October 29, 1861 to 1923
Harry proposed marriage to the sweetheart of his dreams, but when forbidden by his parents to carry out his plans, he left the farm and sought obscurity and solace in the bustling streets of the seaport of Liverpool. Whether he planned a night’s rest in the unnoticed cargo bay of a merchant’s ship or hoped to launch himself on an adventure to a world far away, the next chapter recorded of his pilgrimage found him as a stowaway on a ship headed for America. When finally weak from hunger, the frightened teenager decided it would be better to face the captain than starve. Ordered to help the cook or swim, Harry headed for the galley. When he wasn’t needed by the ship’s cook, his job was to look after the Hereford bulls on the layered decks.
When the ship finally docked in Galveston, Texas to unload her cargo of Hereford bulls, he was unceremoniously dumped on shore. The Texas rancher who had bought the shipment of Hereford bulls most likely heard a good report of Harry’s handling of the animals during the passage. His own cook needed a helper and he took pity on the stranded youngster. Harry walloped pots and pans and learned the cowboy trade on the side. No stranger to hard work or the upkeep of livestock, Harry rose to the challenge, and apparently impressed the rancher in his efforts.
From 1880 to 1886 wealthy cattle companies were being formed for the purpose of transporting cattle from the Southwest to the Indian Agencies of the Northwest and the standing army kept in that area. Innumerably large herds were purchased along the Mexican border and moved over a three thousand mile passage eventually known as the Old Texas Trail. Harry made four trips over the trail, two to Kansas and two to Nebraska. In the early era of Nebraska’s settlement, the Sandhills were often mistakenly thought to be just part of the High Plains farther to the west because of their vast expanses of sand dunes. To Harry and a few other brave souls, the rolling grassy hills and abundant water must have beckoned to their pioneering spirits. The promise of staking a claim on what might very well prove to be a cattleman’s heaven, made deep impressions.
When the Union Pacific railroad was built to Ogallala in 1866, the town and county began to make history in the cattle business and Ogallala will always be known as “The End of the Old Texas Trail.” Trailing cattle from Texas began in 1867 and for many years Ogallala was the second largest shipping point on the railroad. In the five year period between 1879 and 1885 between 100,000 and 125,000 cattle each year made their way through the Nebraska cow town. Competent, tough young men were needed to make the drives, and after his extensive, wearying work as a trail hand, Harry decided to park his bedroll and plant his roots in Ogallala, NE.
Upon arrival in America, Harry shortened his name to ‘Haythorn’ and it wasn’t long before he made his claim on a Sandhills bride, Emma. What Harry lacked in size, he made up for in resolute discipline and efficiency in his work. He would have been no stranger to the long hours needed to keep a ranch running. He was a top cowhand. His sons used to say that if they went after a calf with a rope and missed, they’d better get out of the way because Harry would be right behind them, and he’d reach out around them and rope that they’d missed.
Harry and Emma were officially married on October 28, 1891 and purchased their own home in Ogallala while continuing in the livery and feed business. Though business thrived in the burgeoning prairie town, one day Harry came in to his office, plopped down in a chair and remarked, “Who in hell ever heard of a liveryman haring anything? I’m a cowboy, and I’m going to the country!” Soon after, Harry closed the doors to the business and moved to Farm Valley. Their son Walter was born August 9, 1893 and Harry Jr.’s birth followed on July 16, 1895.
Harry and Emma began purchasing property and added to their holdings until the Haythorn Ranches became known throughout the cattle world as one of the leading Hereford ranches in the West. In 1908, Harry’s signature is shown requesting the historic ‘Figure Four’ brand, which remains today as a mark of the Haythorn heritage.