W. S. Mussett, familiarly known as Captain Wash Mussett, died on Sunday, January 4 at his home in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he had made his home during the past thirteen years. Mr. Mussett was one of the earliest ranch settlers in this part of Kansas, and for over 20 years, was classed among the most prominent stockmen of the southwest. He was a native of Texas, and as a young man, he devoted his time principally to the range, his duties taking him to all parts of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, the Indian Territory and Oklahoma. He had a fondness for the range and was a good stockman in every sense of the word. During the latter 70's Arthur Gorham opened up a large ranch from 20 to 30 miles south and southwest of this city, the ranch at one time including a tract of land about 10 miles wide and 15 miles long. It was known as the "Box' ranch, and on that ranch between 5000 and 15,000 head of cattle were run during each year.
Mr. Gorham had met Wash Mussett and had confidence in him as a ranch man, so he made him foreman on his "Box" ranch. That was several years before there were any actual settlers in this county.
Among the helpers on the ranch were Wash Mussett's nephew, Ike Mussett, also John and George Overocker, all well known to every old settler here. The cattle were run on the "Box" ranch were practically all brought from further southwest, and when they were shipped out had to be driven either to Dodge City or Kinsley, the two nearest shipping points. Mr. Mussett, during the early days on the Box ranch acted as captain of the general roundup for the Gormans, the Comanche Pool and other big cattle companies, and it was in that capacity that he became so well known and so universally trusted among the stock men of the Southwest. The famous "Box" ranch was practically abandoned in the latter 80's, and about the year 1890 a partnership in the livestock business was formed between Capt. Wash Mussett and Boardman F. Smith, who was a resident of this city for many years and who was one of the strongest financial men in the county at that time. For nearly 15 years this firm was one of the leading stock raisers and shippers in this part of the state. They finally shipped their cattle to the province of Saskatchewan, in Canada, John (Whitey) Overocker being in charge. Mr. Mussett did not remain long in Canada, but returned in 1906 to Texas, taking up his home in Corpus Christi, where he had important property interests. There he continued to live, but he made occasional visits here.
Wash Mussett was a man of sterling character, honest, generous, public-spirited, true to his friends and loyal to every good impulse of the human heart. Many an early day settler was befriended by him and the news of his death will bring a pang of regret that a good friend is gone. At the time of his death Mr. Mussett was a little over 70 years of age. He was never married. About five years ago he united with the Presbyterian church, and his faith in Christ as a Savior remained firm and unshaken. The Corpus Christi (Texas) Times of Monday, January 5, contained the following account of Mr. Mussett's sickness and burial and sketch of his life:
The remains of Washington S. Mussett will be buried in Rose Hill cemetery this afternoon, the funeral cortege moving from the home of his niece, Mrs. Sam Rankin, 323 North Broadway, at 4 o'clock. The brotherhood of the Masonic order, Knights Templar, and Rev. Henry Austin of the Presbyterian church will conduct the services.
The following men will be the pallbearers to their friend and honored citizen:
Active - Dr. Henry Redmond, W. E. Pope, R. H. Bingham, W. B. Hopkins, Moise Weil, and Dr. T. A. Anderson. Honorary - W. S. Rankin, C. A. Meuly, William Hoffman, R. S. Savage, P. G. Lovenskiold, W. F. Timon, W. R. Norton and George Blucher.
Mr. Mussett had been ill for several months, but during the past few days grew much weaker. His friends and relatives were, in a measure, prepared for his departure, which occurred Sunday morning.
Since 1850, the year of his birth Mr. Mussett has been identified with this section of the state. His parents, Tyre and Elisa Mussett, came to this city in the early forties, and the name of Mussett is prominent in pioneer upbuilding of this state.
When quite a young man, Mr. Wash Mussett went to Kansas and later to Saskatchewan, Canada, but owing to the extreme cold, twelve years ago he returned to Corpus Christi.
Seldom does an uncle enter so completely into the lives of his nieces and nephews as did the deceident. He was vitally interested in every young couple in any way related to him, and made possible many things that promoted their happiness. Mr. Mussett lived with his niece, Mrs. Sam Rankin, and her young daughter and was constantly in touch with his other relatives; Mrs. J. W. Scott of Beeville; Mrs. George Griffin of Bryan; Mrs. Felix Hart of Beeville; A. W. Mussett of Beeville, Mrs. J. P. McDowell of Portland and nephews, I. D. Mussett and T. T. Burke of Corpus Christi. There are also several other nieces nephews living in Laredo.
The going of a man like Wash Mussett leaves desolation in the hearts of relatives and friends. Quiet unostentatious, he lost sight of himself in his eagerness to see others comfortable and happy. No request was so large or so small as to be brushed aside as beyond consideration. If possible, the thing to make the other happy was granted. Interested in all great movements, yet shunning the publicity of such promotions, he always encouraged those who braved public censure and helped many over the rough places in life.
Verily "the world moves on even when the great die," but when a truly unselfish man passes away, the gloom and sadness can not be dispelled with ordinary optimistic sentiment. Naught but the knowledge that a release from a suffering body brings peace that passeth all understanding to the departed, can comfort.
This is true in the case of the going away of this greatly loved man.
"Our supply of wood came principally from the canyons some six or eight miles south and southwest of the old Avilla town site. I got some fine cottonwood poles down there with which to build my first stable and shed. Occasionally when we early settlers went after wood we were intercepted by some fellow, usually a well known cattleman, who would proceed to order us to cut no more timber on government land. I recall that once when I was returning with a load of poles with which to build my stable and sheds, I was met by Capt. Wash Mussett, who gave me quite a calling down for cutting and hauling away that load of cottonwood poles. He produced his authority all right, and I told him that I had all the timber I wanted, but that I wanted that load mighty bad. He rather insisted on the wood being unloaded at once, but when I had reasoned the matter with him, he finally told me to take along the poles and to be more careful thereafter - and I was. That was where Cap and I first got acquainted, and afterwards we became the best of friends. As stated, Cap was not bluffing at all - he had his authority all right, for he was speaking as a deputy United States marshall. When I first saw Avilla there were perhaps three or four houses and from fifteen to twenty tents there. But the town grew rapidly. Later, in the early '90s (1890s), it disappeared about as rapidly." -- William Oller, The Western Star, January 27, 1922.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!
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