Western history has a way of making legends out of men or animals, and sometimes it is difficult to separate the facts from the legend. On this date in 1936 one such legend was roaming the bad lands of the Killdeer Mountains at the head of a herd of cattle. Known as Traveling Jenny, she was the Monarch of the Plains and belonged to the William Connolly spread near Killdeer.
Traveling Jenny was believed to be one of a number of super cows – a cross between a Hereford and a buffalo, she had the heavy shoulders and chest of the buffalo and the white face of the Herefords. Her shaggy coat allowed her to withstand the severe cold of the open range and she preferred to sleep in the snow rather than seek shelter in a barn. She held the undisputed reputation of being the strongest, fleetest cow in the western part of the state and was always on the move, hence the name. In 1936 she was the head of a herd of semi-wild cattle that mingled with the 700 head on the Connolly Ranch.
William Connolly was one of the pioneer ranchers of the state and had recorded the first brand registered in North Dakota, the Two Bars. Connolly had been a cowboy near Medora in the early days and had ridden with Roosevelt. At one time he had grazing rights to 70,000 acres and ran up to 2,000 head of cattle.
He began his career in the days of open range ranching. Texas Longhorn were the desired breed and a few stray buffalo still roamed the plains. The Texas Longhorn soon gave way to new breeds, and Connolly had been one of the leaders in promoting Hereford cattle. Traveling Jenny was the off-spring of one of these Hereford cows and a stray buffalo. She belonged to the Two Bar spread, but William Connolly was unable to enforce his proprietary rights because there was no barn, fence or building able to hold “Jenny.”
William Connolly died in 1946, and history does not reveal what happened to Traveling Jenny, but if you happen to be driving out along the rugged hills of Dunn County at about sunset and see a swirl of dust in the sky, that could be Old Bill Connolly and the Two Bar hands still trying to put a brand on Traveling Jenny.
Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis
The Bismarck Capital April 16, 1936 Page 7
“The Big Lease: Confined-range Ranching on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation” North Dakota History Volume 61, #4 Fall, 1994
Division of Vital Records Death Index