Fielding Garr Ranch
Fielding Garr arrived in Utah from Illinois in October of 1847. In 1848, Garr was assigned by the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a ranch on Antelope Island. Garr was asked to remain and take care of the church stock and the personal herds of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimbell. Garr, a widower, brought his seven children with and built a five-room adobe house, a rock milk house with a natural spring running through it, and a corral.
In 1855, Garr fell off of his horse and passed away. Briant Stringhan then became the ranch foreman. Stringham and his sons managed the ranch until his death in 1871. He had four wives and twenty-seven children. His last wife was Nancy Garr Badger, Fielding’s daughter. Stringham transported the stock to and from the island on a large flat-bottom boat. He grew grain and alfalfa, cultivated a large garden, and planted an orchard. During his time as foreman, the church-owned livestock company invested in valuable stallions and broodmares which were turned loose to run and breed on the island. The band of horses sometimes numbered over one thousand. During these years, the Stringhams maintained residence in Salt Lake City, yet spent considerable time at their Island home. In July of 1871, Briant Stringham was caught in a storm on the lake and was soaked and exposed to the chilling wind. He became ill, developed congestion of the lungs, and died the next month. He had worked on the island for nearly sixteen years.
The Ranch remained under control of the LDS Church until 1870, when John Dooly Sr. purchased the entire island for one million dollars. Dooly lived on the ranch and set up the Island Improvement Company to provide cattle and sheep for ranching. Under Dooly's management, twelve bison were also introduced to the island.
The ranching operation continued uninterrupted through several owners. Just after the turn of the century, the focus of the ranch turned to sheep. Under the direction of John Dooly Jr., the sheep operation expanded to more than 10,000 sheep to become one of the largest and most industrialized ranching efforts in the western United States. When sheep ranching became unprofitable in the 1950s due to a failing wool market, the operation turned again to cattle.
During the 1920s, ranch hands built stables, a sheep-shearing barn, a grain silo, a corral, a pump house, and a reservoir. In the 1950s, another round of extensive remodeling occurred on the Garr house. A concrete block addition was added to the north end, one of the two principal windows on the original facade was enlarged by about one-and-a-half feet, and one of the two original doors was closed in.
The Anshutz Corporation purchased the ranch in 1972, raising livestock there until the state of Utah bought the land for a state park in 1981. High lake levels during the 1980s made the ranch inaccessible. The ranch first opened to the public in 1993 on a limited basis. In 1997, the Utah State Legislature appropriated $3.6 million to pave the eleven-mile dirt road that leads from the island's north-end recreation hub to the Garr Ranch site. The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation undertook a comprehensive project involving many partners to preserve and restore the ranch for visitors.
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