Charley Carl Emmons, age 96, passed away in Broadus, MT at the Powder River Manor on June 21, 2021. He was born in Portland, Oregon on January 23rd, 1925, to Carl Henry Emmons and Freida Anna (Johnson) Emmons. At that time, the family resided on the Mizpah Creek near Olive, MT on land that Charley’s paternal grandmother homesteaded in 1909. But, due to the timing of Charley’s birth (January in Montana), his mother, Freida, traveled back to Oregon in anticipation of the birth of her second child. Charley joined one sister, Betty Jane, who was three years older than himself.
Charley and his sister Betty grew up on the ranch and attended local country schools in the area during their childhood. They rode horseback, one behind the other, completing the daily five-mile cross country trek back and forth on a gentle saddle horse. Education was a priority for Charley’s parents, and they were determined to make sure their children went to school and received a good education. When it was time for the children to go to high school, the family did not have a car to take them to Broadus. So, Charley’s parents arranged for he and Betty to stay with his paternal grandmother who at that time lived in Sheridan, WY where they had family ties. Charley’s high school years were spent in Sheridan where he played football and was involved in various clubs and activities. His summers were spent on the ranch near Olive, MT. Charley graduated from Sheridan High School with honors and returned to the family ranch in 1943.
In later years, Charley shared with his children the story of how he met his wife. He and his mother had pulled up in front of the grocery store in Broadus and Doris Jean Rice walked by in front of them. He was smitten immediately and pronounced to his mother that he was going to marry that girl. And like a lot of things Charley decided to do, he worked diligently at it and succeeded. Charley and Doris Jean were married on June 15, 1946. He and Doris Jean made their home on the family ranch. Over the next 50+ years, they raised five children, put forth a mountain of hard work, learned and taught about ranching and built their lives in Powder River County. As written by his son Jerry, “Charley was a man of unmatched vision of the future. His mother and father turned much of the ranching duties over to him in his early twenties and they began traveling south to Florida to spend the winters. The first year, his parents left in November and said that they would see him in the Spring. At that time, they did not have the modern equipment we have now and every detail of taking care of livestock revolved around hand labor, hard work, and harsh winter conditions. Charley’s exact words were ‘Somehow I made it through that first winter.’ Those early struggles were lessons he never forgot. It probably led to one of his greatest visions which was developing a flood irrigation system on the ranch along the Mizpah to deliver water to over 1,000 acres of alfalfa hay. It was a multi-year project that involved the purchase of a Caterpillar and scraper. Over 3 million yards of dirt were moved to build dikes and fields that today still provide for one of the most productive dry land hay operations in this part of the country. Charley loved seeing the dikes filled with water from spring runoff. Hay and alfalfa seed equaled prosperity in a ranchers’ eyes. Another vision of Charley’s in 1969 was to crossbreed his largely Hereford cattle herd to Simmental bulls – a breed that was just introduced to the United States at that time. His goal was to produce cows that gave more milk and calves that weaned heavier. There were no bulls available at that time but that did not deter him. He attended classes at Montana State University to learn how to artificially inseminate, built corrals and cross fence in pastures to manage the cattle and along with his family, they inseminated the entire herd in 1969. The types of cattle being produced today, although much different and more refined over the last 60 years, are a result of his early vision.”
Charley was active in his community. He was a 4-H leader, was a Mason and served as Worshipful Master, and held positions on various committees and boards within Powder River County. He also was a charter member of the American Simmental Association, served on the Board of Directors of the Montana Simmental Association for several terms and on the Board of Trustees of the American Simmental Association for six years.
His passions and interests were many. He and his cousin Gerald Irion had visited many buffalo jumps searching for artifacts. He knew the history of the area like the back of his hand. If Dad ever came up missing, we knew he had slipped off to go fishing. He loved fishing – all kinds of fishing! He visited every fishing hole in the area, went to Tongue River, Fort Peck, Canada, Florida, and many places with friends and his family. Later in life, he developed a keen interest in cutting and polishing rocks, and he shared his skills and finished products with many.
He was preceded in death by his mother, father and sister, a granddaughter, Tracy Renee, a great granddaughter Kenna Shalyne, and his loving wife, Doris Jean. He was also preceded in death by special friend Lucille Randall who was his companion after Doris Jean passed away in 2003. Charley is survived by his three sons and their spouses Jerry (Christine) Emmons, Tom (Ann) Emmons, Barry (Marilyn) Emmons and his daughters Peggy Emmons and Julie (Steve) Emmons Stoddard; grandchildren Ruston (Tracy) Emmons, Debbie (Andrew) Moerman, Richard (Lauren) Emmons, Jennifer (Jason) Karnes, Brett (Kimber) Emmons, Jacy (Jim) Collins, Aaron Jackson, Heather Jackson, Philip (Megan) Emmons, Patrick (Ashley) Emmons, Patrick Hessman, Kaylin (David) Sorrell; 26 great grandchildren and 1 great, great grandchild.
Charley was very inquisitive. He sought knowledge and was kind. He instilled in his children and grandchildren problem solving skills and encouraged education. He built, created, taught, imagined and did a lifetime of labor for and with his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Like other longtime ranchers from his era, he created a legacy and left it all behind to grow. He had nothing when he died and gave us everything we could have ever needed.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Powder River Community Endowment Fund (PRCEF) in the name of Charley Emmons. Send to PRCEF, PO Box 254, Broadus, MT 59317. The family plans to use the funds to assist the Powder River Manor in purchasing specific equipment to care for residents in the nursing home. PRCEF is a 501 (c) 3 non profit organization.