POST, Texas — Lee Byrd was only eight years old in 1885 but remembered when coming to Garza County from Young County with his parents and settling in a dugout on Grape Creek.

The dimensions of the dugout were 14 by 18 feet. It was roofed with logs covered with dirt and had sliding windows in the section above the ground. At first they cooked in pots and ovens outside the dugout. Later they used a wood stove inside.

The family later moved to another dugout in Kent County and a short time later to Snyder so Lee could attend school.

Joseph Lee “Jody” Byrd was born June 8, 1877 in Jack County to William “Bill” Byrd and Ingy Davidson Byrd.

Lee was 16 years old when he was driving a herd to market and a big rain storm stampeded the cattle. He was thrown from his horse and almost trampled. He pulled off his slicker and waved it at the cows to head them off.

Another time, he was driving 4000 head of four-year-olds to Amarillo during a Drouth. They went two days without water before coming to a little shack beside a windmill. The thirsty cattle tore down both the shack and windmill.

Byrd said dancing was the cowboy’s main recreation at the bunkhouse. “Some of them would tie rags around their arms and dance the girl’s part while the rest danced as men. The Schottische and square dances were the most popular. Another time, he attended a regular dance that lasted until 10 a.m. the next day.

In his early twenties, Lee was cowboying for the Two Circle Bar Ranch near Clairemont in Kent County when he met Miss Ida VanPelt at a dance in the courthouse.

Although Clairemont is now considered a ghost town, it was the first county seat when Kent County was organized in 1892. In 1895 a sandstone courthouse and matching jail were constructed. The town had several stores, a bank, a newspaper and a hotel.

Lee Byrd and Ida VanPelt, born September 17, 1885 in Parker County, were married in 1903. They were married in their buggy by Judge Jay.

“We tried to run off to get married,” Ida said. “But by the time we got to the Judge’s house, there were 40 buggies there.” After the wedding, they went to a horse race, then to a big dance that night.

The couple’s first home was a 16 by 24 foot dugout located at the foot of Cooper Mountain on two sections (1280 acres) of land Lee had acquired.

“It was very up-to-date, Ida said, “with sliding glass windows and a tarp on the floor.”

According to “Wagon Wheels – A History of Garza County”, the Byrd’s first children, twin daughters were born while living in the dugout. Ida went to Clairemont and stayed with her mother before the girls were born in 1904. Lillian Bell Byrd died shortly after birth but Vivian “Bibb” Byrd lived to adulthood and married Charlie Pierce.

The Byrd family soon moved to the Hart Ranch in Kent County where Lee was foreman. Later, they relocated to the LP Ranch owned by the Fullers, 20 miles north of Snyder. Their son, Robert Sidney “Buddy” Byrd, was born June 22, 1906, three months before they moved. Lee would work there 22 years.

In 1936, the Byrds returned to the OS Ranch when Lee signed on as manager. It had been 40 years since Lee first worked there. This time, they lived in the big two-story headquarters with a large screened-in porch.

My recollection of that house goes back to the 1970s when the OS Ranch played host to a weekend roping, art show and sale benefiting West Texas Boys Ranch at Tankersley, west of San Angelo. That is where I first met Ken Curtis (Festus Haggen of television’s Gunsmoke series.).

The OS Ranch was consolidated from the Overall and Street Ranch south of Fluvanna. It was open range country in the 1880s but when the Long Brothers took over, they purchased additional land and built fences.

In 1901, the Longs sold all their holdings, including 26,411 acres of school land and various grass leases to W.E. Connell, John Scarborough and E.W. Clark for a price tag of $40,000. They also sold their herd of 9500 stock cattle, 312 bulls and 118 horses, together with all wagons, harnesses, scrapers, cooking and camp equipment for an additional $200,239, according to the Garza County history book.

Connell, a banker from Fort Worth, purchased Scarborough’s one-fourth interest of 55,371 acres in 1909 and E.W. Clark’s one-fourth interest of 57,169 acres in 1913. He became the sole owner of the OS, except for 27,175 acres the partners had sold to Charles William “C.W.” Post (1854-1914) in 1906. Post was an American inventor, breakfast cereal and foods manufacturer.

Byrd was the OS Ranch manager for five years before going to the Spinning Ranch for four years.

After that, Lee and Buddy leased a ranch in Martin County. Later, Buddy married Louise Moore and moved to Midland. Lee and Ida retired and moved into Post.

Joseph Lee Byrd was 82 when he died February 12, 1960. Ida VanPelt Byrd died April 19, 1972 at 86. Vivian Byrd Pierce died in 1991. Robert Sidney Byrd died May 13, 1974 at 67. – jlackey@wcc.net

 

800-284-5268
325-949-4611

PO Box 3306
San Angelo TX 76902

800-284-5268
325-949-4611

PO Box 3306
San Angelo TX 76902