Sam Dement, Ron & Joan Harpole, Gary & Diane Simon
Reprinted from the summer 2014 issue of Range Magazine
Ellis Samuel “Sam” Dement was born into a pioneer ranching family on Sept. 23, 1920 in Broadbent, Ore., not far from the homestead of his grandfather, Samuel Maxwell Dement. Samuel settled in Coos County in 1852 and started the first ranch in Oregon in 1854. The Dement brand, widely recognized as Oregon’s oldest brand, is still held by the family today.
From a young age, Sam was enamored with the ranching life. He spent his early years on a horse with his father. “I learned about ranching and how to handle cattle from my dad.” Sam was an outstanding athlete in high school. In 1938, he enrolled in what was then Oregon State College and played basketball all four years. “I was coached by Slats Gill and he taught me many lessons of life that I will forever live by.”
While at college he met the love of his life, Dorothy McArthur, o San Jose, Calif. She was a great-looking home economics major who would become a major asset as they raised their family and took over the family ranch. “I took my horse to college and often took Dorothy on rides around campus as I was courting her.”
Upon graduation, Sam entered the US Army, serving in World War II. He married Dorothy in February 1943 at Camp Roberts, Calif. They were married for 61 years, until Dorothy died of cancer in 2004. A daughter, Diane was born in San Jose. A second daughter, Joan, was born in Myrtle Point, Ore. The two girls and their husbands run the ranch today.
After the war, Sam’s dad leased the ranch to him and his older brother, Russell. Both families lived in Myrtle Point in the winter months so that the children could attend high school. In the summer, both families lived on th remote ranch, located at the old community of Eckley in the coast mountains of Curry County.
“Russ and I continued to sell three-year-old grass-fat steers off the ranch,” Sam says. “Times were tough.” In 1956, Sam bought out his brother’s interest and three years later changed the focus of the ranch to selling calves in the fall.
Sam served in the Oregon Senate in the late 1960s and was elected president of the Oregon Cattlemans’s Association in 1982. He also served as chairman of the board for 29 years at Security Bank, a bank that his grandfather helped start.
Sam has spent a lifetime improving the genetics of his cowherd. “I tried numerous crosses to improve the mothers in the herd.” Even after all of the crosses, he was partial to horned Herefords. “I just enjoyed their looks and felt they had a better disposition and used our feed more efficiently.”
In the lated 1990s, Sam and Dorothy started to transition the ranch to their two daughters and families. “My goal,” Sam says, “is to live long enough to make sure the Democrats in Congress receive no death taxes from the ranch so that the family can continue ranching.”
Sam has been blessed with good health. He was active on the ranch and on horseback until he was 90. His favorite ranch activity now is to spend evenings around the firepit in the backyard, telling stories about the family’s history to the roundup crew, usually with a glass of Jack Daniels in everyone’s hand.
Sam could serve as a walking billboard for the beef industry. He enjoys beef every day, usually with potatoes and gravy. He takes no prescription drugs and has amazing numbers for cholesterol and blood pressure.
“Hard work, exercise, and a beef diet will keep you healthy and active.” He is proud of the ranch and its history. His grandchildren are the sixth generation and his oldest great-grandchild is a freshman at Oregon State studying agriculture. There are 10 great-grandchildren and he says, “I hope one of them will continue the legacy of the Dement Ranch.”
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