Old Saddle, property of Robert Martin who died in 1895

Story by
Ed Martin
July 2007

I took these pictures of Uncle Bob's Saddle (Granddad Cleve's older brother, who I understand died at the age of 22 of diabetes in 1895 and is buried in the Martin section at Steward Cemetery). I have always heard he was quite the horseman and a real cowboy!

From my earliest memories, this saddle hung in the top of our old barn west of Mom's home on the farm north of Meriden. (The barn recently collapsed.) In the late 1960s the saddle had been moved to the rafters of the "new" barn east of Mom's home.

Although you can see the saddle is in terrible shape, I actually tried to ride it in my youth. It was all in one piece at that time, but the leather was so old that the cinch strap gave out before the horse's first stride!
grave of Bob Martin, died 1895
above, Great Uncle Bob's grave at Steward Cemetery, Jackson County, KS. Bob died of diabetes at the age of 22 in 1895. Bob was older brother of Cleveland T. Martin Sr.


Sam Stage Rigging saddle
exposed stirrup starps show here
Cheyenne roll on the cantle
note tall seven-inch back


On a lark
, I recently took the saddle to the saddle shop here in Wamego. The fellow who repairs and builds saddles is quite knowledgeable and told me some things that I found quite interesting. He said that this saddle was probably built in the mid 1870's and was a "Sam Stag Rigging" which has the exposed stirrup straps from the seat. (He could tell partly because of the "Cheyenne roll" on the cantle.) And, although it had been a good saddle, it was probably a mid-grade, not built for the heaviest of work. We talked of rebuilding it, but determined that the only thing that could be used would be the tree--although the tree is also beginning to deteriorate, as well as the leather. The cost would probably be between $1,100 and $1,500.

He also told me that, even if the saddle was rebuilt, it would never be usable to ride--as it would not fit horses of today. He actually showed me the measurements of the saddle where it fits over a horse's withers (the gullet width) and it is much narrower than modern saddles. He said 130 years ago, horses were much narrower with taller withers! He said that if you tried this saddle on almost any horse, it would not hold properly--and would sore the horse in a very short period of time.

He also measured the saddle (the distance between the pommel and cantle) and he said that it would be considered a fairly large saddle of it's day at 14 inches (many of that era measured 13 inches). Today you can purchase saddles that small, but they usually are 15 to 16 inches.

This saddle also has a 7-inch back--pretty much universal at that time--and, of course, most Western saddles are half that now. He did say that this model is a real "sharp" looking saddle, with its high back and the exposed stirrup straps.


Saddle photos and story© 2007 by Ed Martin
Cemetery photo © 2006 by Carol Yoho
Return to Martin Family Lore
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