The Van Trump Report

Historic “Dumbbell Ranch” Set to Begin New Chapter After More Than a Century of Being Owned by Same Family

Dumbbell Ranch spans 15,500 acres in the Sandhills of Nebraska, smack dab on top of the deepest part of the Ogallala Aquifer. After more than a century of being owned by the same family, the historic ranch is poised to be taken over by new owners. With an asking price of $16.7 million, Dumbbell wasn’t even on the market for a full month before inking a preliminary agreement with buyers in Colorado.

It’s not clear what the actual sale price was but Anne Anderson Bennett said her family was happy with the offer. Bennett is also happy the ranch will not be passing to a corporation. According to Bennett, the potential new owners are a ranching family from Colorado that had been looking to relocate its operation to the Sandhills.

Dumbbell Ranch began as a homestead site established by Dr. A.J. Plumer and his fiance Anna. Plumer had hopes that one of the country’s new railroads would pass through the valley. According to legend, the pair decided to build the “White Mansion” to serve as a maternity hospital on the property. During construction, Plumer smashed his thumb with a hammer, exclaiming, “Only a dumbbell would do that!” The name stuck. Plummer went on to establish a cattle operation at Dumbbell but sold the ranch in 1906.    

Dumbbell swapped owners again in 1913 when Gustaf Anderson scooped up the property. Anderson was a Swedish immigrant born in 1856 and orphaned when his parents died from a plague. He came to America when he was just 11. Speaking no English, he found work as a water boy for a railroad construction crew and later drove a team of horses moving dirt. He went on to take a farm job with a family that helped him learn English, as well as all he needed to know about farming and ranching.

In 1871 at the age of 15, he landed in Iowa, working for a farmer named B.F. Runnels. By the mid-1870s, he was tending livestock owned by local farmers that let their herds graze the vast, unsettled prairies. He also made arrangements to have all his wages paid in cattle and developed a herd of his own. After buying a piece of land in Iowa, he married Runnels daughter, Jane, in 1882. The pair had three children while simultaneously building the farm.  

Anderson continued to expand his land holdings and in 1913, became the sole owner of Plumer’s Dumbbell Ranch. Anderson and his family grew Dumbbell Ranch to 52,000 acres before he passed away in 1936. His death was apparently sudden and he left no will. However, it was well known by the family that he always intended to divide Dumbbell equally between his three children, Walter, Ethel, and George.

The ranch was then divided into three sections, each with its own brand. They drew each of the brands on three cards. The Ace of Spades was the Pitchfork brand, the Ace of Hearts was the 3 Circles brand, and the Ace of Diamonds was the Dumbbell brand. The three cards were thrown into a hat and then each sibling drew a card. Gordon E. Anderson picked the Ace of Diamonds and received the Dumbbell Ranch and assumed management of the Iowa operation.

When Gordon died, the Dumbbell passed to his only surviving son, Jerry Anderson, who then handed it down to his children, Gordon E. and Anne. According to Anne, who lives in Red Oak Iowa, her brother works in tech and has established his life in Colorado. Her own daughters, both in their 20s, weren’t interested in ranching so they made the decision to sell the ranch.

The Dumbbell encompasses 15,568 deeded acres in Cherry and Grant County, Nebraska, and has historically been a 900-head year-round cow/calf operation. The ranch features two full sets of headquarters with improvements, rolling native rangeland, along with sub-irrigated meadows producing over 1,800 tons of hay annually.

The ranch has numerous lakes and live water throughout the property that provides excellent wildlife and waterfowl habitat. It also has an excellent livestock watering system in place, which includes 27 windmills, eight solar wells, underground pipeline, and numerous artesian wells. The historical “White Mansion” house built by Dr. Plumer is located at the main headquarters and has been kept up over the years. The 3.200 square foot home is currently used as the main house. The full listing, including more pictures, is still available HERE.

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