Stewart's Ninety-Six Ranch - 150 Years of History

What has long been known as the Ninety-Six Ranch of Paradise
Valley, Nevada was founded by German immigrant William Stock
in 1864. It started as a simple homestead, and through the years,
has grown into one of Nevada's most iconic ranching operations.
(The William Stock Farming Company, Stewart's Ninety-Six
Ranch) Today, 150 years later, it is still owned and operated by the
4th and 5th generations of William Stock's direct descendants.

The Founding Years, 1864-1910

The rebuilt home where William Stock was born in 1837, Exten Germany
Friedrick Wilhelm Stock, who was born in Exten, Germany in 1837,
founded what is now called the Ninety-Six Ranch in Paradise
Valley, Nevada. He was the eldest of eight children and was
apprenticed to a cobbler at fourteen but abandoned the pursuit
after two years and came to America. He arrived in New York in
1853 at the tender age of 16. He proceeded to Dayton, Ohio,
where he worked as a cooper's helper. In 1857 he was drawn to
California by the gold rush, traveling from New Orleans around
Cape Horn to San Francisco, bypassing the mountain West where
he would eventually make his home. He probably took the English
form of his name at about the time of his arrival in the United

In California, Stock worked in the gold fields on the northern
reaches of the Sacramento River. He was not terribly successful
and soon took a job with a stage line. In 1860 he bought two
wagons and twelve oxen and formed his own freight company.
During this period he first met George Carrol (sometimes spelled
Carroll or Carrel) from Petersburg, Virginia, who later would
become his partner in Paradise Valley. The freight company
hauled supplies from Red Bluff, the northernmost steamship
landing on the Sacramento, to mines in southwestern Idaho (Silver
City). One southern sweeping route that he used in order to avoid
conflict with Indians passed near Paradise Valley, Nevada, where
Stock saw promising farmland. He homesteaded in the Valley in
1864. He was one of the first, if not the very first permanent white
settler of the Valley.

Some early settlers in Paradise Valley faced Indian raids until
about 1868, with one particularly severe outbreak in 1865;
however, William Stock's relationship with Native Americans in this
early period are always described as charitable and
positive. There is no evidence that Stock ever displaced local
Indians and a 1942 article in Pacific Stockman, based on
interviews with family members, reports Stock's handling of the
1865 uprising: "He stayed on his place and when the hungry
(possibly starving) Indians came, he killed a beef, roasted it and
made friends with the Indians. They never gave him an trouble
after that." (Mann, Range. "Ranching in Paradise." Pacific
Stockman VIII, 10; October 1942, p. 8). But others in the valley
were not so sanguine and the cavalry fort Camp Winfield Scott
was established in 1866. The role of Native Americans on the
ranch in later years was important. Their influence is still seen
today in the way Fred has taught Patrice to rope and cut cattle as
well as the conservative (land friendly) levels of farming and
grazing we do on the ranchlands.

Stock's first dwelling was a sod house and the farm's first product
a crop of grain. Supplies were brought from Unionville, Nevada, a
distance of 150 miles. Later, after the railroad reached
Winnemucca, forty miles distant, Stock was able to obtain lumber
and build a small wood house. Fort Scott provided Stock with a
local market for grain and meat; the establishment of Fort
McDermitt just across the mountains provided him with contracts to
supply firewood and poles. Stock's grandson Leslie J. "Les"
Stewart once said that he had seen a mountain cabin deep in the
Santa Rosa Mountains and the remains of a sled he believes his
grandfather used during his wood-gathering expeditions.

Stock and Carrol formed a partnership in 1866, adding horses to
the grain and cattle already being produced. Acquisitions led to
the growth of the holdings, including Stock's 1883 buyout of his
partner (Carrol)(who went south to Tombstone, Arizona where he
founded the town's first bank). Other holdings, some quite distant
from the present home ranch, were bought and sold through the
years. The 1881 lithograph of Stock's ranch that appeared in
Myron Angel's 1881 History of Nevada with Illustrations and
Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers
(Oakland, California: Thompson and West) shows a diversified
operation that raised and sold sheep, hogs, horses, cattle, and
grain. For many westerners, such diversity and the inclusion of
cash crops define a farm rather than a ranch. A ranch would sell
exclusively livestock.

In 1879 Stock went back to Germany and married Wilhelmina
Christina Wahague (or Wahagen or Wahaugen) from Strücken, a
village very near Exten. They returned to Nevada early the next
year, bringing with them three of Stock's younger sisters and one
younger brother. Six children were born to William and Wilhemina
during the 1880s, four of whom survived: William F. (1881), Minnie
(1882), Elizabeth (1884), and Edith (1886). Early family history
describes the extensive kitchen garden, flock of chickens, and milk
cows overseen by Wilhelmina, who traded excess produce, butter,
and eggs at the store. The family also raised two hundred ducks
and geese, gathered the down for feather beds, and sold poultry
to Chinese laborers at the nearby mines.

In the 1880s and 1890s, Stock invested in a bank in Winnemucca
and a flourmill in the valley, and helped form and build the First
Methodist Church of Paradise Valley. He was active in civic affairs
and Republican politics. He aided his brother, Heinrich Edward,
and three sisters, Louisa Wilhelmia, Justine Carolena, and Louisa
Pauline Sophie, in their immigration to America. All four settled in
Paradise Valley; Ed started a ranch (which remained in Ed Stock's
family until the 1960's and is now owned by Pete and Kathi Marvel)
Ed's descendants (Elizabeth Stock Chabot and her
children/grandchildren/greatgrandchildren) remain residents of
the Valley, Wilhelmina married Henry Kirchner, Carolena married
Henry Knieke (one generation later, a daughter also known as
Carolena married into the Miller family and descendants of
that union remain in the Valley and around Humboldt County) and
Louisa married Robert Schwartz and bore him 14 children
(descendants of her youngest son Rudolf remain in the Valley on
the Schwartz Keystone Ranch).  

William Stock and his younger siblings form the basis for Paradise
Valley's oldest resident families and ranches. After 1900, other
immigrants moved to Paradise Valley including talented Italian
stone workers and Basque herders.

William Stock suffered a debilitating stroke in the early 1890's and
died on November 25, 1898. After her husband's death,
Wilhelmina ran the operation with the help of her children and
nephew, William Huck, until her death in 1910. She was known as
a generous and tough lady. By the time of Wilhelmina Stock's
death, the outfit nolonger raised cash crops and limited its sales to
livestock--cattle,sheep,and horses--and the operation could now
properly be called a ranch. But Wilhelmina felt that Stock's first
love had been farming and in the face of some family protests, she
incorporated the operation as the William Stock Farming
Company. According to daughter Minnie Grotsch's records, the
ranch's holdings at the time of her death included 3,000 cattle,
6,000 sheep, 1,000 horses, and 17,560 acres of land.

The name Ninety-Six Ranch has been in practical use in Paradise
Valley since the early 1900's; but, the name William Stock Farming
Company never really caught on in practical use around the Valley.

The Ranch After 1910

Three of William Stock's children ultimately inherited the ranch;
middle daughter Elizabeth died of a brain tumor in 1904, and upon
Wilhemina's death in 1910 the property passed to William F.,
Edith, and Minnie. William F. was badly injured in a runaway horse
accident in the early 1930's and this coupled with a lifestyle that
included too much drink and the wrong kind of women, caused his
premature death from advanced syphilis and other excesses in a
California Sanitorium in 1936. This vested the ranch's ownership in
his two sisters and their families. Minnie married into the prominent
German-American Grotsch family and moved to San Francisco
and then Sacramento, leaving the actual operation in the hands of
Edith and her husband, Fred B. Stewart. Stewart
was a native Californian, raised in the Owens Valley near
Independence and educated at University of Nevada Reno.
He was a practiced water engineer when he met and married Edith.

Fred B. Stewart and his wife, William Stock's youngest
daughter Edith were the ranch's on-site managers from 1915 to
the 1950s. While Fred was known as the official manager, Edith
was also an important influence on the operation.  

Stock's grandson, Les Stewart wrote about his parents, "I believe
the thirties were much worse than the earliest days, requiring more
fortitude, devotion, and hard work (for no financial reimbursement)
than any time in the ranch's long history. My parents,  
Fred and Edith deserve as much credit for keeping it together as
the real early-day people."

During this era-between the World Wars--the ranch specialized
more and more in beef and became less diversified. Interest in
horses continued, however, and saddle and work horses won
prizes in Nevada competitions.

Capital improvements after the year 1900 included the construction
of outbuildings and line camps, notably the handsome stone
structures built by the Italian immigrant
stonemason Tony Ramasco. These include the ranch's stone
barns, equipment barn, Bradshaw and Hardscrabble cabins.

Third generation Les Stewart was born in 1920, and by the age of
nineteen was fully involved in the ranch, spending spring,
summer, and fall on the range and running the roundup wagon.
He attended the College of Agriculture at the University of Nevada
in Reno, but his disaffection with scientific experts and impractical
authority figures soon manifested itself. In a 1982 letter nominating
her husband to the Nevada Cattlemen's Association 100,000
[Horseback] Mile Club, his wife, Marie, wrote:
"In the spring of 1940 [Leslie] decided that higher education was
not for him. Near the end of the semester, while attending a class
in ranch management, the professor was discussing the merits of
a tidy farmstead. "When piling debris to be burned, don't stack it
too close to the barn as you might burn the barn down." Leslie
thought about this for a while and decided his education was
complete and school was over as far as he was concerned. He
packed his saddle and other belongings and headed back to the
ranch and never returned to the college."

Les Stewart, like many sons of agriculture, was exempt from the
draft during World War II. He stayed home and helped run the
ranch. This was a decision that he always regretted, for while the
ranch's production of beef benefited the war effort, he longed to be
directly involved. The war years and the postwar era brought more
changes to the operation. Improved roads and greater use of
trucks reduced the amount of horseback work. Ranch workers
were fewer in number and less specialized.  Les says he feels the
era marked the demise of the true buckaroo, the man who only
worked from the saddle. During and after WWII Les Stewart took
on more and more operational management of the ranch. Not only
did he run the outside buckaroos, but the inside crews as well.

Minnie Grotsch family members continued involvement in the
ranch by managing the books and also coming to ride and help in
the summers. Stock grandson Bud Grotsch was a leading
proponent of modernization and bought the ranch's first tractor for
Les Stewart to operate. Bud's sister Barbara Grotsch Binford came
each summer and helped ride and cook for crews on the ranch.
Barbara's daughter, Stock great granddaughter Christine
(Grotsch) Binford DeYoung spent all of her
growing-up summers at the ranch and continues to live in Paradise
Valley 6 months of each year with her husband Joel at their Hinkey
Summit home. Their son Tim is also a fifth generation William
Stock descendant.

Les Stewart's parents died within six years of each other. Fred died
in 1959, the year in which Les and Marie Stewart were married and
their son (fourth generation) Fredrick William Stewart was born.

During the early sixties Les and Marie built their new house while
Les' mother Edith continued living in the two-story main house.
Also during the early 1960's Les Stewart adopted Marie's two
daughters from her previous marriage (Deborah and Darlene), and
the family became officially complete. Edith died in 1965, leaving
Les in full operational control of the ranch. Les's cousins--Minnie
Grotsch's children--still owned a share, which the Stewart Family
bought in 1979, using the event as the occasion to officially
change the name of the operation from the William Stock Farming
Company to the Ninety-Six Ranch, the name used in practical
operation since the 1920's and the name still used today.

The Ninety-Six Ranch - 1993 to Present

In the fall of 1993, current ranch owner/manager Fred Stewart
(great grandson of William Stock) welcomed his new wife Kris
with a traditional honeymoon, but instead
with 150 head of red
cows and heifers from the Wright Ranch near Tuscarora, NV.
Beefmaster and Saler bulls were added to the mix and Ninety-Six
Ranch produced
a brand new kind of calf crop in 1994.  The
French-bred Saler cattle were beautiful, but their "continental
dispositions" made them nearly impossible to manage and the
Saler experiment was short-lived.  The family exchanged

the "Rojo Diablos" in 1998 for the more reliable commercial-bred
Hereford/Angus cross cows. (Black Ballies)

Since that time, the ranch has grown in a several important

The 1997 birth of fifth generation Stock great, great granddaughter
Patrice Marie Stewart.

The passing of Fred's dad Les Stewart in early 2006. His
loss truly
marked the end of the "last of the old timers" on
the ranch. His influence on our operation is felt everyday

in everything we do. He is our touchstone and our "heart".

Today, Fred Stewart, with the help of his wife Kris and daughter
Patrice manages the ranch. Mom Marie continues to live on the
ranch and enjoy her family, dogs and ranch life. The
ranch's new cattle herd has grown to nearly 800 mother cows - all
commercial Hereford and Angus - using high quality Bell Hereford
& Shaw Angus bulls to produce some of the finest all-English
commercial calves in the Industry.

Fifth generation Patrice Stewart is now a young woman who owns
and manages her own small herd of top commercial beef cattle on
the ranch, actively helps her parents on the ranch and is involved
in all ranch decisions, competes in youth and high school rodeo,
FFA leadership and plans a career and life managing the very
same Paradise Valley ranch that her great, great grandfather
William Stock founded as a simple homestead in 1864.

Patrice Stewart - 16, April 2014
For more information on our current operation, click here

For more history on the ranch
Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada and a Study of the
Ninety-Six Ranch
Fred W Stewart
Marie, Kris, Fred and Les Stewart, at Fred and Kris' wedding
in Reno, Nevada  12/10/1993