Curious Mind: Hagerman Sheep Monument pays tribute to once-thriving wool growing industry

By Kimberly Williams Brackett (view original article)

Q: Hagerman has a point of interest — a bronze sculpture of a pioneer sheepherder. Why?

A: “The Hagerman sheepherder statue was bought and erected by Bill Jones, a local sheepherder. He wanted to do something to honor the sheep industry in Hagerman, Idaho,” said Kaitlyn Werlinger with the Idaho Wool Growers Association.

The monument was put up by Bill Jones. “He is the one that paid for sculpturing the monument,” said Leroy Jazwick, Hagerman Valley Historical Society Museum treasurer. It was commissioned by John W. “Bill” Jones Jr. and his wife Deloris. He contributed the funds for the memorial in memory of his parents, Johnny and Ethel Jones and other pioneer sheep families. Jones also provided the land for its construction.

Jones’s parents arrived in the Hagerman area about 1904-05. Eventually he acquired his own sheep ranch south of Hagerman. Johnny ran sheep on winter desert pasture and trailed them to summer grazing allotments above Ketchum. His son Bill carried on the sheep ranching tradition until 1980.

As a life-long resident of Hagerman, Jones will be celebrating his 90th birthday in August.

Jazwick said, “It was done by Danny Edwards in Twin Falls.” Twin Falls’ renowned sculptor Danny Edwards created the larger than life-size bronze sculpture depicting a sheepherder, his horse, dog, and several sheep which honors early area sheepherder families, called “Trailin’ Home.”

According to an article published in the Hagerman Valley Press, Jones and his wife visited a sheep operation in Argentina decades ago and were impressed by a monument to a gaucho and his flock, and the idea for Hagerman’s monument was born.

In the late 1800’s, sheepherders in the Idaho Territory worked in the Hagerman Valley. The majority of sheepherders were Basque. A herder and his Australian Shepherd or Border Collie sheepdog could handle a band of 1,500 to 2,000 sheep.

The Hagerman Valley was an attractive wintering location for sheep ranching because of plentiful year-round spring water that didn’t freeze due to milder winters and protection from harsh early spring storms during lambing. In addition there were many acres of irrigated land that produced alfalfa and grain for winter feed.

An inscription on the monument reports “In 1882 the Oregon Short Line arrived in Shoshone and Bliss. This provided a means of getting wool and sheep to market which led to enormous growth in sheep numbers. Bliss became a major shipping center for the Jarbidge and Three Creek areas, and had a large shearing plant. A branch line was quickly extended to Ketchum and Hill City by 1884. By 1914 over 300,000 sheep were being trailed through Ketchum. Hill City and Ketchum were two of the largest sheep shipping centers in the U.S.”

Hill City is in Camas County.

By 1900 sheep had become the principal livestock industry in southern Idaho, and by the late 1920s was considered the golden age of sheep ranching. “During World War II, sheep ranching began to decline, due to the difficulty of finding capable herders, diminished interest in lamb as meat, the introduction of synthetic materials to compete with wool and reduced rangeland for grazing,” states an inscription.

This monument is owned and maintained by the Hagerman Valley Historical Society. “It’s just outside of town going towards Bliss right on the edge of town,” said Jazwick. The monument is located at the north end of Hagerman on the west side of US-30 at 2622 Martin Dr., Hagerman.
The monument was dedicated on June 29, 2013, said Jazwick.