A third of a century has elapsed since Ben Nutter first set foot upon Texas soil, a period covering an era of the state’s most rapid and substantial development, and when the most strenuous efforts of her citizenship have been exerted in her moral and material welfare. It was an era that tried men’s courage, their constitutions and their genuine manhood, and sifted and sorted the inhabitants until, at the opening of the twentieth century, it is an homogeneous mass, wielding a power for ideal citizenship and good government.
In a youth of nineteen it required stable qualities and a good mental poise to enter Texas as early as 1872, and pass through the fiery tests following closely upon the heels of reconstruction and preceding the quiet calm of settled and restful social conditions without the finger of suspicion pointing in his direction and with character standing, upon the near approach of the evening of life, unassailed and unimpeached. Of the number in this category, who so guided and guarded their career as to merit the approval of fair-minded men and retain the respect and win the esteem of his fellow-man, it is our privilege and our pleasure to include Ben Nutter, the subject of this review.
The birth of Mr. Nutter occurred in Scott county, Kentucky, March 22, 1853, and two years later, his father, Ben Nutter, took his family to Ray county, Missouri, where the farm life of that semi-frontier year. The Nutters of the earlier generations followed grain and stock raising on a modest scale and the Kentucky founder of the family was William Nutter, the grandfather of our Clay county subject. The old Nutter patriarch passed away in Scott county and was the father of William, of Higginsville, Missouri; Clem and John, of Scott county, Kentucky, and Ben, the father of our subject.
Ben Nutter, Sr., married Sarah Coleman, a daughter of a Kentucky farmer, and died in Ray county, Missouri, in 1862, at the age of forty-one, while his widow survived until 1895, dying at the age of sixty-nine. The issue of their marriage was: Mary, wife of William Parker, of Richmond, Missouri; William, of the same point; John, deceased; Ben, our subject; Henry and Clem, of Richmond, Missouri, and Margaret, wife of Lynch Smith, of Richmond, Missouri.
On account of the war situation in his childhood, Ben Nutter failed to acquire a good common school education and he was contributing something from his labors to the family support at a very young and childlike age. In the autumn of 1872, when he decided to become a citizen of Texas, he left home with a team of mules and a wagon in company with a half dozen young men from his neighborhood, and stopped first in Fannin county where he made two cotton crops the first years. In Red River county he traded his team for a small bunch of cattle and thus his team for a small bunch of cattle and thus acquired his nucleus in the cattle business in the Lone Star state. He drove his sixty head of stock to Clay county and held them on the Little Wichita river where he secured employment with H. C. Bailey, and was with him some three years. His next employers were Glen Halsell, Baldwin and Harness, and, about 1885, ceased to ride the range for others and devoted his time to the interests of Nutter & Neville, which partnership had been formed as early as 1878.
The firm of Nutter & Neville had handicapped by the lack of means to push an independent business, and while one looked after their company interests the other worked for wages to hold him up. Eventually they leased the Harness pasture and continued to hold their growing herd on leased lands for several years. In 1896 W. H. Myers joined them in the purchase of fifty-seven hundred acres of land lying southwest of Henrietta and the firm of Myers, Nutter & Neville existed, in the cattle business for some time, when Mr. Myers sold his interest to his partners who have since operated the ranch. Their pasture is stocked with fifteen hundred head of mixed stock and their brand, a diamond on the left hip, thigh and side, is one of the best known in Clay county.
The life of the cowboy when the range was open and limited only by the horizon was not all feathers and flowers. The cattle was first in the thoughts of their owners, and weather conditions nor the time of day or night did not govern the cowboy’s movements. If it were necessary to remain with the herd through the night or in the wettest or the coldest weather he picked his horse, rolled up in his blankets and slept the sleep of the righteous in the open air. It was no infrequent occurrence, as Mr. Nutter declares, for them to find themselves lying in two inches of water and not know that it had been ranching, or to ride for days with little sheep and harboring an appetite that would turn a meat-ax into a frenzied fit.
Mr. Nutter’s individual real property embraces a pasture of some seventeen hundred acres upon which his ranch residence is situated and where his farming operations are carried on. Until he was married he made his home with his employers or his partner, but for the past dozen years he employers or his partner, but for the past dozen years he has reclined under his own “vine and fig tree.” November 8, 1892, Mr. Nutter married Mamie, a daughter of Joseph L. Edwards, of Knox county, Illinois, a federal soldier during the Civil war and a pioneer lawyer to Cherokee county, Kansas. Mr. Edwards married Della Douglass and Mrs. Nutter and L. H. Edwards, of Denver, are the children of their union. Mr. Edwards died and his widow married Asbury Clark and resides in Denver, Colorado. Mrs. Nutter was born April 29, 1869, and came to Texas in 1883. She made her home at Mobetie, with an uncle, W. E. Edwards, until they removed to Clay county where she met and married her husband. The family of Mr. and Mrs. Nutter is composed of three children: Earl Benjamin, born September 18, 1894; Henry Coleman, born July 31, 1896, and Mamie K., born September 20, 1899.
Ben Nutter is one of the real characters of the old cowboy contingent and as much of his own meat was found in his commissary as the practice of early times would assure. If backs were turned when he butchered a beef it was in accordance with the unwritten law of the range and no ranchman could come nearer answering the question, “How does your beef taste?” than he.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 505-506.