Dean and Sharon Defrees, Lyle Defrees
Sumpter Valley, Oregon
The Defrees Ranch is a Certified Century Ranch nestled in the Blue Mountain valley called Sumpter in northeastern Oregon’s Baker County. Our ancestors were pioneers who settled here beginning in 1871. More came in the 1880s and 1890s attracted to the area because of its beautiful mountains, good soil, clear cool water and vast forest. Today third, fourth, and fifth generation family members call the ranch home.
The ranch consists of native meadows and healthy, well-managed forest. The history of the valley is one of logging, mining and ranching. Family members have always enjoyed the Blue Mountains with the changing seasons of the Huckleberry Mountain peaks to the south and the Elkhorn Mountain Range to the north.
About 470 acres of Defrees Ranch property has been in the family continuously for over 100 years. The remainder has been in the family for over 50 years. The basic family goals for the ranch include a good income for a comfortable living, family member generation succession for the next generations, stimulate pride of ownership and maintain great aesthetics, provide private and public recreation, maintain a healthy and sustainable forest, monitor and maintain soil and water quality, and minimize risk of forest fires, tree diseases, and noxious weeds.
Livestock is the major source of income and their welfare is constantly monitored. We breed cattle that thrive in the ranch environment. We monitor closely their health, feed quality and quantity, thermal environment, clean water supply, handling techniques, and freedom from stresses.
There were two first generation ancestor couples who purchased land that is now part of the Defrees Ranch holdings. The first couple was Jacob J. Defrees and Mary Jennette Wisler Defrees. Jacob came to Oregon on horseback from Nappanee, Indiana in 1881 with an uncle, William Fisher. In 1908 the couple bought their Sumpter Valley property.
The second ancestor couple of the first generation was Alexander S. Izatt, Jr. and Leona Jane Tibbs Izatt. Alexander came to Oregon from Logan, Utah at age 16 to work in the lumber mills owned by his brothers-in-law, Joseph Stoddard and George Stoddard. Leona’s family were loggers. In 1904 Alexander and Leona purchased their portion of what is now the Defrees ranch.
The second generation was Albert D. Defrees, son of Jacob and Mary, and Ellen L. Izatt, daughter of Alexander and Leona, who were married in 1922 and the two land parcels, plus other properties, eventually were incorporated into the Defrees Ranch. Lyle Defrees (wife, Margaret Rice Defrees, now deceased) is third generation. Fourth generation, Dean Defrees (wife, Sharon Duke Defrees) is the ranch manager. The fifth generation is Dean and Sharon’s children: Nathan, Tyler, and Dallas.