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Rufus Higginbotham, Co-founder of Higginbotham Brothers

09 May

The Higginbotham family founded a chain of what became hardware stores a decade and a half after the Civil War.  When the business matured, they had locations in many towns across Texas.  Hardware stores and lumber yards with Higginbotham in the name were common in Texas.

Rufus and his brother Joe Higginbotham came to Texas with their family after the war ended.  Rufus had been born in the fall of 1858 to John James and Lucy Ann Taylor Higginbotham in Mississippi.  John James had served in the Confederate Army during the war.  The father of Lucy Ann Taylor was a doctor.  According to family accounts, the war had officially ended earlier that year, but Lucy’s father Dr. John Taylor (1788-1865) was killed by Federal soldiers in an incident on November 5, 1865.  Like many other families, the Higginbothams and Taylors found times to be harsh and hard for farming families in Mississippi after the war and they began to look west for their future livelihood.  Two of Rufus’ older sisters had earlier moved with their families to Texas by taking a boat to New Orleans, on to Galveston and then riding a train to Calvert, Texas where the rail line ended.  They both started farms nearby.

The two families were eventually attracted to Erath County.  The area had long been occupied by the native tribes, more recently Comanche and Kiowa, but settlers began to encroach and gain a foothold.  The settlers defended themselves by putting together groups of men from the area until the Federal government began to post troops in the general area and engage the native tribes.  The community of Dublin was just beginning to grow and Higginbotham inlaws (the Franklin “Clem” Oldham family) established a dry goods store there.  The closest post office was Stephenville until one was established in Dublin and F. C. Oldham served as its first postmaster for a few years.  At that time, Dublin was not served by a rail line and goods had to be transported by wagon from larger towns like Waco.  The Texas Central Railroad finally reached Dublin around 1880 and Rufus, brothers John and Ben came to the area.  They joined Clem Oldham in a business called Oldham and Higginbotham.

Rufus Higginbotham met and married Hattie Louise Smith in Dublin in the summer of 1883.  Hattie was the only child of Horace Aurelius and Alice Jane Hewey Smith.  Horace had served in the 17th Maine Infantry in the Civil War.  Horace had kept a Civil War diary which was later published by his descendants in which he recorded his account of the war.  He recounted that he had walked with his outfit to Virginia and other locations until he was wounded, shot in the leg, during the Battle of Gettysburg.  The war ended as he was recuperating from his injury.

The new couple, Rufus and Hattie, took their honeymoon by riding the train to what was then the end of the line to Colorado City, Texas.  Hattie’s father Horace was in the lumber business, managing W. W. Cameron’s lumber yards.  Rufus continued to work in the Oldham and Higginbotham business for a while, before he left the partnership in a disagreement about pricing goods to meet the gradually increasing competition.  The relationship with the Oldhams would remain cordial however, and they would do business together some years later, as noted below.  For a short time, Rufus worked in a partnership with another brother in law, Dan Fry, before leaving there to work as a bookkeeper for the company where his father in law worked, the Cameron Lumber Company.  Then in 1885, Rufus and his brother Ben opened their mercantile store in Dublin.  This was the germination of the business that would be incorporated in 1891 and then again in 1896.  The latter entity was owned by shareholders Rufus Higginbotham, Joseph Higginbotham, Thomas Higginbotham, W. J. Clay (a brother in law of Joe and Rufus), T. J. Williams and H. B. Sones.

higginbothamsdotcom

(Image credit: Higginbothams.com)

The DeLeon store was incorporated a year later in 1897 as Higginbotham and Company by Bolivar T. Higginbotham, J. M. Higginbotham and Jeff D. Bartlett.  The young businesses built their clientele by extending credit to farmers during the production period which was to be made good in the fall.  The stores carried food, clothing and other dry goods.  On occasion, they would also buy live farm animals including hogs and cattle to sell to the farmers and others.

The Comanche store was incorporated in 1901 by Joe and Rufus Higginbotham, J. R. St. Clair, Horace A. Smith, T. J. Williams and C. P. St. Clair.  A business was bought out in Rising Star in 1910 and in 1916 a store was opened in Cross Plains.  A lumber yard was acquired in Gorman using a company owned by Rufus Higginbotham, F. W. Oldham and R. C. Oldham, the latter two individuals being from the family of his inlaws and also his first partnership in Dublin.  These and the earlier stores would form the nucleus of the Higginbotham Brothers business in West Texas.  The company headquarters would eventually move to Dallas as its business expanded.

 

This post was condensed from the first thirty pages of Frances Higginbotham Nalle’s fine biography “Rufus Wilson Higginbotham – Pioneer Texas Merchant” with references from “Diaries and Letters of Horace Aurelius Smith: October 15, 1862 to December 31, 1867.”

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2 Comments

Posted by on May 9, 2019 in biography

 

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2 responses to “Rufus Higginbotham, Co-founder of Higginbotham Brothers

  1. Bambi Lynn

    May 10, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Your Texas History blog is one of my favorites! I appreciate the time and effort you put into each post, and I always look forward to the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

     

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