Fred Bell Matthews |

Fred Bell Matthews

Fred Bell Matthews |

Fred Bell Matthews, 92, of Hermosa, died on Sat., May 22, 2010 at a Rapid City nursing home.

Fred was born June 22, 1917 at Spring Hill, Texas to Fred and Ennis Audrey Matthews, the fourth of nine children. He attended school at Dawson, Texas through the sixth grade. When the Depression came, he went to work at his father’s slaughter house and meat market. After having typhoid fever, he had to learn to walk again.

His occupation was listed as cowboy on his draft card. He was assigned to Ellsworth AFB in 1943, met Gladys Steen and they were married Sept. 3, 1944. Fred was then shipped to Germany.

After the war, Fred did ranch work for Bingo Bangs at Belle Fourche, Bruce Betser at Rapid City, and then A.D. Miner at Hermosa. He went to work for Custer State Park as a buffalo skinner in 1954 and went on to become the park’s herdsman until his retirement.

Over the years he shot more than 4,000 head of buffalo. One shot was filmed in “How the West Was Won” with Fred shooting the buffalo that Henry Fonda pretended to shoot. Other films he was in include “Last Hunt” and “Return of a Man Called Horse.” Fred chose the site for the buffalo corrals and was instrumental in their development. In early 1960 he coordinated the annual buffalo roundup and auction. In 1986 Fred was inducted into the National Buffalo Hall of Fame. After retiring from Custer State Park in 1991, he traveled to various places setting up other buffalo corrals.

He is survived by his wife, Gladys Matthews of Hermosa; two sons, Fred (Dee) Matthews of Hermosa and Robert (Kathi) Matthews of Buckeye, AZ; two daughters, Karen (Randall) Davis and JoDell (Craig) Nelson, both of Hermosa; six grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents; four brothers, Jack Ross Matthews, Joe Kenneth Matthews, Dewey Davidson Matthews, Will Roy “Buck” Matthews; four sisters, Vestal Lee Matthews, Betty Bell Matthews, Edith June Matthews, Doris Clark; and his grandson, Tanner Ross Nelson.

Visitation will be Thurs., May 27, 2010 from 5pm to 7pm at Kirk Funeral Home in Rapid City and for one hour before services.

Funeral services are set for 10:00am Fri., May 28, 2010 at the funeral home with the Rev. Herb Cleveland officiating. Interment with military honors will take place at Mountain View Cemetery in Rapid City.

A memorial has been established to the Hermosa Roping Club and the National Buffalo Association. Friends may sign Fred’s online guestbook at

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