Written by John W. Haigler
The Benkelman Post, Sept 9, 1949
Jacob Russell Haigler, better know as Jake Haigler, located his dugout and corrals on the Republican River and the Arikaree before there was a railroad. The first post office was established at his ranch in 1879 when the settlements were few and far between. They consisted principally of cattlemen and cowboys connected with them. Haigler Ranch had open doors to all comers. I have been informed by James M. Morris, now of Littleton, Colorado, that Jake Haigler was one of the first Commissioners of Dundy County.
In 1881-82 the Burlington Railroad extended their lines from Indianola, Nebraska to Denver, Colorado. They established a camp about one mile from the Haigler ranch house and made this camp their headquarters while building the road. After moving their camp on west they built a depot and established a stockyard and named the station Haigler. Cattle from many miles around were driven and shipped from this station.
Jacob, third son of Eli Haigler and Elizabeth Ann (Hinkle) Haigler, was born in Franklin County Missouri, February 7, 1836 and died September 29, 1905 at his ranch near Young, Gila County, Arizona.
Jake as he was commonly called, never married. He was seven years old when his father died and fifteen when his mother died. His education was of common school. After his father died the family moved to Holt County, Missouri in 1843 where his mother entered a homestead in Section 12, Township 60, Range 39 and 40. After his mother died in 1851, his brother, John W. and sister, Mary went back to Franklin County, Missouri and made their home with an uncle, Isaac Hinkle. When the war broke out in 1861 he left Missouri in the company of several others. From Missouri they went to New York and there took a ship for Panama. Here they crossed the Isthmus with pack mules, took a ship again on the Pacific Ocean and landed at San Francisco. From there he went to the gold fields near Sacramento. Here he prospected for a while and then drifted into Nevada. From there he went to Idaho where he engaged in the sheep business and remained there during the early seventies.
He then came back to Missouri, Holt County for Christmas of 1875. In the spring of 1876 he with friends from Missouri went to western Nebraska and Colorado and in June of 1876 he located his ranch, which is now in Dundy County Nebraska and built his dugout on the hog-back between the north fork of the Republican River and the Arikaree. He was widely known as a cowman and his ranch was headquarters for roundup parties of cattlemen from Texas to Montana. From letters of C.L. Ray, Jake was the most hospitable cowman on the river. His ranch was open to both strangers and cowmen. He was a man who had a big heart and a very pleasant personality. He had friends by the score. As Jimmy Morris said, “Jake Haigler was the highest type of man. He was all honor and his word was as good as gold, as brave a heart as a Lion.” In 1881-82 the Burlington Railroad extended their lines to Denver, passing through his ranch near his house and named the station in honor of his name.
Among the men who worked for Jake was the distinguished Irish cook, Billie Welch, who was widely know for his Irish jokes and wit. Jake’s foreman was William Goslin. There were two other men I know of, James Webster and Dick Burns. I understand Jake built the first hotel at Benkelman and put Billie Welch in charge of it. Later he was interested a store at Benkelman with James Morris. The fall of 1883 he sold his ranch and visited one year in Missouri. In 1886 he again engaged in the cattle business in Arizona, near Payson and Tempe. The firm name was Ming, Haigler and Kensel. From 1886 to 1903, Jake made several trips back to Missouri to visit his only brother. His ranch house was the scene of many battles with the Indians when old Geronimo was on the warpath down in Arizona. One time the Indians took several hundred head of his cattle, and after killing what they wanted to eat, Jake and his men got the rest back. One time some of his cowboys were killed by the Indians, but never at any time did they try to harm Jake Haigler.
His tragic death, as taken from the Silver Belt, paper published at Globe, Arizona, states the following:
“Jake R. Haigler of Pleasant Valley, near Young Arizona, was thrown from a mule he was riding on Sept. 26 or 27th, 1905. He had gone to fix a watergap up the creek a short distance from his home. He had been warned to be careful about this mule, as she was tricky. W. J. Young had told him that morning before he left for him not to ride that mule. After Young left, Jake saddled up the mule and went to fix the watergap. Mr. Young was away that night and Jake did not return. His goings and coming was not unusual for he would often go to some to the neighbors. The mule came in the next morning without the rider and an alarm was put out. A party composed of W.J. Young and others started looking for him. He was found near the watergap. Near this place stood a leaning tree where a cattle trail passed. The supposition is that when passing under this tree, Jake leaned over to one side and the mule jumped. He being old and quite feeble, it is thought when the mule jumped that Jake fell off and his foot hung in the stirrup. The mule probably kicked him and going around, his head struck a sharp edged rock, on which was found matted blood and gray hair. He had crawled to the water edge of the creek to get a drink. He was unconscious when found. A physician was sent for, which was some sixty miles. He rallied for a short time, but passed away soon after. Death came September 29, 1905.
He was buried where he always said he wanted to be buried, on top of a little hill near the Mogollon Mountains overlooking his ranch and his last home. He had many friends in Phoenix, Tempe, Clifton, Globe and Holbrook, Arizona. His ranch was located on a creek near a large spring in Gila County, Arizona, 125 miles from Holbrook, the nearest railroad station in a mountainous country. This writer, a nephew, was called by wire when Jake was hurt, but it being a long way there, Mr. Haigler had died and was buried before I arrived. So this was the ending of Jacob R. Haigler, whom the town of Haigler, Nebraska was named after.