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There are thousands of people in Texas today to whom the name at the head of this page would seem unfamiliar, but would recognize our subject at once under the familiar designation, “Buck” Pettus, by which he was known all over the state. In the Southern counties he was particularly well known, for it is there that his entire life was spent.
His father, John F. Pettus, was a Virginian of ScotchEnglish ancestry, born in 1808, and was brought to Texas in his fourteenth year by his parents. The family settled at San Felipe, in Austin county, where they were granted a league of land and engaged in farming and stock raising. John F. Pettus was a man of great daring and enterprise, and took an active part in the early struggles of the Texan colonists for their liberty. He was one of Milam's 216 men who were in the storming of San Antonio in 1835, and was also at the battle of Conception, where ninety-two men, under Captain Fannin, met and repulsed Morales' battalion, the flower of the Mexican army; was at the battle of San Jacinto, in which the power of Mexico was broken and her warrior president was captured. He took part in many of the minor engagements of the war, and after its close had but little opportunity to lay aside his arms, for, for many years the settlements were constantly harassed by Indian and Mexicans bands, and the fighting men of the "colony” found ample use for their nerve and skill in border warfare. John Pettus married Miss Sarah York, born in Alabama, but a resident of Texas since her early infancy. They were married in 1836 and became the parents of six children, of whom our subject was the eldest.
W. A. Pettus was born in Austin county, near the town of Industry, November 17, 1838. He attended schools in Austin county for a few months, and was several sessions in attendance on those of DeWitt county, where his parents moved when he was in his ninth year. After his seventeenth year his education received no further attention, for he had tired of schooling and his help was needed in handling and caring for his father's cattle. To this work his attention was exclusively given until the beginning of the war. He enlisted in the 21st Cavalry under Captain Martin M. Kinney, and leaving the cattle, which he personally owned, with those of his father, marched forth with his brave companions to meet enemies of the Confederacy. He was with Gen. Marmaduke in his unsuccessful assault upon the Federal forces at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and after this engagement was sent south with his command to contend with Banks, who was then pressing through the Red River country on his memorable "expedition." Skirmishes were of daily occurrence, with occasionally a fight worthy of being termed a battle; the most important of all being that of Yellow Bayou.
When the war ended Mr. Pettus returned to his home and began the work of gathering his scattered cattle and getting his herd, though sadly reduced in size, in shape for a satisfactory resumption of business. This was a task of no small difficulty, for the range was open in every direction, and had to be thoroughly worked over to discover the numerous strays that had wandered into other herds. He was married February 4, 1866, choosing for his mate Miss Myra A. Lott, one of the fairest flowers of Southern Texas. She was the daughter of Thomas P. C. Lott, one of the pioneer settlers of Goliad county, and about the first of its citizens to engage extensively in cattle raising. Mrs. Pettus was born in Harrison county, Texas, April 24, 1842, and shortly after her birth her parents moved to Jackson county, continuing westward a year later to Goliad county, where they established the ranch which is now the Pettus' home.
After his marriage Mr. Pettus continued to reside with his father, who was too feeble to attend to his own business interests—a task which devolved upon the son. Mr. Pettus built and occupied a home of his own in 1870, in Bee county.
Mr. Pettus, when he moved to his Bee county ranch, was the owner of about 800 head of cattle; but he continued to manage his father's herd until 1873, receiving for his trouble a one-third interest in the cattle. His first beginning in the business had been secured, as we have seen, through his personal efforts, and in his subsequent transactions he had never any great amount of capital to operate upon. Therefore, he had no opportunity to engineer any extensive deals; but by close attention to his business he prospered and the extent and value of his property gradually increased. He had, all his life, been a ranchman, a cattle grower of the oldest and best type; but never a speculator. He followed in the footsteps of his father, who certainly can be accepted as the true type of a cattleman, since his history as such antedates the history of the state, and even of the republic which preceded it. The colonists at San Felipe had no cattle except a few which were purchased along the Louisiana line, and John F. Pettus got his first cattle in exchange for horses driven by himself and Captain John York to Louisiana. There were no “cowboys” in those days, and the first to be given that name were a number of reckless young fellows who would make trips into the Rio Grande country, gather cattle among the Mexicans and drive them East in search of a market.
W. A. Pettus always conducted his business in an honest and honorable manner, believing that ill-gotten gains can never prove of actual benefit to their possessor. His father never branded a “maverick” in his life, and neither would he permit his son to do so, and the Pettus family-father and sons—have always stood in readiness to assist in putting down cattle stealing or any other lawlessness. The reputation earned by W. A., or “Buck” Pettus, in this work of necessity and general importance is universally known throughout the Southwest. He was for years a terror to the cow thief, the “rustler” and evil-doers of other descriptions, and aided very materially in making the sinister efforts of such characters unsafe and consequently unpopular.
The banner years of our subject’s life, so far as his record as cattle grower goes, were 1877-88. His herd then numbered about 10,000 head; but the depression in price led Mr. Pettus to reduce his holdings considerably. He possessed a large number of cattle, mules and horses, and about 60,000 acres of land altogether. His home farm embraced about 325 acres of good bottom land, all in cultivation. He had also another farm of about the same size, and some smaller ones, which bring the total area of his farming lands up to nearly 900 acres. He was interested to some extent, in property of other descriptions, and with Messrs. Levi, and Maetze, owned the Bank of Goliad.
Mr. Pettus died at his ranch home in Goliad county, February 20, 1922. He is survived by his wife and seven children, three daughters and four sons, all married, as follows: Mesdames Al McFaddin of Victoria, G. B. Reed and John Dial, and W. F. Pettus, R. L. Pettus, T. W. Pettus and J. M. Pettus.
R. G. (DICK) HEAD The subject of this sketch, generally known as Dick Head, was born in Saline county, Missouri, April 6, 1847. When six years old his father moved to Caldwell county, Texas. When he was thirteen years of age young Head
entered the employ of Bullard & McPhetridge, who were preparing to move a herd of cattle to Missouri, but the breaking out of the Civil War prevented the drive and the herd was sold to the Confederate government. At the age of sixteen he entered the Confederate army and served until the close of the
war, and after farming for R. G. (Dick) HEAD
about a year Mr. Head en
tered the service of Col. John J. Meyers, the pioneer drover of Texas, who took the first herds to Abilene, Kansas, which place was then a mere post containing but half a dozen habitations. Mr. Head camped a herd of cattle on the spot where the city of Wichita, Kansas, now stands, when not a white man