Tarrant County TXGenWeb
Fort Worth Star Telegram
|W. T. Waggoner, Fort Worth capitalist, died Tuesday at his Rivercrest
home. He had suffered a second stroke Sunday night and remained unconscious
until his death.
Nearly thirty years ago, before the oil derricks began to crowd the cattle on the broad acres of his West Texas ranch, Mr. Waggoner came to Fort Worth. And from here, until a severe illness early last year robbed him of much of his physical strength, he kept his finger on the pulse of his vast oil and cattle domain. His dependable help in all worthy civic enterprises ranked him as one of the leading citizens of Fort Worth. In 1933, his name was inscribed in the Exchange Club's "book of golden deeds" as Fort Worth's most distinguished citizen of that year. At a banquet when this honor was bestowed, speakers lauded him for his business acumen, his leadership and his useful aid to deserving city, state and national causes. As another symbol of esteem, in 1929 a citizens' committee presented him with a $5,000 trophy in appreciation of "what he had meant and done for this city."
Cattle laid the foundation for the Waggoner wealth and although oil expanded it into what was described as the greatest fortune ever amassed by one man west of the Mississippi River, he remained a cattleman at heart. He had far greater interest in his cattle than in the great oil pool which made him many times a millionaire, but turned his pastures into ruts and derrick covered oil fields. He kept his promise to have "my land stocked with cows as long as I live." He was one of the real pioneers of ranching in West Texas, and probably the last of the old cowmen who raised and marketed cattle on a large scale under close supervision.
Born in Hopkins County, Texas Aug. 1, 1852, Mr. Waggoner came naturally by his love of ranching. His father, Dan Waggoner, was also a rancher, and his son lived on his father's ranch in Wise County. Marauding Indians were a constant threat, and the elder Waggoner was a member of the frontier militia, frequently away from home with his detachment of Indian fighters. This left young Tom to shoulder the burden of operation of the ranch and take care of his mother. When nearly grown, he saw his wife's uncle, George Halsell, shot down and killed by Indians. The spot where the incident occurred later became part of the vast Wichita oil field. As long as his father lived, the two were associated with the firm of Dan Waggoner and Son. By the time he was 17 he was ready to take over the entire management of his father's holdings which at that time, consisted only of huge herds of cattle and horses.
One of the highlights of his ranching days was in 1906 when he accompanied Theodore Roosevelt on a five day wolf hunt in Oklahoma. Roosevelt's sportsmanship and ability to bear the hardships of camp life won him the friendship and admiration of the westerners in the party.
In his later years, Mr. Waggoner enjoyed a warm friendship with Will Rogers who visited him several times, both here and at his ranch headquarters 18 miles south of Vernon, Texas. On one visit, Rogers expressed admiration for one of the polo ponies he saw. "Like him?" said Mr. Waggoner, "I'll ship you a carload of them to California." Rogers' gift of humor finally came to his aid. "Mr. Waggoner, I wouldn't be able to keep em. You know oats cost $1 a piece in California."
In 1897 he became interested in breeding thoroughbred race horses. Waggoner's liking for good horses was evidenced when he financed the building of Arlington Downs into one of the finest racing plants in the country. From 1909 until 1924 when horse racing was banned in Texas, his silks were not seen on the tracks, but since the latter year, he and his two sons have built up a stable which has produced some outstanding winners. His efforts to have the sport legalized in Texas was successful when, in 1933, Governor Ferguson signed a bill legalizing pari-mutual betting on horse racing.
Besides the racing plant that stands as a monument to him, the Waggoner millions have erected two large office buildings here - the Mrs. Dan Waggoner building at Sixth and Houston and the W. T. Waggoner Building at Eighth and Houston. Two dormitories and a fine arts structure on the campus of Texas Woman's College [in Denton] bear the Waggoner name. As a gift to the First Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Waggoner installed pews in the building and an entire floor of the Methodist Hospital here was made possible through his generosity. Many West Texas towns have been beneficiaries. As an act of sentiment, in 1931 he bought and restored the large gray stone family mansion, which had stood for half a century on a hill overlooking Decatur. The house, built by his father, was where Mr. Waggoner spent his early married life and where his two sons were born. He and his wife lived there on weekends and part of the summer. The rest of the time was spent at the huge home here in River Crest or their summer home near Colorado Springs.
In 1877 Mr,. Waggoner married Miss Ella Halsell. They had three children - Electra, later Mrs. A. B. Wharton, who died in 1925; and sons Guy and Paul Waggoner. Other survivors are three grandchildren, W. T. Waggoner II and A. B. Wharton Jr. of Fort Worth; Mrs. Arthur Gordon Bowman of New York City and two great-grandchildren, Ella Jean and Elise Waggoner.
An honor guard of senior officers of the First National Bank and close friends maintained watch over the casket Wednesday and Wednesday night. Blanketed with red roses and lilies of the valley, it was taken from the Robertson-Mueller-Harper Funeral Temple to the Waggoner home in River Crest for brief private services. Public services will be held at the family mausoleum in East Oakwood Cemetery, both conducted by Rev. J. M. Score, pastor of the First Methodist Church. Scores of ranchmen attended the funeral - many of whom had been associated with him during his earlier years. As a tribute of respect, on the day of the funeral, the Waggoner refinery and all service stations and offices of the Waggoner interests were closed from 10 am until noon. The First National Bank, of which he was a director, did not open until noon Thursday. All other member banks of the Fort Worth Clearing House Association were closed from 11 until noon. Classes were adjourned at Texas Woman's College. Over 500 messages of condolences have been received.
This page was last modified 12 Nov 2003.
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