John Bell was born and raised above Toltec on the family homestead. John quit school after 8th grade to help the family earn money. His father died when he was young and his mother spent a good deal of time caring for the family from a wheelchair. He spent his life building the ranch with his bare hands, adding pieces to the homestead to make it what it is today. He spent many hours in the saddle, driving teams from the time he was very young, feeding and raising cattle and hay. His hay meadows were cleared by hand through the years and they were a spectacular sight to be envied!
John married his “schoolmarm” sweetheart, Genevieve Peterson in 1931. They raised 4 children on the ranch. They had no electricity or plumbing for years and phone lines were only acquired just recently. John spent his life improving his ranch, raising livestock, horses and hay. Most of the work in his day was done horseback, from the cattle to the fencing, to packing the mail and hauling supplies from the railroad in Medicine Bow. All of the haying in the earlier years was done with horses as well.
Anyone who knew him liked him. Most never knew he had only an 8th grade education, as he was extremely savvy in his ranching, finances, money, and life in general. His dad, Bert, was the same way, and he only attended school until 4th grade, leaving home at the age of 11 and walking from Pennsylvania to Texas. He was a teenager by the time he arrived there, stopping to make money along the way. Bert eventually ended up in Wyoming on the homestead.
John would tell great stories. Times were hard, work was hard, but you wouldn’t know it by his smile and his genuine love for his life.
John still has 3 living children, John of California, Laura Lee Wilkinson of Torrington, and Barbara Zankie of Idaho; as well as numerous grand, great grand and great great grand children.
John was a stockman, cowboy, husband, father and many things to many people, but mostly he was just a great guy. His history is truly a legacy.