Hinton started ranching and a year later married Mary Emma Fitzpatrick. They lived together in the dug-out where she gave birth to their children, James E. in 1874, and Lillian in 1876. Together they struggled to make it in tough conditions, marginal country, a harsh climate and isolation. It was twelve long years before he received title to his first piece of land where the following year Mary Emma would die. Richard Hinton persevered, planned and built for permanence.

During the early 1880s, the sheep industry was rapidly increasing in importance. Wool became one of Oregon’s leading exports and sources of revenue. The semiarid regions of Oregon’s interior were well suited to raising sheep. Hinton carefully improved and expanded his flocks, importing breeding stock and cross-breeding meat and wool breeds which eventually led to the creation of the Columbia Sheep— an entirely new breed, ideally suited for the high desert terrain and yielding more pounds of lamb and excellent wool. It was also remarkable that he raised cattle, especially during a time when there were range wars occurring between sheepmen and cattlemen. He established a diverse operation focused on the stock, while also producing grain and hay to carry the animals through the bitter winters.

Hinton built the Imperial Stock Ranch’s strong reputation and established its long lasting tradition for outstanding lamb, fine grade wool and high quality beef. In fact, by 1900 he had grown from a young man with a dream into the largest individual producer of wool and sheep in Wasco County — and eventually becoming the largest individual owner of land and stock in Oregon.

James E. Hinton, born in the dug-out cave on the ranch, took over for his father in 1915. He earned his own reputation as he continued to build the empire which was at the time, carrying 35,000 head of sheep, more than 1,000 head of cattle and pasturing hundreds of horses. The ranch could move it's stock from Shaniko to south of La Pine, and never leave land they controlled — either through ownership or lease.

George Ward was born and raised in Antelope, Oregon, only a short distance from the Hinton ranch holdings. In the 1930's, he came to work for Jim Hinton and proved himself a hard worker and a good sheepman. In 1945, having no children of his own, Jim Hinton gave George and his wife Mary the opportunity to buy a half interest in the ranch. Upon closing the deal, it became the Hinton-Ward Ranch and remained so until 1967 when the Wards bought the remaining half interest, all while George carved out his own reputation as a successful rancher.

In 1988, the ranch passed from the Ward family to the Carver family, who have owned it to the present day.


Richard Hinton’s dream has evolved to today where the Imperial Stock Ranch is the only privately held ranch in Oregon recognized as a National Historic District. Many of the early day facilities are still in use. The setting, history and husbandry practices are a real draw for tours of varied interests. Today, Dan and Jeanne Carver are extremely proud to carry on the traditions and sound, sustainable practices started more than 135 years ago.