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Oregon Ranch Family Keeping a Promise

April 7, 2014

CRAIG REED, The News-Review

ELKTON, Ore. (AP) — There was only one cedar tree on the property alongside the Umpqua River, so Vern Clemo called it the Lone Cedar Ranch.

The tree finally died of old age and is now gone, but the ranch that has been in the same family for more than 150 years and has survived several ownership changes continues today as a working operation under the management of owners Matt and Renae Koester. The Koesters are the fifth generation to work the ranch that's a few miles downriver from Elkton.

"We're the caretakers until the next generation takes over," said Renae Koester last week. "All four of our children have an interest in the place. They're going to see 200 years on this place."

"We made a promise to Vern to keep it in the family bloodline," Matt Koester said.

Renae Koester, 54, was raised on the ranch. She and Matt Koester, 55, were Elkton High graduates and married in 1979. After Matt finished a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy, the couple have made the ranch their permanent home since 1982.

"I've always had a passion for it," Renae said.

"I don't see the ranch ever being outside the family, even after I'm gone," said Crystal Harper, the Koester's grown daughter, who has four children.

The 96-acre Lone Cedar Ranch is home to 22 mother Angus cows, two bulls, five doeling goats and several pigs. All the livestock have free range on the property. The Koesters, who have had jobs off the ranch in the past, originally had the livestock for their own family's use, but recently have increased the number of animals in order to sell beef, goat and pork. The goal is to build the cow herd up to 40 and to add a few more pigs.

Cows and pigs have been part of the ranch since Charles Henderer registered a deed on 321 acres more than 150 years ago. Henderer at age 27 had sailed from Germany to New Orleans. He worked as a carpenter in that coastal city and then moved to Missouri where he continued to do carpentry work. The California gold rush lured him west in the 1840s and gradually he traveled north, landing in Scottsburg along the Umpqua River in 1850. A few years later he returned to Missouri, where he married his wife, Emaline, and then the couple returned to Oregon and settled on their Elkton area ranch.

Henderer cleared the land of trees and stumps and established a cattle, pig and wheat operation. He also had a small sawmill and made boards to build barns and other buildings.

Over the years, Henderer purchased another 700 adjoining acres to increase this ranch to more than 1,000 acres.

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