Hansford County Biographies
Source: The Handbook of Texas Online
BOICE, HENRY S.
Henry S. Boice, rancher and manager of the XIT Ranch, was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, in 1860, the son of a local physician. He began working as a cowboy at age fifteen for fifteen dollars a month. Since his contemporaries were mostly native New Mexicans, he spoke mainly Spanish throughout his youth.
Beginning in 1878 Boice worked for Henry W. Cresswell's ranch near Pueblo, Colorado, where he became foreman at age twenty-one and subsequently Cresswell's partner. Boice also ran his own cattle, branded LK connected. When Cresswell drove his herd down to the Panhandle of Texas, he put Boice in touch with David Berry, a New York financier, who also owned a herd in Pueblo County.
The result was the formation of the
Berry-Boice Cattle Company, in which Boice managed the range and
supervised the buying and selling of cattle.
In 1881 Boice moved the company herd, branded with three sevens, to a choice range along Palo Duro Creek in Ochiltree and Hansford counties. The Three Sevens Ranch was mainly a steer operation, and Boice contracted for steers throughout the Southwest, purchasing 25,000 a year.
Most of these were shipped from the Panhandle to ranges in North Dakota. Because of his extensive travels, he gained perhaps the widest knowledge of ranchers and cattle among his contemporaries. Cresswell and other Panhandle ranchers were counted among his circle of friends.
In 1885 Boice trailed the remainder of his
Three Sevens cattle to North Dakota and closed out his Panhandle
operation. By that time the Berry-Boice Company was operating on
a grand scale, mostly in the badlands along the Little Missouri
River. There Boice became acquainted with Theodore Roosevelt and
Gregor Lang, whose ranches bordered his own. By 1896 Boice was
the leading shipper of grass-fed young steers through the Chicago
commission firm of Clay, Robinson and Company.
Boice was among the first to buy purebred bulls and breed up his stock. The Kansas firm of Gudgell and Simpson, established in 1879 to import bulls for breeders, sold him several prize bulls, especially Herefords. Boice went to Independence, Missouri, to do business with Charles Gudgell, and met Gudgell's daughter LuBelle, whom he married in 1891; they had three sons and two daughters.
When the Berry-Boice Company closed out in 1897, Boice formed the H. S. Boice Cattle Company and purchased the Beatty brothers' ranch, with headquarters at Point of Rocks on the Cimarron River, near the point where the Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado boundaries meet.
The firm shipped from the railroad towns of Texhoma and Arkalen, Oklahoma, a fact that necessitated a drive of more than a hundred miles to load the cattle. Since only Hereford bulls were used, Boice's herd grew in both quality and quantity during the decade of the ranch's existence. Although his family resided at Kansas City most of the year, they spent summers at Point of Rocks, where the sons gained valuable ranching experience.
During this period Boice and several partners formed a livestock loan and commission company in Kansas City, but this enterprise soon fell into financial straits, and the partners lost everything. Boice accepted the general managership of the XIT Ranch in 1905 and moved his family to Channing, in Hartley County, Texas. By 1906 he had closed out the H. S. Boice Cattle Company, and two years later he began investing in the Block Ranch, in the Carrizozo-Roswell area of New Mexico, and the Chiricahua Cattle Company in southern Arizona.
Boice remained with the XIT until it closed
out its cattle operations in 1912. As the Capitol Freehold Land
and Investment Company's last general manager, he won a
reputation for his refusal to smoke, drink, or swear and for
possessing "a will like a rock." R. L. Duke was among
the range foremen who worked under him.
After 1912 Boice and his family settled at the Chiricahua (CCC) Ranch, which he and his partners reorganized as the Boice, Gates, and Johnson Cattle Company. Boice died on the ranch in December 1919. His two oldest sons, Henry and Frank, and their sons continued Boyce's successful efforts at improving their stock of purebred Herefords.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Cordia Sloan Duke and Joe B. Frantz, 6,000 Miles of Fence: Life on the XIT Ranch of Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961). J. Evetts Haley, The XIT Ranch of Texas and the Early Days of the Llano Estacado (Chicago: Lakeside, 1929; rpts., Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953, 1967). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876-1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981).
H. Allen Anderson
BORGER, ASA PHILLIP
Asa Phillip (Ace) Borger, town builder, was born to Phillip and Minnie Ann (West) Borger on April 12, 1888, on the family farm near Carthage, Missouri. His father, a veterinarian, died when Ace was six, and the Borger children were raised by their mother and two grandmothers.
Borger attended school in Carthage and
graduated from business college. Around 1907 he married a
classmate, Elizabeth Willoughby. The couple spent their first
years in a rented farmhouse near Carthage, where Borger opened a
lumberyard; they had three children.
Borger began his career as a town promoter when World War I broke out in Europe. In 1915 he and his younger brother Lester Andrew (Pete) sold real estate in the mining town of Picher, Oklahoma, in the center of valuable lead and zinc deposits. Much lead was produced from Picher for the war effort.
In 1917 the Borgers, in company with the noted wildcatter Tom Slick, laid out the oil town of Slick near Bristow, Oklahoma. At each town the Borgers and their associates built hotels, filling stations, and lumberyards, sold real estate, and pushed for the building of railroad lines to the sites.
In 1922 they successfully launched Cromwell,
Oklahoma, as a boomtown. Though Borger and his family maintained
a home for a time in each of these towns, he continued to use
Carthage as his main base.
Borger became interested in the discovery of the Panhandle oilfield. Early in 1926, after personally checking out the reports, he purchased 240 acres from rancher John Frank Weatherly at fifty dollars an acre. He next obtained a grant from Texas secretary of state Emma Grigsby Meharg to organize the Borger Townsite Company, with capital stock of $10,000 divided into 100 shares of $100 each.
In addition to Borger himself, the company's stockholders included C. C. Horton of the Gulf Oil Company and John R. Miller, an old friend from Oklahoma boom days who became the new town's first mayor. The company proceeded to lay out the town and opened the sale of lots on March 8, 1926.
By the end of that first day, it had grossed
between $60,000 and $100,000, and after six months Borger sold
out completely, for more than a million dollars.
He established a lumberyard in the town named for him and opened its first bank. Often he took out full-page ads in area papers promoting settlement in Borger and other oil-rich sites throughout West Texas and eastern New Mexico in which he had bought an interest. He also owned a string of Panhandle wheat elevators and 19,000 acres of farmland in Hansford County.
In 1927 Ace and Pete Borger, in association with Albert S. Stinnett, established the towns of Stinnett and Gruver and were influential in making Stinnett the Hutchinson county seat. In 1929 Borger built a spacious two-story family home, the first brick residence in Borger.
From the start he had set aside building
sites for churches and schools. His wife, Elizabeth, became
active in community affairs; her love for beauty and culture was
reflected in the antiques with which she decorated their home.
Visiting dignitaries were lavishly entertained there.
Borger's overt generosity with friends and acquaintances caused hard feelings among certain of the town's populace, however, particularly Arthur Huey, the Hutchinson county treasurer. Huey's dislike for Borger intensified after the Borger State Bank, which Borger had established in June 1930 with himself as president and his son Phillip as vice president, failed, causing a minor panic among local businessmen and small depositors.
The elder Borger was later convicted of receiving deposits in the insolvent bank and assessed a two-year prison term, a judgment that he appealed. Meanwhile, Huey was jailed for embezzlement and reportedly asked Borger to help bail him out. When Borger refused, Huey made threats against his life.
On August 31, 1934, Borger was getting his mail at the city post office when, according to witnesses, Huey walked in with a Colt .45, shouted obscenities, and shot him five times. Huey then took Borger's own .44 and fired four more shots with it. Lloyd Duncan, farm boss for the Magnolia Petroleum Company, was severely wounded by the shots and died five days later.
At his trial, which was held in Canadian,
Huey claimed that he had shot in self-defense, arguing that
Borger was gunning for him. The jury believed him and acquitted
him. Three years later, however, he was sent to the state
penitentiary for theft of county funds. Funeral services for Ace
Borger were held in Borger, and his body was shipped back to
Missouri for burial in the family plot at Carthage.
Borger's sons, Phillip and Jack, left the area soon after their father's death. However, their sister, Helen, remained and occupied the brick house with her husband, Fritz Thompson. Ace Borger's dream house, now a Texas historical landmark, has remained a family treasure.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hutchinson County Historical Commission, History of Hutchinson County, Texas (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). Jerry Sinise, Black Gold and Red Lights (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1982).
James Hamilton Cator, buffalo hunter, Panhandle pioneer, and rancher, one of five children of Capt. John Bertie Cator, administrator of the Port of Hull, England, was born on September 2, 1852, near Fintra, Ireland, where his father was on duty at the time.
As a British naval officer, Captain Bertie had already distinguished himself in the Chinese Opium Wars and in his attempts to find the polar expedition of Sir John Franklin. However, he determined that his two oldest sons, James and Arthur J. L. (Bob), would seek less hazardous careers and had them trained in engineering and draftsmanship.
After a fruitless effort to find suitable
employment for his sons in the British Empire, the Captain wrote
the American consul in London inquiring of opportunities for
young men in the less settled parts of the United States.
In 1871, after hearing glowing reports of the Kansas Land and Immigration Company, he sent James and Bob over to strike it rich by farming in Kansas.
The brothers, however, found farming to be different from what it was in England and were scorned by most Kansas frontiersmen. Soon they became enthusiastic over the buffalo-hide trade. Having had previous experience in hunting game, the Cators joined in this profitable business and killed 300 buffalo soon after purchasing new Sharps buffalo rifles. With their earnings they bought a wagon, mules, horses, and food. Between July 1 and September 1, 1873, the Cators killed nearly 7,000 buffalo and had in their employ seven skinners.
When the Panic of 1873 caused the price of hides to drop momentarily, the Cators took up "wolfing" and killed over 600 gray wolves and coyotes for bounty. However, soon they were hunting buffalo again, and late in the fall they followed Josiah Wright and John Wesley Mooarq from Clay Center, Kansas, to the Texas Panhandle, where the animals were still abundant.
A severe snowstorm on Christmas Day 1873 caught the Cators' hunting party in a break along North Palo Duro Creek (in what is now Hansford County) huddling against an earthen wall. There they constructed a crude dugout of cottonwood pickets and buffalo hides and waited out the winter.
The success that the Cators and Mooars enjoyed led to the establishment of the trading center at Adobe Walls the following spring; the Cators, in fact, entered the post from their camp on Aroja Bonita Creek, in Potter County twelve miles away, the day after the Indian attack that took place on June 27, 1874 (see ADOBE WALLS, SECOND BATTLE OF). Subsequently the brothers and their companions filed claims for property burned or stolen by the Indians, but not until 1892 was their case heard by a federal court, in Wichita, Kansas.
After Adobe Walls was abandoned, the Cators settled down to quiet lives at their Palo Duro Creek shelter. Never bothered by Indians in the course of the Red River War, they continued hunting buffalo until 1877, when decimation of the herds prompted them to seek another occupation.
With the arrival of free-range cattle outfits, the Cators decided to try ranching on a small scale. From the LX Ranch in 1878 they bought forty two-year-olds, eleven cows, and ten heifers and drove them back to their dugout to range along North Palo Duro Creek. As this herd expanded, James Cator used a Diamond C brand, while Bob used a VP. In that same year, 1878, the Cators erected a three-room picket house and started a store they called Zulu Stockade because they considered their territory "as wild as the Zululand region of Africa."
Bob hauled supplies on a freight line he established to Dodge City, bringing in additional orders for other settlers moving into the region. Buffalo hunters, soldiers, and ranchers traveling over the military road between forts Dodge and Bascom stopped at Zulu for supplies, and the first Hansford County post office was opened there in December 1880 with Bob Cator as postmaster.
Letters from the Cator brothers to their family back in England prompted their sister Clara and younger brother Bert O. to join them at Zulu Stockade in 1879. Traveling with them was Jennie Ludlow, who married Bob in 1882. Clara and Jennie were the first white women to settle in the Panhandle north of the Canadian River. They helped tend the store and added such refinements as gunnysack carpets and wall whitewash made from creekbed gyp and crushed rocks.
James Cator returned to England in the fall of 1879 to recover from the ague. There he met Edith Land, daughter of a Hull physician, and promised to return and marry her later. That promise, however, was delayed by the "Big Die-up" of January 1886, in which blizzards nearly wiped out the Cator herd.
Disheartened, Bob and Jennie Cator sold
their share of the business and cattle and moved to Oregon. As a
result, James sent for his fiancée in the spring of 1887 to meet
him at Dodge City, where their wedding was held. Arriving with
Edith was her brother, Arthur Land. For his bride Cator had built
a multiroom house from native stone, and there they raised a son
and two daughters.
Business at the Cator Ranch picked up after the town of Hansford was platted in 1887. Clara and her husband Clayton McCrea, who taught the first school at Tascosa, took charge of the stockade. Another brother, Leslie Stewart Cator, immigrated from England, brought over his bride, Bessie Donelson, and stayed to put down roots in the Panhandle.
After Hansford County was organized in 1889,
James Cator was elected the first county judge and Arthur Land
the first county treasurer; fewer than thirty ballots were cast.
Bert Cator, who operated a lumber and grain firm in Hansford,
served as a county commissioner. Later, from 1898 to 1900, Leslie
Cator served as county judge.
After retiring from the bench in 1894, James Cator devoted himself to improving his cattle herds with selective breeding. He also became involved in the move to promote agriculture in the northern Panhandle and with Clate McCrea introduced alfalfa into the county. In 1907 Cator organized the county's first bank, which was moved from Hansford to Spearman with the building of the North Texas and Santa Fe Railway in 1917.
Zulu Stockade was abandoned in 1912, and after World War I the McCreas moved to California. James H. Cator lived in the rock house until his death on October 4, 1927. He was buried in the family cemetery near the ghost town of Hansford.
His widow continued to reside in the house
until her death in 1950. Although the original Diamond C and VP
brands were no longer used, in the late 1980s Cator's heirs still
operated the ranch on Palo Duro Creek. His "Big 50"
Sharps rifle, with which he killed 16,000 buffalo in three years,
is on display at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ernest Cabe, Jr., "A Sketch of the Life of James Hamilton Cator," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 6 (1933). Angie Debo, "An English View of the Wild West," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 6 (1933). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Hansford County Historical Commission, Hansford County, Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Taylor, 1980?).
H. Allen Anderson
COBURN, JAMES M.
James M. Coburn was the founder of the Hansford Land and Cattle Company, the Scottish syndicate that purchased the Turkey Track Ranch from C. S. Word and Jack Snider in 1882 and added to it the holdings of W. E. Anderson and T. S. Bugbee in Hutchinson County. After emigrating from his native Scotland, he had established himself as a banker in Kansas City.
He returned briefly to Scotland and organized the Hansford company to profit from the "Beef Bonanza." On acquiring the Turkey Track lands, company officials elected Coburn secretary and appointed A. H. Johnson general manager. In 1883, after Johnson was killed by lightning, Coburn appointed Thomas Logan Coffee range foreman and assumed the general managerial duties himself.
Friction between the two men developed after Coffee apparently accumulated several head of cattle of his own, which he had allowed to run on the Turkey Track range. When Coburn tried to discharge Coffee, several cowhands stood by the foreman and sought to intimidate the Scotsman.
Such lack of respect on the part of ranch
employees led Coburn to hire Caleb B. (Cape) Willingham as
supervisor and maintain Kansas City as his home base. One
Panhandle settler later recalled that Coburn was "a nervous,
fractious man...scared of his own shadow." Apparently
Willingham also served as Coburn's bodyguard and hired gun.
Coburn continued to make occasional visits to the Panhandle. He encouraged William (Billy) Dixon to take up a claim on three sections of Turkey Track land on Bent's Creek near the Adobe Walls site and operate the ranch store and post office. During the summers Coburn brought his wife and children, including several from a previous marriage, to the ranch.
One summer one of the Coburn children was
taken ill and died almost immediately. Since the Canadian River
was up and the local minister could not get across, Coburn
himself conducted the Episcopal burial service at the Turkey
Track headquarters, with only the ranchhands and the Dixon family
in attendance. When the river subsided, the body was shipped to
Kansas City for interment in the family burial plot.
After Willingham moved to the Hansford company's ranch in New Mexico in 1893, Coburn began experiencing more troubles with the Panhandle spread. Company officials were concerned about increasing cattle thefts, and Coburn lacked the loyalty he needed from his employees to control them. His problems increased in 1897 after the Texas legislature passed the Four-Section Act, which he opposed.
Coburn's quarrels with incoming nesters led
to several lawsuits in Hutchinson County. He soon sold his
Panhandle interests. After Willingham's resignation from the
Hansford company in 1903, Coburn ran the New Mexico ranch himself
for a few years, with J. M. Sanford and Cal Merchant assisting
him. By 1915 the company had closed out its holdings altogether,
and Coburn subsequently disappeared from the Texas ranching
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). John L. McCarty, Adobe Walls Bride (San Antonio: Naylor, 1955).
H. Allen Anderson
John M. Hansford came to Texas from Glasgow, Kentucky, in 1837 and settled near Jonesville, Harrison County. He represented Shelby County in the House of Representatives of the Third and Fourth congresses of the Republic of Texas (1838-40) and in the former was chosen speaker of the House.
After Fannin County was organized in 1840 he presided over its district court. On January 31, 1840, he was appointed judge of the Seventh District. On January 19, 1842, Hansford left office to escape impeachment for his failure to bring a leading regulator to trial during the Regulator-Moderator War, which was then at its peak in that area. The articles of impeachment were withdrawn.
After leaving the bench Hansford retired to his farm near Jonesville. In January 1844, as he and his wife were returning from church services one Sunday morning, a mob of regulators appeared at his house and demanded possession of some slaves that he was holding under a writ of sequestration. When the judge refused to submit to their demands, he was shot and killed.
Hansford was among the organizers of the Constantine Masonic Lodge at Warren on November 3, 1840, and was named junior deacon pro tempore. Hansford County, established in 1876 and organized in 1889, was named in his honor.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hansford County Historical Commission, Hansford County, Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Taylor, 1980?). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832-1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).
Robert Bruce Blake
Joseph H. Plummer, buffalo hunter and freighter, was an enigmatic frontier character who played a brief but important role in the history of the Texas Panhandle. He appeared in the vicinity of Dodge City, Kansas, in the early 1870s and began buffalo hunting in the company of such hide men as Billy (William) Dixon, James H. Cator, Bartholomew (Bat) Masterson, and J. Wright Mooar.
He probably first became acquainted with
Charles Edward (Ed) Jones at that time, and in the spring of 1874
the two were hired as teamsters by Alexander Charles Myers and
Frederick J. Leonard to trace a suitable route between Dodge City
and the newly established trading post at Adobe Walls, Texas. In
Adobe Walls, Plummer formed a partnership with David Dudley and
Tom Wallace, whom he had met in Dodge, and they camped near the
post to await the spring migration of the buffalo herds.
In early June the trio moved their campsite fifteen miles southeast to Red Deer Creek, near its junction with the Canadian River. Later that week Plummer took a wagonload of hides back to Adobe Walls and exchanged them for supplies. On returning he discovered that a party of Kiowas led by Lone Wolf had raided the campsite and murdered and scalped his companions.
Plummer hastily rode toward the post to spread the alarm. On the way he encountered Frank Maddox's Houston and Texas Central Railway surveying party, among them William B. Munson, who helped Plummer bury his comrades before hurrying back to the safety of Camp Supply. Plummer retreated to Adobe Walls, then left for Dodge City a few days later with J. Wright Mooar's organization.
On the way they came upon Ed (Charles E.)
Jones driving a freight wagon to Adobe Walls; Jones delivered his
goods and then rejoined the Mooar caravan on Palo Duro Creek, in
what is now Hansford County. Although Plummer missed the second
battle of Adobe Walls on June 27, he and Jones volunteered as
army scouts with Col. Nelson A. Miles's regiment in July.
However, their apparent scorn for military discipline soon led to
their dismissal by Lt. Frank (Francis) D. Baldwin.
At that time Jones and Plummer began their renowned partnership. In the fall of 1874 they arrived with a wagonload of supplies at Wolf Creek, in what is now Ochiltree County, where Jones had traded the year before with the Cheyennes and Arapahoes. There they erected a trading post, complete with a bar and living quarters, out of cottonwood pickets and sod.
For the next four years they continued
freighting and welcomed Indians, teamsters, cattle drovers,
outlaws, and lawmen to their road ranch on the Jones and Plummer
Trail. Early in 1878 the partners started a cattle ranch. Such an
occupation apparently was unsuitable for Plummer, however; in
July 1878 he terminated the partnership, leaving Jones with the
ranch's assets and liabilities, and departed for Dodge City,
where for a time he loafed and raced horses. Even before he had
gone to Adobe Walls he was said to have owned a gray mare that he
raced for both pleasure and profit. Then, as suddenly as he had
appeared, Joe Plummer vanished in obscurity.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: T. Lindsay Baker and Billy R. Harrison, Adobe Walls: The History and Archaeology of the 1874 Trading Post (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986). Wayne Gard, The Great Buffalo Hunt (New York: Knopf, 1959). C. Robert Haywood, Trails South: The Wagon-Road Economy in the Dodge City-Panhandle Region (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986).
H. Allen Anderson
SANFORD, JAMES MCEUIN
James McEuin (Mack) Sanford, rancher and Hutchinson County pioneer, one of ten children of John Thompson and Nancy Theodocia (Hay) Sanford, was born on September 26, 1864, in Burnet County, Texas. His parents had moved to Texas from Williamson County, Tennessee, a few years before.
At the age of eighteen Sanford began working as a cowboy on a trail drive from South Texas to the Canadian border; then he worked at the old Bar X Ranch in the disputed Greer County. In 1883 he went to the Panhandle and worked two years for Frank Latchman's DBL ranch, twelve miles west of Adobe Walls.
Afterward, he worked for the Hansford Land
and Cattle Company and for the Turkey Track Ranch for ten years.
During that time Sanford hunted wolves for bounty and earned ten
dollars for each pelt taken. By 1895 he had built up his own
cattle herd of 100 head.
He was the first to file under the provisions of the Four-Section Act, which allowed settlers living in semiarid regions to acquire large parcels of land to make stock ranching possible. He claimed land in Carson and Hutchinson counties. He built a dugout home and ranch headquarters on the first four sections in northern Carson County.
Then he expanded his operations, often on
borrowed money, and purchased several tracts of former Turkey
Track land after that ranch broke up. By keeping his home herd
intact and shipping steers to the Kansas markets, Sanford was
able to net as much as $12,000 in profits. Eventually he owned
over 2,000 head and expanded his Panhandle ranch holdings to some
Sanford helped organize Hutchinson County in 1901. The same year he married Garland S. Whiteside, daughter of Judge J. A. Whiteside. W. H. Ingerton, the first county judge issued their marriage license, the first in the county. Sanford formed a partnership with Lee Bivins the following year and handled steers until 1906. The Sanfords had a son and a daughter.
Sanford was among the Panhandle cattlemen who profited greatly from the oil boom of the 1920s. The region's third well, the Whittington-Sanford No. 1, was spudded on his land. As a result the town of Sanford was established, in 1927. On numerous occasions Sanford led Panhandle oil operators in battles both in Austin and Washington, D.C., for improved conditions.
The drought of 1930 compelled him to seek
additional pasturage, and he bought 25,000 acres near Wagon
Mound, New Mexico. He died on August 24, 1933, and was buried in
Llano Cemetery, Amarillo. His son, Harrison, took over management
of the New Mexico ranch, while the properties in Carson and
Hutchinson counties fell to his daughter, Effie, and her husband,
Richard P. Coon. Sanford Dam, which forms Lake Meredith on the
Canadian River, bears his name.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hutchinson County Historical Commission, History of Hutchinson County, Texas (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72).
H. Allen Anderson
TYLER, STANLEY CUSHING
Stanley Cushing Tyler, Panhandle pioneer, was born in 1857 to a wealthy banking family in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was a student at Harvard University when he was advised to go west for his health. He moved to Hansford County, Texas, in 1879 and bought four sections of land from the state for a dollar an acre and another four sections from an individual. He leased an additional 100,000 acres from the state.
On this choice rangeland along North Palo Duro Creek, Tyler grazed his cattle, which he branded with the VZ Bar. Tyler was among the pioneer ranchers who met at Mobeetie in 1880 to form the Panhandle Stock Association of Texas. The first improvements on his land were a small two-room sod house, a pole barn, and a rock corral.
After spending five years learning the cattle business, Tyler returned to Massachusetts to marry his boyhood sweetheart, Mary Elizabeth Ayers, daughter of a prominent family from Charlestown, Massachusetts. The newlyweds traveled by train to Dodge City, then by buckboard 185 miles to the ranch, followed by wagons bearing their belongings. Ornate furniture and draperies from the East provided an enclave of elegance in the rough sod house.
The Tylers had five children while they lived in Hansford County. For the births of the first two, Mrs. Tyler returned to Charlestown, where the best medical attention was available. After each birth, the young mother, accompanied by a nurse, made the long railroad trip to Dodge, where she met her husband for the overland journey back to the ranch. The last three children were born at the ranch, where their mother was attended by community physicians and nurses from Kansas City.
When Hansford County was organized in 1885, the citizens petitioned that Tyler be appointed justice of the peace. This request was granted by the commissioners court in Mobeetie. Later, in 1894-95, Tyler served as county judge. In 1891 the Tylers built a spacious Victorian mansion on North Palo Duro Creek near the old sod house. It had seven bedrooms, a parlor, a dining room, a kitchen, and a full basement.
From Dodge City, Tyler brought in two skilled craftsmen, who worked with eight cowboys a full year to complete the two-story home with rock walls and a high gabled roof, with Gothic arches above each window and door. The stone was quarried about three miles from the building site. Cottonwood logs were hauled from the Canadian River, and other building materials were freighted in from Dodge.
Furnishings from New England completed this Panhandle showplace, in which the Tylers hosted many parties and dances. Neighbors from miles around would come, bringing extra food and blankets so their children could sleep in their buggies. In 1907 S. C. and Mary Tyler moved to Guymon, Oklahoma, to "enjoy the comforts of city life." The ranch was subsequently broken up and sold to settlers.
Tyler instigated the construction of the Guymon utilities plant and organized and owned the town's telephone company. He was an active Mason and a member of the local Presbyterian congregation. He also served as president of the First National Bank and was involved in the dry-goods business with his son-in-law, L. E. Latham. The Tylers remained in Guymon for the rest of their lives, and both were buried there.
Tyler died in 1927 and his wife in 1936.
Tyler's genial personality remains a part of Panhandle lore. In
the 1980s some of his descendents still lived in Guymon, and
others lived throughout West Texas.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hansford County Historical Commission, Hansford County, Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Taylor, 1980?). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876-1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981).
H. Allen Anderson
WILLINGHAM, CALEB BERG
Caleb Berg (Cape) Willingham, early Panhandle rancher and lawman, was born on April 8, 1853, in Georgia. He moved to Atascosa County, Texas, at the age of twenty-one, and in 1875 began working for Charles Goodnight in Pueblo County, Colorado. Goodnight established the JA Ranch at Palo Duro Canyon in 1877 and sent for Willingham and his bride, Mary Marguerite (Mayes), to assist him.
Willingham stayed with the JA until 1879, when he joined the LX outfit to do "a little detective work for them in regard to some stolen cattle." While working at the LX he and Marion Armstrong took charge of the "Star Route," the newly surveyed United States mail line from Fort Elliott to Las Vegas, New Mexico. As riders and drivers for that line, sometimes called the Lightning Express, Willingham and Armstrong often traveled night and day, changing mounts at each station.
When Oldham County was organized in 1880, Willingham was elected its first sheriff and brought several desperadoes to justice. After losing a reelection bid to J. H. (Jim) East in 1882, Willingham moved to Mobeetie, where he ran the Cattle Exchange Saloon. By then his family included two sons and three daughters. In 1883 J. M. Coburn, founder of the Hansford Land and Cattle Company, hired Willingham at a generous salary, as manager of the Turkey Track Ranch.
Willingham's reputation as a lawman and his abilities as a cowman turned the Turkey Track into a successful ranching enterprise. The family moved into the former Quarter Circle T Ranch headquarters house and later into a wooden frame house Willingham constructed nearby. Willingham was among the ranchers involved in the grass lease fight in 1886-87. In November 1886 he charged the brothers John and George Leverton with cattle theft.
Although evidence was hazy, the charge led to the attempted arrest and shooting of John Leverton by Wheeler County sheriff George W. Arrington. Leverton's widow subsequently filed murder charges against Arrington and Willingham. Both were acquitted at the trial held in Mobeetie the following year. Willingham continued to supervise the Turkey Track for nearly two decades, raising racehorses, game chickens, and hounds to keep wolves away from the cattle.
His children attended school first in Mobeetie and later in Canadian, after the family bought a house there. In 1893 Willingham bought a portion of the old John Chisum ranch on the Pecos River near Roswell, New Mexico, and commuted for a time between both properties before selling the Panhandle holdings to Mart Cunningham and moving his family to the New Mexico ranch. Willingham remained with the Hansford Company until he resigned in 1903.
He subsequently worked as a cattle
commissioner in El Paso and ranched in Mexico. During his last
years he moved to Ajo, Arizona, where he died on January 18,
1925. He was buried in the Ajo Cemetery.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ernest R. Archambeau, ed., "Old Tascosa: Selected News Items from the Tascosa Pioneer, 1886-1888," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 39 (1966). Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). John L. McCarty, Maverick Town: The Story of Old Tascosa (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946; enlarged ed. 1968). Mrs. E. V. Nickell, "When Danger Threatened LX Homes," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 8 (1935). Millie Jones Porter, Memory Cups of Panhandle Pioneers (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1945). Glenn Shirley, Temple Houston (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980). Jerry Sinise, George Washington Arrington (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press,
H. Allen Anderson