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WYSGA marks 150th year

In 1872, in the Territory of Wyoming, five men gathered in a livery stable in Cheyenne with the intention of forming a vigilance committee to combat a band of cattle rustlers in the area. The Stock Association of Laramie County was formed, and within a few years it also worked to manage round ups, brand inspections, and the health and sanitation of cattle on the range in addition to dealing with freight rates, fencing and questions of public domain.

Swimming cattle across the Powder River, 1888. Photo courtesy WYSGA

In the 1880s, the association worked to develop the state’s livestock and rangeland laws, and the association was closely involved in the notorious Johnson County War. Wyoming’s Cow-Belles organized in 1940 and the Junior Wyoming Stock Growers in 1954.

“Our spurs” taken in 1903 by F.M. Sherman. Photo courtesy WYSGA

According to the association’s history, the open range system made it difficult for ranchers to watch over cattle but made rustling a relatively easy undertaking. In 1875, Stock Association members began paying dues to fund the hiring of detectives to discourage rustlers. The association approached the Laramie County Commissioners with a request for financial assistance to help pay for the detectives and were granted $150 monthly for two months. In 1877, stock detectives were on the payroll and the job on behalf of the association’s members.



Commemorating 150 years of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association will debut at the association's June meeting in Cheyenne.

Renamed in 1879, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association supervised brand inspectors represented the interests of members in the state legislature. In 1882, the association, now the primary source of protection for the interests and property of cattlemen in Wyoming and surrounding states, persuaded the Territorial Legislature of 1882 to appoint a state veterinarian. The legislature, at the association’s urging, also penned and passed stock laws to prevent the introduction of disease on Wyoming range.

COLLECTING MEMORABILIA



The association, under the presidency of John B. Kendrick, appointed the first historical committee and began collecting historical data and artifacts related to the accomplishments of the association and the development of the cattle industry in the Western U.S. Those artifacts are housed in the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center collection.

Pictured together are Wyoming Govs. Francis E. Warren, Nellie Tayloe Ross, Robert Carey and John B. Kendrick. Photo courtesy WYSGA

The association and it’s members faced blizzards and historically high cattle losses during blizzards in the winter of 1886 and 1887. Many Wyoming ranchers went out of business between the hard winter and the economic depression. This drastically reduced membership in the association and changed the face of the western cattle ranching industry. The WYSGA, though, was able to weather the storm and remain intact and working for its members.

The first pages of the first brand book kept by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, a group founded originally to combat a cattle rustling band.

According to historical records maintained by the association, in the 1920s the WYSGA was recognized as an official marketing agency under the Packers and Stock Yards Administration. In the 1930s, the association and the Wyoming Wool Growers aligned to address issues facing producers. It was also in 1937 that the association worked to unify brand inspection agencies, livestock exchanges, and independent commission firms to arrive at a uniform system of brand inspection rule enforcement.

A photo from a 1915 round up. Photo courtesy WYSGA, Eunice Small Collection

Members of the WYSGA fought the “Jackson Hole Seizure” which was the creation of Grand Teton National Park. The association worked to encourage the application of principles of the Taylor Grazing Act, which brought orderly use of federal grazing lands that had previously been used in a free-for-all type manner.

From the historical collection, correspondence from W.H. Cody. Courtesy WYSGA

Now, the group works extensively with the U.S. Forest Service, agriculture trade organizations and other groups working together to defend and promote Wyoming ranchers.

CELEBRATING THE HISTORY

In June, the group will convene in Cheyenne for their 150th anniversary. In addition to speakers, committee meetings, a parade, a chuckwagon dinner, and tours, the meeting marks the release of the book titled Commemorating 150 Years of the Wyoming Stockgrower Association. The book includes historical information about the association, photos, and stories of how the association has changed and grown to advocate for producers in Wyoming.

Beef promotion efforts exploded in the 1970s. Pictured here, from a 1971 issue of Cow Country, is Sundance mayor G.W. Popham signing a proclamation designating American Beef Week. Looking on are Mrs. Schelldorf and Mrs. Proctor. Photo courtesy WYSGA.

The 150th celebration will kick off in Cheyenne on June 8 and will wrap up on June 11 after a parade from the Depot to the State Capitol, a proclamation from Gov. Mark Gordon in recognition of the association’s history and future.


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