Fall Gathering honors Western way of life

Jason Wheeler/Daily Courier<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->During the Phippen Museum’s Fall Gathering, Wanda Miller took some time to enjoy the artwork Saturday evening.

Jason Wheeler/Daily Courier<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->During the Phippen Museum’s Fall Gathering, Wanda Miller took some time to enjoy the artwork Saturday evening.

The Phippen Museum held its 10th annual Fall Gathering on Saturday, Sept. 19, celebrating the history of the area's ranching community and honoring the museum's opening in 1984. This year, John Seibert and Zeke Taylor were inducted into the museum's Arizona Rancher & Cowboy Hall of Fame.

For some in attendance, like Joe and Linda Smith, this was their first Fall Gathering. Linda said they had belonged to the museum for four years, but were in Maine during summers and Prescott during winters. She said they wanted to come now they lived in Prescott full time.

Inducting Seibert and Taylor into the hall of fame, Phippen Museum Chairman of the Board Kevin Pitts said a big part of the museum's mission is the preservation of the culture and heritage of the American West.

"That's pretty easy to do when you're looking at some of the work of the extremely-talented artists that we have hanging on the walls. But the Fall Gathering each year gives us the opportunity to remember those who are memorialized in the landscapes, the work, the animals that we see depicted in a lot of the art here," he said. "Without the mostly men, without the work that those individuals put in, mostly throughout their entire lives, we wouldn't have the museum that we have here today."

Pitts said Seibert was born in Phoenix in 1939 and that his first job was working at a cattle ranch in Flagstaff. He said ranching became a passion which Seibert never forgot. And after working in construction for many years, owning one of the biggest contracting companies in Phoenix, Seibert purchased his first ranch in 1989.

According to Pitts, Seibert bought and sold thousands of cattle from Arizona ranchers over a span of 20 years, becoming the largest single cattle buyer in the state.

"He singlehandedly drove up the price of Arizona cattle so all Arizona ranchers could get a fair price for their cattle. At the time of his death, he owned a feed lot, 12 ranches and six farms in five states," he said, noting the largest in Arizona was the Double O Ranch in Seligman. "John was a man of few words, but his word was golden. Always trusted and highly respected, he made many deals with just a handshake."

Pitts said Siebert's legacy lives on through the Seibert Scholarship Fund, set up by his family to benefit the children of working cattlemen.

As for Taylor, Pitts called it an honor to be able to induct somebody from the Verde Valley side of the Mingus Mountains.

Pitts said Taylor was born in 1913 in Phoenix and began his cowboy life as a wrangler at age 13, working for room and board. Eventually, in 1936, Taylor partnered with his brother-in-law, owning and running a ranch on Mingus, Woodchute and Black Mountain in the Black Hills Range along with grazing permits in Sycamore Basin.

However, Taylor had other positions, Pitts said, which included sheriff for the United Verde Copper Company and the contact person for the motion picture industry's Western films from the late 1940s to the 1950s. Pitts also said he established the Verde Valley Fair Association, stating he supported it as a member and through purchasing sheep and land that youth could use in 4H projects. Taylor also organized the first Verde Historical Society Fundraising Barbecue. The barbecue, now known as the Zeke Taylor Barbecue, helped fund the opening of the Clemenceau Heritage Museum.

"Zeke will always be remembered for his love of the Verde Valley and its people," Pitts said, also calling to his attention Taylor's compassion for people in trouble. "If a home burned, Zeke would help them organize a barbecue to raise money to help out the destitute family."

Following the induction ceremony, Cynthia Rigden's bronze of a horse, called "Romp" was raffled off. It was won by N. Higgins, who was not present to claim it.

Follow reporter Jason Wheeler on Twitter @PrescottWheels. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2037 or at 928-642-5277.