Whitey Sovern

born: 02 April 1893
Greenwood County, Kansas,
United States of America
died: 15 January 1973
Imperial County, California,
United States of America
(age 79)

Earl Sovern was part of the large family of William T. (1867-1959) and Mary Sovern (1865-1959) in Greenwood County, KS. The parents had relocated to a farm in KS where all the children were born. There is some evidence that Earl was born in the town of Eureka, KS and died in the town of Humbolt, CA in the counties indicated. The birthplaces of the 8 children indicate that the family moved several times within the county. There seems to be no evidence of the family living in Texas except Earl's 1917 Draft Card where he states that he was born in "Sweetwater, Texas" and "Missouri" in the 1920 Census.
Three sons got involved with raising and training horses and ponies: William Arthur (1887-1955); Earl Andy (1893-1973) and Clarence (1897-1929). Earl was in Los Angeles by 1913 and supplied and rode "trick horses" for movies for Thomas Ince (NY Motion Picture Co.) and eventually Mack Sennett (Triangle). All three eventually became actor / stuntmen / assistant directors for Sennett. By 1914, he was a ranch foreman at the Santa Monica "101 Ranch" and participated in rodeo / circus style public exhibitions put on by Thomas Ince and the ranch company. Wm S. Hart recalled in a bio that Earl had played a practical joke which sort of backfired when they worked for Triangle Films. (linked).
A Feb.1914 newspaper article specifically name Earl as "Whitey", his nickname at the ranch in Ynez Canyon where he was foreman, because of his light colored hair (confirmed by his WWI & WWII Draft Cards). His older brother, William Arthur, at that time was married and living in Kansas City Missouri as a carpenter and auctioneer.
A strange story about Earl and 2 of his brothers appeared in newspapers across the US on March 30th and 31st of 1915. There are a few documentable "holes in it" but here's how it goes with a link to one source:
The parents were living in Texas and knew that Earl was working in films as a horse riding stuntman. (I guess for the "101 Ranch" in Oklahoma or Thomas Ince's NY Motion Co in Santa Monica, CA.) His movie company sent him with a crew to Mexico to make a series of films. During this time, the parents with his siblings moved back to Kansas. They had received a telegram saying that Earl had been killed in MX (1912). While in Mexico, Earl got hired by another film company. All the letters he was writing home (TX) were returned so he gave up writing. The parents continued to try to locate his Mexican grave and the older brothers, Arthur and Samuel, would watch western movies to try and "spot" him. They didn't know what movies he had performed in. Then in March of 1915 in a Kansas City movie theater, they spotted Earl and "went berserk" right in the theater! They got a hold of the manager to find the (NY) address of the film company which they contacted and found that Earl was working as an actor in Santa Monica. The family was reunited. By the 1920 Census, except for Samuel, the entire family was in Los Angeles.
Brother Clarence was severely injured in late 1917 while stunt riding for one of the Sennett "Sheriff Nell" comedies. He spent several days in the hospital with internal injuries but recovered and returned with a vengeance to perform bronco busting stunts and "trick riding" in rodeos and films. Ironically, he died at home in 1929 from double pneumonia.
Of interest, in the 1920 LA Census, Earl is "boarding" in the same apt. building as ANM's Ray Ransburg. The apartment is a few blocks from where Mack Sennett was living. Whitey continued to do acting, stunt work and supplying horses for movies. In the 1950 LA Census, he is a self-employed cattle trader with next door neighbors who are a horse trainer and wrangler for motion pictures.

*At least one source gives incorrect information on his birth and death as 1890-1955.
Real name: Earl Andy Sovern
Height: 5'6"
Films listed on this page: complete Hal Roach filmography.


An Eastern Westerner

The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia by Annette D'Agostino Lloyd (book)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMT2-R1T?from=lynx1UIV8&treeref=K8GM-SRN (1900 Census: Salem, KS: b.KS Apr 1893: w/ entire family)
https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/5021923:1088?ssrc=pt&tid=24119420&pid=61001043788 (1905 C: Salem, KS: w/ entire family)
https://www.familysearch.org/search/ark:/61903/1:1:M2CZ-T7P (1910 C: Salem, KS: Earl, Arthur, & Sam not present)
https://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=LAH19130513.2.41&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1 (1913 May: Samta Monica: Miller Bros (Circus) buys "101 Ranch")
https://digital.smpl.org/digital/collection/outlook/id/46661/rec/3 (1913 Aug: "Chief of Cowboys" in show at "101 Ranch")
https://newspaperarchive.com/chicago-day-book-feb-02-1914-p-7/ (1914 Feb 2: Nickname is "Whitey": photo)
https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/70873786:61066 (1914 LA voter list: foreman at Santa Ynez Canyon ranch)
https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/3064435:1088?gsln=sovern&ml_rpos=2&hovR=1 (1915 Mar 1: Salem, KS: family w/o 3 bros)
https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/3064435:1088?gsln=sovern&ml_rpos=2&hovR=1 (1915 Mar 31: believed dead)
https://www.newspapers.com/image/690647751/?terms=%22whitey%20sovern%22&match=1 (1915 Jul 8: Ince's huge rodeo for press)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-91SV-S35H?i=1370&cc=1968530&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AKZVJ-VSB (1917 May: director for Keystone)
https://archive.org/details/motionpicturenew16moti_1/page/3856/mode/1up?view=theater (1917 Dec: bro. Clarence injured)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C3M4-97RV-F?cc=2968245&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AWWN1-4T3Z (1918 May: enlists WWI to Nov. 1919)
https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=LAH19180625.2.206&srpos=1&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN-%22WHITEY+SOVERN%22-------1 (1918 June: name is Earl "Whitey" Sovern)
https://www.newspapers.com/image/608033012/?terms=%22EARL%20SOVERN%22&match=1 (1918 Jun 15: billed as "King of the Cowboys")
https://www.newspapers.com/image/192947910/?terms=%22EARL%20SOVERN%22&match=1 (1918 Sep: WWI sent to England)
https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/368185:6061 (1920 C: LA: "Motion Picture Cowboy": with Ray Ransburg)
https://archive.org/details/pictureplaymagaz22unse/page/n689/mode/1up?view=theater&q=%22CLARENCE+SOVERN%22 (1925 Aug: does movie diving stunts)
https://www.newspapers.com/image/380358681/?terms=%22whitey%20sovern%22&match=1 (1933 Aug: In Rose Parade)
"San Fernando City Directory" at Ancestry.com: 1940: studio worker: res.5258 Denny Ave.
https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/13487195:1002 (1942 Apr: WWII: b. Eureka, KS: 5'6": blond hair)
https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/256366224:62308 (1950 C LA: cattle trader)
https://www.familysearch.org/search/ark:/61903/1:1:VPHK-2YF (1973 Jan 15: death in CADI)
https://archive.org/details/motionpicturedir4240moti/page/n70/mode/1up?view=theater&q=%22whitey+sovern%22 (1926 Jan: Wm S Hart bio)
Jim Jarvis (research and bio notes)

This page was last updated on: 12 August 2022