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Dean of the range: George Edward Lemmon, open range cattle ranching and the development of the northern Great Plains

Nathan B Sanderson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


George Edward Lemmon (1857-1945) lived a life full of significant achievements and played an integral role in the growth and settlement of the northern Great Plains. A renowned cowboy and cattleman, Lemmon saddle-handled more cattle than any man who ever lived, bossed one of the nation’s largest roundups, operated an 865,000-acre lease on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and later became an inaugural member of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Part of his early success came as a result of trespassing—illegally grazing thousands of cattle—on the Great Sioux Reservation. Due to his unparalleled cattle-handling skills and reputation as one of the region’s most important stockmen, Lemmon came to be known as the “Dean of the Range.” In later life he became a town builder, guiding the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad west across the Missouri River and founding several communities. From the 1880s to the 1920s, Lemmon was the central figure on the northern Great Plains and left his mark on the entire region. He was a juncture between two eras, one rooted in the nineteenth century, the other in the twentieth. He represents the meeting point between Indians and whites, between humans and the land, between cowboys and cattlemen and between the dusty days on a western cattle trail and the development of settlements and “civilization.” At the end of his life, the Great Plains—like Lemmon himself—was different from the start: not better, not worse, but distinctly changed. ^

Subject Area

Biography|History, United States

Recommended Citation

Sanderson, Nathan B, "Dean of the range: George Edward Lemmon, open range cattle ranching and the development of the northern Great Plains" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3461351.