PIERRE, S.D. – James Russell Madison Jr., professional cowboy, spent the majority of his life living the Wild West lifestyle in western South Dakota. The start of professional rodeos in western South Dakota, or perhaps in South Dakota as a whole, can be attributed to Madison. His contributions to rodeo and development of western South Dakota make Madison one of South Dakota’s Great Faces.
Madison was born in Galesburg, Iowa, in 1879. He moved to Dakota Territory in 1886. By 1907, he began buying and raising bucking horses. These horses were not only used for rodeo, but also for ranch and construction work. His team of horses was used in many development projects in western South Dakota, including Canyon Lake Dam, Nemo Road, and the Pennington County Courthouse.
Madison started the first rodeos throughout western South Dakota, including Rapid City, Deadwood, and Belle Fourche. He won the World Championship Relay Race in 1907 in Sioux City, Iowa, and rode with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. He was not only a champion rider, but a teacher as well. At rodeos, it was common for him to put on demonstrations of ranch work and branding.
Madison’s team gathered the last of the wild horses, known as the White Horse Herd, from the Cheyenne River reservation. It is believed that the first appaloosa in the area was in the White Horse Herd. Madison devoted his life to breaking horses to ride and drive across the region.
South Dakota’s Great Faces weekly press release series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism, designed to highlight people who have had significant impacts on South Dakota, particularly in the visitor industry. Click on the special “South Dakota’s Great Faces” link at www.MediaSD.com
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Information for this release was obtained from the South Dakota Hall of Fame.