Not to many years have past since Northern California was mostly ranches and farms. What is now Castro Valley, once had so many chicken ranches, it was known as "The Chicken Capital of the World". Another ranch in the Castro Valley area was known as the Rowell Ranch. James Henry "Harry" Rowell was born November 11, 1891 in Peterborough, Northamptonshire, England. He visited the United States when he was a member of the HMS Royal Navy. Many stories have been told about how he ended up staying in the U.S. , but once he got to California, he never looked back! He picked up odd jobs such as milking dairy cows, boxing and raising chickens. From there he went on to living the American Dream.
Harry owned one of the largest ranches in the area, operated a successful, world famous saddlery and most notably, for many years, he was the biggest Rodeo Stock Contractor in the West - thus the nickname "The Rodeo King of the West". He was the stock provider and Arena Director for the first Grand National Exhibition at the San Francisco Cow Palace in 1941, a role he continued until he left the business in 1952. He was a cattleman and a rancher who raised some of his own stock, which were then showcased at some 25 rodeos which he produced and promoted throughout the West. And he put on an annual rodeo at the Rowell Ranch that helped to set the standards for what rodeo is today.
At one of the Rowell Ranch rodeos in 1938 Harry married Margaret Tryon "Maggie" Rowell. Good looking, smart and totally sold on Harry, she was a good judge of character and always a part of Harry's thinking and planning. She loved the rodeo and she traveled everywhere with Harry Rowell proving herself to be, among other things, a formidable poker player and a real trooper on the long road trips. Maggie's devotion and loyalty to Harry and the Rowell Ranch Rodeo helped Harry continue his ascent to "The Rodeo King of the West".
Harry and Maggie Rowell were inducted into The National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1985. Harry Rowell was also inducted into the Professional Cowboy Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs in 1979. Maggie Rowell introduced the idea of the Rowell Ranch Junior Rodeo to the Board of Directors of the Greater Kiwanis Club in 1962. The idea took hold and the first Rowell Ranch Junior Rodeo was held in 1963. The Kiwanis continued to sponsor the Jr. Rodeo until 1977, when the Rowell Ranch Executive Board created the Rowell Ranch Jr. Rodeo Committee to be responsible for the Jr. Rodeo each year.