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William “Bill” Taylor, 2002 NDCHF Inductee


William Lemuel “Bill” Taylor, North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame inductee, died on August 9, 1961.

He was born on January 23, 1874, in Rolla, Missouri, the first son of James and Martha (Hoagland) Taylor’s 10 children. He was raised on the family’s home place in Sumner County, Kansas, where he played cowboy by riding a cornstalk horse, roping his mother’s geese and shooting a whittled wooden gun. He wanted to be a cowboy or a “horse doctor” when he grew up. His father taught him to ride, shoot, plow, hay and fiddle.

Three days after Bill turned 13, his father died. He left school to work the farm with his mother and, in the fall of 1893, left home to be a cowboy in Texas. Along the way, he learned the “ropes” from full-fledged cowboys. Bill was tall, straight and lean, a good horseman, a crack shot, a fine fiddler and a dependable worker.

Bill wrote home for his 16-year-old brother, Jess, to join him. The Converse Cattle Company hired them to help trail 3,000 head of Longhorns from Texas to the AHA Ranch in McKenzie County, North Dakota. The cattle and cowboys traveled by rail to Moorcroft, Wyoming, and by trail from there. Twelve men moved the cattle toward the AHA at 15 miles per 16-hour day.

After the drive, Bill continued working at the AHA and then at the Long X, making three more trail drives—in 1897, 1899 and 1900. He later worked at several other ranches in the area, including the DZ where Sam Rhoades was foreman and for Wilse Richards’ North Dakota Land and Cattle Company.

By 1905, Bill was running horses with his own T+ brand, buying them up as he could. On January 23, 1914, he purchased the T+ Ranch near the Killdeer Mountains and, on April 18, he married homesteader Olaphene “Teppy” Werpy. They sold the T+ in 1917 and built the Taylor Hotel in Dunn Center, a promising new town on a new Northern Pacific rail line.

Bill served in the World War I Home Guard and brought his law and order talents to the new community by serving three terms as deputy sheriff, two as justice of the peace and four as marshal. He was active in 50 Years in the Saddle, Rough Riders and Killdeer Mountain Roundup Association and officiated at the Killdeer Mountain and Sanish rodeos.

Bill was a friend of Native Americans and managed a parade and powwow at Dunn Center’s first Independence Day celebration. He was a plain-spoken, modest and independent man who was kind to children and animals and placed work and character in high regard.

He and Teppy retired to Dickinson in 1941, where he died on August 9, 1961, and Teppy on September 7, 1964. They are buried in Dickinson.

Bill was inducted into the pre-1940 ranching category of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in August 2002.

by Cathy A. Langemo