Story By: Angela Brandt
Page Design By: Stacy Mantle
The name of a world champion lady saddle bronc rider from Havre has been added to the Montana Cowboy Wall of Fame at the Billings MetraPark.
Marie Gibson, also known as Ma Gibson, entered her first competition - Havre's Northern Stampede - in 1917. She placed third in horse racing. A year later, Gibson was riding bucking horses for $25 a piece in shows in the U.S. and Canada.
She was named world champion lady bronc rider in 1927 and again in 1931.
Her granddaughter, Anne Marie Gibson Stamey, partnered with a friend, rodeo photographer Lois Baum, and compiled the written and pictorial history of Gibson's life and career. Gibson Stamey said she was inspired to research her grandmother's life after reading about the rodeo rider in books and newspaper articles. It was the duo's research that helped get Gibson's name on the list of Montana rodeo legends.
Gibson Stamey is the daughter of Lucien Gibson, who participated in rodeos with his mother. In an interview the former Havreite and Gibson's only surviving grandchild said she inherited a great deal of pictures and personal writings of the lady bronc rider.
Gibson Stamey told of some of her favorite stories, found in old notebooks, about her grandmother. In 1919, Gibson met the Prince of Wales while in Canada. She met him again in 1924, when the bronc rider traveled to London with arodeo company and received a horse from the prince. Gibson Stamey said she was amazed to learn that the riders and their mounts all rode on the same ship.
Although she never met her grandmother, Gibson Stamey not only shares her name but her love of horses.
A few years ago, Gibson Stamey began piecing together the story of her grandmother's life, using diary entries and letters.
Gibson and her first husband, Joseph Dumont, traveled to Montana from Canada when she was 20 years old. They made the trek with their two children Lucien and Lucy in a covered wagon. The family homesteaded near the Milk River about 10 miles west of Havre.
She divorced Dumont in 1919 and married Tom Gibson the same year.
The rodeo legend continued competing in bronc riding events until she was injured in the arena at the Idaho Falls Rodeo at age 39.
After a qualifying ride, Gibson's horse collided with another horse and she fell, fracturing her skull. She died from the injury.
Lucien, who was traveling with his mother and brother Andy, was the first cowboy to reach Gibson after the accident.
“My father was 23 years old at the time of her death. Andy continued and, although he was a good rider, I don't believe he won any championships,” Gibson Stamey said.
“A wonderful letter that I became aware of was one that my father wrote to his pen pal in England after his mother was hit. In the letter, he said they were there and the most touching thing that he said was ‘I was the first man to her.'”
Gibson Stamey has a copy of the letter - the original part of the Mrs. Grant E. Ashby Collection at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Okla.
She said most of the items she has were passed down through family, but she also buys every book that includes stories of her grandmother.
Gibson Stamey said her father shared a few stories about his mother.
“They rode in the same rodeos that summer before her death,” Gibson Stamey said. “You have to remember that she was only 16 when she had him, so she was more like an older sister.”
Lucien was set to compete in the national rodeo finals at Madison Square Garden in New York City later that year, but he never competed in another rodeo after his mother's death, Gibson Stamey said.
She said her father, who died in the early 1990s, continued to ride on the family's ranch.
Stamey Gibson said that, although she was instrumental in getting her grandmother's name on the wall of fame, she has yet to visit the site. She said she intends to do so as soon as the weather warms.