The Sommers Ranch is located southwest of Pinedale, Sublette County, Wyo., and is a privately owned site with 26 buildings. Most of the buildings are used primarily for agricultural purposes, with a few used for housing. The site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its contributions to the understanding of historic ranching in Wyoming. The ranch was founded in 1908 when Albert P. “Prof” Sommers established a headquarters on the present site. Three architects and builders are associated with the buildings: John Morrison, W. E. Aikens and Harold Taylor.
Three generations of Sommerses have lived and worked on the ranch. Albert was the first of his family to move to Wyoming and begin homesteading. Around the same time, May McAlister moved to the state to continue her teaching career and met Albert here; she acquired her own land and filed paper claims on her own homestead. When they married in 1911, each had land holdings and combined them, along with the land claims of Albert’s brother, Pearl, and other friends and families, resulting in a total holding of 1,900 acres.
Many pioneer homesteaders began ranching in the same manner: by having relatives move to the area, purchase land and add to the landholdings of the family, according to Jonita and Albert Sommers, authors of the document nominating the site for the National Register of Historic Places. After Prof died in 1928, May ran the ranch for several years by herself. She was a strong, independent woman, and served also as Sublette County superintendent of schools beginning on Jan. 10, 1929. She sold the ranch to her son, Albert, in 1947. After the second generation died, ownership of the ranch passed to Albert’s son, Albert, Jr. and his sister, Jonita, who still run the ranch today. Every generation of the Sommers family has been, and still is, very active in the community, and family members take pride in their work.
Most of the lumber to construct the buildings on this land came from the surrounding mountains. The homestead house was built by a neighbor, John Morrison, in 1908 and was moved with a six-horse team to its current location in 1910. The yard surrounding the house was planted by May and has been maintained by all the Sommers women since.
The icehouse was originally built for use as a house for May’s parents, Jim and Josie McAlister, and was later used as a house for the hired help. This structure was moved and turned into an icehouse sometime after 1921; today, it is used as a machine shed. The playhouse was built for the children in the late 1950s. The buildings constructed by Prof and May are still being used today. The Sommers Ranch received a plaque commemorating its century of contributions to agriculture from the Green River Valley Cattlewomen and a Centennial Ranch Award from the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office.
More history about the family, the buildings and the area may be found in the ranch’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Nominations can be obtained online by searching the following website: http://wyoshpo.state.wy.us/NationalRegister/Search.aspx, or by contacting the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office at (307) 777-7697.
- National Register of Historic Places, Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office. “Sommers Ranch Headquarters Historic District, Sublette County, Wyoming.” Accessed 12/13/11 at http://wyoshpo.state.wy.us/NationalRegister/Site.aspx?ID=503
- Sommers, Jonita and Albert. Sommers Ranch Headquarters Historic District National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, January 2009, Sublette County file. Cheyenne: Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office.
- The photo is by Richard Collier of the Wyoming State Historical Preservation Office. Used with thanks.