Ed and Anor Schrock on the Fleet Ranch

After William Fleet decided to leave Steamboat Rock and move back to New York in 1885, he sold his ranch to a couple brothers who owned a large cattle ranch outside of Almira. They were keen on the ranch William Fleet had set up at the base of Castle Rock due to the Grand Coulee’s unique shape and the effects it had on weather. For instance, in the coulee with the rich volcanic soil crops of alfalfa and hay grew almost twice as fast as above in the highlands. Also, the natural shelter of the coulee walls made the land desirable for cattle raising. It was decided that Ed Schrock would move down into the Grand Coulee while his brother stayed at the ranch by Almira.

Edward F. Schrock was born in Missouri in 1859, and in 1881 he set out in a wagon train for one of the last frontiers of the far west; Walla Walla. At first he was on his horse traveling alongside the line of covered wagons and desert schooners headed west over the Oregon Trail, but it soon an accident happened that changed Ed’s fate. A young boy accidently shot another child to death on the wagon train. The child’s parents were distraught and their adventurous spirit broken; they decided to head back to Missouri. For a very reasonable price they sold their wagon and gear to Ed Schrock who used the wagon to press on into central Washington.

By the mid-1880s Ed was living on his brothers cattle ranch near Almira, 26 and a bachelor. When the Fleet Ranch in the Grand Coulee came up for sale Ed was ready to take the cattle business by the horns. With help from his brother they purchased the old Fleet Ranch and Ed moved in with a large herd of cattle. The ranch sat on the north east side of the upper grand coulee at the base of Castle Rock facing Steamboat Rock. The land stretching out to Steamboat Rock was mostly pasture lands, but there was also room for multiple outbuildings and gardens. Chickens roamed the farm chasing down grass hoppers and bugs, while barn cats lurked closeby hunting rodents. The cattle roamed freely in the pastures, usually accompanied by or checked up on by hired hands. Part of the land was set aside for the production of hay to get the cattle through the winter months. The area was sparsely inhabited and often the only other people Ed would see besides hired hands were people passing by Steamboat Rock on one of the old trails headed somewhere. Ed would often run a herd of horses in with his cattle. Business and selling cattle often took Ed to Spokane and it was there he met and fell in love with Anor Bernard. The two were married in 1897 and Anor left the big city to live with Ed on his ranch at Steamboat Rock. Anor was an educated woman from the city, and one of the few ladies around the coulee before 1900. She took to farm life right away, spending the mornings doing the myriad of chores expected of a housewife on the frontier, as well as raising three children. Anor was an artist and when she had spare time she would paint the coulee walls and landscapes. As time progressed more and more settlers moved into the coulee and soon Ed started looking for new lands to range his cattle. At first he set up a camp by Wilson Creek, close to Wild Bill Condon’s ferry, but eventually pushed up past that onto the Colville Reservation to a place called Duley Lake.

By 1900 Ed Schrock and his men ran most of the cattle up through Barker Canyon on the Okanogan Trail, then down Foster Coulee and across the Columbia River on Wild Goose Bill Condon’s ferry. Usually the herds numbered anywhere from one hundred to one thousand in head, they were either boarded on the makeshift cable ferry or swam across, depending on the current and time of year. Once the drovers had a huge head of almost 1000 cattle to cross and it was taking a long time with the small ferry loads. The drovers figured it would take too long so the decision was made to load what they could and drive the rest into the mighty Columbia River. Unfortunately, the river was flowing pretty fierce with spring run-off, and the cattle soon became confused swimming every which way in the swirling green currents. Many were washed downstream, others fought the current and ended upstream. Cattle were on both sides of the river, and neither side wanted to go back in. One thing all the cattle had in common was a curious, dazed look. While some of the drovers were rounding up the cattle on the Okanogan side, a few others took the ferry back to gather the remaining cattle. All in all it was much more stressful than if they had just camped for the night and moved the cattle across the river slowly, and was all blamed on impatience and bad judgement.

Ed Schrock would move his cattle up to a camp by Duley Lake in the spring, and then return with the calves born in the fall to his ranch at Steamboat Rock for winter. Ed hired people and would ride back and forth sometimes spending extended stays at one or the other ranches, depending on what needed done. He had huge corrals made from pine trees at the Duley Lake Camp. These corrals were also used by local Chief Coxit George Katar. He used the corrals for holding wild horses caught by his men on the reservation. Chief Katar was also in the cattle business, although not to the same degree as Ed Schrock. The herds of cattle often intermingled and when it was time to ride the range and collect the cattle back the Chief sent his men to sort out the tribes cattle from Ed Schrocks. Ed and Chief Katar always worked together harmoniously and there was never any dispute over cattle or horses.

In 1906 Ed Schrock rode out to Ephrata with some of his best men and took place in what would later become known as the “Last Big Round Up.” The goal was to round up the last of the wild horses that roamed from Wilson Creek on up through Moses Lake and down into the Saddle Mountains. The horses would be circled, driven down to Ephrata and loaded on trains bound for ‘back east’. The cattlemen came from all over the country, and met in Ephrata the night before where many bottles were emptied, so many drinks were consumed and good time had by all that the whole event had to start a day late.

In 1917 the United States entered the Great War, a conflict that had started in 1914 with an assassination in Sarajevo. When America entered the war it had already been waging on for years, and both sides were feeling the effects on both their economy and moral. The backing of a fresh country, the United States, turned the tides of war and in 1918 the war ended. During the Great War the United States subsidized farms to produce higher crop yields to be used overseas to bolster America’s new allies. It just so happened that at the same time farm mechanization had started with the mass production of gas driven engines. They were used on tractors, combines, conveyor belts belts, all sorts of farm implements making it easier to expand and harvest crops. By some estimations overall crop production was up 300% during during world war one, all subsidized by the government. A lot of farmers went into debt purchasing new farm equipment expecting to be able to pay it off with large government subsidized crops, others purchased land. When the Great War ended in 1918 the government subsidizes ended leaving farmers with large bumper crops and insurmountable debt. Many lost their farms and ranches to this early depression. Ed Schrock also felt the impact of this depression as his crops became practically worthless. The decision was made to sell the Plus Bar Ranch at Steamboat Rock he had lived on since 1885, more than 20 years, and move into Okanogan County, where he had spent so much time and had many great friends. Ed’s wife Arnor Bernard Schrock soon took up teaching at the Duley Lake School. The property at Steamboat was sold to a couple of enterprising young men from back east and renamed the Steamboat Rock Stock Company, and the ranch became known as the Fleet/Schrock Ranch, at the base of Castle Rock where highway SR155 now runs.

Pinnacle Rock near Almira

Pinnacle Rock and SR155

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑