Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Figures

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pp. vii-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

I had never heard of J. W. Jarrott. Never heard of the heroic role Jim Jarrott played in leading the first band of homesteaders to stake their claims on the vast lonesome South Plains frontier—a land previously deemed uninhabitable, and a land where hostility awaited them. That is, I had never heard of the Jarrott story until I read my friend Chuck Lanehart’s article entitled “A History Mystery: Who Shot J. W.?” in the May 2011 edition of the Voice for the Defense magazine. Chuck is not only a premier criminal defense lawyer in Lubbock, Texas, he is also one...

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Foreword

Chuck Lanehart

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pp. xiii-xvi

The Lubbock bar has a quaint tradition, unique among bar associations in Texas. When a local lawyer dies the bar meets at the courthouse to remember, honor, and often roast the fallen warrior. I relish the chance to attend every such memorial. There is always a bit of wisdom, a nugget of humor, a hint of history, and always the chance a universal truth will be discovered here.

From as far back as I can remember, the local bar president stands and solemnly announces a tradition that dates back to 1902, “when the first...

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Prologue

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pp. xvii-xviii

August 1902. Jim Jarrott and wife, Mollie, walking down the main street of Lubbock, noticing a well-dressed gentleman staring at them from the opposite side of the road, Jim saying to Mollie: “There’s a man I’d rather not see in this country.” The gentleman just stood there: motionless, expressionless, silent—studying Jim Jarrott, fixing him with cold, unblinking eyes, making...

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Dedication

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pp. xix-xx

This book is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Will Neal (1874-1952), Oklahoma Territory cowboy and Texas pioneer rancher —another “forgotten hero” who deserved far more recognition than he ever received—or sought.

In 1897, on borrowed money, he burrowed a dugout into the banks of a creek along the western fringe of the expanding West Texas frontier and laid claim to the ranch where I grew up....

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Preface

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pp. xxi-xxiv

The passage of the Four-Sections Act “…set off an influx of settlers fanning out through the large ranches, in decrepit wagons, often containing their families, all their earthly goods, and pulled by tired plow teams. However objectionable it was to cattlemen [who were pasturing their herds on thousands of acres of unfenced range land] the Act, more than any other factor, brought about the settlement of West Texas.” 1

The Four-Sections Act provided that any adult Texan could purchase four sections of land (each section consisting of 640 acres and encompassing...

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Chapter 1: The Precipice

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pp. 1-4

It had taken the homestead seekers—Andrew and Mary Blankenship and their baby, traveling in the lead wagon with Solon Cowan and Griff Hiser in the second—two weeks of hard, slow going, first near their treeshaded home territory, fording flowing streams, and then into West Texas where the landscape changed. Drastically. Their wagons bumped over and around the rough, broken, and eroded red clay terrain of dry gullies, shallow canyons, and low cedar-splotched mesas to reach the precipitous Caprock escarpment, above which lay their destination: El...

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Chapter 2: El Llano Estacado

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pp. 5-14

So reported Francisco Vasquez De Coronado after crossing El Llano Estacado in 1541 in search of the fabled “Seven Cities of Cibola.”1 He found neither gold nor water on that featureless sea of grass.

In 1820, almost three centuries after Coronado, Major Stephen H. Long, a member of the US Corps of Topographical Engineers, was dispatched to make a scientific investigation. “The Great American Desert,” was the way Maj. Long described what he found. It was an epithet that was accepted and perpetuated for years by civilized folks back...

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Chapter 3: Stepping Over the Threshold

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pp. 15-24

None of the prospective homesteaders who Jim Jarrott recruited to settle on “The Strip” had ever seen that wild, windswept, and unpopulated tableland on the South Plains of El Llano Estacado. Nevertheless, Andrew and Mary Blankenship were captivated by Jarrott’s presentation, especially when he informed them that poor folks such as themselves could—on account of the recently enacted Four-Section law—actually acquire title to 2,560 acres of rich farm land for a total purchase price of only $1.00 per acre and that amount to be paid out over forty years...

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Chapter 4: J. W. and Mollie Jarrott

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pp. 25-36

The backgrounds and personalities of the two young pioneer couples could hardly have been more diverse: Andy and Mary Perritt Blankenship, on the one hand, grim, serious-minded, and under-privileged children of large impoverished farm families, and on the other hand, James William Jarrott and Mollie Wylie Jarrott, the privileged, well-educated, articulate, and personable children of prominent families. Yet all four of these pilgrims shared some of the same qualities: they were all intelligent, adventurous, ambitious, hard-working, and bold risk-takers. Their lives...

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Chapter 5: Isolation, Loneliness . . . and Danger

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pp. 37-54

Isolation, loneliness, and the fearful solitude of the vast plains tested the mettle of even the hardiest of J. W. Jarrott’s band of settlers. But there were other daunting challenges just ahead.

Merely surviving with the limited resources and primitive tools available to them was a never-ending, daylight-to-dusk—“from-can-to-can’t”— task for the homesteaders, or as Mary had so aptly summed it all up: it was a “root-litter-hog-or-die” existence,2 complicated at times by nature in the form of droughts, blizzards, and the ever present dread of a wildfire...

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Chapter 6: Cowmen vs. Plowmen: Tensions Escalate

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pp. 55-64

April 24, 1902. What happened on that day in Lubbock, Texas, sparked into flame the smoldering hostility that cattlemen had harbored against J. W. Jarrott and his “squatter” clients. April 24, 1902, was the day that J. W. Jarrott and the first group of settlers successfully filed their applications with the Texas General Land Office (GLO) to purchase four-section tracts on the Hockley County portion of the vacant Strip. After the survey, the GLO had classified the strip as “school land,” thus making it available for settlers to purchase under the Four-Sections Act....

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Chapter 7: Death on the Lonely Llano Estacado

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pp. 65-82

That summer, the summer of 1902, threats from the South Plains ranchers escalated. They weren’t idle threats either. Homesteaders took them seriously. Tensions increased.

Mary Blankenship received word “in a round about way” that the homesteaders had better stop drawing water from ranch windmills.2 But the use of the ranchers’ water was not the real burr under their saddles. True enough, the Blankenships did draw water from the nearest water well located on ranch land. (As noted in the preceding chapter...

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Chapter 8: Trail of the Assassin

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pp. 83-126

No one witnessed the execution of Jim Jarrott and, other than a few spent rifle shell casings, the killer left no telltale clues at the crime scene. The crime had all the earmarks of a professional hired gun. But who was he? And who hired him?

No one was ever convicted of—or even tried for—the murder of Jim Jarrott. Years later, a partial answer emerged to at least the first question. Yet more than a century has passed without a definitive solution to that or an even greater puzzle: who hired the killer? And why? And...

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Chapter 9: The Man Who Hired the Assassin

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pp. 127-160

It was on the afternoon of August 27, 1902, that Deacon Jim Miller assassinated Jim Jarrott at the Twin Mills site approximately twenty-five miles southwest of Lubbock.

Early that morning Grace Cowan, the sixteen-year-old daughter of Lee Cowan (one of Jarrott’s Strip settlers), was playing outside the family homestead near the present-day village of Ropesville when she was startled to see a horseman race by headed north. Later that same day —but after the assassination—Grace Cowan once again spied the same horseman race by, but this time headed south away from the Twin Mills....

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Epilogue

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pp. 161-168

Nobody was ever convicted, or even tried, for the cowardly assassination of J. W. Jarrott, and for decades thereafter nobody in the tight-lipped, South Plains frontier community dared speak openly about it. Meanwhile, hostilities between the big ranchers and the settlers continued to seethe just beneath the surface.

The ranchers stubbornly clung to the conviction that regardless of what folks back East thought or what legislators in Austin believed, or whatever fuss those common, sodbustin’ peasants kicked up, they...

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Appendix

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pp. 169-172

Chronicle of the timeline of the (1)“First-Chair” battle for purchase of the four school sections; (2) the “deed-shuffle” scam for the four railroad sections; (3) and the assassination of J. W. Jarrott.

January 27, 1902

Deacon Jim Miller first appears on the Terry County scene. He witnesses and notarizes a deed from Z. T. Joiner conveying the four checkerboarded railroad sections to D. J. Howard. Howard pays Joiner $896 cash...

Endnotes

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pp. 173-196

Bibliography

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pp. 197-206

Index

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pp. 207-210