Leonard T. Sedgwick came to Niobrara County, Wyoming on a train from Cheyenne to Edgemont, SD at the age of 2 1/2 years. He was accompanied by his mother and younger sister Ida. From Edgemont they were taken to the Wyoming ranch by a livery stable driver in a sleigh. It was New Years Eve 1908.
Leonard’s father was Anthony “Andy” Sedgwick, (2014 WCHF Inductee) born in England in 1882 and coming to America with his family in 1887. They arrived by train in Cheyenne where relatives lived and homesteaded east of Grover, Colorado. His mother was Paulena “Lena” Thompson Sedgwick born in 1882 in Cheyenne, the daughter of German immigrants. Her father was a freighter from Cheyenne to Custer, SD during the “gold rush”. He later homesteaded south of Grover and had other business interests in farms, banking and a store in Grover.
Andy Sedgwick and Lena Thompson were married in 1904 in Greeley, Colorado and homesteaded east of Grover before moving to Wyoming in 1908. They were parents of four children; Leonard born in 1906 and Ida born in 1908 in Colorado and Pauline born in 1911 and Francis born in 1917 at the ranch in Wyoming. Tragedy struck in 1920 when Lena died of blood poisoning, leaving the young family without a wife and mother.
Andy’s uncles, Anthony and John Wilkinson (2014 WCHF Inductees) had livestock interests in northeast Wyoming and told of a ranch for sale in then Converse County on the Cheyenne River. Andy and his brother Len bought the Owen Shay place in the spring of 1908. They brought sheep, cattle and horses from Colorado. Len died of appendicitis in 1913 and Andy bought his share of the ranch from his widow.
The children attended school at the Bob Cat and Hen Creek schools near their home through the tenth grade. They then would go to their Grandma Thompson’s in Grover to finish high school. Leonard graduated in 1925, having lettered in football. He attended the University of Wyoming for one semester but then came home to help with the ranch. Mrs. Thompson would come to the ranch in the summer to help with family chores.
When Leonard was about eight years old be bought two nice heifer calves from a neighbor, and also got a brand which is still in the family. This was the start of his cow herd. He worked one summer near Meeteetse and in the Big Horns poisoning rodents for the government and was able to buy 200 ewes that fall, the start of his sheep interests.
The ranch raised a lot of horses, sometimes over 100 head. They were “Hamiltonians” (Standardbreds), draft and Thoroughbred crosses. From the time Leonard was a small boy he was a part of gathering, weaning and breaking them to ride and/or drive. The ranch sold many horses to the US Army during World War I to be shipped to France and used as a artillery horses. Others were used on the ranch as saddle horses and to put up hay. A neighbor had moved to the area from Kentucky and brought registered Thoroughbreds with him. The Sedgwicks acquired some of them including a stallion named Little Ethan. They adapted easily to being cowhorses.
Leonard and Helen Petty from Edgemont, SD were married in 1929. They had three children; Clara born in 1938, Frances born in 1939 and Lenny born in 1941. Prior to the birth of the children Leonard and Helen would take the sheep north of Newcastle near Red Butte to summer pasture.
In 1935 Leonard leased land from homesteaders in Weston County in the Morrisey community, later buying them out. Later on he bought the Moyer and Newberry places in the same area which included government leases. Shortly after obtaining more property he drove his old International truck to Waterloo, Iowa and brought it home loaded with barb wire and a fencing project began. Cattle were trailed to Weston County in the spring and back to the river in the fall. Most of the sheep stayed in Weston County. In the fall they were sorted and the lambs and old ewes were trailed to Dewey, SD and loaded on a train.
When the blizzard of ’49 hit, Leonard and a neighbor had the cattle on pasture at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. It had been very dry the summer before and they were short on grass. That is when he bought his first Jeep, and also frosted the tips of his fingers. The phone lines were down so it was several days before anyone at the ranch knew what had happened to them. They got the cattle to Crawford and loaded on a train to Edgemont and to some feed.
Leonard bought his first registered Corriedale sheep in the early ’40s and raised his own rams. These sheep became the source of many successful 4-H projects for his kids as well as others. He donated some ewes to the Newcastle FFA Chapter members and they also won several county and state awards with them, as well as starting flocks of their own.
About 1948 he went to the National Western Stock Show in Denver and bought three yearling Angus bulls, some of the very first Angus to come into the area. Some of the neighbors were not pleased to see a black bull in a pasture next to their Herefords, but eventually Angus cattle have replaced the Herefords. Four registered Angus bred heifers were purchased from Mark Cox III of Cheyenne in 1952 and became successful 4-H projects for his children including at least one Wyoming State Fair champion. Decendants of these cattle can still be found on the ranch.
Leonard loved to hunt also. At times in his youth, hunting was a necessity and he became a good shot. He enjoyed hunting elk and moose in the Gros Ventre and Big Horns, as well as deer closer to home. He had three gray hounds in the ’50s that he used to hunt coyotes around the ranch.
The children became very involved in 4-H and youth rodeos. Leonard and Helen were both 4-H leaders for several years and took members to many livestock judgings, camps, fairs and other 4-H events. Their children were quite successful in showing and judging livestock, and all three won national 4-H trips. All three qualified to compete in National High School Rodeo Finals. All three attended college with one being a graduate of the University of Wyoming.
Leonard and Helen bought the home ranch from his father in 1960. In 1965 they split the ranch up among the three kids and moved to Newcastle. His livestock interests were phased out as the animals aged, but he enjoyed showing up at the brandings and when calves were shipped. After he moved to town he enjoyed his experiences with his snow mobile in the Black Hills.
Leonard served as a director of several boards including the Niobrara County school board, Niobrara Electric, Niobrara predatory animal board and Inyan Kara Grazing Assn. He was a member of the Wyoming Stock Growers Assn. and belonged to the national Corridale and Angus associations. He kept a US Government weather station for many years at the ranch and was also a brand inspector for a time. He and other members of the community joined together and built the Spencer Hall years ago, a community center for country dances. Helen played the piano for the band. He built several earthen dams for water storage on the ranches and improved the irrigation system for raising alfalfa hay on the meadows.
Clara and husband Fred Wilson remain on the home ranch raising Angus cattle and Quarter Horses. Francy lives on a small farm near Casper still working as a racing steward at track around the state. Lenny recently sold his part of the ranch which had been leased to Fred and Clara for many years while he traveled the nation driving truck and has a home in Newcastle.
Helen’s health began declining after they moved to town and she passed away in 1980. Leonard suffered a broken hip and lived at the Weston Manor the last few years of his life, but he was elected president of the residents and enjoyed playing cards and bingo. He quietly passed away in 2000.
Leonard was more than a cowboy – he was a cowman and a sheepman and a horseman. He was always looking ahead to make improvements in ranching.