Oklahoma Stories

Keeping Farming in the Family

By JuliAnn Graham March 2021

Centennial farms in Oklahoma Panhandle recognized.

A brief pause in work at the Byers Homestead. | Photo courtesy of Byers family.

Life may have been harder 100 years ago than it is today, but it was also simpler. Farmers and ranchers didn’t have electricity or the advanced machinery that makes large-scale agricultural production possible today. They did have something that has stood the test of time—family.

Four rural landowners situated in the cooperative service area of Tri-County Electric Cooperative (TCEC) have one thing in common—they live on land that has been in their family 100 years or more. Because their families have owned the land that long, they applied for and were awarded Centennial Farm status by the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture in 2019.

Byers Homestead

Tommy and Dana Tomlinson enjoy country life in their home near Guymon that Dana’s great-grandfather, J.C. (Joseph Charles) Byers built more than 100 years ago.

J.C. Byers established his claim to the land in 1904 through the Homestead Act of May 20, 1862, according to Dana. The farm has mainly grown wheat and corn over the years.

In 1928, Ed Byers bought the land from his father J.C. In 1973, the land was bequeathed to J.C.’s great-granddaughters, Dana and Tana Byers. It is now owned and cared for by Tommy and Dana (Byers) Tomlinson.

While the Tomlinson family does not farm the land today, they are firmly rooted in the Guymon agricultural community. Tommy Tomlinson is vice president of commodities for Hitch Enterprises and Dana Tomlinson worked for Guymon Public Schools for many years before retiring.

“There are a lot of joys out here,” Dana says. “Especially the country life—being able to sit on my front porch and see the fireworks in Guymon. I love the sunrises and sunsets too.”

Bearl & Josephine Elliott Ranch

Bryan Elliott raises cattle 20 miles northwest of Texhoma in Texas County, the same land that his great-grandfather R.T. (Robert) Elliott settled in 1910.

Bryan’s mother Josephine Elliott still owns and lives on the home quarter of land. Bryan’s late father Bearl and his twin brother Earl were two of R.T.’s 10 children. Bearl and Earl began operating the farm in the 1940s and made the transition from horses to tractors for farming the land.

While R.T. Elliott and his wife Alice grew wheat and milo as well as raising cattle, all the cultivated land has been planted back to grass over the years. Today, Bryan and his wife Sandra are the third generation of Elliotts to live on the land and raise cattle.

Prepping for field work on the Elliott Ranch. | Photo courtesy of Elliott family

Eleven Bar Ranch

Riley Harrison is a full-time TCEC meter technician, rancher and family man. His children are the fifth generation of Harrisons to roam the Eleven Bar Ranch near Tyrone.

Riley’s great-grandfather Fred Harrison settled the land in 1919. Riley and his father David Harrison both run cattle operations and help each other with the day-to-day operation of their herds. David and his wife Kathy have lived in Fred and Elsie Harrison’s home since 1985. Riley, his wife, and their children live on Harrison land just 2.5 miles away from the home where Riley and his brother Ashley and sister Melanie grew up.

In addition to the Centennial Farm award, the ranch received the Historic Structures award for several outbuildings on their property that have stood for many years.

Fred’s wife Elsie played a critical role in helping the ranch survive the Depression in the 1930s. While they grew wheat, they also raised cattle and used mules for farming. Elsie raised chickens, selling eggs to help the family get by in lean times.

When rural electrification came to the Tyrone area in 1947, the Harrison home built that same year was wired for the new technology. According to Kathy, the family had its own gasoline generator to provide electricity in the old home prior to that time.

Harrison family of the Eleven Bar Ranch. | Photo courtesy of the Harrison family,taken by Charity Hitch Photography

Golden Hill Farm

Trey Long, a TCEC service technician, takes joy in watching his children grow up on the farm near Guymon where he also grew up. His children are the fifth generation to grow into their own on the land of their ancestors.

Trey owns the farm along with his sister Tya Mantooth and his father Lynn Long and Lynn’s late wife Carolyn. Lynn Long’s grandfather C.T. Golden settled the land in 1919.

While the family has raised wheat and cattle for many years, they no longer grow wheat. They took the farmland back to native grass for their cattle.

“The one-on-one family time together, decision making, working together, seeing the growth and the changes you can make are some of the things I enjoy most,” Trey says.

Togetherness has seen these four family farms and ranches through a century in the Oklahoma Panhandle. They have weathered tornadoes, drought, blizzards, wind and ice to survive and thrive today, keeping farming in the family.

JuliAnn Graham, an Oklahoma Living contributor, is the communications manager at TCEC.

Category: Oklahoma Stories
A brief pause in work at the Byers Homestead. | Photo courtesy of Byers family.

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