Centennial Ranches

Albany County rancher Randy Dunn points to old photographs of his ancestors in a stone house that the Bath brothers built in 1875 when they founded the Bath Brothers Ranch. Aaron LeClair/Boomerang staff

An Albany County rancher and his daughter are keeping a 130-year-old family tradition alive on their historic ranch 18 miles west of Laramie.

Bath family descendent Randy Dunn and his daughter, Kelsey Dunn, are the sixth- and seventh-generation caretakers of the Bath Brothers Ranch, a Wyoming Centennial Ranch located in the Little Laramie Valley at 935 Herrick Lane.

The story of the Bath Brothers Ranch begins in the spring of 1868, when Herman Bath and his immediate and extended family immigrated to the Wyoming Territory from Germany.

The Baths had dreams as big as the Laramie Valley, and they used their enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit to found businesses, develop roads and construct homes and buildings in early Laramie, Dunn said.

“The Baths have had a big, big impact on Laramie,” he said. “They built the first wood-framed building in Laramie, which was called the Humboldt House. It later went on to be the Custer House.”

The Baths had also married into many families throughout the years, creating a family tree that is as large as any in the community today.

“In Laramie, there’s just dozens and dozens of different families that are related,” Dunn said.

In addition to businesses in Laramie, four Bath brothers traveling to California started a horse and cattle ranch along the Little Laramie River.

“They made it as far as what’s called the ‘Poverty Flats’ down here, and they were forced to quit and they turned all their stock loose (for the winter),” Dunn said. “That spring, they came down here and found them all along the river, and they were fat and in good shape. That’s when … and where they decided to build the stone house.”

Constructed in 1875, the two-story stone house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is located off Herrick Lane near exit 297 on Interstate 80.

Once settled in the area, brothers Harry, Earl, Mervin and Alwyn Bath began raising cattle and horses. Their sister, Myrtle Bath, was Dunn’s great-great-great-grandmother.

“They were real prominent in rodeo,” Dunn said of the Bath brothers. “Mervin Bath … was in Tex Austin’s Wild West show (that) went over and performed for the king and queen of England.”

Brothers Harry and Earl Bath, meanwhile, were extras in “Ben Hur,” the classic 1959 film starring Charlton Heston.

The Bath Brothers Ranch prospered into the 20th century. The Baths and their descendents sold remount (fresh) horses to the U.S. Army through the 1930s, followed by Quarter horses in the 1940s.

The Bath Brothers Ranch became a Quarter horse member in the 1940s.

Dunn said he and his wife, Laurie Dunn, took over managing the ranch in the early 1980s, following the death of Doris Bath, who was the late Earl Bath’s wife.

Today, the Bath Brothers Ranch runs 900 head of commercial cattle and 70 head of registered Blue Valentine-bred mares.

In addition to selling livestock, the Bath Brothers Ranch provides horses for rodeos, including Cheyenne Frontier Days and the National College Finales Rodeo.

“We have over 20 horses at Cheyenne Frontier Days,” Dunn said. “We have three world champions that are riding our horses.”

While the Bath Brothers Ranch is one of the oldest working ranches in Wyoming, its success has not come without strife. Harsh weather, low market prices and the rising cost of fuel make ranching tough, Dunn said.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher to ranch,” he said. “It’s one of the few products your raise that you can’t set a price on. You take what you’re given, and you have everything in the world against you. You have to love what you’re doing to be in the business.”

Despite the sometimes-overwhelming challenges, Dunn said he plans to keep the ranch in the family.

“It’s our plan to keep handing this down to the next generation,” he said.

For more information, contact the Bath family Ranch at 742-4669 or go to http://bathbros.com.

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