J. Ellison Carrol of Big Lake, Texas, is responsible for the statement that the first rodeo held in Texas was at Canadian in the summer of 1888. It was in the form of a two day celebration, with steer roping as the main event. To Hemphill County belongs the distinction of innovating rodeo and was among the first of such “reunions” to be staged as a community undertaking anywhere in the southwest.
Where The Rodeo Began
A group of cowboys from the Laurel Leaf Ranch, located east of Canadian, conceived the 1888 project of holding a public contest with steer roping as the main event. In the years to follow, it was remembered that there was “roping and tying down”, horseraces, tournament races, and dancing indulged by the multitudes.
Avil Park RodeoTo J. C. Studer, the 4th of July was sacred. He opened the lake on his property to the public each year on July 4th. Studer Ranch and the Anvil Park were located east of Canadian on Lake Marvin Road. J.C. built temporary stands at Anvil Park (so named after the Studer Ranch anvil brand) and in 1922, the Anvil Park Rodeo was born.
Sydna Yokley WoodyardSydna Yokley Woodyard was posthumously honored as a member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame on May 14, 1977. Sydna Yokley was born January 17, 1922 to Jess and Mae Ross Yokley and was raised on the Yokley's ranch outside Canadian, Texas. Sydna was truly a woman of western heritage. Her horse and roping skills can be traced back to her natural way of life and learning on her family's ranch.
Clinton & Clayton HillTwin boys, Clinton and Clayton Hill, were the third and fourth children born to Ben and Hazel Hill on June 30, 1924. Clinton was five minutes older than Clayton. They were born in Lipscomb County at their grandmother Cordelia Hill's home and raised on their family ranch in Roberts County. The four oldest Hill children began their education in an upstairs room in the family home until the Hill's moved to Canadian in 1936 where they continued their education.
J.W. StokerJ.W. Stoker was born on the Stoker Ranch in September of 1927 near Colorado Springs , Colorado . Four years later the Stoker family moved to Overland Park , Kansas where they were raised and attended school. J.W. had two younger sisters, Frankie Louise and Bessie Mae. The three Stoker children's interest in trick riding and roping was sparked by the Tom Mix Circus performance in Kansas City , Missouri their grandfather took them to see.
Frankie Louise StokerFrankie Louise Stoker was born to Frank E. and Wilma Stoker, on the Stoker Ranch near Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1929. In 1931, the Stoker family moved to Overland Park , Kansas . The three Stoker children's interest in trick riding and roping was sparked by the Tom Mix Circus performance in Kansas City, Missouri their grandfather took them to see.
Denny McLanahanIt was written that “Denny McLanahan is an outstanding example of what rodeo is all about.” McLanahan is the son of Billy & Cheta McLanahan. Both of his parents are past rodeo competitors and champions. Billy rode bulls and bareback and Cheta was an accomplished barrel racer, they both competed for over 20 years which established the family tradition of rodeo champions.
Arnold HillTucked away in the broken hills of Hemphill County is a man who has led a life that most people only dream of. As a professional rodeo cowboy and Hollywood stunt man, Arnold Hill’s story begins with his parents, Ben and Hazel Hill, long-time Hemphill County ranchers and quarter horse breeders. The Hill’s, originally from Tennessee, came to Hemphill County from neighboring Lipscomb County in 1917 and began their ranching operation 25 miles northwest of Canadian where Arnold, the fifth of eight children, and his wife Alice lived until his death in November 2009.
Bill GeorgeRodeo historians have dubbed the 1950’s “The Golden Age of Rodeo,” for in this decade, the sport is said to have reached its purest form. The Rodeo Cowboys Association (known as the RCA) emerged after World War II as the most influential governing body of rodeo events with national influence. For the first time ever, top cowboys competed on a national scale in venues from Madison Square Garden to the Cow Palace in San Francisco.