The history of the 67 Ranch can be traced back to pre-statehood, territorial times when Edward Swan traveled through the Green River Valley in 1863 on his way to Montana. Swan’s journey through Piney County left an indelible mark and after a series of ventures in mining and freighting he returned to the Green River Valley in 1878 as a cattleman. Accompanying Swan were his three sons and Otto Leifer. It is believed that Swan and Leifer were the first settlers to permanently homestead ground in what was to become Sublette County, Wyoming. The site chosen by Swan and Leifer is situated between the Middle and South Piney Creek tributaries. The abundance of fresh water, pasture lands, protective topography and wildlife made it more desirable than other lands located north along the Green River main channel. By 1880 cabins had been constructed on the homestead sites and both Swan and Leifer moved their wives and children to the area.
In 1879 Daniel Burr Budd, the original holder of the “67” brand, and Hugh McKay settled on lands adjacent to the Swan and Leifer homesteads. Later in 1885, Budd would sell his stake in the operations to his partner McKay. Budd went on to become the founder of Big Piney. Growth continued for the Swan and Leifer ranching operations until 1889 when a vicious winter storm swept through the Green River Valley decimating more than half of the existing livestock. In the wake of the event Swan, Leifer and the other cattlemen in the valley turned to hay farming to produce stores for future harsh winter events. In 1895, the Leifer’s Circle Ranch was sold to James Mickelson who continued to expand and prosper until his death from stomach cancer in 1921. At the time of his death the Circle Ranch was the largest in the state with 20,000 acres of land and 6,000 head of cattle. After James’ death the ranch was run by his wife Mildred who later partitioned allotments out to her children. Later, the Circle Ranch was acquired by Bob and Mildred Miller. The Millers and their successors established the Miller Land & Livestock Company which is the contemporary holder and Grantor of the 67 Ranch (Home Place) conservation easement.
Photo credit: Gina Bare