Today's Sutton ranches owe their beginnings to Edwin Delos Sutton and his sister Kate who, in 1883, staked out adjoining homesteads along the Missouri River. The wily pair built a duplex shanty straddling their tracts and lived on their respective claims as required by law. With this strategy each was able to "prove up" a quarter section.
After Edwin had proved up his 160-acre claim, he sold it and with the capital began a lifetime of buying and selling cattle, horses and land. In 1898 he and his wife Jessie Napier Sutton moved back to the Missouri River not far from where he had first homesteaded and settled on 1,484 acres purchased from the Chicago based department store Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company. Edwin parlayed his holdings into one of the choicest ranches along the "Muddy Mo" by having the hands, who worked for him, "proved up" on a quarter of land while in his employ and then sell it to him. He and Jessie raised 8 children, three of which were to become the well-known Sutton Brothers John, James, and Raymond, on this ranch.
Early Losses and Gains
The ranch continued it ups and downs and finally when Edwin died in 1938 there were only 3,000 acres of deeded land and about 10,000 acres of leased land. His sons continued to add to the ranch's recovery and by the early 1960s had accumulated over 40,000 acres stretching for 22 miles along the Missouri River. When the Sioux Falls Argus Leader did a special printing of the "99 Most Influential Families in South Dakota", the only ranching family listed was Sutton Brothers.
The flooding of the Missouri wiped out the home ranch site and the single-family ranch system. The remaining acres were divided into equal thirds and each of the three brothers began a partnership with their sons as their father had with them. Raymond Sr. and Raymond Jr. incorporated to form Raymond Sutton and Son.
Raymond Sutton Legacy
and Horned Herefords
Edwin raised horses and cattle and in 1909 began his venture into the Bison business. In the beginning it was a combination of wanting to conserve an endangered species and the thought they might also present an opportunity for profit. Both these motives have proven to be viable as the years have passed.
Also in 1909, Horned Herefords came to the ranch but these first cattle were unregistered. However, the cattle proved hardy and did so well that in 1914, Edwin purchased his first purebred stock when he bought a large herd of registered cows carrying mostly Domino blood. In 1939 with the addition of a high power bull from the famous Wyoming Hereford Ranch, Jupiter Domino 83rd, the ranch was seriously into the registered business and held its first large public auction in 1941.
Purebred Horse Business
For a number of years the ranch herd numbered over a thousand head of draft and saddle type horses. In August 1933, a trainload of Sutton horses was shipped to market in Chicago. This shipment was one of the largest of its kind and made the headlines of all the Chicago and surrounding area papers.
As the demand for draft stock declined, the ranch focus shifted to the breeding of good, ranch bred saddle horses. In 1949 the first registered Quarter Horse foals were born on the ranch, and that same year the Sutton Brothers purchased a registered stallion in Texas. The broodmare band was enlarged as opportunity knocked in 1950 when a severe drought in Texas forced many well known southern breeders to disperse/reduce their horse herds.
Over the years Quarter horses raised on the ranch have claimed their share of honors: state halter and performance champions, winners at the World Show, AQHA Champions, track record breakers, futurity and derby winners and outstanding rodeo event horses that have taken their owners to the pay window. The dedication to improvement of the Quarter Horse industry also prompted the ranch to host annual Monte Forman Clinics for a number of years.
Sutton Brothers Rodeo
John and James joined the rodeo business as time went on and Sutton Brothers Rodeo Company began producing rodeos outside of South Dakota. In 1962, Raymond sold his interest in the Sutton Rodeo Company to brother James and his son James Jr. (Jim). Today the Sutton Rodeo banner still blows over a number of major rodeos.