Origin of a saddle tree

Origin of a saddle tree

During the past 40 or 50 years, I have noticed many saddle makers use a tree called the Wade. I wonder if anyone knows where it came from, or where it got its name.

In 1940 my wife and I went to work for J.C. "Cliff" Wade in Enterprise. He was using a nice silver-trimmed saddle made by Hamley Saddlery of Pendleton.

Cliff was born in Enterprise in 1889, and was raised on his father's farm where he was known for his skill in handling both horses and mules. He won several trophies for his horsemanship, including a second place in the World Championship Relay Race at the 1913 Pendleton Roundup. Cliff died in 1986 at the age of 97.

Wade had inherited his father's old Mexican type saddle and in 1937 took it to the Hamley Saddlery in Pendleton to have it repaired. It is not known when or where the old saddle tree was made or what it was called, but this was the beginning of the Wade tree.

In taking the leather and rawhide off and noting how the tree was made, the Hamley people got interested and made an agreement with Cliff for the use of the name and tree pattern. They put it in their catalog, calling it the Wade tree.

The Wade saddle became popular among many riders and is often seen today. In fact, saddle makers all across the country use that pattern but don't know the origin. Had Cliff not saved his father's old saddle, the tree and design would have disappeared into oblivion.

I am glad to have known Cliff Wade, and I write this article as a memorial to a true horseman and friend.

Editor's note: Frank Hendricks, 92, lives in a retirement home in Boise, Idaho. He spent much of his life working with horses in livestock in Montana, Idaho, and Oregon. He was inspired to write this article on a recent trip to Wallowa County during which he drove by the Wade estate on Alder Slope near Enterprise.

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