Wyoming’s King Merritt joins Pendleton Round-Up Hall of Fame in 2010
Pendleton, Ore. – An old-time Wyoming cowboy, King Merritt traveled by train to his first Pendleton Round-Up in 1925, and attended annually for 26 years afterward.
His skill in competition and his dedication to the rodeo earned him a spot in the Pendleton Round-Up Hall of Fame class of 2010 in the Early Years category. Merritt won steer roping in 1925 and 1935, and he claimed the championship in calf roping in 1936.
The Hall of Fame board inducts new honorees in six categories, usually just three per year, but this year it decided to add four people to the ranks of honorees. The Hall of Fame categories include rodeo contestant, Round-Up volunteer, Happy Canyon volunteer, paid performer or contractor, early times performers and American Indian.
Merritt was born in 1894 in Calhoun, Ga. As an Oklahoma teenager, Merritt ran away from home to become a cowboy on a ranch at Midland, Texas, where he stayed for a year before returning to his parents’ home. In 1912 he again left, heading for Cheyenne and working for the J.N. Carey Ranch north of Cheyenne.
After four months at the Carey Ranch, he spent five-and-a-half months working for the John Whitaker Ranch at Iron Mountain. Following that, he worked for Dougal Whitaker at Little Bear for four and a half years and cowboyed for Nimmo Livestock Company of Cheyenne until he was called into the service for the World War in May 1918.
Merritt was sent overseas with the 44th Engineers, landing at Brest, France on Aug. 18, 1918. He stayed in France until July 1919, when he was honorably discharged from Fort D.A. Russell in Cheyenne July 24, 1919.
Returning home, he once again went to work for Nimmo Livestock Company, continuing until 1920, when he moved on to the Hi Andrews Ranch at Horse Creek for nine months. For 18 more months he was foreman on the Harry Farthing Ranch at Pole Creek, after which he leased a ranch in the area and raised his own cattle until 1924.
In the midst of that, in July 1920 Merritt married Marie Smith in Cheyenne, and they raised a rodeo family, in which all three sons, Hyde, Dean and Cotton, were winning ropers. His daughters Sis, Ramona and Ginger also roped and raced their horses.
In 1928 Merritt bought his own ranch at Pole Creek, composed of 4,100 acres, and began to raise Hereford cattle. He also raised Thoroughbred horses and polo ponies and brought the first Quarter Horse stallion into the state – Old Red Buck, and he judged the first Quarter Horse show held in California. He was one of the founders of the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association, and was president of that group when he passed away. In 1977 he was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame’s Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Merritt began roping in 1920, and continued to compete until his death in 1953. He was a World Champion Steer Roper and was the first AQHA Director from Wyoming.
Compiled by Christy Martinez, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.