Landrunners and early homesteaders had led interesting lives before they
JIM and KID DOBBS
James C. Dobbs, born in 1855 and his next
youngest brother, Garrett Hunt “Kid” Dobbs, born in 1857 were the fifth
and sixth children of nine total born to J.W. Dobbs and Elizabeth Creech
Dobbs in Panola County, Texas. Panola
County is located on the Louisiana line west of Shreveport. Their father was killed during
what Kid called the “Nigger War” and left the mother with a large
family. Kid started working
cows when he was twelve years old and also moon-shining and catching
wild cattle. Two years later he left his mother in
County, where they had
the age of 19, Kid was with an uncle on the south end of the Chisholm
Trail where he found work on a trail herd and ended up in
Dodge City. During the travel to
Dodge City, Kid rode his horse across the Pease
River 23 times in one afternoon trying to get wild cattle across. His
boss said that he was the youngest, the best cowhand, the best rider,
the best roper that ever went up the trail.
Kid was short of stature and really stout for his weight—about
150 pounds. He was at Dodge City when he got his
leg broken in a roping accident in the remuda when another cowboy threw
an errant loop which got Kid hurt. The leg was set by an Army Doctor at Ft.
without chloroform. He spent two months in the
and when released he traveled to Hugo, CO and from
there took a mess wagon back to
Griffin on the south
plains. Jim and Kid then went buffalo hunting with an outfit until Jim
and Kid bought it out in 1876. Once when asked how long it would take
for Kid to skin a buffalo cow, he said he could do it in ten minutes.
The man who made the inquiry said he was willing to bet he could do it
in five minutes. He had timed Kid from the time he first put the knife
to the animal until he had it loaded in the wagon---four and one-half
Kid and Jim knew the plains country like a book
and they knew cattle.
working cattle on the south plains, Kid and Jim were offered jobs with
an LS wagon which was hunting stray cattle. They followed the LS wagon
north to the LS headquarters on the Canadian River
at Tascosa. They rode line until just before Christmas of 1878. A young
man with a small band of followers came to the LS Ranch to sell some
horses. They spent the night at the LS headquarters, the next day, Kid
and Jim rode into Tascosa with Billy the Kid and his gang. Billy was the
war captain for Jim Chism the Cattle King on the Pecos River.
Jim Chism had a herd of cattle thirty miles above Tascosa. They were
located here as a result of the settlement of the Lincoln County
War. Billy the Kid came
with him as his horse wrangler.
While working at the LS, Kid was offered $125
per month to take a herd through to Montana. This is one of nine herds sent to Montana that summer.
Because this was a difficult drive, involving loading on a train, and
then driving them again, Kid turned down the good offer. Later there was
a cowboy strike at the LS Ranch. Kid was threatened if he didn’t quit
his job and join the strikers. Kid said that he was a free man and
worked for whomever he pleased and continued working.
Kid Dobbs had a gun which Billy the Kid wanted.
Billy the Kid offered a wild
five year old mare for the gun even up, if Dobbs could ride the mare.
Dobbs rode her for five saddles before she ever pitched and that was in
the Canadian River when a log ran into
her. She made a fine horse.
A few days later, Billy the Kid said he would give Kid Dobbs a
fine white horse which had a bad cut, if Dobbs would clean him up and
get him well. This he did and the horse was as good a cutting horse as
ever rode in a roundup. Jim Dobbs then took a job on the
Pecos in NM and Kid got a job with Jim Campbell, hunting
deer and antelope for food for his sheep outfit.
this was cheaper than feeding a sheep a day and also more variety.
1879, Mexican sheep ranchers had settled down the Canadian River from
the New Mexico line. They had
built a series of plazas near the river where they settled with their
families. The fourth plaza down was the Vorregos Plaza
on the south side of the river just below Tascosa.
Plaza was quite a Mexican
plaza with several buildings on it. With the new lease law in effect in
1879, the Mexican ranchers were bought out and the plazas were
abandoned. The country was surveyed and sectionized in 1879. With the
Mexican ranchers gone, Kid Dobbs filed a claim on the 160 acres where
Plaza was located. He and
Jim lived here with their families for fourteen years.
In 1879, Kid
rode a mail line daily from Trujillo to Fort Bascom, New
Mexico and back the next day. A distance of
sixty miles which he covered in twelve hours. It was a fifty-nine hour
ride from Mobeetie to Fort Bascom, a distance of two hundred miles.
He once rode 170 miles on a straight ride changing horses several times.
This was because of one rider was sick and the other didn’t show. During
the thirteen months that he rode for the mail line, he rode two horses
to death. Kid said this was a poor arrangement with the government in
that sometimes he would carry only one postcard.
In 1881 Kid
was married to Lena Atkins, the half-Mexican daughter of John Atkins of
Red River Springs, located on the Canadian River in New Mexico. They were married in the Casimero
Romero home by Judge Jim McMasters.
John Atkins had also been a freighter and Indian fighter.
Tascosa was a
rough cowboy town with a reputation approaching that of Dodge City. Because of disagreements between
large and small ranchers and their cowhands, the difficulty developed
into what has been called “The Big Fight”. This was a running gun battle
on the streets of old Tascosa in which five men were killed. Jim Dobbs,
who was living nearby, said he heard at least 150 shots fired. The next
day, fifty-five LS cowboys were in town. Kid rode guard for Mr.
McAlister, the manager of the LS as the victims were buried on Boot
Hill. At the time of the Big
Fight, Kid was twelve miles up the river in charge of a LS wagon
Billy the Kid
became a horse and cattle thief in 1884. The Governor of Texas
authorized the ranger force, headed by Pat Garrett, to work out of
Tascosa to stop the cattle
stealing, changing brands and to recover stolen cattle. Kid Dobbs was a
part of that Ranger Force. He witnessed several shootings in and around
Tascosa and prevented several others. Kid was a highly respected law
helped build a railroad bridge across the South Canadian at Tascosa.
cattle ranchers moved their herds onto the plains after the destruction
of the huge buffalo herds, they were faced with a menace in the form of
packs of Lobo Wolves. These
large wolves had proliferated greatly by following the buffalo, taking
an animal any time their hunger dictated.
Now with the buffalo gone, the wolves turned to the cattle herds
to satisfy their appetite. After suffering unacceptable losses, the
ranchers persuaded the authorities to do something to exterminate the
wolves. The minutes of the
Potter County Commissioners Court for 1891
and 1892 show that the court paid numerous individuals bounty money for
wolf scalps brought in. Jim
and Kid Dobbs were among those listed. Jim was paid $32 for five lobo
wolves, three small wolves, and one wildcat.
Kid was paid $31 for scalps.
In her book
“In the Cattle Country”, Della Tyler Key writes that J. W. Dobbs was
among those ranchers who had large herds of 5,000 to 60,000 head of
cattle that were shipped by rail from
I doubt that Jim had enough time from 1878 to 1888 to have
acquired this number of cattle, when part of that time he was working
for other larger ranches.
There is hardly any doubt that he did considerable “maveriking” as did
most everyone who got a start in the
Key also provided a list of settlers who acquired Texas school lands in 1887.
J. W. Dobbs was on that list.
In 1892, G. H. Dobbs and J. W. Dobbs were on a list as having
their property assessments [in this case cattle] increased.
ranches wanted to control all the range, they made it hard on the small
ranchers to get a toe-hold. The Dobbs brothers raised the ire of the
large ranches by filing on pieces of land which the large ranches had
overlooked. The large ranches would then have to come and buy out the
Dobbs. The large ranches involved were the LS, LX, T-Anchor, Frying Pan
and Prairie Cattle Company. They all paid a pro rata share in order to
get rid of the Dobbs Brothers. They filed 45 indictments against Kid and
Houston was the lawyer for
the big ranches. Red Tom O’Hare, a Ranger, served an arrest warrant on
Jim Dobbs. After Jim was arrested and disarmed, Red Tom whipped Jim
three times before he got him to the jail. Jim would have been killed
had not a friend named Sullivan intervened. Later Kid Dobbs faced down
Red Tom at a saloon and also Jim’s friend, Sullivan did the same.
Red Tom had previously killed a Negro in
Amarillo, two women in Texas
and later an Indian at Cheyenne, OK.
He was a dangerous man. Kid and
Jim were held in the Amarillo
jail with the door open. One
night, the sheriff came in, closed the door and locked the combination
lock. Next morning, Jim had to give the Sheriff the combination so he
could open it. You see Jim had been a jailer prior to this happening.
trial, the only witness that the large ranches had was an escaped
Mexican convict. When this was discovered, the Dobbs were dismissed as
were all the indictments. One of the latter indictments to be dismissed
was one for selling beef without a license and illegal storing of beef
at the Mark Snyder residence. Mrs. Snyder was on her deathbed and the
family with four kids was destitute. Kid Dobbs thought that would be a
good place to store a quarter of beef. Mr. Snyder was on the grand jury
which dismissed the indictments.
Kid Dobbs homesteaded in Oklahoma, moving to an acreage six miles northwest of Cheyenne on the
River. They moved with
five kids and five more were born at
Cheyenne. Kid lived on this homestead for twenty
years before moving to
New Mexico. He sold this homestead to a Mr.
Meeks who in turn sold it to Henry Hawkins and Leland and Bernice Burns
now own this land.
came to Oklahoma about the same time. After living
and farming/ranching for about 10 years he served as Sayre City Marshall
for several years. While serving in that capacity, he killed two men in
related shootings two years apart. While awaiting trial, he owned a meat
market in Cheyenne and his wife,
Sally, operated a café. He
was sentenced to fifteen years but after serving six years, he was
released by the court. He lived
in a tent outside the walls of McAlister and was allowed to cook for
himself. Sam Doxey was killed
when Jim tried to arrest him at Sayre for drunken behavior. Two years
later, W.M. Branch, friend of Doxey’s, was killed during a scuffle.
Branch was still harboring ill feelings at the loss of his friend and
tried to cause trouble for Jim.
that he always tried to do more for other people than for himself. Jim
bought from John Stahl the Star Meat Market and operated it for a period
of time; this was while he was out on bond. Later Stahl and Dobbs traded
properties in Sayre in Cheyenne. My grandparents,
Eva and Elbert Tracy were married in the home of Jim and Sallie Dobbs,
as Sallie was Eva’s Aunt. Jim Dobbs’ daughter, Claudia married Horace
Gaither, who served as
Amarillo City Marshall for many years. Their son, Paul Gaither, served
as Potter County Sheriff for 10 years during the 1940’s and 1950’s.
One of Kid Dobbs’ daughters, Molly, remained in Cheyenne after she married Poodle Burnett.
Sheriff Paul Gaither would occasionally travel to Roger Mills
County to visit his
relatives and one time told me a story of his cousin’s husband, Poodle,
being a bootlegger. He said that people would leave Cheyenne headed south in their old cars on
Highway 283 and a lot of the automobiles would “get hot” about the top
of the long hill where Poodle and Mollie lived. They would go to the
house to get some water. Poodle would have to go to the creek west of
the highway to get a pail of water and upon returning, in the pail would
be found a quart of home brew. When
I heard this story as a child, I though this was ironic for the fact
that the storyteller, who had knowledge of these facts, was a sheriff.
Of course, Sherriff Gaither had no jurisdiction in Oklahoma.
In 1902, when Sheriff Bullard was killed, Jim and Sallie Dobbs
were living in present day Custer County,
somewhere around Butler.
The day of the killing, Jim was gone away from the house and Sallie and
the kids were home alone. Two men rode fast and hard
from the west to the house and demanded that Sallie prepare
something for them to eat, which she did. One of the men kept watching
out the door to the west all the time they were there. Later it was
assumed that these were two of the men who had killed Sheriff Bullard
and his Deputy Cogburn. The family story speculates that had Jim been at
home that day, things might have been different for these outlaws when
they rode up to his house.
living on his farm/ranch near Butler,
Oklahoma during period 1895-1905, Jim Dobbs was
visited by an old friend, Jim Gober, who had been the first sheriff
elected in Potter County,
Texas, and had known Jim and Kid Dobbs while they all were
living at Amarillo. Gober
had his share of troubles in keeping law and order in a country ruled by
big ranches. As a result, his term as sheriff did not last long.
He and the Dobbs brothers were known for doing what was right,
but were constantly battled by the owners of the large ranches who
wanted things run their way.
Gober dropped by the farm of his old friend, he was working as a cattle
detective for an insurance company.
A herd of cattle had been stolen from near Butler, and it was determined that the rustlers had headed
south with them, taking them into
Gober enlisted the help of Jim Dobbs to trail the cattle and to
keep the detective informed by telegraph of their whereabouts.
Meanwhile, Gober was go by train to a location down in
Texas, well in advance of the cattle herd.
When the herd was located Gober would rent a horse and meet Dobbs
and they would make the arrests.
There were several armed rustlers and caution needed to be
exercised by the lawmen in order to make the arrests without any gunplay
being involved. The two
lawmen were successful in capturing the rustlers after trailing them
some two hundred miles to a point in Kent County, Texas.
Arrangements were made for selling the cattle near where they
were found rather than hire someone to trail them all the way back to