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Estill Ranch Cattle Brand

Estill Pioneer Ranch

by Rosemary Sims Pritchard and James Gilbert Sims

Robert H. Estill, his wife Mary Eliza, and her brother James Armand Sims were among the first settlers in southwestern Comanche County.

Mr. Estill, born December 23, 1829, near Petersburg, Illinois, had led an eventful life, having travelled in 1851 to California and other points west. In 1861 he returned to Illinois and lived there until his departure for Kansas in 1878.

Mary Eliza Sims was born January 17, 1845, in Morgan County, Illinois, and married Robert H. Estill on September 8, 1878. They left soon thereafter by train for Kansas and settled on land they homesteaded, living in a cedar log cabin which already had been there for some time. They soon built a house, barn and cattle pens of the cottonwoods growing on their land. They received their patent August 13, 1883. They also acquired land from Mr. Davis T. McIntire.

James A. Sims homesteaded the land on which the cabin stood and received his patent August 8, 1889. (f 9/ 17 / 85, Vol. d,p. 246). He married Jerusha Emmaline Smith of Barber County and four of their five children were born in the log house: Margaret (died in infancy); Robert Estill, February 2, 1888; Claude Edward, March 21, 1890; Ethan Alan, January 1, 1893. The land was sold to Robert H. Estill and James moved with his family to a farm near Florence, Oregon. Their daughter, Lora, was born there February 22, 1895. In 1901 Mr. Sims died of pneumonia. Mrs. Sims continued to make a home on the farm for her family until her death in 1904.

Mrs. Estill, childless and a widow (Mr. Estill died in 1899), went to Oregon and brought the four Sims children to Comanche County where they made their home on the Estill Ranch.

In the spring of 1912, Alice Irene Hinman, born October 30, 1892, of Reno County, Kansas, where she had taught several terms of school, came to Comanche County with her mother and sister, Inez, to help her older brother, Vera, who was working for the M. R. Platt Cattle Company. While there that summer she met Claude Sims and they were married at the home of her parents in Hutchinson, Kansas, April 23, 1913, and returned to the Estill Ranch to make their home. Their son, Eric Alan, was born there on April 5, 1914. In 1916 they moved to their farm 14 miles south and one mile west of Coldwater. Their son Calvert E. was born there November 15, 1916; and daughter Rosemary Ellen, July 27, 1918.

Claude and Alice left the farm in 1929 and moved into Coldwater, and in 1939 purchased and operated the Northside Market until they retired. Claude died October 8, 1971, of complications following surgery. He had lived in Comanche County all his life with the exception of the few years spent in Oregon as a youth. After his death, Alice made her home with her sister, Inez Patterson, in Harper, Kansas, until her death April 20, 1976. She had lived in Comanche County almost 60 years.

Staff Sergeant Eric A. Sims, U.S. Army, Died of Wounds.  Son of Mr. and Mrs. Claude Sims of Coldwater, Comanche County, Kansas.

Eric A. Sims, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Died Of Wounds.

Their son Eric, an outstanding athlete in Coldwater High School, having been graduated in 1933, was killed in action in World War II. December 9, 1944.

Calvert Sims, U.S. Navy. Photo courtesy of Calvert Sims.  Thanks to Bobbi Huck for scanning and sending this photo.

Calvert Sims, U.S. Navy.
View Larger Image.

Calvert was graduated from Coldwater High School in 1934. He served in the U.S. Navy for four years, and enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. He and his wife Pauline have four children: Michael Eric (1944), Marcia Gayle (1946), Marilyn Doris (1947), and Stephen Elliot (1951). Marcia was born while they was living in Comanche County after Calvert's discharge from service and before they moved to their own farm in eastern Kansas. Rosemary was graduated from Coldwater High School in 1935, attended college, then taught two years at Glendale before her marriage to Harold Arthur Huckelbridge May 5, 1939. Harold suffered a fatal heart attack while vacationing in Colorado July 26, 1953. In March 1960, Rosemary moved to Littleton, Colorado, and on December 4, 1960, she married Dr. Robert E. Pritchard. She has two step-children, Cheryl and Robert, Jr.

In 1915 Mabelle Carse (September 15, 1894), of Pleasanton, Kansas, came to Comanche County to teach at Happy Hollow School. Her pupils that year were Johnnie, Anna, Frank, and Willie Nickelson; Lewis Spillman; Matilda and Dorothy Moores; and Gladys and Maurice Baugh. In April 1916 she married Ethan Sims, who was then foreman of the Estill Ranch. They had four children, all born on the Estill Ranch: James Gilbert, March 4, 1917; Glenn Dale, May 1919; Edith Arlene, December 5, 1926; and Robert Keith, July 1928.

After the death of Mrs. Estill on July 5, 1929, Robert and Ethan operated the ranch until 1931 when it was exchanged in a land deal with M.R.Winter. Robert and Ethan and his family then moved to a farm near Lecompton, Kansas, where they lived for some time. Ethan was Kansas State Brand Inspector for many years and travelled all over the state and made many friends. Ethan died in June 1971, only a few weeks after the death of his wife in May 1971. Their son Glenn died in 1973. Glenn had three sons: James, George and Robert. Gilbert and his wife Leora have two sons: James Ray (1958); and Jon Gregory (1960). Arlene Sims Weiand has one daughter, Vicky. Robert Keith and his wife Charlotte have two daughters: Donna Marie and Lori Ann.

Robert E. Sims, a bachelor, made his home with his brother Ethan, but also lived in Comanche County during the late thirties and early forties working for Fred Lenertz. After the death of his brother Ethan, he made his home with his neice Arlene until his death in 1973. Lora married Fred Lenertz on March 8, 1914. They had one son, Lester, who was born May 24, 1917. She died January 26, 1929.

We, the children of Claude and Ethan Sims, spent many happy times at the Estill Ranch, horseback riding (10 miles in any direction), exploring the surrounding hills, swimming in Mule Creek and enjoying the bountiful Sunday dinners. The Estill Ranch was a gathering place for neighbors and it was not unusual for there to be as many as 25-30 on a Sunday to visit with Aunt Lyde and her foster children.

Comanche County History, pages 365-366, Comanche County Historical Society, 1981

Barber County Index, July 19, 1899.

Robert H. Estill

Died: Robert H. Estill departed this life on Wednesday, July 12, 1899, at the advanced age of 71 years.

He was well known throughout Barber and Comanche counties and has been identified with live stock pursuits for many years. His ranch is located in the southeastern part of Comanche county, on Mule Creek, and is recognized as one of the leading stock farms in southwest Kansas.

Mr. Estill suffered a severe attack of grip during the winter but in the spring seemed well again, though his most intimate friends say he never completely recovered. His death was very sudden and the sad news was a great shock. He was confined to his bed less than 24 hours. It is supposed his death was caused from brain affection.

The funeral service was held on Thursday and the remains laid to rest in the Coldwater cemetery.

"Uncle Bobbie," as he was familiarly known, was a pioneer settler. He was an ideal Kansas ruslter and his accumulations, which are said to aggregate $25,000, were made through energy, honesty and sound business judgment. His motives in politics, religion and business always sprung from the deepest convictions and no honest man ever doubted his sincerity.

His life was a useful one; his family have an example in his work which they can safely follow and their hours of grief can be dispelled in a measure by paying tribute to his memory.

The Western Star, July 5, 1929.


Mrs. Mary E. Estill, aged 84 years, 5 months and 11 days, died at 2:15 p.m. on last Friday, June 28, 1929, at her home in Rumsey-tp., this county, about 24 miles southeast of this city. She had been in failing health for several months, her sickness having been caused principally by some form of kidney trouble. She was conscious almost to the last. During her sickness, she was characteristically patient and hopeful, yet perfectly resigned and uncomplaining. She frequently expressed her faith in the teachings and the atonement of Christ, and throughout all her life, she manifested in many ways the essential qualities of the true Christian kindness, love for those about her, faith in humanity and a life devoted to thoughtful and loving ministrations and kindly deeds. While Mrs. Estill was not identified with any church organization, she had lived a life replete with Christ-like deeds and loving service, which could only be inspired by the teachings of the Man of Galilee.

Funeral services were conducted at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 30, form the Methodist church in this city, and were in charge of Rev. B. H. Davis, the Methodist pastor in Wilmore. The church was well filled, people being present from all over the eastern half of the county, most of them old time friends and neighbors of Mrs. Estill. Rev. A. Burrill of Wilmore, who had known the deceased for many years, led in prayer. Rev. Davis then preached a practical sermon, using as his text, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." - II Cor. 4:18. A mixed quartet, composed of Wm. Brumbaugh, J. P. Boshell, Mrs. V. J. Allderdice and Mrs. Virgil R. Smith, sang three selections, "It Is Well with My Soul," "Shall We Gather at the River?" and "Beautiful Garden of Prayer." Many beautiful floral offerings testified to the love and esteem of relatives and friends. Six young men, all of them nephews, acted as pallbearers. They were; Ethan, Claude and Bob Sims, Ralph and Clifford Long and Elmer Wood. Burial was made in Crown Hill cemetery, near this city, by the side of the husband, who died almost thirty years ago.

Mary Eliza Sims was born in Morgan-co., Illinois on January 17, 1845. In September 8, 1878, she was united in marriage with Robert H. Estill. After living in Illinois for a few years, the couple came West with a view of making a permanent home here and of engaging in the raising of livestock. That was in the year 1878. The trip to this state was a slow and tedious one, many difficulties were encountered. But Mr. and Mrs. Estill were not of the kind that give up easily. They pushed on until they came to Mule Creek in this county. There they found just what they wanted in the way of farm and ranch land. A home was started and they stayed with the country, even when many others became discouraged and returned to the state from which they came. They were real pioneers here, and, of course, they knew from their own personal experiences what pioneering in a new country means. They were identified with the material development of Comanche and Barber-cos., and through the years, built up an ideal farm and ranch.

Mrs. Estill and her husband, Robert H. Estill, who died on July 2, 1899, were among the first settlers in this county. Their home on Lower Mule Creek was known far and wide for its hospitality, even before this country began to be actively settled. Mr. Estill acquired a valuable tract of land and gave special attention to raising fine cattle, mostly Durhams, and at that time, the Estills were quite successful. After the death of the husband Mrs. Estill took up the active management of the ranch, and, for over twenty-five years, she was seen almost every day about the ranch looking after the cattle, the fences, the feed supply and other matters. She was a good judge of livestock and took a personal interest in keeping her herd up to a high standard, and her judgment on all matters relating to the raising and marketing of cattle was always good, quite often better than that of many men in this part of the state. Her health remained quite good up to a year or so before her death. Even when she was past 80 years of age, she kept up her ranch activities. As a business woman, she was far above the average, and a home maker, she won a host of friends by her unfailing hospitality and her devotion to her home, her loved ones and her neighbors. Hundreds of people can testify to the warmth of welcome, the splendid hospitality and the genuine friendliness which they always found in the Estill home.

Mrs. Estill had, for many years, been much interested in public affairs, especially in all matters relating to the livestock business. In her mingling with people generally, she was quiet and unassuming. Her greatest delight was in the home circle, and it was there that she had won so many warm friends. She is survived by several nephews and nieces, and a few grand nephews and grand nieces, the nephews and nieces living in or near this county being the Sims brothers - Robert, Claude and Ethan, also Lucy Long of this county, Ella Litz of Lakin, Kans., and Elmer Wood of Sun City. Two grand nephews - Ralph and Clifford Long - live in Barber-co. A number of nephews and nieces and grand nephews and grand nieces live in Illinois, and elsewhere. No nearer relatives than these mentioned survive.

Ethan Sims, one of the nephews, has had active charge of the ranch during the past few years. He and his family have made their home with Mrs. Estill for some time. They will continue to live on the ranch.


The death of Mrs. Mary E. Estill on last Friday marked the end of a long and eventful life. In her youth, her home was in Illinois, not far from Springfield, the capital of the state. She lived there during the 50s and the early 60s, when Abraham Lincoln's home was in Springfield, and Mrs. Estill saw him often. On one occasion, she accompanied an aunt to Mr. Lincoln's office and was introduced to him and chatted with him for some time. She has often related to friends the wonderful impression which Mr. Lincoln made upon her, then a girl of 15 years. His kindliness, his keen interest in her, his sympathetic understanding of people, his face so indicative of sorrows, yet so kind and so expressive, and his voice so expressive of the love and tenderness of the man, made an impression upon her that lasted all through her life. Mrs. Estill said many times that she counted as one of the most cherished privileges of her life that visit with Abraham Lincoln.

(First published in The Western Star of Friday, July 5, 1919)

State of Kansas, Comanche County,
In the matter of the estate of Mary E. Estill,
late of Comanche County, Kansas.


Notice in Hereby Given, That on the 3rd day of July, A. D. , 1929, the undersigned were, by the Probate Court of Comanche County, Kansas, duly appointed and qualified as Executors of the estate of Mary E. Estill late of Comanche County, deceased. All parties interested in said estate will take notice, and govern themselves accordingly. All demands not exhibited within one year shall be forever barred, saving to infants, persons of unsound mind, imprisoned or absent from the United States, one year after the removal of their disabilities.


M. M. Cosby, Probate Judge.

The Wilmore News, April 3, 1931.


The passing into new hands, a couple of weeks ago, of the Estill ranch in this county, recalls many interesting facts and incidents which for over 52 years have been associated with the ranch.

It was during the year, 1878, that Robert H. Estill, whose home at that time was in Illinois, decided to come further west and to engage in the livestock business on a much larger scale than it was possible in Illinois. The plains of southwest Kansas had a lure for him, especially since here was an abundance of good pasture and good water - an ideal cattle country.

Land, then was very cheap. Besides, there was, then considerable free range. Mr. Estill was interested in raising good cattle, and after looking about considerably he decided that this part of Kansas offered unexcelled opportunities and advantages to stockmen. He was, then, about 50 years old. He was ambitious, industrious and preserving. Nothing daunted him as he looked on the wide expanse of prairies in this part of Kansas, in fact, he took to the country at once. It is said that he rode up and down Mule Creek in search of the most suitable site for the location of a ranch, and he found just what he was looking for. He decided to locate on Mule Creek in the southeastern part of this county, 25 miles southeast of the present site of Coldwater.

That was in 1878. He purchased a tract of land, a portion of the south part of the D. T. McIntyre ranch. He thus became one of the first settlers along Mule Creek in this county. There he and Mrs. Estill continued to make their home as long as they lived. Mr. Estill died on July 12, 1899, and Mrs. Estill on June 28, 1929, about 30 years later.

From the very beginning of his ranch activities, Mr. Estill took pride in keeping all of his livestock as nearly purebred as possible. He was a good judge of livestock, and his Shorthorn cattle were known far and wide for their fine quality. The Estill ranch soon became well known throughout all parts of the country. Mr. and Mrs. Estill frequently entertained their friends, and all who ever visited them have attested to their hospitality.

After the death of Mr. Estill, his wife continued to "carry on" at the ranch in a most successful and practical way. She personally supervised the ranch activities. Almost every day, she would make the rounds of the ranch on horseback and thus kept in close touch with every detail of the ranch. In many ways, she was a remarkable woman, and success followed nearly all of her endeavors and her investments. In a business way, she coped very successfully with the most alert and most experienced livestock men in the Southwest. Not until she was past 75 years of age did she cease her round of busy ranch activities.

After Mrs. Estill's death, the property was left to her nearest relatives--mostly nephews and nieces--as there were no children. Two of her nephews, Robert and Ethan Sims, had lived with her and had helped to look after the farming and livestock interest at the ranch for some time prior to Mrs. Estill's death, and they acquired an interest in the ranch at her death.

As stated in The Star, last week, the ranch was traded recently for an 800 acre ranch between Lawrence and Lecompton in Douglas county, this state. The new owner of the ranch in this county is M. R. Winters. It is probable that it will now be known as the Winters ranch. -- The Coldwater (Kansas) Western Star.

Historical note: William Estill of Barber County, Kansas, which adjoins Comanche County, was on the 1883 List of Pensioners on the Roll in that county.

Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news articles to this web site, with the exception of the obituary of Robert H. Estill, contributed by Ellen (Knowles) Bisson and to Bobbi Huck for transcribing the Comanche County History article and providing the scan of the Estill brand registration!

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This page was last updated 28 January 2006.