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William "Bill" Nelson

William M. "Bill" Nelson (1859-1948)

Bill Nelson was born March 29, 1859, In Columbus, Ohio, to Mr. and Mrs. John Nelson. When Bill was 9 years old, his family made their way West, lured by the stories of the gold rush. They came around Cape Horn in a sailing vessel, and Bill often talked about the stormy trip. They settled in Dun Glen, Nevada, and located their placer claim in what is now known as Barber Canyon. Having no luck with mining, Bill’s family began raising cattle and horses on the John Nelson Ranch in Dun Glen, and it was there that Bill got his beginning as a Buckaroo.

Bill married Katie Thomas in Dun Glen in 1886. They homesteaded a ranch on the west side of Grass Valley Road, 11 miles from Winnemucca, Nevada. They designed their own brand, and made the iron. The 7L was used for horses, and the 2N was used for their cattle.

As a young man, Bill broke wild horses and sold them to the U.S. Calvary. At one time, he had 7 men saddling horses for him, while he rode them past the judges to be sold as remount horses. A lot of these rides took place at the livery stables on the Corner of Second and Bridge Streets in Winnemucca, Nevada.

One story was told about Bill -- he and his young son, Bill, were running mustangs, and he roped a mustang stud with a new 100-foot reata that was given to him. When he roped the stud, he got tangled up in his rope, and even had it around his neck. When he got squared away, he stepped off his horse, cut the rope in the middle, and said, “50 feet is enough for anyone.”

Bill worked as a Buckaroo on several ranches around Humboldt and Pershing Counties, including the Rhinehart Ranch, the Miller and Lux outfits, and ranches owned by the First National Bank of Nevada. He was known to be a good hand wherever he went.

Bill and Katie raised 11 children. He would line his boys up when they were small to show them how to ride. Bill would put a bunch of un-broke horses in the corral. He would stand up on the crossbar above the gate and they would turn them out, one at a time. He would jump on bareback with a handhold on the mane and ride about a quarter of a mile, then come back and ride another one.

Many of his sons and grandsons inherited his love of horses, and the Buckaroo life. His grandson, Bill, went on to be a professional Bronc rider, and in 1971 he won world champion Bull rider.

Bill passed away in 1948 at the age of 89.

William (Bill) Nelson was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in September of 1993.