Keith & Bryon Murray
Earl and Tula Murray, Keith’s grandparents, came to Powell from Ludlow, Missouri and homesteaded 80 acres on the Garland Division in 1914. Both the prospect of irrigation and Tula’s asthma made Wyoming’s climate attractive to them. They had a nursery business back in Missouri and immediately landscaped the homestead with trees and a fruit orchard, and grew small grains, alfalfa, beans, potatoes, and sweet clover seed. Finances caused them to turn over the Garland homestead to the Wyoming State Farm Loan Board and re-homestead in Willwood in 1931. Again, they landscaped and planted orchards on the new home site and encouraged fellow homesteaders to do the same. Their home was recognized as the most beautiful home in Wyoming in the late 1930s.
With their three children, Earl and Tula farmed and raised lambs and milk cows. Keith’s father, Bruce, was very active on the farm and in the community. He was the Wyoming State Sheep Winner in 1929 and the first Powell member to earn the State Farmer and American Farmer degrees, the highest accomplishment in FFA. He judged livestock contests at local and national levels and majored in Animal Production at University of Wyoming. He formed a family partnership with his father Earl when he returned from college in 1935.
Keith always felt he was born to farm. His hands on experience started immediately; he saw his grandparents nearly everyday when he’d do his chores with the sheep, pigs and cows. He followed his father’s example and earned the State Farmer and American Farmer degrees and also judged livestock contests. He never questioned his desire to farm and in 1957 while still in high school, joined his father and grandfather’s partnership.
In 1964, he returned to the farm full-time after he graduated from UW with a degree in Animal Science. He received the Outstanding Young Farmer of Wyoming in 1977, served on the Park County Fair Board for 12 years, Willwood Light and Power Board for over 30 and the Mayor’s Committee on Economic Development for about five. For ten years he’s served as the Chairman of the Willwood Irrigation Board and the Elk Water Users in Penrose with Burchell and Fred Hopkin. For over 40 years, he’s been the Beef Superintendent at the Park County Fair.
He and his wife Rita have four children; Bryon joined the family partnership in 1982. He too earned the State Farmer and American Farmer degree, which made the Murray’s the first, three generation American Farmer family in the country. Bryon always gravitated towards mechanics. As a little boy, he would take apart and reassemble lawn mower engines. When he was a freshman in high school, he restored an old tractor as a school project. From that point forward, they started collecting and restoring old tractors, farm machinery and steam engines to preserve the heritage of farm equipment for future generations. They have 130 gas and diesel tractors, half of which are still operable, and eleven steam engines, nine still run.
Farming is a deeply engrained way of life in the Murray family. They are collectors of history—meticulously documenting their own in memoirs and books like, “The Clock Ticks On,” by Earl Murray. From the initial 80 acres Earl and Tula owned, they now farm close to 2000. Sugar beets are the main crop, in addition to silage and picking corn, hay and alfalfa for forage. Their cattle operation is over 50 years strong; they raise commercial Angus and calve about 800 cows a year. Optimism, and an independent, self-sufficient spirit have produced four generations of Murray farmers in the Powell area.