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Allison Saddlery - Bill Allison

Birth place or City of origin:
State of origin: MT
Last known City: Round Up, Montana
Last known State: MT
Start/Birth date: 1949
Death/End date:


Bill Allison, a Montana native, born in 1949, has lived on a ranch his entire life. His dad ranched on the Little Powder River in southeastern Montana and was a expert horseman. Bill’s father-in-law was in the Remount in El Reno, Oklahoma and broke horse and mules for the Army. In 1978 during a long cold winter, Bill built his first saddle. He would build one, ride it, sell it, and build another. Bill made over sixty saddles before he finally made one that he wouldn’t sell. “I have made a lot of saddles for neighboring ranchers. Taking care of cows requires a lot of time in a saddle and there is not a better feeling than to please a cowboy at his work. I know that to fit a tree to the horse is as important as fitting the cowboy to the saddle.”

The Allison’s ranched near Powderville, Montana, until 1982 when the drought forced them to sell the property. Now convinced more than ever that he could make saddles for a living, the family bought a place where the Rosebud Creek runs into the Yellowstone River near the spot where General Custer picked up his last supplies before heading up to his “last stand”. Bill built a saddle about every ten days to two weeks and rode them all to make sure he was doing what he thought was best.

After eight years, the family had a chance to lease a ranch on the Tongue River thirty-five miles away. Bill built over 100 saddles on that ranch but drought once again forced their hand so twelve years later (in 2000) they finally decided to liquidate the cows and open a saddle shop in Round Top.
I make the saddles, my wife, Brenda, makes chaps, and our daughter, Tassie, makes all of the tack and does most of the repairs. It is a craft we enjoy doing. We had a Saddle Shop in town for seven years and then built a log shop near our house eight miles out of town. We love what we do but still miss those cows! I have learned to carve leather, fit leather, and make most any leather project. I can do most pictures in leather and Will James is my favorite artist as he has the most action in his animals.
I am very interested in the Old West. Charlie Russell can tell the story in a picture better than most artists. In his day they rode a horse for transportation riding, what I call a real saddle -- the high cantle, tall horn, and decked out like a sports car would be today. Those saddles were built to last and they had style. I like the Miles City saddles. There are more steps to building these old style saddles but it is well worth the effort when they are finished. They bring back a piece of the old west that is very satisfying. I built a saddle on an old iron fork tree owned by a man that actually came up the trail with Teddy Blue Abbot. The iron forks were the first metal horns, only the horn goes all the way to the bar back of the fork. They were only built from 1877 to 1903. We actually know who rode this iron fork saddle up the trail. The saddle was still in the family after all this time. I am fortunate to see this piece of history every day.

In 2008 Bill was part of the National Folk Festival while it was in Butte, Montana, giving a talk about the different kinds of saddle trees. In 2010 he was a co-recipient of the Montana Circle of American Masters award. While Allison’s stunning saddles now reside in the some of the finest antique western saddle collections, he still gets the most satisfaction when his work is enjoyed by everyday ranch hands: To see a piece of my work being enjoyed by a working cowboy gives me a warm and rewarding feeling. 


 

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