The Wilson families homesteaded in Wheeler and South Gilliam Counties over 100 years ago and the Wilson Family is blessed with the same pioneer spirit. The Wilson’s ancestors came to the Oregon Territory on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s. Wilson Ranches is a 9,000-acre working cattle and hay ranch located in the Butte Creek Valley, west of Fossil. The John Day Basin and Columbia River Plateau influence the diverse geology of the ranch.
Wilson Ranches was founded in 1962 after the dissolution of L.E. Smith and Sons Company, which was headquartered at the F.E and Mary Smith (great-grandparents of Phil Wilson) homestead in the Mayville area. F.E. (Gene) Smith was a busy man operating a wheat and cattle ranch, raising draft horses, a livery stable in Fossil and a freighting business. He hauled wheat to Arlington and wool to Shaniko with supplies as a back haul. Son, L.E. (Loyd) Smith was involved in all aspects of the business and with the advent of the tractor increased the size of the ranch by acquiring neighboring homesteads, increasing the cattle herd and decreasing the draft horse herd. One of the pastures owned by Wilson Ranches today was originally used by F.E. Smith as pasture for the livery and draft horse operation.