Tom Rickman, Pioneer Rancher on Bear Creek

By Steve Lent, Museum Historian

Thomas Newton Rickman was born on November 30, 1886 in Franklin, North Carolina. Tom married Nettie Ammons. He suffered from black-lung which he got from working in the coal mines of North Carolina. Several of his relatives had settled in Central Oregon and he and Nettie decided to move to the region hoping to improve his health. They traveled by train to Shaniko. Unfortunately while on the train his wallet was stolen by a pick pocket and Tom had to borrow money to get their trunks off the train. Shortly after arrival in Prineville they moved to the Bear Creek vicinity and Tom worked for his brother-in-law Paul Held doing ranch work. Tom and Nettie had four children but only two daughters survived. Nettie died late in 1913 shortly after their son Thomas was born. Their son died early in 1914.

Tom married Lucy Etta Kennedy Nieman on December 24, 1914. Lucy had a homestead nearby. Lucy’s husband, Willie Nieman, died shortly after their marriage and she was homesteading on her own after earning money waiting on tables at the Hotel Prineville. Tom and Lucy had five children who were raised with the two daughters of Tom and Nettie.

Tom established a ranch near the headwaters of Bear Creek. They had primarily a cattle operation but to survive during the Great Depression the family raised hogs, milked cows and sold cream and butter. Many of their neighbor homesteaders sold out their claims and Tom gradually bought up some of the nearby homesteads. Tom often joined his neighbors in joint cattle roundups.

He and Lucy moved to Dayville in 1959. Son Ray then operated the family homestead ranch until 1980. They owned a small ranch at Dayville until 1971 when they moved to Redmond, Oregon. Six of the Rickman children continued agricultural occupations in Central Oregon.

Thomas died on November 14, 1911. Lucy lived on for a few years and passed away on February 16, 1979. They are both buried in Juniper Haven Cemetery in Prineville. Their daughter Joyce Rickman Fearrien was selected as Crook County Pioneer Queen in 2004.