Carson County Biographies -- 2

Carson County Biographies -- 2

CREE, THOMAS BOGER (1847-1927)
GROOM, B. B. (1812-1906)

CREE, THOMAS BOGER (1847-1927)

Thomas Boger Cree, Panhandle pioneer, was born on May 19, 1847, in Green Park, Pennsylvania, son of John Dunbar Cree, who worked as a horse and mule inspector for the federal government. When the Civil War broke out, fourteen-year-old Thomas joined his father in Washington, D.C.; he served as a teamster in the Union Army for two years. In 1866 or 1867 he went to Chicago to work for the Union Pacific Railroad. He was assigned to the construction company that built the first transcontinental railroad line and served as corral boss. He was present at the ceremonial driving of the golden spike at Promontory Point, Utah, on May 10, 1869. Cree afterward helped build the Missouri, Kansas and Texas (Katy) line to Fort Worth in the early 1870s. About that time he met and married Melissa Ballard, a niece of Jesse Chisholm, for whom the Chisholm Trail was named. The Crees had eight children.

Throughout the 1880s Cree did construction work with various railroads. In 1886 he started working for the Fort Worth and Denver City, which was building its line from Vernon into the Texas Panhandle. His family accompanied him as the railroad pushed northwest. Near the future townsite of Panhandle City, in Carson County, Cree built a dugout home and at his wife's request planted a bois d'arc sapling to help break the monotony of the prairie grass. Thomas Cree's bois d'arc tree, located just off U.S. Highway 60 near Panhandle, was for years a familiar landmark on the treeless plain; on October 23, 1963, Governor John Connally dedicated it as a historical landmark. Unfortunately, the tree, which had survived droughts, blizzards, summer heat, and sandstorms, was killed by herbicides sprayed on nearby crops in 1970.

In 1888 Cree filed a claim and erected a sod house near the head of McClellan Creek in Gray County. He assisted in the establishment of Panhandle City and helped organize its first church in 1889. In 1892 the Crees sold their land near Panhandle and settled on choice ranchland near Cheyenne, Oklahoma. In 1902, after a blizzard wiped out half of their herd, the Crees bought four sections in northeastern Wheeler County, Texas, and leased another four. There Thomas and Melissa Cree spent their remaining years. Mrs. Cree died in 1916 and her husband on July 23, 1927. They were buried in the Rankin (now the White Rose Reydon) Cemetery in Wheeler County.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72).

H. Allen Anderson


The Francklyn Land and Cattle Company was an English syndicate chartered in 1881 to invest in the "Beef Bonanza." It was headed by and named for Charles G. Francklyn, a son-in-law of E. G. Cunard, owner of the Cunard Steamship Line, who helped finance the venture. The syndicate purchased a total of 631,000 acres of land in the Panhandle counties of Carson, Gray, Roberts, and Hutchinson, and also in Greer County, Oklahoma, then considered a part of Texas. The purchase price was $880,000; Francklyn bought with a partial down payment. Later the company issued mortgage bonds for $1,450,000, the greatest part subscribed by Cunard and other British citizens. For a resident manager the syndicate acquired the services of B. B. Groom, a relative of Francklyn, who for several years had bred cattle in Kentucky.

Groom decided to make a stock ranch of the Greer County holdings and start a steer ranch in the Panhandle, where he would fatten cattle for market. Always an optimist, he took out a ten-year lease on 529,920 acres in the four Panhandle counties, to begin on February 10, 1882, and already paid up to August 9, 1883. Among the smaller outfits he bought out was D. C. Cantwell's Key-No Ranch on White Deer Creek. With approval from the Francklyn Company, Groom designed the Diamond F brand for the Panhandle range and turned it over to his son Harrison T. Groom, while he took personal charge of the Bar X in Greer County, which he had bought from E. B. Harrold and William S. Ikard. Harrison Groom and his wife made their home in Cantwell's cottonwood log cabin in northeastern Carson County.

Because Mrs. Groom never liked living in such isolation, with the post office thirty miles away in Mobeetie, after three years B. B. Groom hired a Swiss immigrant, Henry Thut, to assist in managing the Diamond F. The ranch grew as the Grooms added other herds to their ranges, and employment reached a peak of forty-five men on the Diamond F and ninety on the Bar X. Perry LeFors, Rip Arnold, and Billy Frazier served successively as foreman. Between the two ranges the Francklyn Company owned 700,000 acres and controlled 1,000 sections. The combined herds of cattle numbered between 70,000 and 100,000 at the highest count. Among these was a herd of polled Angus that B. B. Groom imported from Scotland.

From Kentucky he brought in several shorthorns and thoroughbred horses. Although the cattle carried several brands, which the company registered, they were all eventually rebranded with the Diamond F in the Panhandle and the Bar X in Greer County. Since the Diamond F was a dry range, Groom was one of the first to hire well-drillers to fill his cattle tanks. The colonel's extravagance was further exemplified in the fine corrals, sheds, and living quarters he constructed, and also in the miles of barbed wire he had shipped in from Dodge City to enclose a pasture twenty-eight miles wide and forty-two miles long.

Such liberal spending, in addition to the terrible January blizzard, was partially responsible for the bankruptcy of the ranch in 1886. That year the Francklyn Company failed to pay bonds due ($2,182,330, including interest), and bondholders brought suit in the federal court at Dallas, asking that the land be sold and payments foreclosed. The syndicate was thus reorganized as the White Deer Lands Trust, which soon became known as White Deer Land Company or simply as White Deer Lands, although still branding the Diamond F.

Two New York capitalists, Frederic de P. Foster and Cornelius C. Cuyler, came into possession of the lands. Other names associated with this new venture through the ensuing years included Russell Benedict, who was made trustee of the White Deer Lands, Sir Robert Williams, and Sir Gordon Cunard. George Tyng served as resident manager until his resignation in 1903, when he was succeeded by Timothy Dwight Hobart.

As manager of the White Deer Lands, Hobart was in charge of settling them with farmers. Henry Thut and Perry LeFors were among the first settlers to buy. Agricultural communities like LeFors and Groom were founded, and the company office was located in the new rail town of Pampa. Beginning in the 1890s the Diamond F Ranch, then consisting of 630,000 acres, sold its cattle and leased its land to various cattle outfits, including the Frying Pan, the Matador, and the N Bar N ranches.

By the turn of the century the White Deer Lands had succeeded in selling most of the remaining 400,000 acres of land. Among the buyers was Samuel Burk Burnett of the Four Sixes Ranch, who bought 107,520 acres of former Diamond F land and established his Dixon Creek division headquarters in Carson County south of present Borger. After the discovery of oil on Burnett's ranch in 1921, White Deer Lands adopted a policy of reserving one-half or all of the mineral rights on lands sold. During the Dust Bowl era the company remained stable and deposited $150,000 with the stipulation that it be lent to area farmers affected by the drought. With the prosperity brought on by World War II, increasing oil income, along with income tax problems involving foreign investments in the company, drove taxes sometimes as high as 90 percent.

Finally in 1949 a change in the Texas corporation laws, plus the purchase of most of the British interests by Cecil V. P. Buckler and other United States citizens, enabled the company to reduce taxes to about 50 percent. The White Deer Corporation was formed with Williston Benedict in New York City as president and Buckler as vice president and Texas agent. By 1957 the directors decided to liquidate the corporation by paying the stockholders and prorating the mineral rights among them. M. K. Brown bought the remainder of the property, including the red brick office building in Pampa, for $70,000. Since then this building, which dates from 1916, has been converted into the White Deer Land Museum. The company records are housed in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Sylvia Grider, "`He's for Progress': C. P. Buckler and the White Deer Land Company," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 43 (1967). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Francklyn Land & Cattle Company (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Life and Times of Timothy Dwight Hobart (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1950).

H. Allen Anderson


Charles Newton Gould, geologist, the son of Simon Gilbert and Anna Arvilla (Robinson) Gould, was born on July 22, 1868, on a farm near Lower Salem, Ohio. He and his sister received their early education in country schools. In 1887 the Goulds sold their farm and moved to Ninnescah (now Cunningham), in Kingman County, Kansas. Gould attended the Normal Institute for Teachers in Kingman, obtained a third-grade teacher's certificate, and taught his first year (1888-89) in Pratt County. He continued teaching in country schools until 1893, when he became grade-school principal at Ashland, Kansas. During the spring and summer terms he attended Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in June 1899.

A lecture by L. C. Wooster, a school administrator and natural scientist, on the "Geological Story of Kansas" stimulated Gould's interest in geology, and he began collecting fossils and bones around Ashland. He sent many of his specimens to Samuel W. Williston, professor of geology at the University of Kansas, who encouraged him to pursue that profession. Gould did a year of graduate study under several leading geologists at the University of Nebraska and in June 1900 received his master of science degree.

He was hired as a territorial geologist and geology instructor by the University of Oklahoma, where he organized the university's geology department and taught the first classes. During the summer months he worked with federal geological surveys in Indian Territory. He aided Joseph A. Taff in surveys of the Tahlequah quadrangle and the Arbuckle Mountains in 1901 and later prepared a map of the Wichita Mountains. On September 24, 1903, Gould married Nina Swan, who shared his interests and had worked for a time as his stenographer. They had a daughter and a son.

In the summer of 1903 the Hydrographic Branch of the United States Geological Survey commissioned Gould to investigate the geology and underground water resources west of Indian Territory and east of the Rocky Mountains. This included the water sources of the Canadian River drainage area in Texas. Traveling by horseback and covered wagon during three successive field seasons (1903-05), Gould and his colleagues became acquainted with the geological features of the Panhandle, which they mapped. Gould first named and recorded the Alibates dolomite flint ledges along the Canadian (see ALIBATES FLINT QUARRIES). He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Nebraska in June 1906, and by 1907 his survey of the southern plains was completed.

Gould organized the Oklahoma Geological Survey in 1908. He retained his position at the University of Oklahoma until 1911, when he resigned from state work altogether and opened a consulting office in Oklahoma City. Soon many aspiring oilmen sought his services. Asked if there were any possible drilling sites in the Panhandle or in the vicinity of Amarillo, Gould remembered the anticlines, or domes, he had surveyed along the Canadian, and agreed to examine them. His reports led to the drilling of the Panhandle's first gas well by the C. M. Hapgood firm on Robert B. Masterson's ranch in 1918. Later Gould and Eugene S. Blasdel set the location for Gulf No. 2, which in 1920 resulted in the Panhandle's first successful oil well, on Samuel Burk Burnett's ranch in Carson County. The success of Gould's findings subsequently led to the Panhandle oil boom of the 1920s.

Gould's continuing geological studies of the Panhandle led him to coin the term "Amarillo Mountains" in 1922 for the buried granite ridge extending northwest from the Wichita Mountains across the Panhandle into New Mexico. In all, Gould spent thirteen years as a private consultant before beginning a second stint as a state geologist in 1924. In 1930 he and Jesse L. Nusbaum, director of the Laboratory of Anthropology at Santa Fe, identified the Alibates Flint Quarries as the source of Folsom weapon points. Between 1935 and 1940 Gould worked as a geologist for the National Park Service. During that time he turned out 251 reports that were used to help develop and upgrade tourist facilities in national parks and monuments throughout the Southwest. He died at Norman, Oklahoma, on August 13, 1949, and was buried there. His autobiography, Covered Wagon Geologist, which he wrote in 1946, was published in 1959.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Charles N. Gould, "The Beginning of the Panhandle Oil and Gas Field," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 8 (1935). Charles N. Gould, Covered Wagon Geologist (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1959). 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).

H. Allen Anderson

GROOM, B. B. (1812-1906)

B. B. (Colonel) Groom, cattleman, was born in England about 1812. As a young man he married Elizabeth Thomson, whose father was among the breeders of Bates shorthorn cattle in England; they had a son. Sometime after their marriage the young couple migrated to the United States, where for forty years the colonel engaged in the business of importing shorthorns and polled Angus cattle. Soon Groom's cattle came to be well known among breeders throughout the nation. During this period he bred and fattened blooded stock in the bluegrass region of Kentucky and owned an estate near Winchester, Kentucky, known as Vinewood. The panic of 1873 caused Groom's fortune to decline, however, and in 1875 he was compelled to auction off most of his shorthorns.

By 1882 he was a widower and seventy years old. Because of his kinship to Charles G. Francklyn he was selected to locate choice rangelands in the Texas Panhandle for the newly formed Francklyn Land and Cattle Company. Although he considered himself "capable of judiciously selecting lands and a location for the purpose," Groom was soon to discover that different methods from those he had utilized in Kentucky were needed to manage a ranch in the harsh, treeless prairies. Nevertheless he plunged ahead to buy land and build up the company's herds. He was the first in the Panhandle to hire men to drill wells to provide water for the cattle, among which were imported Angus and shorthorns. Groom personally managed the Bar X range in the disputed Greer County and took a keen interest in the struggle over the grass-lease fight during the late 1880s. His extravagant spending soon caused the Francklyn Company's expenditures to run into the millions, however, leading to its bankruptcy and subsequent reorganization as the White Deer Lands Trust in 1886.

Always optimistic, Groom and his son, Harry, next became managers of the Chicago-based Mortimer Land Company's holdings in southeastern Gray County just north of the Rock Island tracks. This small acreage was known for years as the old Groom pasture. On it the Grooms built several barns and raised forage crops for their herd, considered by many to be the finest Hereford cattle in the Panhandle. At his spacious, landscaped ranchhouse, the colonel lavishly entertained guests, with his black servants in livery. He demonstrated his ingenuity by using steam-powered tractors, then a novelty in the Panhandle, to break up the sod on several sections. It took so much coal to fire the steam engines that long lines of heavy wagon trains, consisting of from twelve to fourteen wagons, hauled the fuel from the railroad to Panhandle City.

The Mortimer Land Company was closed in Gray County when Timothy D. Hobart, manager of White Deer Lands, refused to renew its lease. Harry Groom subsequently went to El Paso, where he engaged in further cattle ventures and eventually became president of the American Livestock Association. Colonel Groom disappeared from the Panhandle and reportedly lived in Massachusetts for a time before returning to England, where he died in March 1906. The town of Groom in southeastern Carson County is named for him.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Evetts Haley, "The Grass Lease Fight and Attempted Impeachment of the First Panhandle Judge," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 38 (July 1934). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876-1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Francklyn Land & Cattle Company (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963).

H. Allen Anderson