|Marie Gibson (center) gambles with fellow rodeo riders. Date unknown.|
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, PAc 2002-32.17
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Sixteen-year-old Marie Gibson’s marriage was on the rocks, so she joined her parents on their homestead near Havre in 1914. With the encouragement of neighbors, including legendary cowboy Long George Francis, Gibson began trick riding in local fairs and rodeos for prize money to help support her children. Her professional debut came in 1917 at Havre’s Great Stampede. She married for a second time in 1919. Her husband, rodeo veteran Tom Gibson, retired to the family homestead and Marie went on to travel widely, busting broncs overseas and back East.
During a performance in England she so charmed the Prince of Wales that he presented her with a prize horse. Gibson earned many titles including World Champion Cowgirl Bronc Rider in 1924 and 1927. In 1933, Gibson made a successful ride on a wild bronc in Idaho. The horse was still bucking as the pickup man approached to take her off. The two horses collided, and Gibson’s horse lost his balance and fell on her, fatally fracturing her skull. Her hobbled stirrups prevented her from kicking free. Her son Lucien, then twenty-three, rushed to her aid, but it was too late. Gibson is buried in Havre where locals rightfully claim her as one of their own.