Ward County Biographies

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BARSTOW, George Eames Financier; born Providence, R. I.. Nov. 19, 1849; son of Amos Chafee and Emeline Mumford (Eames) Barstow; educated in public schools and Mowry and Goffs English and Classical School, Providence; married, Providence, R. I., Oct 19, 1871. Clara Drew Symonds. Began active career at age of seventeen; financed, founded, or organized Barstow Thread Co., Providence Warehouse Co., National & Providence Worsted Mills, American Writing Paper Co., U. S. Envelope Co., Barstow Irrigation Co.. Barstow Town Co. of Barstow, Texas, of which Is president. Member School Board of Providence, fourteen years and its president ; member Providence Common Council four years, Rhode Island House of Representatives, three terms; president National Drainage Association, 1908-1907, National Irrigation Congress, 1908-1909; upon invitation of President Roosevelt, was member of Conference of Governors at White House, 3908, and guest of President during trip on Mississippi. Republican. Life director Euphrates College, Turkey; member American Forestry Association, American Institute of Civics (councilor). National Child Labor Committee, American Civic Alliance (member Executive Council), American Academy of Political and Social Science. National Geographic Society, Society of Fine Arts, Southern Historical Association. American Museum of Natural History. Rhode Island Historical Society. Navy League. Empire State Society of Sons of American Revolution. Clubs: Republican, Chairman of Pan- American Committee. National Irrigation Congress; member National Civic Federation ; American Economic Association; The Academy of Political Science in the City of New York; Board of Governors of American Land and Irrigation Exposition, New York ; member Board of Governors National Land and Irrigation Congress of Chicago; vice-president Texas Conservation Commission ; member American Association for International Conciliation; American Society for Judicial Settlement of International Disputes. Has been contributor to the press for many years. Address: Barstow.#1

William D. Cowen. As is usually the case with the leading business man of a place, William D. Cowen, who occupies this position in Pecos, Texas, grew up in the hard school of experience and his early years were full of hard knocks. He started in life as a rancher, in the same way that hundreds of men have started, but he succeeded where many men have failed, through the qualities which he possessed of being able to work early and late and of possessing perseverance enough to cling to a thing until it was accomplished. He is now one of the most influential men in the whole of west Texas, influential not only on account of his wealth, but also on account of the strength and force of his personality.

William David Cowen was born on the 25th of July, 1851, in Gonzales county, Texas. His father, John Cowen, was a native of Ireland and his mother, Elizabeth (Nations) Cowen, was born in Mississippi. When a young man John Cowen emigrated from Ireland to this country, settling in South Carolina. He later moved to Mississippi and there in the fall of 1849 he was married to Elizabeth Nations. He came with his wife to Texas and they located in Gonzales county, near Belman, where they lived until 1852, when they moved to Fayette county. Here Mr. Cowen died in 1886. He spent all of his life as a rancher and stock raiser. Mrs. Cowen died in 1892, and of the seven children born of this union five grew to maturity. Of these Robert B. Cowen is a prominent farmer near San Marcos, Texas, and Willis Cowen is a teacher in San Marcos. William D. Cowen was the eldest of the children.

Owing to the fact that William Cowen was the eldest and that his father's family was large, he received only a limited education, attending the country schools in the winters and assisting his father or working on the neighboring ranches during the summers. When he was old enough to start out for himself he went into cattle raising on a very small scale in Fayette county. His herds grew and he later transferred them to Gonzales county, where he remained until 1883. Then he moved to Brewster county, and in 1884 came to Reeves county. During these years he had been continuously successful, everything that he had undertaken had turned out well, and this was not due to good luck, but to careful management and the use of good sense. In Reeves county he operated on a large scale, owning a ranch of thirty thousand acres, and his herds had become immense. After making so fine a success of ranching, he turned to other fields, and is now the leader in all of the important business enterprises in Pecos.

Mr. Cowen became the president and is the principal owner of the Pecos Valley Bank, in 1901. He is a prominent member of the Pecos Land Company and was one of the leaders in the movement which resulted in the growth and development of Pecos. He is president of the Pecos Valley and Southern Railroad Company and is one of the largest stockholders in this enterprise. Financial enterprises have claimed the larger share of his time of late, and he organized the Bank of Barstow, at Barstow, Texas, and is vice president of the Toyah Citizens' Bank, at Toyah, Texas. He is actively interested in the welfare of these various institutions and spends much of his time looking after their affairs.

Mr. Cowen was married on the 3d of January, 1870, to Miss Josephine Darling, a native of Texas and the daughter of Socrates Darling, who was one of the early pioneers of Texas, having settled here in 1834, and also being a veteran of the Mexican war. Mrs. Josephine Cowen died in 1889 and is buried in Toyah. Six children were born of this marriage, as follows: William Cowen is a prominent rancher of Culberson county, Texas; Lou married J. L. Duncan and lives in Jeff Davis county, Texas; John Cowen is a successful ranch owner of Reeves county; Frances is the wife of J. B. Pruett, a merchant of Pecos; Sidney Cowen is also successfully engaged in ranching in Reeves county, and Myrtle is the widow of Judge Ben C. Thomas and now makes her home with her father in Pecos. Mr. Cowen was married for the second time in 1891 to Lethia Porter Phillips, the widow of John Phillips, Mrs. Cowen being a native of the state of Missouri. One son, Marvin Cowen, has been born to this marriage, and he is at present a student in Baylor University, at Dallas, Texas. Mr. Cowen has taken especial care in seeing that all of his children received a fair education.

In speaking of the leading business man of a town, a picture always comes to mind of an arrogant, domineering sort of a man, who considers himself not only the owner of the land and buildings of a town, but also of the people living therein, but one must draw a very different picture of William D. Cowen. He is a plain, simple business man, modest and of retiring disposition, prone to consider what he has accomplished in life as being possible of accomplishment by any man who works hard enough. He is highly respected and heartily liked by his fellow citizens, which is sufficient evidence that he does not stoop to take an unfair advantage of his influence and power.#2

Finley Holmes. The ability to become a successful merchant often runs in one family just as the ability to become a lawyer or doctor, and this would seem to be true in the case of the leading merchant of Toyah, Texas, Finley Holmes, for his father was a merchant before him and all of his brothers are making successes in mercantile lines. Mr. Holmes is the owner and manager of the largest mercantile establishment in the town of Toyah, and he began this store in a very modest way, its growth being entirely due to his business ability and to the energy and perseverance with which he managed affairs.

Finley Holmes was born at Dumas, Arkansas, on the 21st of March, 1872. His father was Abercrombie Holmes and his mother was Lethia (Pickett) Holmes, both of his parents having been born in Mississippi. His father was a leading business man in Walnut Lake, Arkansas for many years, later removing to Dumas, where he spent the last thirty-five years of his life. He was a soldier in the Confederate forces during the Civil war, serving in the army until the close of the struggle. He was a man of fine character and highly respected in the community. His death occurred in 1891, his wife having died in 1886, and both of them are interred in Dumas.

Four sons were born to Abercrombie Holmes and his wife, of whom Finley Holmes is the eldest. Abercrombie Holmes, the second son is a prominent merchant in Lindsey, Oklahoma, and Burke D. Holmes is associated with his brother, Paul K. Holmes, in the mercantile business in Maysville, Oklahoma, where they own the leading mercantile establishment.

Finley Holmes went to school in Dumas, but he left school at an early age, and going to Pendleton, Arkansas, he went to work as a clerk in a store. He remained in this town for four years, clerking in various stores and acquiring a thorough knowledge of the mercantile business. He then went to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he began to clerk for C. J. Kramer & Company, one of the large mercantile establishments in the city. He proved so valuable to the firm that he was made bookkeeper and later general manager. He remained here for eleven years, and then, in 1899, the western fever crept into his bones and he determined to try his fortunes in the new western counties of Texas that were then being opened up.

He came to Pecos, Texas, in 1899, and here secured a position as bookkeeper for the Pecos Mercantile Company, remaining here until 1902. At this time, having carefully laid away as much of his salary as was possible, he found that he had enough to go into business for himself. He therefore came to Toyah, and here organized the Reeves County Mercantile Company, becoming its secretary and manager and one of its principal stockholders. It was only a modest beginning, but it has grown into the leading store in Toyah. It is not only a retail establishment, but Mr. Holmes has a large wholesale business also. Seeing the need of more banking facilities in Toyah, Mr. Holmes next organized the Citizens State Bank in 1907, being made vice president. In 1913 this institution was consolidated with the First National Bank of Toyah, assuming the affairs of the latter. Mr. Holmes is the owner of considerable valuable property in Toyah and also owns his handsome residence. He "has the entire confidence of the community and is one of the most influential business men in the county.

Mr. Holmes is a member of the Baptist church and is active in church work, being a deacon. He belongs to the Woodmen of the World. On the 6th of June, 1901, he was married to Miss Josephine Bunting, a daughter of Alphonse S. Bunting, and a native of the state of Texas. Five children have been born to this union, as follows: Joseph Finley, Margie Lee, Annie, Sidney and Ruth.

Mr. Holmes has great faith in this section of the country, believing that a boom is destined to come before long, on account of the cheapness of the land and the oil and mineral resources which when developed will make this section one of the most valuable parts of the state.


Thomas Benton Pruett. No man bears a finer record in Pecos and Beeves county, Texas, than Thomas Benton Pruett, one of the most prominent business men in this section. He was one of the early settlers of this region, and as one of the pioneer lumbermen did much for the development of the country around Pecos. He is now the head of one of the largest lumber concerns in western Texas, and is considered one of the most influential men in the business world of this section. But his success in business is not what has given him his wide popularity, it is rather the way in which he has earned this prosperity, for no more honorable career can be pointed to than Mr. Pruett 's. He has the highest reputation for honor and integrity and possesses the confidence of the entire business world, for he has never been known to conduct a business deal in anything but the most honorable way. His geniality and ability to make friends has won for him a large circle of warm friends both in Pecos and in the other sections where he has lived.

Thomas Benton Pruett was born on the 7th of January, 1855, in White county, Arkansas. His father, Benjamin H. Pruett, was born in Kentucky. He lived there until after his marriage to Nancy McBride, who was also a native of Kentucky and in 1849 they removed to White county, Arkansas. Here Mr. Pruett became fairly successful as a farmer, dying in 1892. He was born in 1808 and was eighty-four years of age at the time of his death. Mrs. Pruett, who was born in 1817 lived until 1898, when she died at the age of eighty-one.

Nine children were born to Benjamin Pruett and his wife, and five of this number are deceased. In addition to Thomas B. Pruett, those, living are Phillip H. Pruett, who is a prominent stock man of Alpine, Texas; James B. Pruett, who is engaged in farming in Hopkins county, Texas, and Diana, who is the wife of W. W. Hinson, of Alpine, Texas.

Thomas B. Pruett was the next to the youngest child and the education which he received was very meager, amounting to twelve months in all. Even this little schooling, which was had in the private school of White county, Arkansas, was received at the rate of two months a year. Not only were the country schools of the poorest but it was a hard struggle for existence in those days and children had to get what education they could and be thankful for it, no matter how little it was. At the age of eighteen he began farming in White county, and for fourteen years followed this occupation. During this period, in September, 1874, he was married to Miss Minerva Hammons, who was born in White county, Arkansas. In ]887 he sold his farm and moved to Texas where he located at Fort Davis. Here he went into the mercantile business and became very successful. He preferred the farm, however, and so after a time sold his business to good advantage and moved to Fannin county, Texas, where he bought a farm and settled down to the old life again. He lived here for three years when his wife died, leaving him with the care of a family of seven small children, the youngest of whom died eight months after the death of the mother. With six children to rear and educate and no wife to help him. life looked pretty gray to Mr. Pruett about this time, but he was not to be discouraged, and so selling his farm in Fannin county he removed to Mitchell county, Texas, where he farmed for a year.

It was in 1892 that he moved to Pecos and here his real prosperity began. His first essay at business was ns the owner of a transfer and drayage business and for four years he followed this line successfully. He then engaged in the lumber business, being one of the very first men to enter this field in this section. He has been very successful and between 1896 and 1905 established five lumber yards. These are located at Pecos, Toyah, Barstow. Monahan and Grand Falls. In 1905 he organized the Pruett Lumber Company, having previously been in business by himself. The capital was twenty-five thousand dollars and in 1907 this capital was increased to one hundred thousand dollars. He served as president of the company for two years and during this time has added three more yards to those already iu operation. The new yards are located at Pyote, Saragossa and Balmorhea, Texas. He has considerable capital invested in real estate in this section of Texas, owning in addition to his fine home in Pecos, four sections of land in Reeves county.

Mr. Pruett should be credited with the success of his children as well as his own success for it is largely due to his careful training and the good education which he has given them that they are the successful and useful men and women which they have become. The eldest, Vida Pruett, is now the wife of the Reverend Joel F. Hedgpeth, the minister of the Methodist church in Pecos. Tina is the widow of William Adams, who died in 1909 at Barstow, Texas, as the county clerk of Ward county, and she now makes her home in Pecos. Verde Elmer Pruett is the manager of one of the Pruett Lumber Company's yards, located at Balmorhea, Texas. Mamie married A. Graves Taggert, who is the bookkeeper of the Pecos Mercantile Company at Pecos. Lilian Pruett is a successful teacher of music at Pecos. Pear, the youngest, married Charles Jorden, who is connected with the Pecos Valley State Bank of Pecos.

In 1899 Mr. Pruett was married again, his wife being Miss Mamie Taylor, the daughter of Ira and Mrs. A. O. Taylor. Two children have been born to this union, as follows, Ora, who is now twelve years old, and Thomas Benton Pruett, Jr.

Mr. Pruett is a member of the Methodist church, and for twenty-one years has served as a steward in this church. He is a member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, being a Royal Arch Mason. He also belongs to the Woodmen of the World. [source: A History of Texas and Texans, 1914]

Thomas William Ward, (1807–1872). Thomas William (Peg Leg) Ward, second commissioner of the General Land Office of Texas, was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1807 to Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ward, landowning English immigrants. In 1828 Ward immigrated to Quebec and thence to New Orleans, where he studied engineering and architecture. Seven years later he answered the call for volunteers to help stand off Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna's army. Ward was one of the organizers of the New Orleans Greys, which fought at the siege of Bexar in December 1835. During the battle, Captain Ward, at the head of an artillery company, followed Benjamin R. Milam into San Antonio. During the ensuing battle Ward lost his leg to a cannonball, and Col. Milam was killed by a rifle shot. Legend has it that Milam's body and Ward's leg were buried in the same grave. The crippled Ward returned to New Orleans to be fitted with a peg leg. His stay in the city was brief, however, and he returned to Texas in the spring of 1836. Commissioned as a colonel by President David G. Burnet, Ward served under Gen. Thomas J. Rusk. For his service to the Republic of Texas, Ward later received 2,240 acres in Grayson and Goliad counties.

After the Texas Revolution Ward settled in Houston and worked as a general contractor. On February 18, 1837, Augustus C. Allen signed a contract with Ward to build the Texas capitol in Houston. Despite missing the initial deadline due to material delays, Ward completed the building in time for the Second Session of the First Congress to meet in it. He served as a clerk and later a member to the Harrisburg County's Board of Land Commissioners during 1838. During the spring and summer of 1839, the capitol was moved to Waterloo, later renamed Austin. Ward followed the seat of government and in late 1839 served as the chief clerk for the House of Representatives during the Fourth Congress. He went on to become mayor of Austin in the fall of 1840. During a brief tenure Ward created eight districts with a representative from each serving on the city council. He also coordinated the sale of town lots. In January 1841 he was appointed commissioner of the General Land Office, succeeding John P. Borden. Ward presided over the land office for the next seven years. Throughout his term he struggled to make sense of the often unclear and tangled land laws as well as the nightmare of conflicting surveys and untrained surveyors. The commissioner also had to combat rampant fraud and wrestle with dishonorable land speculators. Early on, Ward discovered that the job of land commissioner could be quite hazardous to one's health. In 1841 he lost his right arm when a cannon misfired during the official celebration of San Jacinto Day. The following year Ward became involved with the citizens of Austin in the Archive War. Ordered by President Sam Houston to cooperate in the removal of archives from Austin, Ward was among those fired upon by Angelina Eberlyqv. During the state elections in 1848, George W. Smyth defeated Ward in the race for land commissioner. After his defeat Ward served as the commissioner for overseeing land claims within the Peters Colony. In 1853 he was again elected mayor of Austin but resigned in September to accept an appointment by President Franklin Pierce as United States consul to Panama. He returned to the United States in 1857 and, despite ailing health, was nonetheless active in the election of 1860 as a bitter opponent of secession. In 1865 Andrew J. Hamilton appointed him mayor of Austin. In October he left Austin to serve as Andrew Johnson's appointee as Corpus Christi's customs collector. He remained in this position until 1869 when Ulysses S. Grant fired him. Ward married Susan L. Marston, a widow with two children, on June 20, 1844. Three years later their home was built by the noted Austin architect, Abner H. Cook, on the corner of Hickory (now 8th Street) and Lavaca. Ward died in his home on November 25, 1872, from typhoid fever. He was buried with the honors of Masonry and Odd Fellowship in the State Cemetery. On August 16, 1872, the first county seat of Johnson County was named Wardville in his honor. Ward County, created in 1887, was also named for him. The state of Texas had a monument erected at his grave in 1932. source: Texas Handbook Online



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