Lloyd Mitchell was a competitor in rodeos as a young man and in summers during college and early coaching years he traveled to Yellowstone National Park to work on horseback as a fire guard. One time on his way there he was standing and talking and he often kicked the dirt to see what he could find. That day he found an old spur, long buried. He pulled it out and cleaned it off, thinking he would find the mate and have a free pair of spurs. As the years passed, he would remark that he was still looking for that spur. He never found the mate to it, but his spur collection is a credit to his tenacity. This year a gentleman cowboy came in to see the spurs and remarked he was thinking of beginning a collection, but we already had all of them!
Lloyd graduated from Baylor University in 1931. He lettered in football and was All-Southwest Conference in track. He became a coach and teacher for the next 41 years until he and Madge retired together in 1972. In the 1940’s Coach Mitchell supervised the old swimming pool that was in Raby Park. Many servicemen would come to the pool and he enjoyed making friends with them. They knew about his spur collection and many would send him spurs from wherever they were in the world. The spurs in his collection included: Spanish, French, Moroccan, Philipino, German, South American, Russian Czar, English, Mexican and Italian. One young man from the Boston area sent him spurs that were Jackie Bouvier Kennedy’s.
I remember his class in Gatesville High School and he always kept our attention, had lots of maps on the wall and expected us to learn and enjoy the history. About 1967 when we were taking his history class he put us all on a school bus and took us to see his spur collection. I remember a small unpainted wooden building, so full of spurs, floor to ceiling, we could barely walk through.
His collection included some spurs from the 13th century thru the 20th century. A greater number can be dated from the 1800’s thru the 20th century, during the famous period of cattle drives. He collected spurs made by Bayers, Bianchi, Bischoff, Boone, Buermann, Crockett, Fleming, Garcia, Kelly, McChesney, Ricardo and Shipley. These marks are on the spurs themselves, as well as tagged by the museum.
Mary Catherine Mitchell recalls that Bill Herridge showed interest in the spur collection to be exhibited at the Coryell Museum. After Coaches death in 1991, Madge and all 5 children donated the collection to the museum. Coach loved to share history and the spurs. The Mitchell collection is the centerpiece for the museum and the Legislature designated Gatesville as the Spur Capital of Texas.
On October 3, 2001 the Coryell Museum and Historical Center celebrated the donation of the spurs by the Mitchell family with a celebration that included everything from square dancing, to a gunfight in the street. The first floor of the museum houses hundreds of spurs in the first display area on the left, as well as other western memorabilia and a photograph of Coach Mitchell.
There is an area children can touch the spurs and make them jingle. Cowboys have traditionally liked the sound a spur makes as they walked. If you plan to sneak up on someone however, take off your spurs. Upstairs are hundreds more spurs that are in the process of being cataloged by the museum. Come by the museum and see this magnificent collection of spurs for yourself.