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Champion, Nate

Reg 5 Nate Champion1

Reg 5 Nate Champion
(Photo courtesy of the Jim Gatchell MemorialMuseum in Buffalo, WY)

Nate Champion
1857-1892

Nate Champion may be one of the most recognized names in Wyoming history. This Kaycee area rancher was born Sept. 29, 1857, in Leander,Texas, the son of John and Nomi Champion.

Nate grew up on his family`s farm near Round Rock, TX. He had 18 brothers and sisters and was surrounded by role models. His father was a one-time Sheriff in Williamson County in Texas, and his aunt was a cattle woman and was the first postmaster in Cedar Park, TX.

Nate was born with the Chisholm Trail in his backyard. He witnessed his Aunt Hattie Cluck travel the trail in 1871 to the stockyards in Abilene, KS. With the profits from the drive Harriet and George Cluck purchased the land that is now Cedar Park, TX. This idea of how great the cattle business could be prompted Nate to become a cowboy. He migrated north to Wyoming where he worked for several outfits before beginning his own ranching operation.

In 1891, he and his partner Ross Gilbertson had created their own herd. Nate would look after the herd while “Ross worked for wages” as Nate wrote in a letter in 1891.

In April 1892 Champion lost his life in the opening engagement of the Johnson County Invasion when he was pinned down in a cabin at the KC Ranch. Before he was killed, Champion held off the cattlemen and their hired guns long enough that a warning was taken to Buffalo where townspeople organized to resist the invasion. At the time of his death April 9, 1892, he had just paid off 8 packhorse rigs and had nearly 200 head of cattle in his herd.

Many songs have been written, movies made and stories told about Nate Champion. His actions at the KC Ranch saved countless lives and he is remembered with bronze sculpted by D. Michael Thomas that stands in front of the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum.