History of Tobacco Ranch:

Tie to the Purple Gang

Newspaper clipping featuring the Tobacco Ranch home and the shooting of Isaiah Leebove at the Doherty Hotel

In the 1930's, Isaiah Leebove, an attorney with ties to the infamous Purple Gang, found himself in trouble with the law on the east coast and decided to flee New York.

After finding himself in Clare, Michigan, he began building what is now known as the Tobacco Ranch House. With house guests in mind, Leebove built the spacious ranch-style home to impress. Leebove made the house grand! He incorporated beautiful stone pillars, multiple stone fireplaces, and a large enclosed porch overlooking the pond. All of which still exist today!

Leebove and his wife entertained many oil barons, mobsters, friends, and other guests in the luxurious home up until the age of 42, when he was gunned down at the Doherty Hotel tap room bar on May 14, 1938, by his business partner in the local oil industry, and fellow Purple associate, Carl “Jack” Livingston.

Prior to the shooting, the two had a dispute regarding real estate. Leebove and Livingston were feuding over 45 acres of vacant property that Leebove owned and refused to sell Mammoth Oil Company (a business they co-owned together with Purple Gang lieutenant Sam Garfield) so they could drill for oil there. After the conflict escalated, Livingston became convinced that Leebove was using his close relationship Jewish mobster, Meyer Lanksy, to put a contract on his life.

Both the dispute over the land and fear of being murdered was enough to influence Livingston to enter the Doherty and unload his weapon into defenseless Leebove, while he was sitting at a table eating.

Leebove’s wife, who at the time had been at home, said that she sent Leebove to go get her some ice cream. When she had learned about the shooting, she ran from their home to the Doherty, where she collapsed when she found her husband dead.

Years Following

For years following the murder of Leebove, the Tobacco Ranch house sat empty. Scores of people trespassed on the property, ransacking the house in hopes of find money that Leebove was rumored to have stashed away. Oftentimes, teenagers even used the property to have parties.

New Owners

In, 1980, Leo Beard and his wife, Glenna Beard, purchased the property from the Olson's, whom owned the property but never lived there.  Mrs. Beard was unaware that her husband had purchased the property until he took her for a ride and showed her. When she walked through the house for the first time, it was gutted to the point that most of the walls were gone.  Mrs. Beard wasn't enthralled by it at first, but eventually warmed up to the idea of living in the historic home.  The Beards then spent the next three years renovating the house to make it inhabitable.

In the years of living in the house, the Beards learned many legends of the land. One legend however, confirmed by Mrs. Beard, was that an escape tunnel on the property did exist. The tunnel was located between the house and a lake, on the 70-acre parcel, and went to the bank of the Tobacco River. According to her, the tunnel was not large enough to allow a man to walk upright, but designed to give people a way to leave the property under cover. Several years ago, the tunnel collapsed.