Sedgwick named to HOF

By: 
Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns

Submitted photo

Francis Sedgwick, 2020 Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame recipient, pictured as a parade marshal.

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns

 

Two Weston County residents have been named to the 2020 Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame. Jean Sherwin Harshbarger and Francis Sedgwick were selected by the WCHF Board of Directors in early May. In this issue, the News Letter Journal presents the second of the inductees, Francis Sedgwick.

 

FRANCIS SEDGWICK

NOMINATOR’S STATEMENT: My name is Dorothy Borgialli Bartlett, the youngest child of John Charles and Naomi Ruth Borgialli. I was born and raised on the Four Spear Borgialli Ranch. Francis, Violet and Rhonda Sedgwick were close neighbors. I viewed them as good country folks because they were always there to help when it came branding and cattle gathering time. You were always welcome in their home. I have eaten many meals around their table and felt love in their presence. When I was young if someone would ask me if I knew “a cowboy” I would say, “I sure do, his name is Francis Sedgwick and he is tall and can really ride a horse.” Many stories could be told about the humane deeds Francis did for people. Once after Francis retired, my mother became concerned my sister and niece might be lost in the Black Hills — he loaded his horse and drove 50 miles up there and found them and let her know they were okay. He was a “Real Wyoming Cowboy.”

 

Nominee’s Story: The day Francis Sedgwick’s parents married, the entire wedding party rode horseback 50 miles from Grover, Colo., to Greeley, Colo., where the pastor they wanted to marry them was. Francis was born the fourth child of that horseman and horsewoman, in the family’s Wyoming ranch home on the Cheyenne River (near present Mule Creek Junction) Jan. 21, 1917. When Francis was 3 his mother, going to the corrals to look at the new foals, stepped on a rusty nail, contracted blood poisoning, and died.  His dad never remarried.

Sedgwicks ran cattle, horses, and sheep, put up native hay, and farmed some hay. Francis grew up with horses and rode from early childhood, mentored not only by his father but also Thompson and Sedgwick uncles who frequented the ranch, plus ranch hands employed there. Sedgwick horses ran the gamut — Percheron to Shetland, Thoroughbred to general range horses. Hundreds, belonging to various owners, ranged free
across unfenced territory from the Cheyenne River northward across Beaver Creek to the Weston County line and west to the Morrisey country. They were gathered in a community roundup each spring and taken to the Dewey Stock Yards on the South Dakota/Wyoming border to be sorted, branded by their owners, young studs cut, culls shipped. Ranchers then trailed their own bunches back to home ranges. 

From  the age of 10, Francis rode in those gathers, mounted on the fastest horse, assigned to cover the south side. Riding alongside his dad he’d learned every escape route the wild lead mares would try to take, to use cover and keep abreast but not ahead of the bunch, yet be able to get ahead if they started to escape on his side. Francis also learned every facet of sheep ranching and cattle ranching from his dad. He started his own bunches of horses and cattle on that home ranch; now a Wyoming Centennial Ranch.

While boarding with his maternal grandmother during his last two years of high school at Grover, Colo., Francis rode with and learned from his mother’s brothers, John and Walter Thompson, who owned large ranches in that area. Burdette Rush, cattle manager for the grazing association on the Pawnee National Grasslands there, used Francis’ riding help a lot. Francis credited Burdette and those experiences for expanding and honing his cowboying skills to a higher level.

After graduating Francis lived with Charlie McEndeffer, old-time Sterling, Colo., horseman and cowboy who’d worked on the Sedgwick ranch for some time and had a batching outfit north of Beaver Creek. They broke a lot of horses for a few years, covering lots of miles with them as they took care of Sedgwick cattle and Charlie’s bunch; plus riding for neighbors as occasions arose. Various members of Francis’ maternal grandmother’s Wilkinson family owned big ranches north of Cheyenne and northeastward into the edge of Nebraska around Mitchell, where he often visited through busy seasons, learning more as he did ranchwork with and for them.

On Jan. 12, 1940, Francis married Violet Coy Donaldson (daughter of a pioneer Weston County rancher) and leased a ranch southwest of Newcastle, moving his livestock there. Within a year they leased a ranch further south, on the Cheyenne River, moving there with their stock. Wherever they lived, both enjoyed helping neighbors with cow work, fencing, or any riding. Francis had a few coyote hounds and the couple’s favorite winter entertainment was helping control predators by running coyotes horseback. They also horseback hunted dens of pups in the spring, collecting bounty from the county.

Sedgwicks next bought the August Carlson Ranch, on the Cheyenne River between the historic 4W and AU7 Ranches. In 1945 the couple leased with option to buy the Andy McKean ranch on Mush Creek 15 miles southwest of Newcastle, purchasing it soon thereafter. For many years they summered on Mush Creek and wintered on the Carlson Place, trailing their cattle 40 miles spring and fall.

In the early winter of 1949, just before the killer blizzard hit, Francis trailed most of his cattle about 30 miles east into South Dakota where he’d made arrangements for winter grazing, saving their lives, and McKean and Carlson Place bunches mostly survived.

Francis and Violet trailed horses about 60 miles from the Carlson Place to Lusk for auction in the early 1940s. Francis’ horses were of old Sedgwick bloodlines brought from Colorado, with some good Kentucky Thoroughbred blood added. From the early 1940s Francis and Violet were active members in the American Quarter Horse Association and Montana Quarter Horse Association. In the ’60s they became founding members (Francis named to the board) of the Wyoming Quarter Horse Association. In 1948 Francis purchased from Colorado one of the earliest Quarter Horses registered in the National Quarter Horse Association, forerunner to the American Quarter Horse Association. A true gold buckskin, Steamboat Eddie produced Palomino foals from Sedgwick’s sorrel mares; so they soon became members of the new Palomino Horse Breeders Association and exhibited their Palominos during the 1950s at Wyoming State Fair and National Western Stock Show. 

In the 1970s and ’80s Sedgwicks showed Quarter Horses successfully in Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana. Francis competed on horses he’d bred and trained in rodeo and many horse show performance events. In the ’60s a Sedgwick-owned Poco Dell Quarterhorse mare produced a crop-out, blanketed Appaloosa foal from champion halter and racing QH stallion Old Tom Cat, launching Sedgwick into yet another breed.
He raised, broke, trained and
exhibited Appaloosas for many years. Francis showed Poco War Cat to Champion Yearling Stallion at the National Appaloosa Show in Syracuse, N.Y., and Reserve Champion 2-year-old stallion at National Western Stock Show. 

For decades Francis and family trailed cow-calf pairs 35 miles to the government-administered Cellers Community Pasture April 15, and home Sept. 15. Francis was active in maintenance of that unit (fencing and wells), along with serving 21 years (multiple terms as chair) on the Inyan Kara Grazing Association board which managed those units. Francis was also a Wyoming Stock Growers Association member his entire adult life and Farm Bureau member at least 50 years.

Francis enjoyed rodeo as a calf roper and team roper, and helped produce some of the first rodeos in Newcastle, also producing Tuesday and Thursday summer night rodeos north of Newcastle a few years and providing horses and labor for 47 consecutive nights of rodeo at West Yellowstone, Mont. in 1957. He was a founding member of the Northwest Ranch Cowboy’s Association, encompassing the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska to provide rodeo competition for full time ranch cowboys who wanted to participate in the sport but could not leave their ranches to travel long distances. NRCA is still a large, very active organization.

In 1966 Francis started a couple-decade trek down Pro-Rodeo road as his daughter competed and played the organ across 15 states. He sorted stock, loaded chutes, and opened roughstock gates. Non-pro rodeos he judged, or picked up broncs, ever a willing worker wherever needed. 

Known as a good neighbor wherever he lived, Francis served on the Weston County Fair Board for a number of years, for some time as chairman. The Weston County 4-H Council honored Francis and Violet as “Friends of 4-H” in 1986 and
he was voted “Man Of The Year” by Weston County Senior Citizens in 1988. 

Francis learned to play the fiddle in high school band, and sat in with pick-up groups that played for country dances throughout his lifetime. He and his family started Country Folk for Christ at Newcastle, holding monthly meetings for a couple decades. Francis’ black cowboy hat, turned upside down on a table near the door, suggested an offering for speakers who came. A baptized member of First United Methodist Church in Newcastle, Francis succumbed to colon cancer Dec. 18, 2013.

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News Letter Journal

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