In 1942 Judge James C. Cheek, Jr. (known to the family as “Pop”) purchased the 160 acre quarter section NE of where Wilshire Blvd intersects Sara Road in Canadian County, Oklahoma. At that time, the almost 15 mile trek from the family’s home at 32nd and Shartel in the City was primarily made of rural, dirt roads; it surely would have taken the Judge an hour and a half trip, one way. That was the very beginning of what has become The Cheek Ranch today.
After Pop’s sons came back from the war, he and his two eldest bought a second quarter section to the west, directly across Sara Road from the first. Pop’s original quarter and the new Red House quarter together quickly became a family retreat for fowl hunting and horseback riding. The Judge enjoyed the rest of his life, working to start the cattle operations on the land.
After Pop’s passing in February of 1960, the two brothers continued in their father’s footsteps by buying other quarter sections along Sara Road as far north as Memorial Road. In the mid-1980s they decided to divide the land, so as to separate their estates for the next generation. John D. Cheek, the younger brother (known to his grandchildren as “Poppa”), received the original two quarter sections on Wilshire and Sara, an adjoining 160 acres on Britton Road known as The Dead House quarter, and an additional quarter section on Memorial that he ultimately traded for one on the SE corner of Wilshire and State Highway 4.
Later in 1988, John also acquired actor Dale Robertson’s Haymaker Ranch, comprising two quarter sections along Mustang Road, north of Wilshire, plus 100 acres on the North Canadian River, south of Wilshire. During the 1990s and early 2000s Poppa continued to acquire additional lands between Wilshire and the river, tying his parcels together into a single congruent property. Under his skillful hand and the C-Bar cattle brand, John greatly increased the number of Black Angus in the herd and grew the size of The Cheek Ranch to over 1,200 total acres.
The Cheek Ranch underwent its second major transition with Poppa’s passing in April of 2010. In order to preserve the cattle operations, 480 acres were eventually divided between three of his heirs with the balance of the land, including the ranch headquarters, going to a fourth heir, John’s eldest son, Earl J. Cheek. With the support of his siblings through land leases, he continues the family legacy of improving both the cattle herd and the land. His ranch manager, Shawn Van Oster, a Missouri native and excellent cow-calf man, and Earl’s son, Scott W. Cheek, run the day-to-day operations.