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History of the Ranch

Imagine the year 1860. Kansas was still a territory. It was the year that Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. It was also the year that 26-year-old J.R. Blackshere left his home and dry goods business in Virginia to pursue a serious interest in agriculture, especially livestock. He traveled west to the bluestem pastures of the Flint Hills. He staked a claim, built a one-room cabin – the back of the current home – to make it a legal homestead. His family home in Virginia was now located in the new West Virginia, just one result of the turbulent Civil War era; same location, different state. The family – his wife and four children, returned in 1867 to Chase County, Kansas to make their home on what would become the Clover Cliff Ranch.

Mr. Blackshere raised the first successful alfalfa crop in Kansas. He introduced black Galloway cattle to Chase County and the Clover Cliff. This breed of cattle originated in Scotland and was known for long curly hair that resisted the cold Kansas winters. A heavy coat eliminated the need for excessive body fat, producing leaner meat for the market. The Blacksheres also made major additions to the limestone house in the time they called the Clover Cliff Ranch home. The house was complete in 1883.

Mr. and Mrs. Homer Prather bought the ranch in 1912 from the heirs of Jacob Blackshere. The Prathers added modern plumbing and electricity as they became available. They converted the wooden porch to a wrap-around stone veranda and also built the three other houses that surround the main Ranch house. Mr. and Mrs. Prather generously opened their home to entertain in a style that brought a more formal culture to the surrounding community. In addition to their family and an extended community of friends, they also opened their home to more notable visitors, including the poet Vachel Lindsay.

In 1987 James and Joan Donahue bought the Clover Cliff Ranch from the Prather heirs. Their diversified business interests included a manufacturing plant in Durham, Kansas as well as a significant ranching enterprise in Marion County, Kansas. Their intent was to expand their farming operation and also to renovate and maintain the historical and aesthetic value of this 19th-century treasure. They devoted serious efforts to recognize, preserve and restore the unique features of the home. You will notice the copper, lead and tin alloy roof and also the roof railing that dates to the Blackshere era. The entry door has a special charm with its beveled, leaded-glass insets. The dramatic serpentine staircase connecting the two stories is constructed of walnut with railing support posts made of maple. Other features that reflect a culture of gracious living from an earlier day are notable throughout the home. The Donahues also continued the longstanding tradition of hospitality at the Clover Cliff Ranch. They entertained a number of famous individuals, including the crown prince of Dubai, who came with his entourage to participate in the 100-mile World Championship Equine Race.

Warren and Susie Harshman are proud to be the fourth owners of this historic 150-year-old, 3928-acre ranch. Through the years and subsequent ownership, the ranch has maintained its agricultural focus. The Clover Cliff Ranch was established as a working ranch, a tradition that continues to this day.  In addition to maintaining that agricultural heritage, Warren and Susie take seriously the tradition of gracious hospitality that has been such an important part of the ranch. They look forward to keeping that spirit alive.