Joseph Michael Maycock
Joseph Michael Maycock was born in southeastern Nebraska in 1873, and spent his childhood in the state. The severity of the winter of 1886 and 1887 branded Joseph’s mind with memories of starving range cattle drifting with the storms, and how his family had to struggle to protect limited and hard-earned millet stacks for their own livestock. Joseph was out there helping, as parents of that era expected kids to “hit the collar” and pull their own weight from the time they were able to dress themselves.
Joseph and his brothers herded the neighbor’s cows all one summer for a wage of 50 cents apiece, and got paid in the fall. He recalled payday when the unfamiliar joy of wealth caused the giddy boys to celebrate with a swim, followed by wrestling in the haystack, and no, neither of them ever found the summer’s wages they’d lost in their exuberance.
Already a cattle-herding veteran, after a few short stints in the country schoolhouse Joseph decided time spent there might be interfering with his education. Leading a packhorse, in the early 1890s he left Nebraska for Montana and the lure of possible employment with roundup crews. He saw the end of the rails at Gillette and ventured on up the Powder River to Miles City, Montana. There the Bow and Arrow outfit put him on as nighthawk, where he learned some good lessons.
Joseph continued his cowboy education for a few summers on Montana’s ranges, often riding home to spend the winter in Nebraska with his folks. He passed through the Black Hills on those treks, and one time sustained a good scare when, kid-like, he yelled out a greeting and bumbled right into a dense willow thicket where he’d spotted a campfire. He was met by a rough-looking, rifle-pointing character who quickly and sharply grilled him on his identity, his backtrail, his destination, and his purpose before finally letting him spend the night. Joe later discovered the fellow was a fugitive from the law.
One Montana summer Joseph suddenly became violently ill. Believing he had Rocky Mountain spotted fever, he pointed his horse south, hoping to die at home. Recovering somewhat along the way, he decided to ride west and toward the snow-capped Big Horn Mountains, where he’d heard there were some large horse outfits. He quickly found employment with one, and was impressed with the country’s varied wildlife – like mountain sheep, which he claimed was “the sweetest meat” to eat.
By the turn of the 20th century this itinerant wandering cowboy had taken root along the Spring Creek fork of Antelope Creek halfway between Douglas and Gillette. He had a dugout home, the start of a bunch of cattle, a little income from breaking horses, and his pretty wife Alma Pearson had presented him with two daughters. The country was wide open with once-a-year roundups passing by. Joseph went to town only twice a year for supplies. As years raced by life was good. Another girl was born and Maycock-branded cattle numbered near a thousand – but the kids were reaching school age. So Joseph sold the cattle, moved to Gillette, and built a house, which still stands at Fourth and Ross. With no range to ride, he decided to start a business – founding Stockman’s Bank in 1907.
Holding down an office chair couldn’t satisfy Joseph, so he picked out a ranch on Barber Creek about 25 miles west of town and retired his holdings at the bank. Son Joseph N. Maycock was born on Barber Creek; Alma died not long afterward. The lonely rancher later married her sister Mamie Pearson who soon presented him with another son, William P. Maycock, I. Joseph imbued his sons with a love of ranching as they worked together and helped expand the ranch, and both lived their entire lives there.
Joseph was active in the community, serving one term as a Gillette councilman. Competing in rodeos to his last year, he could always take on the youngest and the best.