Before the late 1940s, when Dighton residents went out-of-town and told others where they were from, the response would likely have been: “Oh, that is the home of the Hineman Jack Farm.” In 2009, probably only the elder Dighton residents would know of that farm and few, if any, other Kansans had heard of it.
Headlines from such publications as the Kansas City Star, Hutchinson news, Omaha World Herald, National Geographic, and Christian Science Monitor read: The Hineman & Sons Jack Farm is the largest in the world. The Hineman Jack farm is world-famed for its fine jacks and mules. Missouri Shamed - Show Title goes to Kansas Mule. It was “Missouri Day”at the American Royal Livestock and Horse Show, but a Kansas entry, Tillie, won the title Champion Mule.
Similar stories appeared in national publications from 1915 to the late 1940s, however, the Hineman Jack Farm, had a humble beginning. In the spring of 1886, Herbert T. Hineman brought his bride, Dora, to 160 acres of homestead land in southwestern Lane County. Their possessions consisted of two oxen, a wagon, two milk cows, six chickens, a few household items, a little food, a few tools, a plow, and $7.50 in cash.
Arriving at the homestead, Hineman used the oxen to break some of the sod and planted a crop before building a two-room sod home and a sod stable for the livestock. The Hinemans’ first son, George was born in the sod home.
All the water used by the family and livestock on the claim had to be hauled by the ox team. Therefore, in 1890, H.T. (name he was often called) brought a timber claim relinquishment 4-1/2 miles southeast of Dighton. This location became the Hineman’s home for the remainder of their lives, and the farm developed into the world’s largest and best-known jack and mule farm. Soon after the move to that farm, called the Fairview Stock Farm, a second son, Albert, was born to the couple. A few years farming with oxen power convinced the young Hineman that these beasts were inefficient and pokey. Therefore, H.T. purchased some Percheron horses. The pasture was open and good and a horse could be produced almost without cost.
After handling horses for a short time, Hineman decided the environment and climate of Lane County was better adapted to the raising of jacks than either in Kentucky or Missouri. So in 1899, H.T. purchased a few jacks and jennets and began producing stock for his own use and to sell to surrounding farmers.
Soon, Hineman attended fairs where prizes were won by the excellent jacks. The breeders of these champions advised him the way to improve a herd was to buy the best jack available. So in 1904, H.T. bought Mammoth Jumbo and began his line of noted jacks. By 1910, the son of Mammoth Jumbo, Pharoah, won state fair championships in Tennessee and Kansas.
Characteristics of a jennet and a mule are: A jack is a male donkey while a jennet is a female donkey. The only function of a jennet is to raise more jacks or jennets. A mule is a cross between a jack and a mare horse. A male mule is called a horse mule and a female mule, a mare or mollie mule. Other sexes of mules are sterile and were produced for work animals.
Although the mules were tame, they were not quiet. Kalo, son of George, who lived on his father’s farm across the road from the jack farm and a former member of the Kansas Legislature, said the idea that mules were mean was a myth. He remembered the noise made by the jacks and mules, especially in the early morning.
“We didn’t need roosters to wake us,” he said. Helen Hineman Thomas, a daughter of Albert Hineman, remembering the early morning hours on her grandfather’s farm spoke of the mules making their favorite music — their braying noise.
National recognition first came to the Hineman Jack Farm in 1915, when H.T. and George took some stock to the San Francisco World’s Fair, the Panama Pacific International Exposition. One jack, Kansas Chief, won the title of World Champion Jack. In addition, their herd won a total of 28 ribbons. After the World’s Fair, the Hinemans began attending shows and fairs in earnest. The longer they exhibited, the more they consistently won the top prizes. By the 1930s they totally dominated the show and fair circuits.
In 1933, their mule, Dixie, crowned champion mule of the American Royal in Kansas City, became the only mule ever to win the American Royal competition for three years in a row.
A reporter in a Topeka Capital story said, “The mules appear as giants in comparison with those I knew in other days on the farm. A Mammoth Jack is tall and has big bones and with a Percheron dam, there’s size and weight too.
He described, Dixie, the champion of the world in the mule line, as 16 1/2 hands high, 1,650 pounds, feet as big as draft horse, gentle as the old family cow; eyes as benign as the eyes of some kindly priest, gentleness personified.
An important event was the annual Hineman jack and mule sale held at the farm. A 1920 Dighton Herald reported the Hineman Jack sale attracted people from all over the United States. The sale was a success and showed due credit to the Hinemans, who put Lane County on the livestock map of the world. Kalo’s brother Herbert, named after his grandfather and who farmed the former jack farm, said his dad always warned to be careful around the mules. “They are tame and won’t hurt people intentionally but they weigh 1,500 to 2,000 pounds and their long and narrow hooves are not like horses oval hooves. They would literally mangle a person’s foot if they accidentally stepped on it.”
The highlight of the Hineman Jack farm that drew much attention to their jacks and mules was the sale in 1937 of a champion jack, Joe Lewis, for $2,500 and 20 jennets to the South African government. An official was instructed to buy the best jack and jennets that could be found in the world. He looked at stock in several countries before appearing at the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. There he was directed to the Hineman Jack Farm, where he found what he was looking for.
After noting he had come halfway around the world, the South African official said, “The Hineman Jack Farm is one of the finest in the entire world. I have traveled in many countries and over the United States and found none to equal the stock produced right here in your county of Lane, Kansas.”
The Hinemans, in the 1940s, shipped jacks and mules to Venezuela, Brazil, Australia, Nicaragua, the British East Indies, Central American, Mexico, Pakistan and France.
In 1944, the Hineman’s shipped two carloads of mules to Fort Robinson, Nebraska. The February 14, 1946, Kansas City Star contained a story which told of the army liquidating its horses and mules from the Fort at the Kansas City horse and mule commission auction ring. The photograph accompanying the story showed Lieutenant Kalo Hineman, an army veterinarian stationed at Ft. Robinson, checking the bands on the mules as they were unloaded at the auction. Some of the mules were the ones sold by his father and grandfather to the Fort, two years before.
The story reported Lieutenant Hineman as saying, “This is the last roundup for the horses trained as cavalry remounts and the mules as pack animals.”
A little over a year later, Herbert T. Hineman, after a life of homesteading, rearing a family, raising large acreages of wheat and developing the world’s largest jack and mule farm faced his last roundup. On January 14, 1947, H.T. died at the age of 82. With H.T.’s death, plus the development and spread of the tractor in the United States, the jack and mule business soon died in the Hineman farming operation.
His namesake-grandson, Herb Hineman, said, “I don’t get too enthused about some of the history part of the jacks and mules, although I know it has to be preserved because it was a part of us.”
Indeed, the Hineman jack and mule operation was not only a part of the Hineman family, but also an important and colorful part of the history of Lane County and American agriculture.
The writer expresses appreciation to the late Rita Hineman Townsend for the donation to the Lane County Historical Museum of the book of newspaper clippings, letters, and other memorabilia of the Hineman Jack Farm; to the late Kalo and Geneva Hineman for the donation of the Hineman Jack Farm photos and other artifacts to the museum; and to the late Herb and Kalo Hineman and Helen Hineman Thomas for the interviews of remembrances of their grandfather’s jack and mule operation.