John "Jingle-Bob" Chisum

Cattle King of Texas


by: Bobby McDonald


The howling winter winds of a cold storm was blowing snow through Northeast Texas, on that Christmas Day in 1884, and friends and family were gathered around the gravesite of the Chisum Family Cemetery, near Paris, in Lamar County. They were laying to rest John "Jingle-Bob" Chisum, one of the great Cattle Kings of Texas, who had died a few days earlier in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, from a throat tumor, silencing one of the all-time greats.



John Simpson Chisum had been born on August 15, 1824, in Madison County, Tennessee, the son of a farmer, C.C. Chisum, who moved his family to North Texas, in 1837, first settling at Bonham (that was then called Ft. Inglish). They later moved south of Paris, Texas, in the area that today bears the family name and where Chisum High School is located.

It was in Lamar County that John Chisum was educated in a frontier school and met the "love of his life," a young girl that he never got over, and served as his "guiding star," according to historians. But, something happened, nobody knows just what, and the girl bestowed her hand in marriage elsewhere.

Heartbroken over the failure for the woman he loved, John, at age 29, left the farm and ran for political office in Lamar County, where he was elected to the position of County Clerk of Lamar County, in 1853. However, he grew restless, living in the same area as his sweetheart and her husband, and resigned the office in 1854, entering the cattle business.




Having virtually no money, Chisum sought the help of a financial backer, and found S.K. Fowler, a New Yorker, interested in Western speculation. Fowler backed the young Chisum with $6000.00 and he soon traveled south to Colorado County, Texas, and purchased 1,000 head of cattle for $6.00 each, with the calves "thrown in."

Chisum returned to North Texas and kept the cattle on the Fort Worth-Denton Range, soon adding additional cattle from another investment from Fowler. Chisum and Fowler made a 10 year contract to share in profits.

With the range near Ft. Worth "filling up" from settlement, Chisum had a vision to move west and located near the Concho River in West Texas, in 1862. Here he found free and open range and good grass. The Civil War had begun and he managed to get a contract of selling to the Confederacy beeves for $40.00 per head, and profited handsomely. Fortunately for Chisum, throughout the war, he took the Confederate money and purchased more cattle, so he was one of the few people that profited from the war.

When the war was over and his partnership expired with Fowler, Chisum formed Chisum and Company and began searching for more range for his cattle. He had received a contract to supply beeves to the soldiers located at Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, and sent his brother, Pittser Chisum, to deliver them and to "check out" the New Mexico Range. Pittser returned with the money for the cattle and a "glowing report" of the range near the Pecos River in Southeastern New Mexico.



John Chisum moved his large herd to the area and purchased additional cattle, marking them with a "slash" brand from shoulder to hip, on the side, and his famous "jingle-bob" ear mark, that cut the cattle's ears to let a section drop down in the "jingle-bob" fashion. The ear marks gave Chisum his nickname and his mark was known throughout the west.





Chisum continued to increase his herds to over 100,000 head. However, both Indians and white men began to thieve his cattle, rustling them from his range, because the area of his domain was so large. Finally, the rustling was so bad that Chisum hired 100 men to help him patrol his range and kill rustlers "on site."
And, it was during this time that Chisum became acquainted with Billy the Kid and other famous outlaws. In the end, Chisum "backed" Sheriff Pat Garret, who eventually killed "The Kid." However, Chisum was involved in the Lincoln County War, of New Mexico fame, and it was on one night in a saloon, that Billy the Kid, threatened to shoot Chisum. Unarmed, Chisum was reported to have looked him in the eye and told him that he didn't have the guts to pull the trigger. The Kid backed-down from the cattle giant.



John "Jingle Bob" Chisum is portrayed in this statue and declared "Cattle King of the Pecos."

Fighting Indian marauders and cattle rustlers, Chisum sold some 55,000 head to the Hunter-Evans partnership and had to scour his range to fill the contract, because so many cattle had been stolen from him. John Chisum managed to get enough cattle to fill the order but he was virtually broke after getting them and paying his help. In poor health, he left New Mexico and headed to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, known for its "healing" powers and hoped to recuperate. However, it was during the convalescence that he died, at age 60.

Friends and family returned his body to Lamar County and buried it in the Chisum Family Cemetery, on Christmas Day 1884. The cattle king, who once was one of the largest cattlemen in Texas would roam the range no more. And, he died a bachelor, never "getting over," the young lady who stole his heart, as a youth, in the Paris, Texas area.