John Gillespie is with the Rawhide Boys Ranch of New London, Wisconsin. He co-founded Rawhide with his wife Jan who went home to be with the Lord in 2017. John is author of the Book, ‘Our 351 Sons’ that tells how the Rawhide Boys Ranch began.
The Rawhide story begins with a boy named ‘Jerry’. John was teaching a class of teenagers in a small Bible church when a 13 year old wandered into class. John asked him if his parents were in church and the boy explained that he just lived a couple doors away and he came on his own.
The next Sunday, he came back and he hung around while John put materials away and asked if he could come to John’s house that day. John wanted to check with his parents at which point Jerry said that he didn’t have a dad and his mother was working and she said it was OK.
John left a note on the door of Jerry’s mother’s place and Jerry went to John’s for the afternoon. Eventually Jerry’s mother came out with a suitcase and box of clothes. She told John that she had just remarried and has 3 children. Her husband had given her 30 days from the time of their wedding (about two weeks prior) to get rid of any two of her three children.
Through this experience, John and Jan got into trouble with county welfare agency because they didn’t know you had to be licensed as foster parents in order to have a non-relative living with you for more than 78 days. They went to Madison, WI. With their local senator and spoke with the lieutenant governor, explaining how welfare officials wanted to take Jerry away from them. The lieutenant told the head of the social services department that he wanted John and Jan licensed as state foster parents by the end of that work day! By the time they got back to Appleton, 2 hours later, they were met by an official of the local county welfare department with their foster home license.
From this point, the story builds with miracle after miracle as John and Jan buy land/facilities along Wisconsin’s Wolf River, meet Bart and Cherry Starr, are visited by a special housekeeper, develop the idea of donated used cars to help increase ranch income, and much more.