Rancher Wants to Preserve Mossman Corrals near Eagle Butte, S.D.

February 14, 2016 08:18 AM

By: Lance Nixon, Pierre Capital Journal

If old gray corral boards could talk, Johnny Holloway figures they'd have a tale to tell at the stockyards and railroad crossing known as Mossman.

The Mossman site is along the south side of U.S. Highway 212 just west of the Missouri River and some way east of Eagle Butte, S.D., the Pierre Capital Journal reported.

It's named for the great cattleman Burton "Cap" Mossman, the legendary figure who guided the Diamond A Cattle Co., the largest cattle operation in South Dakota's history, from his ranch at Roswell, New Mexico. At Mossman, the Diamond A loaded a train load of cattle every week during the months the Diamond A was shipping cattle out of South Dakota on the Chicago Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad.

Eagle Butte rancher Johnny Holloway — whose father, John Holloway was a cowboy for the Diamond A for many years — now owns the site and has made repairs over the years to keep some of the corrals, gates and chutes in working order. But there's more work to be done.

"If I could get somebody to help me with the material, I would do the work," Holloway said. "I think it's a historical site. There were many, many, many cattle shipped out of there. Nobody else had any corrals where the railroad tracks was at."

Ideally, Holloway said, he would like to preserve the site as it was so that people can see the set-up the Diamond A Cattle Co. used to ship cattle out of its sprawling South Dakota range. He'd also like to put up a sign explaining some of the history of the Diamond A.

The Diamond A Cattle Co. ranged cattle over as much as 1.4 million acres in the years from about 1907 to 1913 and over a smaller acreage in decades after. The company began to decline after 1934 due to drought, poor markets and changes in law that made it more difficult to lease Indian reservation land.

Ted Spencer, the director of historic preservation for the South Dakota State Historical Society, said a coveted designation as a site on the National Register of Historic Places probably wouldn't be possible with the corral, since such a property often has had upgrades and repairs over the years.

But Spencer said it definitely would be possible to identify the site under the South Dakota historical marker program, provided the history can be verified. The historical marker program identifies historically significant buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts. The markers are mounted signs, often placed along roads, giving information on why the resource is historically important.

The responsibility for developing historical markers is shared by the South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office, the South Dakota Department of Transportation, and local communities or historical societies. Individuals or organizations must have available funds to purchase it, according to information at the South Dakota State Historical Society website.

Darby Nutter, board president of the Verendrye Museum in Fort Pierre, said verifying the historical importance of what took place at Mossman is easy, since the site is well-known to people interested in western history.

"It's significant in what it represents," Nutter said. "The site itself is very historical. It's a relic of the open range. It would be great to have some type of monument there for that period in South Dakota history."

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