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STUART RANCH

One of Oklahoma's oldest continuously operated family ranches, the Stuart Ranch developed in Bryan County on land homesteaded in 1868 by Robert Clay Freeny. In the 1830s he traveled to the Choctaw Nation with his wife, Sarah Ellis, a Choctaw citizen. After living in Soper and Boggy Depot, he relocated to the ranch site near Caddo. There he engaged in farming and ranching, including trading horses and mules to the U.S. Army. After the senior Freeny died in 1878, Robert Clay Freeny II controlled the ranch. He performed as a judge for Blue County, Choctaw Nation, and was a member of the Choctaw Light Horse Association, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Stock Association, and the Anti-Horse Thief Association. After 1907 Oklahoma statehood Freeny served as a Bryan County Commissioner. He died in 1924.

In 1931 Freeny's youngest daughter, Ida, married Robert Terry Stuart, and they later acquired the ranching property. R. T. Stuart presided over the Mid-Continent Insurance Company of Oklahoma City, where the couple mainly resided. In the 1930s the ranch began to phase out its short-horned cattle for a Hereford herd. In 1949 R. T. Stuart, Jr., bought the first of the operation's Quarter Horses (the elder Stuart preferred Arabians) and began an award-winning Quarter Horse lineage. In 1963 the ranch purchased stallion Son O Leo, who sired a number of quality horses, including three American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) champions. In 1995 a Stuart Ranch product, Genuine Redbud, won the Super-horse title at AQHA's World Championship Show. In 1950 Stuart, Jr., began managing the business, and in 1957 Stuart, Sr., died. In addition to his insurance and ranching interests, the Texas native had been chair of the Oklahoma State University regents, president of the state chamber of commerce, and a member of several civic and fraternal organizations. In 1956 he had been inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

The ranch continued to make scientific and modern improvements, including an airport on the property. Stuart, Jr., who had become president of the insurance company at the age of twenty-one, also contributed to the state, providing leadership for the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Frontiers of Science Foundation. He also served on the board of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and as a Regent for Oklahoma State University. In 1993 Stuart augmented his approximate sixteen-thousand-acre ranch with twenty-two thousand acres in Jefferson County. That year his daughter, Terry Stuart Forst, took over as ranch manager. She partnered with the Noble Foundation of Ardmore and the Oklahoma State University Extension Service to reduce brush that restricts productive grazing land and to improve their herds. The ranch hands compete and often win the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association's Oklahoma Range Roundup and other ranch rodeos. In 1995 the ranch won AQHA's coveted Best Remuda Award, which honors outstanding performance by a ranch remuda (working horses bred to work and pen cattle). In 1996 the properties ran fourteen hundred commercial Hereford and Hereford-Angus crossed cows and also leased land for grazing cattle. Stuart, Jr., died in 2001. At the beginning of the twenty-first century Forst continued to operate the ranch, and in 2004 she was elected to the board of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

SEE ALSO: CATTLE INDUSTRY, HORSE INDUSTRY.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bryan County Democrat (Durant, Oklahoma) , 18 December 1924. Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 9 November 1992 and 31 January 1999. Ellis Freeny, Peter Freeny and His Descendants in America (Oklahoma City: Ellis Freeny, 1995). The History of Bryan County, Oklahoma (Durant, Okla.: Bryan County Heritage Association, Inc., 1983). Amy Sanders, "Fifth-Generation Rancher Sets New Goals For Oklahoma's Oldest Family Ranch," Cattleman 83 (August 1996).

Larry O'Dell

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