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The Tooke Family

Earl Tooke (1874-1937)

Bessie Tooke (1880-1948)


The Tooke clan came from County Wicklow, Ireland, to the United States in 1808 settling in New York.


Earl Tooke was born at Madison County, New York on July 19, 1874. He had one brother and one sister. After growing to manhood, Earl left New York and drifted south.


Bessie Maude Basford was born on August 1, 1879, at Shelbourne, Vermont. The Fred Basford family, three daughters and one son, moved to a South Dakotafarm near Redfield and Crandon in 1880.


Earl Tooke ended up in South Dakota. he found farm employment in the Redfield area and boarded with the Basford family. he developed a romance with Bessie Basford and they were married on May 8, 1901.


Earl worked various jobs and he hoped to eventually own a farm or ranch. Congress passed the Homestead Act in 1862 which allowed a homesteader to file on 160 acres of land. The homesteader was required to build a house, farm half of the land and establish residency for five years.  At the end of the five years, if the homesteader had "proved up," he was granted permanent ownership. In 1909, the amount of land was increased to 320 acres and proved up time reduce to three years.


Homesteaders started settling Montana and the western Dakotas in 1900; in 1910 the land rush was on. Earl decided to leave eastern South Dakota and see what land was available for claiming in southeast Montana.


Earl and Bssie raised six sons on their homestead: Frank, Fay, Chandler, Granville, Dick and Bill. Help by his sons, Earl ran a sheep and cattle operation which later branched out into bucking horses and rodeo.


Earl passed away suddenly at the Tooke Ranch on October 11, 1937. He was laid to rest in the Ekalaka Cemetery. Bessie passed away at the Beach, North Dakota hospital after a lengthy illness on May 29, 1948. She is buried next to Earl in Ekalaka.

Frank Orlan Tooke (1902-1958)



Frank Orland Tooke was born at Crandon, South Dakota, May 13, 1902.  After moving from South Dakota to Earl Tooke's homestead west of Ekalaka, Montana, Frank went through the grade school at Scholfield School. He went to high school in Ekalaka, then went east to Hamilton, New York, where he lived with an uncle, Francis Tooke, and enrolled at Colgate Academy High School. Frank finished high school at Redfield, South Dakota. After graduation from high school Frank sheared sheep adn worked in grain elevators until he was accepted by the railroad as a locomotive fireman.


Frank worked for the railroad for several years; when he retired from the railroad, he managed night clubs in Miles City, Montana.


Frank and Mary Mariana were married on March 3, 1934, and lived in Miles City where they raised a daughter, Joyce and twin sons, Frank and John.


Frank passed away March 22, 1950, in Miles City. He was laid to rest in the Ekalaka Cemetary. Mary passed away April 30, 2000.

Fay Richard Tooke (1907-1981)


Fay Tooke was born in South Dakota on May 9, 1907. He came to Carter County with the rest of the family in 1912 and attended the Scholfield School on Beaver Flat. Fay graduated from Carter County High School in 1926, then went to college one year at Billings Rocky Mountain Tech then transferred to the University of Montana for two years. Fay settled down on Earl Tooke's homestead, partnering with his brother, Feek, raising cattle and sheep. This is where he lived and and worked until his death on April 30, 1981.


Fay married Margaret McLean on November 4, 1940. They lived on Earl's homestead west of Ekalaka where they raised two sons, Garth and Greg.


Fay lies at rest in the Ekalaka Cemetary. Mag passed away May 10, 2006, and is buried next to Fay.

Chandler Earl 'Feek Tooke (1909-1968)


Chandler Tooke was born April 12, 1909 at Redfield, South Dakota. His Aunt Elsie, disliked the name Chandler, so she referred to Chandler as "Felix", Fay couldn't properly pronounce Felix, saying instead, "Feek", a name that stuck from then on.


Feek went to Schofield Grade School with the rest of his brothers. After graduating from grade school, he remained on the Tooke homestead, preferring to help his dad rather than go to high school.


With Feek's direction, the tooke brothers promoted a rodeo on the ranch, Memorial Day 1931. Feek was the horseman of the family and gather broncs from the area; there were hundreds of unclaimed wild and unbroken horses to choose from that had been abandoned when homesteaders packed up and left their claims. The Tooke Brothers went on to furnish bucking horses for rodeos at Ekalaka, Baker, Miles City, Belle Fourche, Deadwood, Bowman, Hettinger, Dickinson and Medora. Tooke horses also went east to rodeos in Chicago, Boston and New York.


Feek began experimenting with a bucking horse breeding program in the late 1930s. His Shire Arabian bloodline became the foundation of the legendary breed that has produced more than 10,000 bucking horses; over 20 world champion bucking horses share this bloodline.


Feek and Thelma Stenseth were married on July 9, 1936, and settled on Reno Swifts Ranch at the head of Alkali Creek. They raised two sons, Ernest and Ken, along with two daughters, Louise and Sharon.


Feek passed away on December 7, 1968, at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he had just been presented with an award for Sheep Mountain, a world champion bucking horse he had bred and raised.


Feek was buried in the Ekalaka cemetery. Feek Tooke and his rodeo broncs have been officially recognized in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, the Montana Rodeo Hall of Fame, and the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Granville Frederick 'Ted' Tooke (1910-1984)


Granville was born at his grandmother's hosue near Crandon on October 8, 1910. When he was quite young, Bessie and her four sons made the move to Montana and Earl's homestead.


Like his brothers, Granville went through grade school at Schofield. Conspicuous with bushy red hair covering his head, Granville was known to all as "Red".


Red graduated from Carter County High School in 1929. When he wasn't working on the home ranch, Red traveled around the western United Stateswith a crew shearing sheep, going as far as California.


Red joined the United States Navy and was assigned to the See Bees Construction Carps. The See Bees were in the middle of combat all through World War II in the Pacific War zone, building air strips, bases, bridges and roads. Red operated a bulldozer on major projects in New Guinea and the Philippines. After the war ended, Red was discharged in 1946. Red came back to Ekalaka and worked on the Tooke Ranch. He operated bulldozers building reservoirs, dikes, and roads. A really skilled "catskinner"; he would drive a bulldozer where it wasn't safe to ride a horse in the Powder River Badlands.


Red loved to hunt and was always on the trail of "a big one" during deer season. He ran a trap line during the winter months and bagged many coyotes and bobcats.


Red and Goldie Hutton were married on November 24, 1965 and they made their home in Ekalaka until hisdeath, April 14, 1984.


Red is buried in the Ekalaka Cemetery next to his parents Earl and Bessie Tooke. Goldie passed away on December 30, 1993.

Richard Darwin 'Dick' Tooke (1912-1972)


Richard (Dick) was the only son born in Ekalaka; his date of birth was September 2, 1912. His school education came from Schofield, and he graduated from CCHS in 1930.


A really talented banjo player, Dick studied music at the Minneapolis School of Music. He worked on the ranch and played for local dances until he married Arlene Costlow on Christmas Day 1940.


Dick and Arlene rented a house in Ekalaka where Dick operated a dry cleaning shop. He later went into the grocery store business in partnership with Tom Pickard.


Dick joined the United States Navy when World War II broke out. He worked in the engines room on LST landing ships and was involved in the Sicily invasion. He was discharged from the Navy in 1945 ranked as a Chief Petty Officer.


Dick and Arlene moved to the coal booming town of Colstrip where Dick serviced the giant Earth moving tripping shovels. They returned to Ekalaka and took over the local telephone company operated by Arlene's mother in 1951.


Dick served in the Montana House of Representatives for two terms. They sold the telephone company and spent time in Hawaii. Dick and Arlene bought a home in Roberts south of Billings. They traveled to Canada, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru.


Dick and Arlene's family consisted of Tom, Pam, Pat, and Rich.


Dick passed away suddenly at his Roberts home on August 28, 1972. He was creamated and his ashes were scattered on the Tooke Ranch. Arlene passed away on May 20, 2008.

Robert William 'Bill' Tooke (1917-2004)


Earl and Bessie's youngest son Robert William (Bill), was born at Redfield, south Dakota on October 20, 1917. His grade school education came at Schofield and Ekalaka Elementary. Bill was a student at Carter County High School his freshman and sophmore years then transferred to Custer County High School, graduating in 1935.


Bill was a member of the Miles City Cowboys football team that played Billings High School Broncs for the state championship.


Bill joined the Army Air Corps in November 1941, after graduating from Aircraft Mechanics School at Keesler Field, Mississippi. The United States had been drawn into World War II, so Bill was assigned to Waller Field in the British Set Indies for an 18 month tour of duty.


While in the West Indies bill became aquainted with Pauline Wolf who was employed by the Air Service Command.


Bill was transferred to San Antonio, Texas, where he married Pauline on July 19, 1944. Bill was re-assigned to Guam and stationed there until the war ended in September 1945.


After being discharged from the Air Corps in December 1945, Bill and Pauline moved to Ekalaka. Bill operated a sawmill and a cement block plant, and became involved with heavy equipment and Earth moving. He was the Carter County Road Foreman for a lengthy period of time.


Bill and Pauline raised a daughter Virginia (Ginny). Pauline passed away on September 10, 2000, and Bill joined her on October 29, 2004. Both are buried in the Ekalaka Cemetery.

The only known photo of the six Tooke brothers together. Bill, Dick, Ted, Feek, Fay and Frank in 1937 at their father, Earl's funeral.

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