By Suzanne Norquist
“I believe in myself.” That’s how Emma Yearian responded when the banker asked her why he should lend her a large sum of money for hay during a drought. She seems to have built her life on this statement. A reporter once dubbed her the “Sheep Queen of Idaho,” and the title stuck. Her story inspired one of her grandsons to write a semi-biographical novel titled The Sheep Queen.
Emma Russell was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1866. Soon after, her parents moved the family to Illinois. There, she attended high school and Southern Illinois Normal College. Upon graduation, she went West and eventually found herself in the Lemhi Valley in Idaho, along the Montana border.
She married him in 1889, and the couple set up housekeeping in a log cabin with a sod roof. They had six children, and she decided to earn money for their education. She noticed that sheep ranchers made more money than cattle ranchers. So, she tried to convince Thomas to give up the cattle and buy sheep. Instead, he allowed her to add sheep to the existing stock.
Emma ran the operation, and everyone thought of it as hers, although Thomas managed the cattle portion of the business. In 1910, they replaced the little cabin with a modern six-bedroom house, including electric lights and indoor plumbing.
She followed national events and predicted World War I years before it started. Realizing the army would need wool for uniforms, she took out another loan to increase production. Then she bought sheep with extra-thick coats. The investment paid off when the United States joined the war.
However, ranching wasn’t enough for her. She participated in professional organizations and became a state legislator, running as a Republican even though her husband was a Democrat. She served one term in office.
In her later years, she continued to work with the sheep, using a walking stick. In 1951, she passed away at the age of eighty-five.
Her legacy lives on because she believed in herself and lived life to its fullest.
"Mending Sarah’s Heart" in the Thimbles and Threads Collection
Four historical romances celebrating the arts of sewing and quilting.
Mending Sarah’s Heart by Suzanne Norquist
Rockledge, Colorado, 1884
Sarah seeks a quiet life as a seamstress. She doesn’t need anyone, especially her dead husband’s partner. If only the Emporium of Fashion would stop stealing her customers, and the local hoodlums would leave her sons alone. When she rejects her husband’s share of the mine, his partner Jack seeks to serve her through other means. But will his efforts only push her further away?
Suzanne Norquist is the author of two novellas, “A Song for Rose” in A Bouquet of Brides Collection and “Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection. Everything fascinates her. She has worked as a chemist, professor, financial analyst, and even earned a doctorate in economics. Research feeds her curiosity, and she shares the adventure with her readers. She lives in New Mexico with her mining engineer husband and has two grown children. When not writing, she explores the mountains, hikes, and attends kickboxing class.