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MORRISON FAMILY

Inducted in 1998

Morrison familyThree generations of Morrisons have helped to build the strong ranch/rodeo connection in the history of the Kittitas Valley. William Morrison came to the Kittitas Valley in 1873. He had served in the Civil War at 13 years of age and in the Yakima Indian Uprising as a lieutenant. He married Catherine Wheeler in Yakima in 1876. Their son Thomas (Tom) Jefferson Morrison married Lillie Ferguson (daughter of James and Elizabeth McEwen Ferguson) in 1885, thus combining the lineage of three great ranch/rodeo families into a new line. It was Tom who first made his mark as a top hand, bronc rider, and roper on the range and at the Kittitas Valley’s “Sunday rodeos” during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Tom’s and Lillie’s two children, Chet, born in 1907, and Gladys, born in 1909, would inherit and carry on the horsemanship and rodeo traditions of the Morrisons. In 1922-23, Tom and son Chet furnished three teams of horses with scrapers to help level the grounds for the Ellensburg Rodeo. Gladys Morrison Sisk participated in several riding clubs, competing in the rodeo night shows and organizing the Flying Hoofs Riding Club.

Chet Morrison entered the bronc riding at the first (1923) Ellensburg Rodeo (his father Tom had to sign a waiver to allow the 16 year-old Chet to compete). He went on to win the first-ever Ellensburg Rodeo cow-cutting competition. Chet was the County bronc riding champion in 1930; he won the County calf roping in 1936, 1944, and 1946; and he won several day monies in World bronc riding. He rodeoed throughout Montana, Idaho, and Washington in the late 1930s. With Bud McNeil, he founded the Kittitas County Roping Club. Chet built several arenas on his ranch and the Morrison ranch became a mecca for young local beginners. Chet continued to rodeo into the 1940s, moving from bronc riding into roping and timed-event competitions. He died in 1980.

In 1938, Chet married Bertha (Zumbrunnen) Morrison, who added her own ranch and rodeo expertise to their many activities. Bertha was a skilled cowgirl and horse racer who worked rodeo relays and flat races for over a decade. She was a founder of the Rodeo Valley Riders, the first women’s riding club to participate in the Ellensburg Rodeo Grand Entries and Night Shows and put on a square dance. Moreover, Bertha’s personal background in rodeo made her one of the most knowledgeable living historians of the Ellensburg Rodeo and, over the past seventy years, she has amassed an archive of photographs, news stories, programs, and other artifacts of local rodeo history. She has served as a consultant to historians like John Ludtka, (The Tradition Lives) and the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame Association, who have relied on her expertise in writing the history of the Ellensburg Rodeo. Bertha was also chairman of the Kittitas County History Book project. Bertha’s brother, Fred Zumbrunnen, rode saddle brons at the Ellensburg Rodeo and also bulldogged at some smaller rodeos.

Bertha and Chet’s sons, Chet Jr. (Tuffy, b. 1940) and Tommy (b. 1942) were the third generation of Morrisons to follow the rodeo road. Both boys took up rodeoing early on, working all events except bull riding, and they continue to help out today with the roughstock chutes. Tuffy brought the Morrison skills to the RCA (now PRCA) national circuit from 1964-1980, working both ends of the arena as a bronc rider (saddles and bareback) and in calf roping and steer roping events. He won numerous events and go-rounds, and All-Around Championships at Omak (WA), Libby (MT), Logan (UT), Blackfoot (ID), Polson (MT), Kamloops (BC), and Yakima (WA) for three years, and others. Moreover, he served five years on the Board of Directors and the Executive Board of the PRCA’s Columbia River Circuit. Tuffy is a life member of PRCA.

Tommy Morrison was the WRA All-Around cowboy for the whole year in 1969 and won many other WRA rodeos. He served two years in the Army in Germany. Tommy and Tuffy are now owners of the ranch and old Ferguson rodeo grounds, which has been owned by the family for over 100 years.

Today [1998], Bertha Morrison resides on the same Kittitas Valley ranch where she was born and raised. Her sons Tuffy and Tommy are the co-owners. She continues to research the history and traditions of the Ellensburg Rodeo in which her family has played so large a part.