V Bar Lazy 5

It came to me in the best way, as a heartfelt gesture. Some gifts stick with the recipient. I have kept it for years. After all, it has a family connection. I thought about that gift received over two decades ago, and finally did something about it.

It was a symbol my great-aunt wrote on a recipe card. Rescuer of discarded papers, she saved more than one piece of family history from the burn pile. Amongst her possessions was a booklet that had belonged to her grandparents – my great-great grandparents. It contained livestock brands. The symbol she had written was my great-great grandfather’s brand. It looked like crazy business. And I loved it.

v bar lazy five

It was used to mark livestock 104 years ago. I did not know what the symbol meant, or what it might teach me.

John B. and Ellen Fridley Cunningham’s foray into homesteading lasted about five years. They left their Montana claim and returned to Illinois. Their reasons for giving up wide open spaces for a suburban lifestyle are not certain, but perhaps their ages contributed to the decision. John was 55 and Ellen was 60 the year they went to Montana.

Livestock brands are still used. They identify property. Brands are registered and published. Some brands are found online. Newspapers sometimes printed brand images and owner information.

Historic brand registration books are making their way online. Digitized copies lack the romance of a family heirloom, but they provide information.

Montana has given a gift in the form of The Montana Memory Project. This collaboration between the Montana State Library and the Montana Historical Society Research Center provides digital collections, including Livestock brands 1873–1980. The livestock brands collection boasts 40,000 pages. Explanatory material includes information on brand regulations and registration. According to the site, “Brands were registered for a ten-year time period and had to be re-registered – starting in 1911 – at the start of each decade.”

The collection includes indexes by owner’s name or by brand, and brand registration books. The search feature seems confined to surname or location. I browsed and used the search feature. Handwritten indexes should be browsed for thorough results. Registration book entries sometimes have notes written over them, making them difficult to locate using the search feature.

I browsed the 1873-1910 Brand Index by Brands, a handwritten book showing the brand and a page number leading to the related entry in the Brand Registrations book.

When searching by brand, look up the brand’s first symbol, and then build from there. Brands are read from left to right, top to bottom, or outside to inside. After researching how brands are read or “called,” I concluded that the Cunningham brand was the V Bar Lazy 5. The V is obvious. The Bar _ connects the letter and number. Lazy 5 is the number 5 on its side.

A brand in the V section matched the brand on my recipe card. The index entry lists pages 3927, 3921, 3920, 3919, 3914, and 3904. There were more entries for this brand than I expected.

MT 1873-1910 brand index by brands STUV p35
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division, 1873-1910 Brand Index by Brands, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/16156/rec/1: accessed 11.16.14); citing Montana Historical Society Archives, SMF051-SMF060, 1873-1910 Reel 04.

1873 – 1910 Brand Index by Name shows results in a different way. J. B. Cunningham is on page 3921 of 1873—1910 Brand Registrations. That page number also appeared in the “by brands” index.

MT 1873-1910 brand index by name c p24
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division, 1873-1910 Brand Index by Name, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/16524/rec/2
: accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Archives, SMF051-SMF060, 1873-1910, Reel 4.

The 1873-1910 Brand Registrations book showed my ancestor’s name, residence, his brand, the registration date, exactly where his livestock would be branded with the symbol, and when the brand was re-recorded. A handwritten correction or change appears for his residence. The brand was registered 23 June 1910. This provides a specific time and place for John. He was in Montana for the 1910 census, enumerated as of 15 April, but recorded on 14 May. The census provides a school district number and the county. The brand book’s residence listing is more specific. Brand registrations provide evidence of their owner’s location on a given date, and might help to fill in census gaps.

1873-1910 Brand Registrations p. 3921
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division, 1873-1910 Brand Registrations, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/4270/rec/3 : accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Research Center, SMF 052, Reels 04-06.

What about the other page numbers in Brand Index by Brand? Let’s look at Brand Registrations.

Page
Date
Number
Name
Location
Cattle
Horses
Vent
Re-recorded
3904
10 Jun 1910
30849
J. T Sparling
Glasgow, Valley County
Right Shoulder
Right Shoulder
Below Original
Apr 1912
3914
17 Jun 1910
30931
Louis Morneau
Tee Dee, Custer County
Right Hip
Right Thigh
Below Original
3919
22 Jun 1910
30972
W. W. Hart
Inverness, Chouteau County
Left Hip
Left Thigh
Below Original
9 Jun 1911
3920
22 Jun 1910
30980
S. E. Corey
Musselshell, Yellowstone County
Left Ribs
Left Jaw
Left Thigh
10 Jun 1912
3920
23 Jun 1910
30992
J. B. Cunningham
Barley, Yellowstone County
Right Ribs
Right Jaw
Right Thigh
5 Jan 1912
3921
27 Jun 1910
31035
W. S. Stewart
Ashland, Custer County
Left Shoulder
Left Shoulder
Below Original
[yes, faint print]

Although the brand’s appearance is identical, it is unique to each owner because the brand’s placement on his or her animals differs.

John’s brand was re-registered in 1912. I needed to follow the brand. The 1911-1920 Brand Index by Name shows that J. B. Cunningham appears on page 808 of 1911—1920 Brand Registrations.

1911-1920 Brand Index by Name
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division,1911-1920 Brand Index by Name, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/18954/rec/5 : accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Research Center, SMF 52, Reel 07.

The 1911-1920 Brand Registrations book has a handwritten note across John’s brand entry. “Trans to R H Cunningham 1/15/19.” Robert H. Cunningham was John’s son. When John and Ellen returned to Illinois, Robert remained in Montana. The transfer date gives a possible time period for John’s exit from either Montana or raising livestock. Perhaps Robert used the brand and eventually had to make its ownership official. Laws direct brand registration, and not following requirements could possibly cause an owner to lose rights to branded livestock if an issue arose. Perhaps the most surprising aspect was that the brand did not leave the family when John returned to Illinois.

1911-1920 Brand Registrations
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division,1911-1920 Brand Registrations pages 1–3154, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/7421/rec/6 : accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Research Center, SMF 52, Reels 08-15.

My brand research was incomplete. I needed to follow Robert’s registrations. Because the brand was transferred, Robert also appeared in the 1911—1920 book. Robert lived in Stillwater County, which was formed in part from Yellowstone County in 1913.

1911-1920 brand registrations p.8418 robert h cunningham
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division,1911-1920 Brand Registrations pages 6300–10083, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/15055/rec/8 : accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Research Center, SMF 052, Reels 08-15.

I did not find Robert in the 1921-1930 Brand Index by Name. He was in the 1921—1930 Brand Index by Brands. The handwritten entry was faint and difficult to read.

1921-1930 Brand Index by Brands
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division,1921-1930 Brand Index by Brands, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/25079/rec/9 : accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Research Center, SMF 052, Reel 17.

Robert’s entry in the 1921-1930 Brand Registrations book shows that the brand was re-recorded in 1931. My work was not finished because I wanted to learn what became of the brand.

1921-1930 Brand Registrations
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division,1921-1930 Brand Registrations, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/23145/rec/11 : accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Research Center, SMF 052, Reels 18-20.

The 1931-1940 Brand Index by Name sent me to page B-1250 of 1931—1940 Brand Registrations.

1931-1940 Brand Index by Name
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division,1931-1940 Brand Index by Name, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/15812/rec/13 : accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Research Center, SMF 052, Reel 22.

The 1931-1940 Brand Registrations volume shows that the brand stayed in the family through its 1941 re-registration.

1931-1940 Brand Registrations
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division,1931-1940 Brand Registrations, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/29864/rec/14 : accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Research Center, SMF 052, Reels 23-26.

The 1941-1950 Brand Index by Name led to page C-180 of the registrations book.

1941-1950 Brand Index by Name
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division, 1941-1950 Brand Index by Name, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/18272/rec/16: accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Research Center, SMF052, Reel 28.

1941-1950 Brand Registrations shows that the brand was re-recorded in 1951.

1941-1950 Brand Registrations
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division, 1941-1950 Brand Registrations, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/36624/rec/17: accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Research Center, SMF 052, Reels 29-32.

No re-registration date is shown in the 1951-1960 Brand Registrations. There are no indexes for the 1951-1960, 1961-1970, and 1971-1980 volumes.

1951-1960 Brand Registrations
Montana, Brands-Enforcement Division, 1951-1960 Brand Registrations, digital image, Montana Memory Project, (http://www.mtmemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16013coll33/id/41706/rec/18: accessed 11.16.14), citing Montana Historical Society Research Center, SMF 052, Reels 33-35.

I did not find Robert in 1961-1970 Brand Registrations or in 1971-1980 Brand Registrations.

The Montana Memory Project hosts digitized issues of the Big Timber Pioneer. Bob Cunningham’s obituary the week of 3—9 February 1993 helped to explain the timing of the brand transactions. Bob, who died at age 100, moved to Montana with his parents when he was 18. His parents returned to Illinois in 1915. Bob sold his ranch in 1963. He had no children.

John B. Cunningham transferred the brand to his son Robert in January 1919, keeping it for nearly four years after selling his ranch and leaving Montana. Robert used the brand, but did not re-register it in 1961. He did not appear to transfer the brand.

The trail was cold. Does the Cunningham’s version of the V Bar Lazy 5 exist today?

The Montana Cattlemen’s Association has a brand search, with a limit of three guest searches. The brand has one current entry. Brand books show owners with that surname use the brand on the left ribs for cattle and the left thigh for horses. It is possibly S. E. Corey’s old brand, registered in 1910, with a change in the brand’s location on horses. Corey branded cattle on the left ribs, horses on the left jaw, and used the left thigh for a vent mark. Vent marks indicate the sale of an animal.

The Montana Department of Livestock Brand Enforcement Division offers an online list of available brands. The V Bar Lazy 5 is available, but placement is LH – RH on cattle, and LS – RT on horses.

I revised my original table to keep track of the new data. There are no obvious current matches for either J. T. Sparling’s or J. B. Cunningham’s brand placements.

Date
Name
Location
Cattle
Horses
Vent
Present Day
10 Jun 1910
J. T. Sparling
Glasgow, Valley County
Right Shoulder
Right Shoulder
Below Original
Unknown Re-recorded Apr 1912
17 Jun 1910
Louis Morneau
Tee Dee, Custer County
Right Hip
Right Thigh
Below Original
RH cattle, RT horses available
22 Jun 1910
W. W. Hart
Inverness, Chouteau County
Left Hip
Left Thigh
Below Original
LH cattle available
22 Jun 1910
S. E. Corey
Musselshell, Yellowstone County
Left Ribs
Left Jaw
Left Thigh
Possibly taken, as LR cattle and LT horses
23 Jun 1910
J. B. Cunningham
Barley, Yellowstone County
Right Ribs
Right Jaw
Right Thigh
Unknown
Re-recorded 9 Feb 1951 by R. H. Cunningham
27 Jun 1910
W. S. Stewart
Ashland, Custer County
Left Shoulder
Left Shoulder
Below Original
LS horses available


The status of John B. Cunningham’s V Bar Lazy 5 brand is undetermined. But I know of a recipe card that has been duly branded. Front side. Top right.

© 2014, Debbie Mieszala. All rights reserved.

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