LAMESA — Joseph Conner, like many pioneers in the late 1800s, pursued many occupations during his lifetime from rancher to lawman including Dawson County sheriff.
Joseph attended school as a youth, but he credited most of his training resulted from driving horses on the range, handling livestock and in farm work. He was 19 when he left his home in Lampasas County and landed in Lipscomb County in the Texas Panhandle.
After six years, he relocated to Fort McKavett for one year before moving to Coke County, where he remained until 1894, when he came to Lamesa. When he arrived on the South Plains, the country was still open range where wandering cattlemen, buffaloes, coyotes and jackrabbits ruled, according to Texas Genealogy Trails.
Prior to cattlemen arriving, Comanche and Kiowa Indians were more or less the main inhabitants. In the fall of 1875, the United States Infantry commanded by Colonel William Rufus Shafter, visited the area to prepare a report on the local Indians. On October 18, 1875, the company discovered an Indian encampment at Laguna Sabinas or Cedar Lake, the legendary birthplace of Quanah Parker; the band escaped to the west. The Shafter party made the first wagon roads on the plains, according to Handbook of Texas online.
Named for San Jacinto veteran Nicholas M. Dawson, Dawson County was created from Bexar District in 1876. Ranching started in the 1880s and farming after 1900.
Word was soon out that the grasslands on the Plains would produce fat cattle. In turn, cattlemen moved south of the Caprock to the new lands. By the mid-1880s, four ranches, C.C. Slaughter’s Lazy S, the TJF Ranch, the Fish and the Bartow occupied most of the Dawson County rangeland. By 1890, there were 28,536 cattle reported in the county.
The Texas and Pacific Railroad reached neighboring Howard County by 1881 and Big Spring became the shipping point for the region.
Joseph was always involved in the livestock business and at one time owned four sections of land in Dawson County. He sold most of the ranch when he moved into Lamesa and entered politics.
Joseph Franklin “Frank” Conner was born January 12, 1862 in Lampasas County to John Fletcher Conner and Mary Tolbert Tartelott Conner. He was the ninth in a family of 14 children.
His father, John Conner, was born December 8, 1827, at Fayette Junction in Washington County, Arkansas. He and Mary Tartelott were married in 1847. They had 10 children: Clarasa Ann Conner Kennedy (1848-1902), Elizabeth Annett Conner Wright (1848-1929), Sarah Sahrena Conner Williams (1851-1920), Hiram Jasper Conner (1854-1923), Silas M. Conner (1858-1945), John Fletcher Conner (1859-1935), Joseph Franklin Conner Jr. (1862-1925), Rebecca Theodocia Conner Brown (1868-1951), Dollie Lucinda Conner Brown (1871-1948), and Emma Jane Conner (1873-1960).
John and Mary Tartelott Conner came to Texas in 1848, only about three years after Texas entered the union. They settled in Bastrop County, where they had a livestock operation. A few years later they moved to Williamson County before coming to Lampasas County. He died February 1, 1910 in Swisher County. Mary was born in 1828 in New York State and came to Arkansas with her parents. She died in November 1894. They are both buried at Sanco Cemetery in Coke County.
Joseph Conner and Mary Frances “Mollie” Poe were married April 12, 1888 in Fort McKavett. They had 10 children: Eula Mae Conner Trammell (1889-1972), J. Frank Conner (1890-1955), Liddie Pearl Conner Dennis (1892-1972), Hoyel H. Conner (1894-1974), William Fletcher Conner (1896-1976), Robert Slaughter Conner (1898-1982), Jack Joseph Conner (1900-1961), Dollie Bell Conner Owens (1903-1930), Silas Daniel Conner (1905-1959), and Thelma A. Conner Smith (1909-2001).
Joseph announced as a candidate for Dawson County tax assessor in 1908. He failed to be elected but was elected sheriff and tax collector in 1910 and re-elected in 1912.
On June 24, 1918 he enlisted in the Texas Rangers as a Loyalty Ranger. Loyalty Rangers worked undercover as a State Secret Service under the Hobby Loyalty Act of 1918. He also was a brand inspector in Midland County from 1914 until 1919.
In February 1919, Joseph became a range boss for the C.C. Slaughter Cattle Company on ranches in Hockley and Cochran Counties.
In 1920, he was living in Slaton, Lubbock County. He died July 16, 1925 in Swisher County and Mary Frances Conner was 80 at her death December 31, 1952. They are buried in Englewood Cemetery at Slaton. — firstname.lastname@example.org