By Jessica Crabtree
When mentioning the name Waggoner, the first thing that comes to mind is the famous Waggoner Ranch. Truth be told, the Waggoner history runs generations deep in Texas, cattle and ranching which spread in North Texas from Wise to Wichita County.
The Waggoner saga originated from Lincoln County, Tennessee. Solomon Waggoner was a farmer there as well as cattleman and horse trader. Together with his wife, Elizabeth, they moved their family to Hopkins County, Texas around 1848. Sadly the successful cattleman and horse trader died the next year in 1849. Solomon and Martha Elizabeth (McGaugh) had seven children, one of whom was the renowned rancher and businessman, Daniel “Dan” Waggoner, originator of the Waggoner Ranch. After his father’s death and after marrying and having a son, Daniel lost his wife. History supports that after the loss, Daniel with his new son, mother, sisters and brothers, moved to a small farm of 160 acres located on Catlett Creek in Cooke County (now in Wise County). Thereafter, he went on to purchase land and Longhorn cattle, creating the empire in history still talked about today.
Another son to Solomon and Elizabeth was John Thomas. John Thomas married Sarah Ann (Moore) who bore six children. This tale is about their eldest son, Thomas Jefferson Waggoner, also known as Jeff. Jeff was born May 22, 1861, in a cabin three miles east of present day Decatur. On Feb. 23, 1888, at the age of 27, Jeff married Mary Francis Gose at her home in Wise County. The two families were neighbors in north rural Decatur. Mary Francis was a teacher by trade. At the time of their marriage, Jeff was caring for 17,000 acres of land for Dan Waggoner & Son on Gilbert Creek, moving his bride 12 miles northeast of Wichita Falls. Not long after, Jeff purchased a section of land from the Waggoner father-son duo, Dan and W.T. “Tom,” wagering 100 cows and calves in exchange for the land. Together Jeff and Mary had seven children, losing two at infancy.
In December of 1974, a piece was printed in the Wichita Falls Times titled “Footsteps in Our History,” directed on the life and times of Jeff Waggoner with information the early-day cowboy shared for family history. From it we learn in 1879 Jeff began cowboying for his uncle Dan, at this time known as Dan Waggoner & Son, in the Wichita and Clay County area. From it a story was derived. Spending an evening with Allen Parmer east of the ranch headquarters, just downstream the Wichita River, Jeff shared that night two men came in late, ate with them and were gone the next morning before he waked. The two gave a name, but nothing of concern. Years later, while at John Fore’s livery stable in Wichita Falls, Jeff spoke with Frank James who mentioned an evening spent out at Allen Parmer’s, relating it was he and his brother Jesse James who were their dinner guests. As it went, Allen Parmer’s wife was Frank and Jesse James’ sister.
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