J. K. Millwee Biography

Taken from Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection - Voices from the Thirties: An Introduction to the WPA Life Histories Collection

J. K. Millwee


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Work * 1327 [?]

Robertson, Mrs. Wyndham

December 30th, 1936. memoir - ??

Lubbock County

District 17

240

Pg. 1

BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. K. Millwee, Cattleman. "THERE AND A CATTLEMAN"

Among the old timers she came to these glorious Plains during the "70's" stands out a picturesque character, J. K. Millwee.

I first met him while in search of some one really seasened in the intricacies of the cattle business of early and later days.

We got to talking about cattle drives, Indians, Colonel Goodnight, Oliver Loving and John Chisum. When I inquired Mr. Millwee's age, he cleared his throat and said "Say, I was born in Penhook", and when I looked at him questioningly, he continued, "Well, now you would not know that place by that name now, it is called Paris nowadays.

"Well, I was born there an the 15th day of January, 1851, and my father was a lawyer. I went to work at a young age, and my first job was driving 1600 head of cattle to Ellsworth Kansas, and Smoky River, and we went by way of Wichita, Kansas, which then only had one saloon and a blacksmith shop. The cattle were sold to private parties on nearby ranches and not shipped. "On this drive," Mr. Millwee went on, "I saw one of the biggest herds of buffalo and the boys figured that they numbered about 5000 head in that one herd. They were so thick, they took up the entire Panhandle it seemed like. We had to stop our cattle and let the buffalo have the right of way. We encountered some Indians too, but I never saw an Indian killed. The tribes we would usually encounter were Apaches, and they hankered after trouble. It was on account of the Indians and of course the advancing settlements, the cattle trails dropped more and more westward every year. "In 1868 I worked for the [?] outfit in Archer county and worked for them off and on for twenty years. Robert Strayhorn of Chicago, Ill., and E?. B. Harold of Ft. Worth, Texas, owned this ranch, which extended ever Archer,Wichita and Young counties, and they ran about 40,000 head of cattle."

Here Mr. Millwee took a deep pull at his cigar before he went on. Then: "Say, I want to tell you about John Chisum. Nobody that has ever written anything about him, has ever told the truth. Say, John Chisum was an educated man , a big cowman and a good friend of my father's. Chisum was the first County Clerk of Lamar county. W.H. Millwee, my father, and he were boys together. I went to work for him in 1869, in Coleman county. Helped him move a herd of cattle to his "Besque Grande" ranch in New Mexico, somewhat northeast of where Roswell is now located. "Well, as I started to say, we rounded up the cattle at Belivar on Clear Creek, in Denton county, and moved to a point on Home Creek in Coleman county, from where we started on the trail drive to New Mexico, where Chisum had built himself a magnificent ranch house, about three miles northeast of Roswell, on the South Spring river. His cattle brand was the "Bar" or "[?]", placed on the left hindquarter, and the cattle were given a "jingle-bob" an each ear, which did not prove practical, however, as in cold weather the ends would freeze off. John Chisum used this brand between 1869 and 1892. He probably sold the first herd of cattle to the Matader people. His career became a rather sketchy and checkered one in later life. Especially so [?] the "Lincoln county war" which was started by "Billy the Kid". However, let me say, that "Billy the Kid" was friendly toward Chisum and he had no trouble with him.

"After leaving Chisum in 1872", Mr. Millwee resuming the conversation, said: "I went back home and attended school in Mansfield, Tarrant county, for three years. There I also attained membership of the Masonic Orrder. After that, in 1875, I joined the Bark[?] ranch in Archer county again, about 115 miles northwest of Ft. Worth, Texas. Also worked for the Circled outfit, 40-miles east of Albuquarque,N.M., at Antelope Springs, in 1880. Then I went with Jess Hitson and drove trail for two years to Deer Trail Colorado, for him. Some time after that I ranched in Crosby county, [?]about one to two miles south of Lerenzo. Here, I branded my cattle the "Flying M", and ran about 1500 head. I used this brand for twenty years, even while I was managing the Cross C[?]. In the year 1885 I came to Lubbock County and helped organize the I O A ranch. I had the first six wells dug in Lubbock county and also planted the first 100 acres of sorghum in this locality. The next year I purchased 8000 head of Cross C cattle for the IOA ranch, which were tally branded, by putting a "V" on the hind quarter, which indicated that they had been purchased. By 1887 approximately 30,000 head of cattle were grazing on the open range which extended over a 65 to 75 mile area. At that time, the "T Ancher" was the only fenced range. I went into Lynn county in 1896, where I acquired a part of 40 sections of land for which I paid $50,000. I ran around 2000 cattle and bought about 1000 hand from the, Deuce of Hearts, from J. L. Vaughn, in Hale county, but did not use his brand. I discontinued and wound up my business in 1935."

At this point Mr. Millwee paused, as if for reflection. Directly he turned to me and said: "Did you want to know about Indians? Say, I have had several experiences when I was a young boy. It was when I was helping drive that herd of 1600 cattle from Coleman county to Besque Grande for [?] Chisum. We were in the neighborhood of Old Eddy, which is now known as Carlsbad, on the Delware river, when some of the boys wanted to stop to shoot fish (you shoot fish only in shallow water). One fellow was left at the head of the herd, He was Ed Burlingham. After a little while he rode up to where we were fishing and told the boys to take their time, that some Indians had driven off the cattle anyway. He said that the Indians just sweeped down upon the herd and that he alone could not give chase. Our "straw boss" decided to go after the Indians and try to get the cattle back, but when the boys made the bend in the creek they counted at least fifty Indians. Feeling that they were outnumbered, [we] decided to let the Indians keep the cattle. Say, we never did get them cattle back. Once while we had a herd bedded down on Seven Rivers in New Mexico, the Indians stampeded them. Five of us boys worked like everything and finally succeeded in calming and settling the animals down again. A band of Indians had caused this stampede and Jim McDaniel and I were close upon their heels, for we had been nearest to them and given chase on an impulse. They shot Jim's horse from under his and as the horse fell it turned over and pinned Jim under its body. I was plenty scared and plenty mad too. In order to keep Jim from being killed by the Redskins, I kept on firing at them, We found we had killed three Indian ponies. Well, for some reason the red devils went off and Jim and I thought that maybe they were going after reinforcements, We decided to get away, and so we [and hid in?] a clump of hackberry bushes, scared and expecting to be found and killed any time or to starve to death. Shortly we heard the clop clop of galloping horses, and now we were sure that it was the Redskins back again. However, it turned out to be 20 of Chisum's boys. Seems that they had been rounding up some cattle and had heard shots and had also found my riderless horse, which made them think we had been killed. Say, we sure were glad to see the boys that time."