Since its founding in 1871 by Bruce Johnson and Alice Gill-Johnson, the Gill family has owned and operated the 22 Ranch, an acreage located just southwest of Merino, Colorado. Now in its sixth generation, the family’s commitment to western heritage, food and fiber production, agricultural education, and the rural way of life are rooted in the same soil as the historic vision, mission, and values of the National Western Stock Show.
Tom & Lori Gill, the fourth generation to call the Ranch home, currently run the operation in partnership with their four kids, Annika, Beka, Jessika, and Gus. All of the Gill siblings grew up attending the Stock Show. Gus, a former Stock Show intern and now a voting member of the Western Stock Show Association, looked forward to partaking in the “Best 16 Days in January” each year with his father during his youth and cultivated many fond memories watching the stock dog trials out in the yards and making wagers with his dad on which team would take first place during the draft horse competitions.
The Gill family purchased two leather squares for the Branding Wall to support the construction of the Legacy Building at the new National Western Center. One square will be branded with the iconic “22” of the 22 Ranch. This brand, which began with Bruce Johnson, was passed to Bruce’s brother-in-law, Mark Gill, followed by Mark’s nephew, Frank L. (Ted) Gill who served in the Colorado House and Senate for 32 years. The brand was then transferred to Otis W. (Bill) Gill, the youngest son of Ted, before being inherited by Tom.
The other leather square will be emblazoned with the “XE” brand of Emmett O. Smith, Lori’s great-grandfather. The brand is one of the first that was issued in Logan County and was originally owned by Richard E. Smith, one of the earliest pioneers to settle Sterling, Colo., and co-owner of the first general store in the town. Emmett, a son of Richard, was intrigued by the cowboy way of life and, at a young age, began working as a remuda man on the trail drives. He purchased the “XE” from his father in the late 1800s, and it has worked its way down through the family ever since.
“The National Western Stock Show carries a rich and vibrant legacy that is deeply ingrained in western tradition,” the Gills said. “We are honored that our family’s legacy will now be interwoven with that of the Stock Show for generations to come.”
The campaign is so thankful for the Gill family’s support and rich history with the National Western.