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In honor of tillie

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Submitted photos Tillie Sewell, above, pictured with her horse on the Double Spear Ranch in Weston County. She, along with her sister, Clara, were well-known as “exceptionally good horsewomen at a fairly young age.” At right, a photo from the book “Weston County: The First 100 Years” shows Sewell with her family.
Rhonda Sedgwick-Stearns

Matilda “Tillie” Mae Bock Sewell has been named a 2024 honoree to the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame. Sewell will be inducted at the hall
of fame’s annual induction ceremonies in Casper on Oct. 11-12. She follows in her father’s footsteps in receiving such a great honor. Julius Bock was a member of the class of 2023 honorees.

Tillie Sewell was the second child of seven; she was born on Nov. 30, 1902, on the Double Spear Ranch. That ranch was homesteaded by
Julius when he was 21 years old. At that time he built a cabin above the present-day Double Spear Ranch in Weston County.

When the children were old enough to go to school, they either rode a horse or walked. Tillie started school at age 4. School was held only in June, July and August because of the severe winter weather.

After homesteading, Julius purchased over 60 homesteads, along with the established YT Ranch. His property by then covered such a wide territory that it was impossible for family members to complete all the work that needed to be done each day. Julius had acquired 1,200 head of cattle and two bands of sheep (1,000 head of sheep per band). Julius built a new home in 1911 and a new barn in 1912. He mowed hay with horses and carried hay to the cattle using horses. Julius hired as many as 20 men to work the ranch with him.

All seven children were born to Julius and Bertha on the ranch. Tillie and Clara, being the oldest, learned at a young age to carry their share of ranch work. They spent long days in the saddle, helping gather cattle and sheep during the roundups and helping ship them on the railroad. Weston County history reports that both became “exceptionally good horsewomen at a fairly young age.” In fact, Tillie and her sister were featured at the Belle Fourche Roundup one year as “the girls from Newcastle who roped and tied steers,” as told by Tillie. A family friend, Joe Fordyce, said that “if a guy had a horse that could not be broke or if the horse had bad habits, he recommended to anyone to take the horse to the ‘Bock Sisters.’”

Tillie married George Sewell in 1925, and Clara married William “Bill” Engle. Their riding days did not end there. They were actively engaged in the ranching business for many years, in addition to raising their families. Tillie had a succession of favorite horses and put many miles on each of them. After her marriage, Tillie lived at the YT Ranch, moved to the Turner Place in 1934, moved to Skull Creek in 1935, the Stuart Place and to a place near Osage in 1946.

In 1949, George passed away and Tillie was left to raise their three children that were still at home.

Tillie instilled in her children the cowboy way of being a cowboy, whereas she had been trained by one of the best – her father, Julius Bock. Her three sons continued in the ranching-farming business and two of the sons, Sammy and Harold “Porky,” rodeoed during their high school years and adulthood. Porky continued roping for many years. Sammy and Willis worked their ranches until the day they died; they loved their ranches and livestock. You could always see the grandchildren at Grandma Tillie’s, riding a horse or a pony; the cowboy lessons continued on with these grandchildren.   

Tillie recalled “many cold winter mornings, waking up and having to thaw the tea kettle that froze on the stove overnight.”  Tillie and her children went through trying times, but they were cowboy tough.

Tillie loved driving her car and visiting friends. History reports that “almost every weekend over the years you can find her waiting on a Sunday afternoon with a delicious home-cooked meal ready for whoever decided to drop in. In addition to her family, Tillie has a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.” Her children were Gladys “Glady,” Willis, Alice “Squint,” Mildred “Swede,” Harold “Porky,” Sammy, and Jeanie.

Tillie passed away Nov. 26, 1988, at age 85, just four days before her birthday.

Tillie Bock Sewell was an outstanding example of the strong pioneer women who have contributed to the strength, brilliance and hospitality of our Weston County and the entire Cowboy State!

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