Fern Sawyer

“She died in the saddle, surrounded by friends.” said Peter Holt, as quoted in the October 21, 1993 issue of the Lincoln County News, Carrizozo, New Mexico. Most recently Ms. Sawyer had resided in Nogal, Lincoln County, New Mexico.

Fern Sawyer was born at Buchanan, De Baca County, New Mexico, on May 17, 1917 to Uyless Devoe Sawyer and Dessie Lewis Sawyer and was raised on the family ranch at Crossroads, near Tatum, New Mexico. She passed away at the age of 76 on October 16, 1993 near Blanco, Blanco County, Texas while visiting friends. Earlier in the day, Ms. Sawyer had been riding with friends and herding heifer cattle when she told another rider she was feeling tired, and shortly thereafter, she passed away.

A funeral service was held the following Tuesday at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Roswell, officiated by Rev. Robert L. Williams. The service was attended by her many friends, including Governor and Mrs. Bruce King. According to a newspaper report in the Roswell Daily Record, the eulogy was given by Mr. Holt and the service included the singing of “Amazing Grace.” After the service, she was interred at Tatum Cemetery, Tatum, Lea County, New Mexico where her mother and father are also buried.

At an early age, Fern had exhibited her talents in the area of horsemanship and became well known for her abilities. She was encouraged by her parents to work on the ranch and inspired by them to perform as well as any of the men. She began a rodeo career by competing in events previously confined to male contestants. Her many accomplishments include winning the cutting horse championship at the 1945 Southwestern Exhibition and Fat Stock Show in Fort Worth, Texas. She won the Cutting Horse competition aboard her horse “Belen.” In the competition, she eliminated Grady Blue on “Tom Cat” and R. W. McClure on “Smokey” who were second and third place finishers. She is shown below looking up at Belen.

Image credit: University of Texas at Arlington, Digital Collection, Special Collections Identifier: AR406-6-27

Fern’s honors include being inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and the National Cutting Horse Hall of Fame. She won the All-Around World Champion Cowgirl title in 1938 and the Cutting Horse World Champion title in 1947.