Carson County Biographies

Carson County Biographies



Eugene Sherwood Blasdel, the son of Judson Sherwood and Anna (Jenness) Blaisdell, was born on November 16, 1878, in Champaign, Illinois. He was stricken with infantile paralysis at the age of nine and received only limited formal schooling. He developed an insatiable appetite for books and a love for recreation and the outdoors, and was able to walk again by the time he was twelve. In 1890 he moved with his family to Des Moines, Iowa, where his father established a grain business. He soon learned the financial aspects of agribusiness and in 1896 succeeded his father as manager of the Charles Counselman and Company grain elevator at Gowrie, Iowa. In 1898 he enrolled at Doane Academy, a branch of Denison University at Granville, Ohio.

A year later he started his own business selling gasoline engines, then an innovation. In anticipation of joining the Klondike gold rush Blasdel moved in January 1901 to Seattle, where he worked as an engineer on fishing vessels. Both of these business ventures were curtailed by bouts with typhoid fever. After his second recovery in Seattle, Blasdel worked briefly as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner and the Mercury. He returned to Iowa in November 1901 and became a traveling auditor for the Counselman firm. Acquaintance with Gov. Henry G. Blasdel in San Francisco motivated Eugene to modify his surname. He married Libbie Howard, a high school principal from Jefferson, Iowa, on May 2, 1904, and settled briefly in Chicago, where he worked at the Neola Elevator Company headquarters.

In October 1904 the Blasdels decided to move to Texas after noticing a land company's ad pushing the "golden opportunities" of the Panhandle. Upon arrival at Groom, Carson County, Blasdel established a lumberyard and with John Walter Knorpp as a partner opened the town's first bank. After Libbie's death on May 28, 1905, Blasdel sold out his interest in the bank to Knorpp. A year later he sold his lumberyard to A. C. Morgan, a lumber salesman from Elk City, Oklahoma. Blasdel then began speculating in land leases and built a small house in town for himself and his parents. For a time he worked for the National Bank of Commerce in Amarillo and in 1908 purchased a quarter-section farm three miles northwest of Groom, on which he built a granary.

To learn more about banking and the nature of Wall Street, particularly in relation to the recent panic of 1907, Blasdel took courses in composition and economics at the University of Chicago and business courses at the New York University School of Commerce, Accounts, and Finance. While in New York he worked briefly as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and made several influential contacts, including one with John D. Rockefeller. He also visited several grain operations throughout the Midwest and Canada. On the train from Milwaukee to Chicago he met Kathleen Meiklejohn, a speech teacher. They were married at Waupun, Wisconsin, on June 2, 1909. They had six children, the oldest of whom died as a child.

The newlyweds returned to the farm near Groom, where Blasdel began raising wheat and kafir by a new method then called dry-tillage farming. This method proved fairly successful during a poor season, and in 1911 he sold the farm and started his own grain elevator in town. The following year he moved his family and business to Amarillo, where he established the Plains Grain Company and purchased an interest in several other elevators. Through his contacts in the outside market Blasdel sold a considerable amount of wheat abroad, particularly after the outbreak of World War I in 1914. He was said to have had the world corner on red top cane seed in 1916-17. In 1918, however, when the federal government ordered all domestic grain in storage to be moved to ports for shipment abroad, he liquidated his business in protest.

After a severe bout with influenza Blasdel began searching out the natural resources of the Panhandle, looking for possible deposits of clay for brick, sand for glass, gravel, copper, gold, oil, and gas. After the discovery of gas on the Masterson ranch in December 1918, Blasdel purchased Grover C. Bishop's interest in an expiring oil and gas lease on Samuel Burk Burnett's Four Sixes Ranch. With W. H. Fuqua and Pat H. Landergin (see landergin brothers) as partners, Blasdel secured a new contract with Burnett, hired Charles N. Gould to locate sites for wells, and brought in the Gulf Production Company to do the drilling. Their efforts paid off in 1920, when Gulf No. 1 Burnett began producing fifty million cubic feet of gas daily, and again on March 20, 1921, when Gulf No. 2 became the Panhandle's first successful oil well. The latter date coincided with the birth of Blasdel's youngest child, whom he named James Gulf in honor of the occasion.

With his new fortune Blasdel bought stock in various oil companies, obtained more oil leases, and invested in Amarillo real estate. Still maintaining an interest in the Groom Elevator Company, he also planned to resume his role as a grain dealer and erect more elevators. In addition he became a member of the Chicago Athletic Club and envisioned buying a seat on the Chicago Board of Trade. Often he took his family on extended vacations and camping trips. Blasdel was appointed United States food and fuel administrator for the Texas Panhandle and was president of the Amarillo School Board from 1919 to 1921. He also served a term (1923-24) as mayor of Amarillo and was a member of the Central Presbyterian Church there.

In the fall of 1929 a severe attack of bronchitis left Blasdel's health even more delicate, and the wishes of his family to remain in Amarillo influenced his decision not to reenter the grain business. On October 16, 1930, he died of a heart attack while he was hunting deer on a vacation with his wife and four of his children in the Blue Mountains near Springerville, Arizona. He was buried in Llano Cemetery, Amarillo.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Henry E. Hertner, ed., Three Questions, Three Answers: A Story from the Life of Dr. Charles Newton Gould (Amarillo: Potter County Historical Survey Committee, 1967). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72).

H. Allen Anderson


Burk Burnett, rancher, banker, oilman, son of Jeremiah (Jerry) and Nancy (Turner) Burnett, was born on January 1, 1849, in Bates County, Missouri. In the late 1850s the family moved to Texas and built a home on the banks of Denton Creek in Denton County. Within ten years Jerry Burnett had established a small but successful ranch that enabled Burnett to learn the day-to-day operations of the cattle business. Burk received little formal schooling, but he used his practical education to become eventually one of the wealthiest ranchers in Texas. His first trail drive occurred in 1866. The following year he served as trail boss, driving his father's 1,200 cattle along the Chisholm Trail to Abilene.

In 1868 he became a partner with his father, and in 1871 he acquired his own brand and began building what became one of the largest cattle empires in Texas history–the Four Sixes Ranch. Burnett weathered the panic of 1873 by holding over the winter the 1,100 cattle he had driven to Kansas. The following year he sold this stock for a profit of $10,000. He was one of the first ranchers in Texas to buy steers and graze them for market. At first his herd consisted of longhorn cattle, but later he introduced Durhams and then Herefords into the herd, thus producing what many considered to be among the finest cattle strains in the state.

In 1874 Burnett bought and moved cattle from South Texas to the area of Little Wichita, now Wichita Falls, where he established his ranch headquarters in 1881. The move was partly prompted by the increase in the number of Four Sixes cattle and an agreement drawn up between Burnett and Quanah Parker, Comanche chief and friend of Burnett. Through Parker's assistance over a period of years Burnett leased 300,000 acres of Kiowa and Comanche land in Indian Territory for 6 cents an acre. He grazed 10,000 cattle on this land until 1902. After 1898 cattlemen were told to surrender their lease agreements to allow opening of Oklahoma Territory to homesteaders.

Burnett once again called on a friend for assistance, this time Theodore Roosevelt. The Texas rancher asked the president for an extension so that the Texas cattle might be removed in an orderly fashion. Roosevelt's agreement to the request enabled Burnett to purchase land to offset the loss of grazing rights in Oklahoma. Between 1900 and 1903 Burnett purchased 107,520 acres in Carson County northeast of Amarillo and bought the Old "8" Ranch, of 141,000 acres, near Guthrie in King County, ninety-three miles east of Lubbock. The two purchases increased the size of the Four Sixes to 206,000 acres. Ultimately, Burnett owned ranches in Oklahoma and Mexico in addition to his holdings in Texas and ran 20,000 cattle under the Four Sixes brand.

In 1905, in return for Roosevelt's assistance, Burnett helped organize a wolf hunt for the president. During the president's visit, Roosevelt influenced the changing of the name of Nesterville, on the Four Sixes spread in Wichita County, to Burkburnett. Five years later Burnett discontinued personal direction of his ranch. He leased the Four Sixes to his eldest son, Tom, so that he could concentrate his attention on his other businesses, banking and oil. After the discovery of oil on land near Burkburnett in 1921, Burnett's wealth increased dramatically. He had already expanded his business interests by buying property in Fort Worth, where he had maintained a residence since 1900.

By 1910 the city had become headquarters for his financial enterprises, and he had become the director and principal stockholder of the First National Bank of Fort Worth and president of the Ardmore Oil Milling and Gin Company. He continued his interest in ranching, however, through his association with the Stock-Raisers Association of North-West Texas (see texas and southwestern cattle raisers association). He had been a charter member in 1877, and he served as treasurer from 1900 to 1922. Burnett was also president of the National Feeders and Breeders Association and in 1896 of the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show (later the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show).

Burnett married Ruth B. Lloyd in 1869, and they had three children. They were later divorced. Two of their children, Ann and Thomas L. Burnett, lived to adulthood. Burnett married Mary Couts Barradel (see burnett, mary c.) of Weatherford in 1892, and this couple had one son. In the early 1920s Burnett's health failed and he went into semiretirement. On June 27, 1922, he died. At the time of his death his wealth was estimated at $6 million, part of which, through the efforts of his widow, became an endowment for Texas Christian University.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). T. J. Powell, Samuel Burk Burnett (1916). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72).

David Minor


Edward Elmer Carhart, businessman, the eldest son and third of eight children of Theresa (Mumford) and John Wesley Carhart, was born on December 15, 1863, in Watertown, New York. The family moved to Racine, Wisconsin, in 1871, and three years later to Oshkosh, where Carhart received the majority of his schooling. In 1876 he and his sister Minnie began publishing a weekly newsletter, the Early Dawn, using the basement of their father's church as a printing office. Soon Carhart's journalistic ability attracted the attention of his father's cousin, Lewis H. Carhart, who had founded Clarendon, Texas, in 1878. Impressed, Lewis invited him to come and edit the settlement's fledgling newspaper, the Clarendon News, after sending the proofs of its first edition to Oshkosh to be printed at Ed's shop.

With his father's blessing, sixteen-year-old Ed stopped over in Chicago to buy a press, proceeded to Sherman, Texas, then the end of the railroad, and arranged to have the press freighted by wagon to Clarendon. In Sherman he met Mary Estella Brewer, daughter of a Methodist minister, who soon afterward moved with her family to Mobeetie. At Clarendon young Carhart converted the News from a monthly to a weekly publication and a year later sold half interest in it to Charles Kimball. On December 23, 1881, Carhart and Mary Brewer became the first white couple to be married in Donley County. They had four children.

After disposing of his paper, Carhart spent about two years riding line on his cousin's Quarter Circle Heart Ranch and served as county clerk of Donley County. He also worked for a short time as a druggist with Jerome D. Stocking and later with B. H. White and Company, general merchants and ranch outfitters at Clarendon. In the spring of 1887, shortly before the Santa Fe Railroad reached the town of Panhandle in Carson County, White sent Carhart there with a stock of goods and a portable building to establish a mercantile store, of which Carhart took charge as manager. Later, after White sold the store, Carhart turned it into a thriving drug business with stock he had purchased from Stocking. Among other products he manufactured quality cigars, which he named after his daughters, Nina and Thelma.

He also assisted Henry H. Brooks in establishing the Panhandle Herald. For eight years, beginning in 1889, Carhart served as postmaster, and in 1896 he succeeded Judge James C. Paul as treasurer of Carson County. He held that position until 1904, when he ran for county judge. He sold the drugstore in 1906 and for the next twenty-one years worked as cashier of the Panhandle Bank. He retired in 1927 to establish the Carhart Motor Company, the county's first automobile business. In addition, Carhart owned a grain elevator just east of town. Both he and his wife were pillars in the local Methodist church, and their children married and lived in the Panhandle area. Mary Carhart died on November 25, 1938, and Carhart died on February 4, 1946, at Panhandle. Both are buried there.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Willie Newbury Lewis, Between Sun and Sod (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1938; rev. ed., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976). Buckley B. Paddock, ed., A Twentieth Century History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis, 1906). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72).

H. Allen Anderson


Samuel Price Carson, planter and lawmaker, son of John and Mary (Moffitt) Carson, was born at Pleasant Gardens, North Carolina, on January 22, 1798. The elder Carson was a "man of means and an iron will" who represented Burke County in the North Carolina General Assembly for many years. Samuel Carson was educated in the "old Field school" until age nineteen, when his brother, Joseph McDowell Carson, began teaching him grammar and directing a course of reading to prepare him for a political career. As a young man Carson also attended camp meetings with his Methodist mother and was often called upon to lead congregational singing.

In 1822 he was elected to the North Carolina Senate. Two years later he was chosen to the first of his four terms (1825-33) as a member of the United States House of Representatives, where he became a close friend of David Crockett. Carson was defeated in 1833 because he had supported John C. Calhoun's nullification meeting in spite of his constituents' disapproval. He was reelected to the North Carolina Senate in 1834 and was selected as a delegate to the North Carolina Constitutional Convention in 1835. His failing health prompted him to move to a new home in Mississippi. In a very short time, however, he moved on to Lafayette (now Miller) County, Arkansas, an area then claimed by both Texas and Arkansas. On February 1, 1836, he was elected one of five delegates to represent Pecan Point and its vicinity at the Convention of 1836. On March 10 he reached Washington-on-the-Brazos and immediately signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.

With regard to legislative and constitution-drafting experience, Carson was the outstanding member of the convention. On March 17 he was nominated, along with David G. Burnet, for president ad interim of the Republic of Texas, but he was defeated by a vote of 29 to 23. Thereupon Carson was elected secretary of state, an office he held only a few months. On April 1, 1836, President Burnet sent him to Washington to help George C. Childress and Robert Hamiltonq secure financial and other aid for the infant republic. In May, Burnet wrote Carson asking him to resign because of his poor health, but Carson evidently did not receive the letter. When Carson read in a June newspaper that two other men were the only authorized agents for Texas, he retired in disgust to his Arkansas home.

On May 10, 1831, he married Catherine Wilson, daughter of James and Rebecca Wilson of Burke County, North Carolina. The couple had a daughter. They also adopted Carson's illegitimate daughter, Emily, whose mother was Emma Trout, a North Carolina neighbor of Carson's. Carson died on November 2, 1838, at Hot Springs and was buried there in the United States government cemetery. Carson County, Texas, is named in his honor.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Michael R. Hill, The Carson House of Marion, North Carolina (MS, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin, 1982). Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence (Salado, Texas: Anson Jones, 1944; rpt. 1959). Rupert N. Richardson, "Framing the Constitution of the Republic of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 31 (January 1928). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832-1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).

Joe E. Ericson