Tol Merriman and Della Gilmore Merriman
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Tol and Della Merriman
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Biography

I, Della, Merriman, was born December 11, 1878, at Weatherford, Texas. I was the baby girl of Thomas Howard and Nancy Gilmore. We moved to Graham, Texas when I was a very small child, and lived there until I was about six years of age; then we moved to Kent County near the Double Mountain River. My father and brother Jim worked for the Spur Land and Cattle Co. where the Spur Headquarters are now located. My mother and we three girls spent many lonesome hours with Daddy and Jim away.

I remember so well one day my mother and I walked across Double Mountain River to visit some friends. That afternoon it came a big rain, and the water came down in the river. My mother was a very determined woman. She said, "We must get home". So we waded out in the river. Of course, I ran across very fast as it was very shallow, but mother just froze about half way across. I ran back and helped her out. The water was now waist deep. When we got on the bank we had a big cry and thanked God for safety.

My oldest sister, Emma, married Billy Blackwell in 1889 while we were living there. In those days it was customary to have a dance when one of the family married. This we did, in a big way.

We made a rip back to Graham in a covered wagon to see my Dad's folk. It took us several days on the road. We children enjoyed it very much. However, it was tiresome for mother and dad.

Our school house was a little one room building, with very few children attending. I wish I could remember my teacher's name, but I can't. Mrs. Oscar Hart, now deceased, was one of my dearest friends at school.

My daddy soon got tired of being away from his family, so he was hired as a helper around the ranch in 1889, with my mother doing the cooking. There was a lot of work around the house to be done, such as cutting wood for a fire-place, and a big range cook stove, and milking fourteen cows.

The ranch had a spring near the house, and a rock milk house. Mother kept her milk and butter out there where cold water continually ran around the milk. It was a pretty big chore going to the milk house so often, but the milk was so cold and good that it was worth the effort.

My sister, Luty, married John Day, one of the cowboy in 1890, and again we had a big dance. It rained for three days and nights and we danced all that time. Some would sleep while others danced. People were there from all the nearby ranches and towns. It was hard work for the cooks and dishwashers, but was enjoyed by all. I rode horseback to Espuela school. Mr. W.J. Elliott operated the store there. He had groceries and dry goods. He and his family lived there.

Tol Merriman was born October 19, 1875 in Louisiana. They lived there until the death of his father. Then his mother, Tol and his brother Mancel (Bud) moved to Galveston, Texas. They were living there when the flood came in 1900. Tol and Bud were away from home, and were unable to get there because of high water. They went to a light house about a half mile away. Their mother was home alone, so she chopped holes in the floor with an axe, and water and sand came in the house causing it to settle. This saved the house, and their mother, but everything else was a total loss.

Tol's mother remarried and he and Bud came West to Dickens County in 1887. They were hired by the Spur Land and Cattle Co. Bud only stayed about three years, but Tol made this his permanent home. He had been at the Spur Ranch several years before we moved there. It was there I met To and after a long courtship we were married in 1894 in a buggy at Dickens, Teas. For the first year we stayed at the ranch, and I helped mother and dad, and Tol rode with the outfit. Then in 1895 we bought our land five miles south of what is now Spur. We frighted lumber to build our house from Colorado City, also, our furniture.

Tol carried all our groceries and dry-goods from Espuela by horseback. This wasn't the easiest way because the horse didn't always cooperate. Sometimes he would have to do some good riding to carry them, and sometimes flour, beans and bacon would be scattered everywhere. One day Tol was at the store. He asked Mr. Elliott if he had any union suits for men. He brought out a pair, and not being familiar with one piece underwear he said, "Tol, those darn things are ripped in the back; I'll let you have them at half price." He and Tol often laughed about this when discussing old times.

Prairie fires were dreaded by the ranchers. One day Tol left to ride as usual. He was riding a little foolish horse. Dark came and he didn't come home, so I became uneasy. I pushed the baby in his buggy up on a little knoll near the house, and called and called thinking maybe the horse had fallen with him. But I was sure it was a prairie fire, and that Tol was there. The wolves were howling near so I went back to the house and lighted lamps and pu them in the window, so he could see them if he was lost, the net day he returned safely, tired and dirty from fighting the fire all night.

I remember another time twelve men left our house to light a fire. They went in a wagon and carried a barrel for water. When they had extinguished the fire, they came by a tank to get some water to bring home for me. The water was very scarce and we were thankful to get it, even though it was red with mud. I didn't have milk to make bread, so I made it out of that red water and my biscuits were red. Cows, cows, everywhere, but they were not milk cows. Tol found a cow with a small calf that he thought would make a good milk cow. He brought her home and put her calf in the lot but the old cow chased everyone to the house, and just snuffed and pawed at the window wanting in the house. He quickly decided he didn't want any more like her.

Coyotes were plentiful: Mr. Elliott of Espuela paid fifty cents bounty for coyote ears. This made a little extra money for the boys, and helped rid our county of coyotes, too.

This brings to my mind a little incident that happened to Don and his cousin, Marion Day. They had been to Espuela on a hot day, and collected their bounty on coyote ears. So on their way home they stopped at nine miles west of Spur to let their dogs rest. One old dog was sitting there panting with his mouth open. Don said, "Marion, I'll bet you can't throw that money you are counting in that dog's mouth." So this he did, and with one big gulp down went their money and they were left broke again. The lobo wolves and panthers were here too. One of the cowboys was killed by a horse near where Kalgary now is located. They brought his body back to Espuela for burial. Tol rode horse back along with them. He said that a panther followed them several miles. Real often he would scream right behind them but he never attacked them.

We had spiritual uplift occasionally. Rev. J.V.Bilberry, Baptist preacher and others would come by our house and the ranch to preach. The ranchers always told Rev. Bilberry to cut the fence and to go through anywhere, but I can assure you that not all people were given this privilege. Many nights he would preach to the cowboys by lantern light. He was highly respected by all.

My brother, Jim, married Nora Barrow in 1894. To this union four boys and five girls were born. He reared his family near Kalgary.

Our family consisted of five boys and one girl. Nonnie, Donnie, Guy, Hoyt, Rex and Ruby, now Mrs. R.D. Hill. All were born at the Spur ranch except Rex, who was born at our home.

Our children were subject to having the croup often. Someone had told us to give them a few drops of kerosene on sugar, but Tol was always afraid of home remedies. He said, "I tell you what I will do- I'll try it first and if it kills me, don't five it to the children".

There were no schools in our part of the county so we hired governesses to teach our children. We paid them very little salary with room and board. They were very good with the children.

Ranch life in those days was more complicated. Neighbors lived miles apart. Our house was near the road to Colorado City, and very often someone would stop in for the night, and we were glad when they did.

We always stayed at the ranch in the spring months, while Tol worked with the out-fit, and we never locked our house, in case someone wanted to spend the night.

One of the camp men was batching at the Duck Creek Camp about eight miles from us. He was troubled with passersby going in eating all his food and burning the wood. So he put a note on his wood box saying, "I don't give a damn how much you eat, but please fill up my woodbox before you leave".

Nonnie died of pneumonia on Dec. 10, 1900 at the Spur Ranch. In those days doctors were very scarce. We had one fine young doctor to come to Dickens, Dr. T.H. Blackwell. He was at the ranch quiet often. He was such a good natured fine man that the cowboys were always playing pranks on him. He rode a motorcycle and the boys would tie it to the "hitching-post". When the Doctor was ready to go home he would have a hard time getting the ropes all untied, but he always took it good natured.

Our first musical instrument was a little phonograph give to Guy by his grandfather. It was an old time Edison that played Cylinder records. People came for miles around to hear it play.

Tol rode often with his good friend, Bud Morrison (who loved to play pranks). One day they were working together putting in water gaps, Bud said, "Tol, there isn't any use you going in, I'll fix this one". So Bud pulled his clothes off and waded in. After a little effort he said, "Tol, I do need you, I'll just carry you across on my back". So he did and about the middle of the water he pretended to stumble, and dropped Tol, boots and all, in the water. Tol got up and said, "Dad burn you, Bud. I knew you were up to something".

Tol and Handy Cole were considered to be the best calf ropers around. They were checked once to see how many they could rope out of a hundred. Handy missed two but Tol didn't miss any. Tol loved to rope very much.

After Spur was organized, and built a school, our children attended school here and from then on they attended public schools.

My daddy died August 24, 1915 in Spur Hospital, and in 1917 we lost Hoyt. Complications set up after surgery. Tol died in Jan. 1932 at home and mother died in 1944. Re as killed ina car wreck in California in 1954.

So our lives have been touched with sadness as well as the excitement of pioneering a new country.

After Tol's death I sold the farm. We had lived on this same section of land since we married. I bought my mother's home here in Spur, which I still own.

I fell in 1957 and broke my hip, but I am thankful that I am as well as I am. If I live until Dec. 11, 1963, I will be 85 years of age.
Written by Mrs. Tol Merriman

Source: History of Dickens County; Ranches and Rolling Plains, Fred Arrington, ©1971

Fourth child of Tom and Nancy Gilmore. Della was born October 19, 1876, at Galveston, Texas, and died January 25, 1932, at Spur, Texas. Della married January 15, 1894, at Dickens, Texas, to Tol Merriman. To this union five boys and one girl were born:

  1. Nonnie Merriman - 4/2/1896 at Spur Ranch, Dickens, TX
  2. Don Merriman - 8/9/1898 at Spur Ranch, Dickens, TX
  3. Guy Merriman - 5/7/1900 at Spur Ranch, Dickens, TX
  4. Hoyt Merriman - 4/16/1902 at Spur Ranch, Dickens, TX
  5. Rex Merriman - 4/23/1904 at Spur Ranch, Dickens, TX
  6. Ruby May Merriman Hill - 8/23/1907 at Spur Ranch, Dickens, TX

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Additional Information & Documentation

Della Merriman, Jim Gilmore, Nancy Gilmore 1938
Circa 1938

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Obituary

After long months of suffering, on the 5th of January, 1932 Tol Merriman started on the Long Trail. During these long months of suffering not one word of repining was uttered by him.

He started to work as a cowboy for the old Spur Ranch in 1887 and so long as they were here, he was their trusted employee. I know of no man more universally loved and respected than Tol Merriman. Never during the 44 years I have had the privilege of his friendship have I heard him say one word against anyone, and never a curse word. While Handy Cole ran the branding wagon, Tol was his right hand man, and it was a pleasure to work with them. No matter how bad the weather, or hard the work "It might always be worse".

Tol gave to religious denominations that respect given by all cowboys, and some time ago joined the Methodist Church. As a husband and father he was the best, and as such greatly loved. Such men as he are few and far between, and when they leave us no one can take their place. May I be as sure as he that I will hear the Master say, "Come, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of they Lord."

With loving respect to him and his kin, this is submitted in the names of all his Old Comrades Of The Range.

©The Texas Spur, January 29, 1932
from the records of Lillian Grace Nay
Tol Merriman, 75, a pioneer of West Texas and one of the most beloved of the brotherhood of early day cattlemen of this section died at his home a few miles south of the city, Monday morning at 11 o´clock, January 25. Mr. Merriman had been in failing health for the past two years and a complication of ailments developed in recent months which resulted in his death. He had been confined to his bed for the past several weeks and little hopes were held for his recovery. And during the last few trying days, Mr. Merriman, knowing that he could not survive faced the inevitable with the same undaunted courage that he had faced the trials and hardships of pioneer days and until the very last had a cheerful word for his loved ones and friend.

Tolbert Merriman was born in Louisiana, August 19, 1857, but moved with his parents to Texas at the early age of eight years. The family settled first at Galveston, later moving to Hill County where he came to this section as a young man some 45 years ago, and was employed on the old Spur Ranch . During this term of service as a cowboy of the ranch, Mr. Merriman came to be one of the most valued and trusted employees and was advanced to a position of authority. January 15, 1894, he was married to Miss Della Gilmore and afterwards settled on the present homestead in the Twin Wells Community.

Deceased is survived by four children: Rex, the youngest and who lives at home, and Guy and Don who live at Lovington, NM and a daughter, Mrs. R. D. Hill, who also lives at Twin Wells, and his widow.

Funeral services were held at the First Methodist Church of which Mr. Merriman was a member, at 2:30 Tuesday afternoon, conducted jointly by Rev. W. B. Vaughn, pastor of the church and Rev. J. V. Bilberry, an early day Baptist minister of this section. Interment followed in Spur Cemetery directed by Webber Williams. Pall bearers were M. L. Jones, Al Bingham, F. R. Harrington, Bud Morrison, W. J. Elliot and Dock Ellis.

©The Texas Spur, January 9, 1932
from the records of Lillian Grace Nay

SPUR (Special) - Mrs. Della Merriman, 88, of Spur, pioneer ranchwoman and mother of several well-known cattlemen in the Spur Ranch country, died at 7 p.m. Saturday [12/17/1966] in Nichols Manor, Crosbyton, where she has been a resident about two years.

Mrs. Merriman came to Dickens County in 1886 when she was an 8-year-old girl. She was widow of the late Tol Merriman, Spur Ranch cowboy, later a rancher in his own right and one of the greatest ropers in the "Story of the Caprock foothills Big Ranch Country."

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. today in the First Methodist Church here. The Rev Clarence Stephens will officiate. Burial will be in the Spur Cemetery under direction of Campbell Funeral Home.

Pallbearers will be Rube Wadell, Horace Hyatt, R. W. Self, Glenn South, Cotton Barclay and Mitt Young.

Survivors are two sons, Guy, Spur and Don, Lubbock; a daughter, Mrs. Ruby Hill, Borger; four grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Born at Weatherford
Mrs. Merriman was born Dec. 11, 1878, at Weatherford, the daughter of Thomas Howard and Nancy (Wooley) Gilmore. She moved to Graham with her parents as a small child, and lived there until she was about six, when the family moved to Kent County near the Double Mountain River (1884).

The Gilmore family moved to the Spur Ranch in 1886 and it was there that Mrs. Merriman met her husband to be, Tol Merriman, who was a cowboy on the Spurs.

The couple was married in 1894 in a buggy at Dickens.

Mrs. Merriman once wrote in a article she titled "I Remember": "For the first year, we stayed at the ranch and I helped mother and dad, and Tol rode with he outfit.

Then in 1895, we bought our land 5 miles south of what is now Spur. We freighted lumber to build our home from Colorado City. Also, our furniture was freighted from there."

"Tol carried all our groceries and drygoods from Espuela, horseback. This wasn´t the easiest way, especially if his pony didn´t cooperate. As good a rider as Tol was, sometimes flour, beans and bacon would be scattered everywhere.

"Fires Were Dread"
"Prairie fires were a dread. Coyotes were plentiful. So were sandstorms. Doctors were scarce. Lobo wolves and panthers were here, too" recalled Mrs. Merriman.

After her husband´s death, Mrs. Merriman sold her ranch. "We had lived on this same section of land since we married," Mrs. Merriman recalled.

She purchased a house in Spur and lived there many years. In 1957, Mrs.Merriman suffered a broken hip in a fall. But the courageous ranch woman always said "I´m thankful I´m as well as I am."

"Our family consisted of five boys and one girl - Nonnie, Don, Guy, Hoyt, Rex and Ruby (Mrs. R. D. Hill). All were born at the Spur Ranch except Rex, who was born at our home." Mrs. Merriman once recalled.

Her husband, Tol, died Jan. 25, 1932. One of the children, Nonnie, died of pneumonia, Dec. 10, 1900 at the Spur Ranch. And Hoyt died at Spur in 1917. Rex, another son, was killed in an automobile accident in California, Dec. 29, 1954.

©Lubbock Avalanche Journal, December 19, 1966 page A-13
from the records of Lillian Grace Nay


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