The Wood Mountain Sports and Stampede
Wood Mountain Rodeo Ranch Museum
Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan
01 The Early Years
4The story of the Wood Mountain Sports and Stampede reflects the history of the Wood Mountain community and the people who have lived there. It is the story of the North-West Mounted Police, of Metis and Lakota , of ranchers and homesteaders and of the descendants of these pioneer people.
6Wood Mountain is the center of an upland area which stretches across southern Saskatchewan from the Big Muddy Valley to the Frenchman River. It became a ranching community in the 1880's.
"Six thousand head of cattle and 250 horses have been imported from the United States by the Home Land and Cattle Company of St. Louis, Mo., and are located on their range at Wood Mountain, where their headquarters are established seven miles west of the Post." -Superintendent Jarvis, 1886
8The Wood Mountain Sports and Stampede originated with Dominion Day celebrations held at the North-West Mounted Police Post on July first. Dominion Day was the name given to the national holiday to celebrate the founding of the Canadian nation.
10The North-West Mounted Police Post at Wood Mountain was established in 1876 to bring law and order along the boundary between Canada and the United States. The Post was located 22 miles north of the boundary.
12When Lawrence Herchmer became Commissioner of the NWMP in 1886 Wood Mountain was the head quarters of a summer patrol. On July first all of the troopers stationed at Wood Mountain were called in to celebrate Dominion Day with athletic contests and games.
"Of their early experience at the Old Post both Mike Orman and Dave Layton remembered the sports like squaw wrestling, and wrist twisting. There was Indian wrestling where two riders, mounted bare-back, rushed toward each other headlong, each trying to pull the other rider from his horse. There were other games with lances and pole bending, picking articles from the ground while the horse was at a full gallop." -Edna Riley Shapley
14Early Dominion Day celebrations were held on a flat of grassland across the creek from the Police Post. For over one hundred years the Sports or Stampede has been held on the same site.
16The celebrations in 1888 consisted of a cricket match and picnic. Some of the Police brought their families to Wood Mountain for the summer. These families along with a few Metis and Lakota families living nearby attended the event.
18Athletic events included long jump, high jump, hop-step and jump, 100 yard dashes and a half mile foot race. Sack races, three-legged races and obstacle races added an element of fun. The program ended with a tug-o-war. Some of these events have been re-enacted.
19Presenting Race Horse
North-West Mounted Police Post, R.M. of Old Post No. 43, Saskatchewan, Canada
20By 1894 horse races were added to the Dominion Day celebration. The Police, ranchers, Metis and Lakota entered their finest runners. Half mile and mile horse races were held along with half mile, quarter miles and slow races for Indian ponies.
22The slow race was a novelty race. Competitors entered their slowest horses, which were often draft horses. The names of the horses were put into a hat and drawn out by the riders. No one was allowed to ride their own horse. The winner rode the fastest of the slow horses.
23Secretary of the Wood Mountain-Willow Bunch Turf Club
R.M. of Old Post No. 43, Saskatchewan, Canada
24In 1899 the pioneers of Wood Mountain and Willow Bunch formed a Turf Club to promote horse racing. The first secretary of the Club was James Thomson, who came to Wood Mountain with the NWMP in 1879 and stayed to ranch.
26The Turf Club added more races to the program, including a rancher's race. Each rancher rode three horses, one after the other, around the track. At the end of the first lap the rancher unsaddled the first horse and saddled the second and continued in this manner until three laps were completed.
28In 1907 the land was surveyed at Wood Mountain and soon the first homesteaders arrived. Many of them used oxen to pull the plows they used to break the land. Before long an ox race became part of the program.
"Another highlight was the oxen race. One was ridden by Toto Brown. First one ox would run away, stop dead and by this time the other might have gotten started. At each stop the bets would shift." -Bob McDole
30Ladies Races were also added to the program.
"There was a sports day at Wood Mountain and I was offered a horse to ride in the ladies race. I came in second. The prize was a glass pickle dish that meant nothing to me but Inspector Richard's wife came up to me and put a dollar in my hand. I rode in the races again the next year but had an unbroken horse and couldn't control it and someone had to run me down and stop the horse." -Augusta Hoffman
32By the 1920's horse races were so popular that a special track and a judging stand were constructed. Hundreds of people came in automobiles to watch the race.
"Dad's sport was running thoroughbred race horses. One, Lady Sprague, we brought up with us. My own saddle horse was a colt from her called Birdie. She won many races for us. Dad never missed a Wood Mountain rodeo as long as he lived there. It was a big time for us." -Mildred Sceli
34As the 1920's boomed and prize money increased so did the racing competition. Professional racing stables in southern Saskatchewan and northern Montana sent their finest thoroughbred horses to race at Wood Mountain.
36In 1925 a grandstand was built from poplar poles to provide the fans with a better view of the finish line. Horse racing became a big time sport with a lot of side betting.
38Chuckwagon races were introduced to the program in the 1930's. Two outriders loaded a stove into the back of a wagon pulled by two horses. Most of the wagons were operated by local ranchers.
"The wagons were camped in the arena with the horses turned loose and the cowboys eating lunch. When the starting gun fired, they broke camp, loaded the stoves and other equipment, caught their horses, hitched their wagons, then sped around the track and back into the arena. The first wagon to show smoke coming from its stove was declared the winner." -Pat Fitzpatrick
40Racing continued as part of the summer celebrations at Wood Mountain until the mid-1950's but long before that rodeo events became the main attraction.
"An Indian brought some horses to the settlement and Fred Brown caught up a buckskin and saddled it up with my brand new $75 California saddle. He held his hand over the pony's head while I got on and then he hit the pony on the rump. I pulled leather for all I was worth and managed to stay on." William Ogle
42Rodeo at Wood Mountain originated with a jackpot bronc riding contest in 1905. Ranchers brought broncs to see if any of the cowboys could ride them.
"All of those boys, like Howard Russell, and Toto Brown and those Parent boys from Montana, and some of the Thomsons and the Ogles were cowboys. They all wanted to ride and they were good riders." -Elizabeth Ogle
44Broncs were eared down (held by the ears) and saddled. Cowboys mounted up and the bronc was turned loose. There was no arena so a rider called the hazer kept the bronc from bucking into the trees. The cowboy who rode the horse to a standstill was the winner of the money in the jackpot.
"People came from far and near to this park-like place at Wood Mountain Post and made a practice of camping two or three days. My mother and I decided to go using a single horse and buggy. There was no visible road but we cut across. The main features were horse racing and broncho riding." Aquina Anderson
46In 1909 Wood Mountain organized its own Turf Club. The first president was rancher William Ogle.
"When the Turf Club was formed my dad was a member. A sports day was held every year. I used to ride broncs and steers. My sister Myrtle known as 'Toots' rode in the races." -Gerald Hollenback, 1925
48Arthur Forwood, a young homesteader, was the secretary of the Wood Mountain Turf Club for nearly fifteen years. Members paid a fee called a subscription to belong to the club.
This money was then used to construct facilities such as the race track or to pay prizes.
"The family always looked forward to the Wood Mountain Stampede where they camped for a few days while it was on. Arthur helped organize the Wood Mountain Turf Club." -Peploe Forwood
50Besides horse racing the Turf Club promoted bronc riding. In 1912 Lawrence (Toto) Brown, the son of a former NWMP and a Lakota woman, won the $15.00 prize money in the bronc riding contest.
52Baseball was an added feature which attracted many local teams from various townships.
"There used to be the local teams, like Bill Horne would bring a team up from Killdeer and the V-V team would come from Fir Mountain, and they were good, they'd even beat those semi-professional teams that came from Scobey and places like that." -Gene Anderson
54After World War I the Wood Mountain Races became known as the Wood Mountain Sports. Special posters were printed, and distributed and the events drew cowboys, jockeys, ball players and spectators from all over southern Saskatchewan.
56Calf roping was added to the program. Ropers used a sixty or even eighty foot rope, and it had to be free of the saddle when the roper dismounted to tie the calf. A small rope called a pigging string was used to tie three legs of the calf together. The roper who tied the calf in the fastest time won the event. This was the first timed event in the rodeo.
58Bareback bronc riding and steer riding became exhibition events. Instead of the riders paying an entry fee, the riders were paid mount money for showing up and getting on. Each rider wore an entry number on his shirt.
"In those days bareback riders would use two hands to hang on and I learned how to ride with two feet on the same side. I was one of the first riders to do this and later on Harvey Cameron , Floyd Collins and others learned this way also. It was mostly for show." -Pete Lethbridge
60Bronc riding was the feature event of the rodeo. Riders sometimes used a form fitting saddle, one with a swell front and a large undercut to give the cowboys better grip.
"I remember the rodeo in 1913. There was a big crowd for such a new country. People came horseback, in buggies and democrats and the odd Model T Ford. Some of the riders were Toto and Soak Brown, Pete Lethbridge, Ed Longpre, Dan Henderson and the Schufelt boys. There was nearly straight bronc riding." -Elvin Edwards
62In the 1920's it was acceptable for bronc riders to use a quirt to make a bronc buck . A lot of the gear like chaps and quirts, vests and even saddles was made by the cowboys at Wood Mountain.
64Prize money was paid for calf roping, steer roping and bronc riding. In 1923, Pete Lethbridge won $40 for first money. A total of $200 was paid out in prizes.
The rodeo events were gradually becoming the major attraction at the Wood Mountain Sports.
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