Daniel Waggoner was born in 1828 in Tennessee to Solomon and Martha McGaugh Waggoner. Daniel was the second of the siblings to be born in Lincoln County, Tennessee before the family moved to Missouri where most of the other siblings were born. The family finally settled in Hopkins County, Texas. Daniel married Nancy Moore in 1851 in Hopkins County. About that same time, the couple moved to Wise County, Texas. The following year their only son William Thomas Waggoner was born. Nancy passed away in 1853. Five years later, Daniel married Sicily Ann Halsell, daughter of Electious and Elizabeth Jane Mayes Halsell. Sicily was from a large ranching family, also of Wise County. The couple had no children.
Daniel operated cattle ranches in at least two successive locations in Wise County and around 1869, he and his son William Thomas (W. T. or Tom) Waggoner formed a partnership that would become the basis for the Waggoner Ranch. The family story is that the capital for this partnership came from a successful cattle drive of 6,000 head to Kansas that the Waggoners made around 1866. The Waggoners began to acquire and claim land along the Red River in North Texas.
The ranch amounted to over 500,000 acres by the time of the Great Depression in the United States. During the Depression, they managed to survive the poor economic situation and expanded the ranch to include 180,000 acres in eastern New Mexico. The brand was composed of three reverse capital D letters and later also adopted one reverse capital D.
Tom married a younger sister of Sicily Ann Halsell, Ella Halsell. Ella was about seventeen years younger than Sicily Ann, and was born in 1859, roughly a year after Sicily and Dan were married. The Halsell name was a very familiar one to Wise County. They had a very large family and were spread out from Wise County to beyond.
Daniel Waggoner died in September of 1904. Sicily survived him by about twenty-four years and died in 1928. Both are buried in Oaklawn Cemetery in Decatur. In 1909, Tom Waggoner conveyed half of the ranch to their three surviving children, Paul, Guy and Electra and about fourteen years later, all the land interests were combined and conveyed into a trust that owned and operated it for the next ninety years or so. Tom Waggoner died in 1934 at age 82 and Ella survived him another twenty-five years before she passed away in 1959 at the age of 100. Both are buried in Oaklawn Cemetery in Fort Worth.
The family’s continuous possession of the land proved to be a valuable asset. Over the years they ran a successful cow and calf operation with various different breeds of cattle. The also branched out into raising horses, including work horses and race horses. Oil was discovered after 1900.
Tom and Ella had five children but three of them lived to adulthood, as noted above. Electra was born on the family ranch in Decatur in 1882. She studied abroad and was first married to Albert Buckman Wharton of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1902. The couple had two sons. Her second husband was Joseph Weldon Bailey and her third husband was James Gilmore, whom she married shortly before she died awaiting surgery in New York in 1925 at age 43. Electra was the namesake of Electra, Texas. Her remains were removed to Fort Worth where she is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
Guy Leslie Waggoner was born in 1883, in Decatur. He was married to Katherine Frances Brown, Lucille Eads Elliott, Dorothy Katherine Weaver, Anne Valiant Burnett (granddaughter of Samuel Burk Burnett, founder of the 6666 Ranch), Anne Belle Stinnett and Virginia Joan Green. Guy Leslie lived on the ranch or in nearby Vernon over the years. He had a strong interest in horse racing and was at various times chairman of both the Texas Racing Commission and the New Mexico Racing Commission. In New Mexico, he acquired the Bell Ranch in Eastern New Mexico. He died in 1950 of a heart ailment and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Fort Worth.
E. Paul Waggoner was born in 1889. In 1910, Paul married the former Helen Buck, daughter of a Sherman, Texas cotton buyer. Their daughter, named Electra Waggoner after her aunt, married John Biggs. Biggs and several other inlaws and grandchildren were involved in the management of the ranch over the years, in addition to talented-non family members.
A familiar story in Texas, oil was discovered on the ranch in 1903 while drilling for water. Commercial petroleum production began a few years later. The basic breed of cattle over the years has been Hereford, but other breeds have been introduced, including Longhorn, Brangus, Simbrah, Angus and Brahma. As of the 1990s it amounted to around 550,000 acres in parts of about six counties in Texas. The ranch is no longer owned by heirs of Dan Waggoner. It was sold to a single owner in 2016 after years of litigation among descendants in the family. The sale signaled the end of an era, but left strong memories for North Texas families who either lived on the ranch or were somehow connected to some aspect of the operation in business over the years.
© 2020, all rights reserved.