Williamson County Sheriff's Posse cowboy sitting

Keeping our Western heritage alive

For many, posse conjures up images of the Wild West in which deputized cowboys chase villains on horseback. While they didn’t hunt outlaws from horses, an actual sheriff’s posse existed in Williamson County as late as the 1940s, when Sheriff Robert Davis deputized members of the Williamson County Fair and Rodeo Association—now the Williamson County Sheriff’s Posse (WCSP)—in 1943 to assist local law enforcement after many deputies went overseas to serve in World War II.

Today, members of the WCSP still assist during times of crisis. For example, they searched on horseback in 1997 for survivors of the Jarrell tornado, and in 2002 they mounted up again to look for missing Rachel Cooke. Following the 2011 Bastrop fires, members collected donations of hay and feed for stranded horses and other animals.

As the need for law enforcement support from the WCSP dwindled over the years after World War II, the posse’s focus shifted to preserving Western heritage. They began to hold events such as the former Western Week, which included barbecue cook-offs, a cowboy breakfast, and a parade that led up to the rodeo—the grand finale of the week. When the original rodeo arena collapsed in the 1940s, WCSP members became fundraisers, collecting $20,000 in donations and securing a loan in the same amount from National Cowboy Hall of Fame member T. C. “Buck” Steiner, to rebuild the arena. Today, the arena—located in San Gabriel Park in Georgetown—is largely the same.

Nearly 73 years after its inception, the WCSP remains active in Williamson County, organizing the annual WCSP Rodeo and open riding events at the arena, as well as renting out the arena for events such as play days and barrel races. The organization also maintains an active drill team, and continues its fundraising efforts in support of a number of local charities.

Captain of the posse, Chris Mattice, has been involved since 2009 and has seen many improvements to the arena, including that of the grounds to accommodate more high-speed rodeo events, along with the equipment to maintain the grounds and various cosmetic upgrades. “The level of rodeo events has also improved greatly,” says Chris.

As captain, Chris’s immediate goals are to “maintain the WCSP as a member-friendly organization vital to the community, and build a rodeo that makes that community proud while at the same time benefitting the charities we support.” His vision for the future is to “keep the Posse and its history alive by building the membership . . . especially drawing the interest of the area youth.”

Chris explains that because the city of Georgetown’s future plans to relocate the WCSP rodeo arena, it’s been hard to recruit new members. “We want people to know that while we will eventually relocate, it won’t be in the immediate future. We are working to stay connected to the community, and increasing our membership can only help that. Our membership is our greatest asset,” he says. The posse is a completely volunteer-run organization, with monthly meetings open to the public. To those interested in membership, Chris says, “We’ll put you to work, but we have a lot of fun, too, with trail rides and other member events planned throughout the year.” He’s quick to clarify that members do not have to own a horse to participate.

Although individual members must be over the age of 18, Chris says the posse is always looking for ways to get the Williamson County youth involved and offers family memberships as well. Interested community members can learn more at the WCSP website.

2016 Rodeo

The 2016 Williamson County Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo—sanctioned by the Cowboy’s Professional Rodeo Association—will take place June 24–25 at the posse’s arena located inside San Gabriel Park in Georgetown. Additional information can be found at www.wcsprodeo.com/rodeo.

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