Durham Park Ranch was largest in the county

In the 1870s, a Chicago businessman by the name of Albert Crane established a large ranch near present-day Durham.

He named it Durham Park after the large herd of Durham cattle imported to the ranch from Scotland.

The ranch consisted of 4,160 acres, including the former Moore's Ranch, and was laid out like a park. It had its own post office until 1888.

Crane owned the ranch from 1872 to 1885. He never lived there but hired managers to oversee operations.

The main residence was two stories high with a wrap-around porch. It was painted white, and ranch employees called it the White House.

Other people referred to it as the "House of Lords" since it seemed no one was allowed to enter except English lords. One manager was an English lord but was called "Porcupine" by area residents.

Other buildings on the ranch included a 70-bed boarding house, seven tenant houses, and barns for livestock. The barns were each 300 feet square and scattered out over 10 miles. Nearby hay barns could hold 300 tons of hay.

Crane contracted with farmers in the vicinity for thousands of tons of hay.

A large wind-driven feed grinder could grind corn at a rate of 40-50 bushels per hour. The windmill had two propellers, each 20 feet wide on a tower 60 feet high.

According to an article published in 1945 in the Marion Record-Review, the ranch used much of the corn raised in Marion, McPherson, Saline, and Dickinson counties.

Fencing was made of smooth wire and cedar posts. The wire ran through holes bored into each post. In addition, up to 22 miles of board fences also were erected.

Crane decided to grow purebreds. He made annual trips to England to buy breeding stock, and also bought cattle in Canada and Kentucky. The bulls were big, the biggest one weighing 3,300 pounds and standing five feet tall. Someone said he was wide enough to "make a bed on his back."

In all, Crane imported 55 purebred Shorthorn bulls and built a special mile-long run for them.

In 1875, Crane had 2,400 purebred cattle, 250 high-grade cattle, and the rest Texans and half-breeds, a total of nearly 3,000 head.

Berkshire hogs also were raised on the ranch.

E.W. Hoch, editor of the Marion County Record, visited the Crane ranch in 1875 and was impressed with what he saw. At least 1,500 acres were under cultivation, including 150 acres of rye, 150 acres of hungarian, 200 acres of oats, 800 acres of corn, and 700 acres in bluegrass.

Nine years later, the ranch and cattle were sold. The land brought $15 per acre, the cattle, in poor condition, averaged $150. Part of the land was purchased by a group of men from Abilene and broken up into small farms.

(Source: Marion County Past and Present, by Sondra Van Meter, 1972).