Texas | Columns
P. McDonald, PhD
James Taylor White
Taylor's JTW brand became widely known, as was
his reputation for innovation in ranching practices.
of use who learn our history from the movies know that John Wayne,
using the name of Tom Dunson, led the first cattle drive from Texas
to the railhead in Abilene, Kansas, just after the Civil War. Well,
alright, Wayne was headed to Sedalia, Missouri, where Texas drives
had reached in the 1850s before the war, but then his foster son Matthew
Garth commandeered the herd and took it to Abilene instead with the
help of Cherry Valance and even old Grout because he believed there
was a railroad there even if Wayne did not. Wayne bellowed a lot,
but in the end, he approved.
Whoa. That is "reel" history. The "real" history is different. Likely
the first cattle drives from Texas went south from border rancheros
established along the Rio Grande in the 1740s by Jose Escandon. And
just as likely, the first cattle drives from Texas
in the other direction went not to Sedalia but to New Orleans, and
the cattle belonged to James Taylor White, East
Texas' first cattle baron.
was born in 1798 into a family that had raised cattle in locations
from Carolina to Louisiana. At age thirty, Taylor moved on west along
the Opelousas Road to Texas and first settled in the area of Anahauc,
near the Gulf of Mexico. And he brought the start of his herd with
Taylor's first spread was located on Turtle
Bayou, and the resolutions
adopted by Texans protesting the arrest of William Barret Travis and
Patrick Jack by Colonel Juan Davis Bradburn in Anahauc
in 1832, were signed near his home.
White moved on to another site near a newer community named Liberty.
This spread covered over 4,000 acres and soon supported over 1,000
head of cattle. They represented a good deal of money if the herd
could be delivered to market.
In some respects, the Texas
cattle industry was still limited to harvesting hides and tallow,
which could be shipped via coastal packet, without spoilage. But if
a rancher could drive the cattle to market, the whole animal could
be harvested and yield a greater profit.
So Taylor began driving his cattle to New Orleans, the first market
for this first East Texas
cattleman. Taylor's JTW brand became widely known, as was his reputation
for innovation in ranching practices. In time, the cattle trails Taylor
pioneered began growing more numerous to other Mississippi ports,
then to Sedalia, Abilene, Dodge City, Ogalalla, even New Mexico.
Taylor led the first of them from East
Texas like he led the first cattle drive across the "Red River."
Feb. 22, 2004 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical
Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and
author of more than 20 books on Texas.