Wyoming Cowboy Hall Of Fame: From Brush Creek to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West

The first cowboy to walk across the stage and be inducted into the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame was Tim Barkhurst, a lifelong cowboy and rancher from Saratoga. Tim was inspired by his uncle, Jesse Barkhurst who once rode for the Buffalo Bill Wild West.

Candy Moulton

July 16, 20234 min read

Collage Maker 15 Jul 2023 09 16 PM 4527
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The nephew was in the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame years before his uncle, but the uncle’s story is what set the younger man on his path.

Jesse William Barkhurst was born on the first day of winter in 1877 in Mt. Ayer, Iowa, the eldest child of Mr. and Mrs. G. H. Barkhurst. When he was three the family came to Wyoming where G.H. found work for the Union Pacific Railroad in Rock Springs. He later relocated the family to Fort Steele where he ran a hotel. But the lure of land took him up the North Platte River and south of Saratoga where G. H. homesteaded land next to his brother Ira. Their new land was on Brush Creek.

Jesse learned to ride horses along with his brothers, Gershom and Scott, but he also liked dogs and eventually had a pack of 20 greyhounds, which he used for hunting – often pursuing grey wolves. Horseback work was part of the family lifestyle and Jesse did it well. He would go on to work for and with such southeastern Wyoming cowboys as Harry Hunter, who owned the Big Creek Ranch south of Encampment, and Charlie Irwin who made a name for himself managing the Irwin Brothers Wild West Show – and providing bucking horses and other stock for Cheyenne Frontier Days.

In those years cowboy skills, particularly riding broncs, was a way to prove ability and all the best cowboys competed while out with the cattle, and occasionally when they went to town for more formal contests. Jesse rode with Thad Sowder, who won the Festival of Mountain and Plain bucking contest in Denver in 1901 and 1902, and with Clayton Danks, another top cowboy who worked for the Two Bar Ranch and was an outstanding bronc rider who won at Cheyenne twice, the second time in 1909 on the great bronc Steamboat. He would go on to ride with the Irwin Brothers Show. Barkhurst caught the eye of William F. Buffalo Bill Cody, and he worked for the great showman in the latter run of Cody’s Wild West in 1908 and 1909. Among his performances, he performed in London for the King of England and also rode in Paris. He showed his cowboy skills across the United States from Madison Square Garden to the Pendleton Roundup in Oregon.

In 1912 Cody’s show was near the end of the run and Jesse married Sadie Daniels in Hallerton, Iowa. They returned to the family ranch on Brush Creek where he would work cattle and run his dogs until eventually settling in Rawlins.

Tim Barkhurst learned cowboy ways and work from his uncle Jesse on the family ranch and was inspired by the stories Jesse told of working the range with the Two Bar Ranch cowboys and even sharing a bedroll with Tom Horn. Tim heard about how Charlie and Frank Irwin sang a song for the range detective just before Tom Horn was hanged.

The stories of bucking horses, and rodeo contests and exhibitions, also inspired Tim, who built a set of bucking chutes when he was in high school. Small and wiry, Tim was perfectly built to ride bulls and he became the Wyoming State High School Rodeo Champion bull rider and as a young man good with a rope he was also runner-up for all-around champion.

Rodeo didn’t pay his bills, so Tim found jobs on ranches throughout the Platte Valley, spending long days in the saddle chasing yearling steers on the A-Bar-A Ranch with Francis Herring of Encampment, and working for the Francis Ravenscroft Ranch on Pass Creek north of Saratoga. Once married, he and his family settled back on the family ranch, where he and wife Margo still make their home, on the ranch built by his grandfather and father Scott and the uncles. It is one of few ranches in the area still owned and operated by descendants of the original homesteaders.

Tim Barkhurst roped calves and took part in team roping contests every week at the Encampment roping club gathering. Margo ran barrels, and eventually their four children also saddled up and competed. Like his uncle, Tim had dogs, which he used in his hunting business, but he also worked for more than 40 years as a Wyoming Brand Inspector. While Tim never traveled to ride before the Queen of England, or to compete in Madison Square Garden, he still followed in the footsteps of his uncle and both are now members of the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame. Tim was the first man inducted in 2014, and Jesse joined the elite cowboy club of WCHF inductees in 2019.

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Candy Moulton


Wyoming Life Colunmist