WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees


Charles E. Gillespie was born July 8, 1917 in Nodaway County, Missouri. He grew up on a farm, raising and breaking horses and mules. After he graduated from high school he came to Arizona for his first time, but he only stayed a few years before he returned to Missouri. While back in Missouri he married Florence Carmichael, the year was 1938. Charles and Florence moved to Iowa where they farmed, raised livestock and raised kids.

It was about 44 years ago when Charles, Florence and three kids moved to Marana, Arizona to raise cotton, alfalfa hay and cattle. For about six years Charles farmed and operated heavy equipment, but he always dreamed of the time when he could get back to horses and cattle. His opportunity came in 1958 when he became a partner in the S and J Ranch in Cascabel, Arizona down on the San Pedro River. First as an owner and later as the ranch manager. Charles spent 28 years on the S&J Ranch.

Florence said that living on the S&J Ranch was living in the most wonderful place in the world. They just loved it. It was a wonderful life living in the Cascabel area and they had great friends. Great friends like Barbara Clark-Ferington, who was one of their longtime neighbors and a very close family friend. She wrote this eulogy for Charles:

"A Cowboy's song is never gone.
Composed by the art of living on the land,
Sung as a part in the Greater plan.
A windmill tower, a monsoon shower,
Fat cows in the spring, a hawk on the wing
The hay put up, a brand new pup.
A sure footed mare,
Always something to share with family and friends
Who'll continue to live a tradition so fine,
That the Chorus is heard Forever in time."

During those 28 years on the ranch Charles cleared more than 1200 acres of brush and established farm land and irrigated pastures. He raised some good horses and he always had a couple of good dogs. If you have ever tried to gather cattle out of the brush along the banks of the San Pedro River, you know that dogs like "Nero" and "Mandy" were worth about half dozen good cowboys. The bottom line was....you usually couldn't get it done with out some good dogs.

During this time he took time out to have fun too. From 1960 to 1970 the S&J Ranch won several "Best Ranch Entries" in the annual "La Fiesta De Los Vaqueros" rodeo parade in Tucson. Charley hauled the horses, bought matching shirts and hats for his children, grandchildren and the neighbor kids and he rode with them in the rodeo parade. Charley usually rode a prancing stallion and it was hard to tell who had more fun, Charley or the kids!!

Charley liked to ride good horses and it really didn't matter if he was riding "Old Blue", "Choppo", "Sassy", "Smokey", or "Preachers Chubby**, he was always well mounted (what a great name for a horse). Only one horse was able to buck him off and that horse, "Old Stoney Burk" ended up in Duane Knight's rodeo string where he proceeded to buck off many a good cowboy.

Charles always rode these good horses when he went to help the neighbors: The Brownings from the Muleshoe, Butch and Dave Harris from the VF, Ellsworths from the Three Links and everybody else up and down the river from the Dusty ATs to Jack Smallhouse and Joe Goff.

I had an opportunity to visit with one of those neighbors and this is what he had to say about Charley: He was a great old fella, a fabulous neighbor, and an honorable man, who didn't have a bone in his body that wasn't fair and just.

Now I don't want to say that Charley was a creature of habit, but every Thursday you could usually find Charley at the Willcox Livestock Auction and he was usually sitting with Butch Harris or one of the Bidegans. And another habit that Charles and Florence had was that, anytime Pug Scott and her band were playing for a dance in Dragoon, Charley and Florence were there.

When the S&J sold, Charley and Florence moved down south of Pearce and worked for the Dawsons and later he farmed at both the Alamo Ranch in McNeal and Spitler's in Elfrida. Charley retired in 1990 and moved back down the river to Cascabel. Charles passed away in 1992, and his friends and family held a gathering in his memory at the Cascabel Community Center and later had his ashes spread at the Little Mule tank high in the mountains on the S&J Ranch.

Tonight in this presentation I have switched back and forth: sometimes I called him Charles and sometimes he was Charley. When I visited with Mrs. Gillespie she told me that she had never called him Charley in the 54 years that she had known him.

So in honor of you Mrs. Gillespie:

Charles Gillespie was "a roper...a wild horse rider...a pretty good windmill man...and a straight shooting son-of-a-gun."

Charles E. Gillespie. Prepared by Eddie Browning