FRANCIS S. KING.
The name of Francis S. King is synonymous with the development and improvement of the sheep industry in America. There is no resident of Wyoming who has done as much to improve the grade of sheep raised and the methods followed as he. His work, therefore, has been of untold value as a factor in promoting the material prosperity and upbuilding of the state, and the story of his life is a most interesting one. He was born on the Isle of Man in 1867, a son of the Rev. William and Elizabeth (Stocker) King, the former an eminent minister of the Methodist church and the founder of the Jersey Ladies' College on the island of Jersey. He died in Kent in 1882. leaving a widow and ten children, eight sons and two daughters, all of whom yet survive and who are mentioned in connection with the sketch of Joseph Hall King on another page of this work.
Francis S. King, the eldest of the brothers, came to America in 1884. when a youth of seventeen years. He had previously attended school at Victoria College on the island of Jersey. On reaching American shores he went to Nemaha county, Nebraska, where lived his uncle, and later he started for Wyoming, arriving in Laramie in 1884. He was employed for a time in connection with the sheep business and soon purchased a half interest, thus entering into partnership with Paul Pascoe. The next November he took a band of over three thousand wethers to Nebraska for wintering. At Hillside, Wyoming, they were caught in a four days' blizzard and two of his assistants were frozen to death. The sheep, however, escaped, and Mr. King and his other assistants continued on to Nebraska. From that point he has made steady progress in the sheep industry and there is no man who has done more for its development in Wyoming and in fact in the entire country. The following spring he purchased a large flock of sheep on credit. These he herded himself. The price of mutton was at that time very low–less than anything else produced, so Mr. King would rise before day and take his mutton to town by daylight. His business methods resulted in forcing the butchers to pay a fair price. The first sheep which he raised were Merinos. His brother. Herbert J. King, usually known as Bert, joined him when a youth of seventeen years, F. S. King persuading his brother to come to the new world, and a few years later they were joined by another brother, Joseph H. King, who had at that time just completed college. F. S. and J. H. King cut logs and with the help of F. A. Blake, father of Judge Blake, built the old King homestead, the brother mixing the plaster, while Mr. King of this review put it on. Through this period in his life Mr. King felt the beneficial influence and assistance of Mrs. Blake, who was a fine specimen of womanhood and did more for the young men of the country than almost anyone else. She lived to be more than ninety years of age. She took the place of a mother to Mr. King and in fact devoted practically all of her time to aiding others. She was the head of the church movement in her locality and of the Woman's Relief Corps, and she was everywhere known throughout the district as Mother Blake, which was a term of endearment, indicating the filial affection felt for her by the young men whom she had mothered. The first land which F. S. King took up was east of the range, and to his original holdings he added from time to time until he secured one hundred and twenty thousand acres by deed and lease, this not including the government range. The brothers in their early business relations maintained their interests as a copartnership with equal shares. Later the business was reorganized under the name of King Brothers Company. They were continually studying new methods to improve their flocks, and F. S. King went to California for ewes, shipping a number of ewes to Wyoming. They had always the best stock, using thoroughbreds only for the upbuilding of their flocks. They left no stone unturned which would promote their knowledge and advance the interests of the sheep industry, and F. S. King frequently attended conventions in order to gather information concerning his chosen life work. He visited the principal flocks of the United States every year, usually purchasing a few of the best sheep of each flock visited and thus building up a herd of great merit and individual superiority.
Having determined to gradually work into nothing but registered sheep, the herd was started by purchasing a son of the Champion Merino ewe and ram of the Chicago World's Fair, and numerous other noted rams and ewes. With these as a foundation, and by careful selection each year from the best flocks in America, a stud flock of noted sheep was gathered together, and soon this flock was taking most of the prizes at all of the prominent state fairs. By careful mating and selection, the size of carcass as well as fleece was increased. Realizing that the Rambouillet family was the coming sheep for the west, Mr. Kinsr turned his attention to the exclusive breeding of this family of Merinos, and in a few years it was generally conceded that his flock was the leading Rambouillet stud in America. The development of the Rambouillet by Mr. King had been so extensive that it created much comment, and its result in the upbuildins of the western flocks was so apparent that the department of agriculture of the United States, through the help of Senator Warren of Wyoming, obtained the passage of a law appropriating a sum of money to carry on experiments in conjunction with the University of Wyoming on the King ranch to develop the Rambouillet for the benefit of the western sheepmen. Mr. King was selected by the department to travel in company with a department man and select the ewes and rams to be used for the experiment, and for many years Mr. King selected the sheep that were bought by this government. After two years of work in conjunction with the University of Wyoming, the department of agriculture decided to carry on the work by itself with the cooperation of King Brothers. The department was given the use of the barns, feeding sheds, as well as lambing pens, of this ranch and Mr. King devoted much time to help the department in this work. At this time, it having become evident to thinking sheepmen that a half-blood type of sheep was necessary to obtain the best results from much of the western range, Mr. King undertook the task of crossing the several types of English long-wooled sheep on pure-bred Rambouillets, and checking up the results. It was soon found that a cross of either the Leister or Lincoln on the Rambouillet would produce more per head than any other cross, also they were hardy and most suited for the range. The department of agriculture became interested in this work of Mr. King and began a like experiment, and in a few years came to the same conclusion.
This matter having become a prominent part of discussion at the sheep conventions throughout the western country, and as it was known that in New Zealand a similar experiment had been conducted by noted breeders there many years previous, with like results, and as in New Zealand there had been bred up through fifty years' hard work a breed of sheep founded on this cross, measures were taken to pass a bill through congress to send over a commission to look into the capabilities of this breed and if found of value to import some for the use of the department of agriculture in its experiment work on the King ranch. Mr. King was selected by the National Wool Growers Association to represent the sheepmen of the country on this commission, and on it being decided that the bill was faulty as passed by congress, Mr. King, on the request of the national association and the government, paid his own expenses and donated his time for this trip. Having been furnished with letters of introduction from the government and the different sheep associations of the country, Mr. King, in company with Mr. Marshall, head of the sheep and goat investigation department of the United States, sailed to New Zealand and Australia, and were made the guests of the governments over there. Six months was devoted to the study of the Corriedale, as the new breed was named, also to the visiting of the several Alerino studs over there, as well as close investigation into the manner of putting up wool under the Australian system, and its adaptability to this country.
About one hundred Corriedales were purchased for the department of agriculture and Mr. King was so deeply impressed with the value of the Corriedale that when in New Zealand he made arrangements to import several hundred for himself.
Upon his return he took up this question with his brothers, and upon their deciding that they would not care to enter upon this line of breeding but would devote themselves to the Rambouillet, Mr. King decided to sell his interest to his brothers and devote his time to breeding Corriedales for the benefit of the western range men, and also to importing some Wanganella Merinos to cross on the Rambouillet. Whilst visiting the principal studs of Rambouillets in Australia and viewing sheep valued in some cases at ten thousand dollars a head, Mr. King decided that they could be crossed with advantage on the American Rambouillet, which is larger but does not have the length of staple or quality of fleece of the Australian Rambouillet. Mr. King has on the way a son of Perfection, a ten thousand dollar ram, as well as a flock of ewes from the same stud. These sheep are valued at from five hundred to five thousand per head. If the experiment is as successful as Mr. King believes it will be, he will donate many of them to the Rambouillet Association, of which he is president.
In founding his Corriedale flock, Mr. King obtained only the best; and the first sheep imported by him took the championship for both ram and ewe at the San Francisco exposition. The stud rams were the best rams of the grand champions of New Zealand, and the ewes the best obtainable.
There are now some three hundred registered Corriedales on the ranch that have been imported, as well as many that have been raised on the ranch from these imported sheep. Mr. King also has brought over the first South Devons that have been exported from England, and is building up a very fine, pure-bred stud of these sheep and also a cross on the Rambouillet that will make its effect on the western flocks. They are very large, early maturing sheep, with a long staple fleece of light shrink, with a good saw-tooth crimp. The ranch selected by Mr. King for this work is located close to Cheyenne, consists of about ten thousand acres of deeded land, whilst feed lots have been obtained around Monte Vista in Colorado and Wheatland, Wyoming, for wintering the lambs, and suitable summer range has been rented close to the home ranch, as well as pasture on the national forests. The home ranch has been equipped with modern sheds, all facing south, fronted with glass and divided into suitable pens for lambing and breeding. New bunk houses have been built, and water has been laid through the buildings, every pen having its own hydrant as well as feed troughs and hay racks. Electric light is used throughout and every modern invention has been utilized. The house is a modern, up-to-date bungalow with every convenience that can be obtained in a town house, it as well as the garage being heated by vapor, and electric light, cooking and other uses being installed.
For shelter from storm and sun, over five thousand trees have been planted on this ranch since Mr. King parted with his brothers in 1915, and every effort has been made to make the ranch both valuable as a breeding farm as well as attractive as a home. There are three stations of the Union Pacific on the land, whilst the Colorado & Southern has a station only three miles from the north-west corner, and as the ranch reaches within three miles of Cheyenne, the risk of loss is reduced to a minimum, and its accessibility for inspection of the stock is ideal.
Wyoming produces over eight pounds of wool per sheep, more than any other state in the Union, and much of this is no doubt owing to the work of the King Brothers. Francis S. King is the principal owner of the business conducted under the name of the Wyoming Corriedale Sheep Company, being the president, with Wallace C. Bond of Cheyenne as secretary. If one may judge of the future by the past and by the wonderful development of his flocks up to date, it will not be unreasonable to prophesy that this sheep ranch will become the greatest in the United States.
Mr. King has seven children, having been twice married. His eldest son, Francis W., when war was declared, joined the Oregon Coast Artillery and won a medal for shooting. He became a member of the Fifteenth Company of Wyoming Troops and was made sergeant at Fort Stevens, Oregon. Arthur is the second son of the family and is with his father in business. When he was twelve years of age, at Ogden, Utah, his father gave him the best ram, ewe and ram that he raised and sheared, and at the National Wool Growers' Association he won first prize against his father, having picked out the ewe himself. The other children are still in school. For his second wife Mr. King chose Mrs. M. E. Fisher, of Cheyenne, who had two sons and a daughter by a previous marriage. The latter, Dorothy, is with her mother and is a high school student.
While the name of King has undisputed possession of the field as the synonym for the most progressive sheep raising in the country, Francis S. King is also known in other connections outside of business. He has done much to further the interests of the state. He was for twelve years a member of the general assembly of Wyoming as the representative of Albany county and was chairman of the public buildings committee and also chairman of the ways and means committee. He is one of the distinguished Masons of Wyoming and was at one time grand master of the state. He has also taken the degrees of the chapter, the commandery and the Mystic Shrine and the honorary thirty-third degree has been conferred upon him. He is likewise connected with the Knights of Pythias, while Mrs. King has represented the state of Wyoming in the supreme lodge of the Pythian Sisters and is also a member of the Eastern Star. He is widely known all over the world among sheep growers and has probably done more for the sheep industry of Wyoming than any other man, but there are other qualities which have made for his personal popularity. He is widely known and has the sterling traits which in every land and clime awaken confidence and regard, and as a legislator he has left the impress of his individuality upon the history of the commonwealth.