1935 - The beginning
Two Guys From Adamsville
For over 60 years, Leachman has been a familiar and respected name in the purebred cattle business. Two sons, the last of seven children of James Henry Leachman and Alice Starrett Leachman, Leland Lemert (Lee), and Lester James (Les), started it all. Sons and grandsons have added support to the reputation the two principals enjoyed.
Born on a small livestock farm near Adamsville, Muskingum County, Ohio, the two brothers were the first of the family to attend college. Both worked their way through Ohio State University living and working in the beef cattle or draft horse barns; both were on the University Livestock Judging teams; both were inducted into the Ohio State University Animal Science Hall of Fame and both graduated . . . Lee-1939 . . . Les-1946. Both were called to judge the Perth Show in Scotland. They joined forces at Ankony Angus. The list of achievements written in the world's Angus record book by Ankony Farm of Rhinebeck, New York challenges even the most optimistic Angus enthusiast. Both men were inducted into the Angus Heritage Foundation by the American Angus Association in 1989 for their improvement and promotion of the Angus breed. In 2006, Lester's portrait was hung in the famous Saddle and Sirloin Club Gallery, Louisville, Kentucky.
Leland L. Leachman (1917-1993)
The patriarchs of two three generation Leachman families that have given the Angus breed leadership for over 60 years were Leland L. Leachman and Lester J. Leachman.
Lee was the first of a family of seven to attend college. While at Ohio State University, he worked in the beef barn and built a reputation among student, faculty and area stockman as a skilled, competitive fitter and showman. He was the first student to earn blue ribbons in beef, horse, hog and sheep showmanship classes in the OSU Saddle and Sirloin Club sponsored Little International Livestock Show.
He had the advantage and was challenged while under the wise teaching of Dr. Carl. W. Gay and Professor D. J. Kays. He learned the lessons of livestock judging, selection and principals of breeding. Lessons of the barn were learned from J. B. McCorkle, Ohio State's premier beef cattle herdsman.
The first two summers in college he worked with the Paul Teegardin Polled Shorthorn show herd where he gained valuable experience from this family who dominated the Polled Shorthorn business in North America.
The summer following his junior year at OSU (1938), Lee became the boxcar riding partner of Elliott Brown, roading the show herd of El Jon Farms, Rose Hill, Iowa on the state fair circuit. Elliott was the junior owner of El Jon with his father John B. Brown. Two great individuals in their summer string were Envious Blackcap B6, who became the 1939 International Grand Champion bull, and Erianna B2, the 1937 International Grand Champion female.
Lee continued at El-Jon after graduation the next year until "Envious" was purchased by Charles T. Bates, Ada, Oklahoma, late in 1940 for $10,000. Lee went to Bates in the transaction as herdsman. A year later, when B-6th was purchased by Ravenswood Farm in Virginia, the Angus Journal carried the following account, "Possibly next to 'Envious' the best part of the deal for Ravenswood was securing the service of Lee Leachman as herdsman."
Ravenswood presented many new challenges. One was the experience of working with large numbers of Angus. He worked with the $25,000 Ravenswood Pride Eric and the blood and power of Eileenmere 260th. Years later at Ankony, his keen breeding decisions at the time contributed to Ankony Farms early success. The Ravenswood herd was sold in November 1945 to C. V. Whitney, Old Westbury, New York and Lexington, Kentucky.
After the Ravenswood herd sale, Lee moved to Nanuet, New York to manage Gallagher's Farm. While there, he purchased and fitted the International Reserve Grand Champion Bull, Prince Barbarian of Sunbeam.
In October 1947, Lee and his wife Mildred, an Ohio State graduate and prominent leader of Ag campus activities as a student whom he married in 1941, rented a farm near Rhinebeck, New York, owned by Allan Ryan. The young family included son James, daughters Joyce and Carolyn (Lynn). Daughter Gay was born at Ankony. Things were set to go big time.
With the move to Rhinebeck, Lee was ready to bring his small herd, being cared for by Mildred's family in Ohio, to the new farm. Most of the animals were payment-in-kind for his work on previous farms.
Allan A. Ryan, chairman of the board of Royal Typewriter Co., was the owner of Ankony Farm, Rhinebeck, New York. The historic landmark overlooking the scenic Hudson River Valley was named after an Esopus Indian named Ankony who signed a treaty in 1686 transferring 2000 acres of land to US buyers for stuff.
In 1935, Allan purchased a part of this historic land and soon purchased a group of 10 Briarcliff bred heifers for $150 each. At the 1939 International Bull Sale, he purchased Blackbird Barry for $825. "Barry", a double bred grandson of Bandolier of Anoka, was bred in the Scripps, Wildwood herd at Lake Orion, Michigan. He left a good foundation of Barry/Briarcliff females in the Ryan herd to build on.
In May of 1947, Mr. Ryan purchased a 10 month old son of the 1946 International Grand Champion Eileenmere 500, Eileenmere 1032, at the J. Garrett Tolan Farm Sale in Pleasant Plains, Illinois.
Soon after Lee and Mildred moved to the Rhinebeck Farm, talks of a partnership between Lee and Allan began. Their pact was signed in early 1948. In opening the 1963 Ankony Sale, celebrating the herd's Silver Anniversary, Allan Ryan related details of founding the partnership:
". . . You might be interested in a little story. Lee Leachman and I talked about the possibility of forming a partnership. We had someone come to appraise my herd of cattle. Lee had some cattle of his own in Ohio. We talked about it. Lee went to his savings bank, took out his savings and bought a half interest in this herd. When that was done, I said, 'Lee, you know that we have to have some working capital, if you have anything left.' The next morning he called up and said, 'Yes, I have $920,' and I said I'll do the best I can to arrange to match it.' With the $1840, we started the Ankony herd; and until this moment, none of us have put another cent into the capital of this partnership except what the animals in the herd produced."
With the partnership formed, one of the first tasks was to combine the two small herds. Another exciting task involved the fitting and showing "the 1032nd" for the fall Eastern National show. Judge John Brown made him Reserve Grand Champion. Lee's management skills then went into practice deciding time in the fitting barn and at the breeding chute. After he was made the 1948 International Reserve Grand Champion, artificial breeding had taken over. Ankony started collecting him two or three times each week. He was made International Grand Champion in 1949. Pay-off started almost immediately.
In Ankony's 1950 spring production sale, the first six calves by "1032" sold for a total of $17,500. The next year, the sale opener featured "seven calves in the ring by 1032nd", the winning bidder picks. The top bull was six-month old Ankonian 3219 at $15,000. The top heifer pick was Ankony Primrose 2nd at $6,500. Run Acres Farm in Connecticut bought both. Calves by "1032" were second prize get at the 1949 International and second prize junior get in 1950.
At the 1950 Kansas City American Royal, Allan and Lee spotted an impressive senior yearling bull exhibited by Penny and James, Hamilton, Missouri. Lengthly negotiations brought Homeplace 999-35th to Dutchess County under the ownership of Ankony, Myron Fuerst and Mole's Hill Farm. The third herd sire coming to the young Ankony partnership was O. Bardoliermere. For that story, we should go to Lester Leachman who made it happen.
Lester J. Leachman
Basketball, woodworking, drama, music and farm chores at home served up a busy lifestyle for Lester during his Adamsville, Ohio high school years. Probably the most important activity of all was playing the lead in a school musical with Ruth Arnold who became his wife 20 years later.
Les entered Ohio State University in 1938. On his first day he met Herman Purdy. They worked together in the beef barn under J. B. McCorkle while in school. Mutual professional respect lasted a lifetime.
Les was a walk-on for the 1939 Ohio State freshman basketball team and that fall he was called to the varsity. At the end of the season, the tug of the barns made him decide to give up basketball. Many years later, grandsons Adam and Josh, earned college scholarships in basketball and water polo.
During his freshman summer break, Les worked with the show cattle of the Sam Marting Hereford herd of Washington Court House, Ohio. He became acquainted with living in a box car fitted for hauling 10 or 12 show cattle from fair to fair. The next summer, Les spent with the noted Wildwood herd, Lake Orion, Michigan. Both herds had professional herdsmen who added to Les' entry into the "big time".
Brother Lee was working with Colonel Pierce, owner of Ravenswood, in 1941 and talked to Les about coming to Virginia and helping with the show cattle that summer through the International. Lee also needed him to help oversee the breeding of 300 cows. College was put on hold for Les.
Les was called to military service in March 1943 and discharged three years later. He enrolled for the 1947 spring quarter at OSU. He was married to Ruth Arnold that June. The honeymoon was spent job hunting. He still had the summer quarter to complete for graduation.
In 1946, C. V. Whitney purchased the Ravenswood herd. Mr. Whitney was looking for someone to manage the cattle operation in Kentucky and establish a herd on the Whitney Estate at Old Westbury, Long Island, New York. Les had spent a year and a half with the Ravenswood herd in Virginia. He got the job and with a small herd of his own moved to Old Westbury in 1946. One of his first moves was to bring Kenneth Haines, another OSU friend, into the organization to manage the Kentucky cattle operation. Between the two of them, they changed the "bott-fly eating" Kentucky cow herd that had been used as pasture improvers for the Whitney race horse operation to a very competitive Angus seed stock operation.
Les, like his brother, seemed always to be looking for another herd bull. His old friend, Herman Purdy, now a professor at OSU and in charge of the beef herd, had shown calves by Bardoliermere 2nd in the Junior Get of Sire class at the 1950 International and won the class. Les stopped in Columbus on the way home from Chicago and took an option on three bull calves by Bardoliermere 2nd. He later selected O. Bardoliermere. That fall he was First Prize Summer Yearling at the International and Les had to take possession. He went on the truck to Ankony. It was not the end of his show career. He was First Prize Summer Yearling in 1952 and Grand Champion at the 1953 International.
After the '53 show, Les offered a one-third interest in O. Bardoliermere to Whitney Farms for $25,000. When they refused, Les, Ruth, two sons, Bill and Jay, and a small group of cows they owned, moved to a leased farm near Claverack, New York and Les started building a cow herd. In 1958, Les and Ruth bought 300 acres of the leased farm and remodeled the 1775 built Merryfield home. The cattle operation later became a part of Ankony Angus.
Ankony Angus (1953-1966)
The Ankony management dye was cast and for the next 13 years they set a torrid pace in the most competitive show rings in the country. Bulls like President, Jingo, Ballot, Banner, Panarama, Dor Macs 200 and 157, Keban Bardolier and Picador gained respected places in breed history and Ankony farm production sales posted new records. Progressive management practices, like recording monthly weights on all bulls starting a performance program, were always on the mend for better results.
In the early 50's, it was unusual for an Angus farm production sale in the east to list more than a half-dozen bulls in their sale. Ankony decided to go in the bull business.
I remember sitting down under an apple tree with Lee after walking through a group of cows and calves on the Haynes Estate one spring day in 1954. Lee was talking about this new emphasis. He ended with the statement, "Some day I am going to show 10 bulls in the International Best 10 Head Class and win it." He did it that fall and eight times in 12 years under the Ankony banner and the next four years under the Ankony Hyland Ranch sign. No other herd has ever accomplished the feat once. They opened bull merchandising spots with breeders in Virginia, Mississippi, Nebraska and South Dakota to reach the commercial breeder. At the same time, they moved only enough heifers into the show barn to satisfy their need in Junior Get and Get of Sire classes.
Lee was invited to judge Scotland's Perth Show and Sale in 1956. It opened new avenues. During the sale, he heard several times about this "fantastic" yearling bull, Ballot of Belladrum, owned by Gerry Rankin. We went to see him before coming home. He was not for sale, but two years later after being Supreme Champion at the Royal and Highland Shows, he came to Rhinebeck. Ankony, Bent Lee and Fuerst Stock Farms were the buyers. His popularity was immediate.
The Perth Show and Sale was barely over and Lee was back in England and Scotland "selling" an idea to breeders he visited. It went something like this. "I want to establish an Ankony Imported unit on my farm at Ankony. I am looking for the best females I can buy for this herd that will always be . . .all imports and their offspring." He bought females never before offered. The success stories of this unit are legendary.
In 1966, Allan finished his term as president of the American Angus Association. A year before he talked of wanting to change his life-style after his term was completed. They decided to disperse the Ankony herd. The three-day event was scheduled for October 13,14 and 15, 1966. Headlines in the Angus Journal reporting the sale read . . . "Ankony Breaks All Records . . . Gross of $2,681,500; Two Bulls at $203,000; $51,300 Top Cow." The 66 bulls averaged $17,007; 514 cows-$3,033; top ten lots $85,880; buyers came from 32 states and Canada.
Imported "Pure Pride 4th", that Lee had purchased as a heifer calf for $15,000 had already produced offspring selling for more than a half million dollars before the sale, sold as a ten year old cow for $40,000. Her heifer calf at side brought $11,300 and a one-half interest in President, her son, brought $203,000. The 62 daughters of Jill Erica of Fordhouse, another cow from the imported unit, averaged $18,366, and a third interest in her son, Ankonian Jingo 2nd , brought $203,000.
The principals of Ankony were free to set their sights on Ankony Hyland, Highmore, South Dakota.
Ankony Hyland (1964-1971)
The formation of Ankony Hyland in 1964 was not exactly "a start from scratch situation." There was too much experience and desire involved for that to be the case. The plant to "manufacture" new Angus records was Hyland Ranch, Highmore, South Dakota. They started by winning the Best 10 Head class at the International that fall . . . with all bulls.
Clayton Jennings, owner of the 7,000 acre, deeded and leased, Hyland Ranch, had built a respected reputation as a breeder and dealer of steer calves. The sires of many of these steers were by bulls leased or sold to the breeders by Clayton. .Many of them were Ankony bred bulls when he operated one of Ankony's bull merchandising points.
Les and Ruth went west in 1963 when they heard that Clayton had decided to sell Hyland Ranch. "Ankony Hyland of Highmore, South Dakota" was founded in January 1964. The principals were Les, the president, Lee, his son Jim, and Myron . . . Allan and Les' two sons, Bill and Jay, took minor interests.
Since not many cows were included in the ranch purchase, each of the principals put 25 cows, $2500 and their interests in Ankonian bulls, like President and Jingo, into the new business. They bought 500 heifers and "put them in the breeding chute." Two hundred and fifty of them and 250 bulls went into the first Ankony Hyland sale, just 10 months after the ranch purchase. Cattlemen from the US, Canada, Argentina and Mexico paid a respectable $527,430 for the offering. It was the start of a progressive, aggressive program.
Ankony Hyland history would not be complete without mention of Harold Arendt, the hard working, competent manager they hired in the fall of 1965. His skills of exercising the principal's programs, ranch management and customer relations had much to do with the ranches sterling reputation in the industry. He and his wife, Louise, and their 14 children added personality to the ranch.
Just two months after the Ankony dispersal, Ankony Hyland carried on a winning reputation. Gay Jingo was grand champion bull at the International and the Best 10 Head class was won with all bulls for the 10th time in 14 years. Two months later, at the 1967 National Western Stock Show in Denver, they led the Grand Champion bull and Grand Champion female. In the yards, they exhibited two carloads of bull calves and won both the Grand and Reserve Rosettes. Thirty two of these bulls were purchased by 29 breeders from 14 states and Canada.
Although still winning in the show ring in 1968, the principals recognized the need for more predictable performance and growth. Les records the move best in his book, No Better Bull. "…the plan was to develop a performance program . . . new blood was indicated and . . . they narrowed the search down to four herds. Then Harold and Les started the hunt to locate the most complete total performance herd in the United States, while Jim looked in Canada."
Four US herds were scrutinized: Erdmanns, Wye Plantation, Burch and Corbin. Dr. Robert Long encouraged the purchase of Emulous bred cattle in the Corbin herd with their extensive performance records. Emulation 31, who came with the herd, proved to be a great meat sire. Jim's search in Canada turned up Canadian Colossal (Camilla Chance).
Ankony Hyland was now offering four distinct lines of breeding; the Ankony , Pure Scotch, Canadian and Emulous. By the late 60's, Ankony was running approximately 4,000 mother cows in six states; Iowa, Montana, New York, Texas, Virginia and South Dakota.
Among the Ankony records lives the line-"Ankony showed the Grand Champion carload of bulls in Denver three times and two of these years also had the Reserve Grand Champion carload. These bulls were sired by seven different herd bulls at Ankony." The line points out the great depth of sire power concentrated in one organization.
Ankony Hyland sold all its cattle, land and equipment to Equity Funding Corporation of America on June 29, 1969. Officers of the newly formed Ankony Angus Corporation included president, , Tom Neff, representing Equity Funding, and Jim Leachman, EVP in charge of ranch operations.. Les' oldest son, Bill, came on board.
The new management expanded into the new breeds from Europe and were feeding thousands of steers for Equity Funding clients. In a short time, Les was expressing doubt at the new Ankony Hyland direction. In June 1971, the original principals of Ankony Hyland, Les, Lee and Jim Leachman and Myron Fuerst, separated themselves from the company. With the sale of Ankony Hylands in 1969, the principals signed a three year no-compete clause. It limited their immediate future plans.
After Ankony Hyland
After Ankony and Ankony Hyland the same Leachman family of breed promoters became Triple LLL Ranch, Leachman Angus Ranch, Leachman Cattle Company and Leachman Cattle Company of Colorado. The story of two hard working, astute young cattlemen who "made a difference" continues through their sons and grandsons making a breed and industry contribution today. But those chapters are still being written….
Acknowledgements: Background material for this Leachman family story has been taken from No Better Bull, by Les Leachman, 2003; The History of Red Angus, by Dr. Bob Hough; The Last Round-up, by James H. Leachman, BEEF, 2003; and The International Herd, from the 1966 Ankony Dispersal Catalog. Dale F. Runnion