that all the
mothers are all out according to agreement. And be sure your lambs do not run back to
Russels herd. You had better mark your sheep and be sure to mark your lambs as you will
have lambs with mothers in Russel’s herd and Russel will have lambs with mothers in your
herd. You had better have someone with you when you count that you can trust to look on. I
believe Mr. Russel will do the fair thing but I think it will hurt no one to be careful. Mr. Russel
took pains to tell me about the machine he makes out as if it was purely an
accommodation to you and that it was too heavy for your team and I left him thinking that
was all right.
Well Arne, I will come down if I can but I expect I will be so busy that I can’t come. Do what
is right and do the best you can and it will be all right. If there is anything very important let
me hear from you and I will come if I can get away.
Your Brother, Ben Myers
They are all well at home. B.M.
Sept. 10, 1883
Livingstone, Sept. 10, ‘87
Mr. Arnon Laney
I am pretty sure that I cannot come down to Miles on the 15th of this month. You must do the
best you can. See that all the sheep are [ink blot] and that none of yours do not get back in
the herd after they have been counted to you. All I can say is do the best you can. Leave
word at Ringers Stable where you will be camped and if I can come I will get out to your
camp but do the best you can and all will be well.
[The History of Montana (1739-1885) by Michael A. Leeson records that D. W.
Ringer and his partner Johnson built his present stables in June of 1881 and has
one of the best equipped livery outfits in the valley of the Yellowstone, p. 1047]
On the back of this envelop Arnon has a list of things he apparently purchased for
his sheep camp.
Gal. syrup 1.00
Corn meal .25
Canned fruit 1.00
coolars? 4.00 [perhaps horse collars]
Black smith 2.95