Back in 1946, Lee Eyerly, from Salem Oregon, purchased 3000 acres and established the original Flying E Ranch. Lee and his crew built the original lodge, eight guest ranch rooms, the picturesque “Oregon” style barn, and a 3200-foot airstrip.
Mr. Eyerly fashioned the Flying E brand with its distinctive wings to reflect his surname and his love for flying. The certified brand is still owned and used by the ranch today.
The Welliks Discover the Flying E
George and Vi Wellik first circled the ranch in their private plane in April 1949. “Looks like a motel in the middle of the desert” was Vi’s remark.
Concluding their stay at the Camelback Inn in Phoenix, George & Vi flipped a coin to decide whether to go back and visit the Flying E or continue on to their original destination, the Flying W in Bandera, Texas. A flip of a coin completely changed the lives of the Bellflower, California residents. George and Vi landed their private plane at the E, thus beginning their ranch legacy.
While still occupying their residence in California, and with George continuing to run his tire and land developing businesses, the Welliks became frequent visitors to the Flying E and by 1952 found themselves in full ownership of the Arizona guest ranch.
Vi was very involved with the ranch operation, but depended on the help of ranch managers until 1960, when she and George, along with their two children, Warren and Wendy, moved to Wickenburg and assumed complete control of the ranch.
Additional land & leases were purchased to the west and north of the Flying E, bringing the total acreage to 21,000.
Upon George’s death in October 1983, Vi carried on the active ownership until her death in February 2004. The Arizona guest ranch is now overseen by the Wellik Foundation.
The Ranch Today
A few changes have occurred through the years. George donated land to the town, and Wellik Field, named in his memory, now serves as the municipal airport of Wickenburg. The original airstrip is now a beautiful grass horse pasture. Various land parcels were also donated by the Wellik family to Wickenburg for city parks, schools, and the development of residential and industrial parcels. The ranch still maintains 20,000 acres to ride and roam.
The guest ranch still proudly operates the cow/calf operation, raising a few of the offspring from the original Murray Grey cows that Vi started breeding on the ranch in the mid 1980s. They mix with our modern day Angus, Hereford and Barzona stock.
A rancher’s dream, a flip of a coin, and a “hotel in the desert,” all brought together what the Flying E Ranch still offers today: The Way of the West for dudes and cowpokes alike to enjoy the serenity and tranquility of the peaceful ranch life.
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Aviation played role in Flying E history
Published in the Wickenburg Sun – April 22, 1960
The Flying E Ranch came into being in 1946 when Lee Eyerly of Salem, Oregon, purchased a working ranch. Mr. Eyerly purchased the property for the sole purpose of having a place to retire in the winter, with no intention of building a guest ranch.
“Vic and Leta Kelly were working on our Oregon ranch, and they persuaded me to establish a guest ranch, permitting them to operate it for me,” Mr. Eyerly explained.
“The fact that I had been in commercial aviation since 1920 may have had some influence toward the name,” says Mr. Eyerly. His interest in aviation began in 1903 when the Wright brothers made their first flight at Kitty Hawk.
This pursuit of aviation also resulted in the construction of a landing strip at the Flying E Ranch, making it the first local ranch offering landing service to its flying guests. Today, this airport is open as a public accommodation to all who fly into Wickenburg.