DREWRY L. MIDDLETON.—The prosperity of Texas has resulted from the cattle industry and prominent among the cattlemen of this great state is Drewry L. Middleton, whose branch is older than of any representative of the business in Texas. His has been a very eventful career, full of exciting incidents, incurred because of the wild and unsettled condition of the country when he began herding on the plains of the southwest. He has witnessed many changes, bearing his full share in the work of progress and improvement, and today, as the result of his industry and careful management, he is one of the prosperous cattle dealers in this part of the country.
The family name is one which figures largely on the pages of southern history. His father, John W. Middleton, in a little work written by him on the “Regulators and Moderators and the Shelby County War” of 1841-2, says : “It is fitting before I enter upon my narrative, that I give a brief biography of myself with some mention of my ancestry. John Middleton, a grandfather, was an American soldier in the war of the Revolution and was present at the battle of the Cowpens and Guilford court house; served under Gates until his defeat and then under Greene until the close of the war. He was the officer sent to arrest Champ, who was sent after Arnold, the traitor, who betrayed his country to the British, and pursued him so closely that he got his cloak, as Champ got too far into the deep water of the sea for him to be followed. After the Revolution he belonged to a company to sustain law and order and assisted to maintain it by constant efforts to arrest and bring to justice violators of the law……. My mother was Martha Tubb and my great-grandfather, George Tubb, Sr., was under Washington at the time of Braddock’s defeat and at the battle of Bunker Hill. He, his two brothers and all their sons over the age of fourteen years, were in the Colonial Army, under the immediate command of General Washington during the entire Revolutionary war and all survived but one.”
During the Creek war of 1812, Drewry Middleton, father of John W. Middleton, was an active participant in the exciting events of that period. In connection with the battle of the horse-shoe we again quote: “In this battle my father, Drewry Middleton, participated actively, being in the thickest of the fight. Going forward at the command of General Coffee, with two men from each company to act as an advance and give information of the enemy, he was separated from the main command and remained upon the battlefield and fought until he was the last or among the last to leave the ground. The line of march was then taken up for home, when the men were discharged.” John W. Middleton was born in Tennessee, in 1808, and became a mechanic. He married Miss Mary A. Chalk, a native of North Carolina. Removing to Shelby county, Texas, in 1837, he divided his time between farming and working at his trade. In 1851 he removed to Van Zandt county and devoted his whole time to farming, at which he proved very successful. In 1859 he went to Erath county, where he engaged in the cattle business, and in 1868 he exchanged his cattle for horses. The following year he removed to Hood county, Texas, where he died in 1898. He reached a ripe old age and was vigorous mentally but suffered much physically from five gunshot wounds received during his life. He was waylaid and shot in four different parts of the body by Jim and Henry Stricklin, both of whom were afterward killed during the Regulator and Moderator War, in 1842. Two years later, while attempting to arrest Jack Crane for smuggling confiscated goods, Mr. Middleton was shot and terribly mangled, his assailant using slugs of lead for bullets, and so near him that his clothes were set on fire. He did not fall from his horse, but rode two miles to his home, his clothes burning and his arms so badly mangled he could not use them. The story of his life and many deeds of bravery was prominent for a half century among the pathfinders of the plains.
Drewry Landrom Middleton, like the average frontier boy, had few advantages in childhood. He was raised a poor farmer boy, working for his daily bread, securing only a little education while attending the sessions of a school held four miles from his home in a little log cabin, to and from which he walked. He was named for his grandfather, Drewry Middleton, and Colonel Landrom, of Shelby county, Texas, a hero of the Mexican war. While not a native Texan, having been born at Holly Springs, Mississippi, April 16, 1837, Drewry L. Middleton has spent the greater part of his life on the frontier of this state as a ranger and running cattle. In 1856, at the age of nineteen years, he left the old farm and was married to Miss Mary W. Odell, an orphan who was reared by “Father” Eli Gilliland, her grandsire and one of the first cattlemen of the state. Mr. and Mrs. Middleton began their domestic life in Van Zandt county, near the present site of the town of Wills Point, embarking in the cattle business with a few head of cattle and borrowing money to buy their little home. Prosperity attended every business enterprise to which Mr. Middleton gave his attention, and in 1860, finding that his constantly increasing herd of cattle needed a larger range, he decided to move farther west and became a resident of Erath county, at which time he owned a large bunch of horses and one thousand head of cattle, which was then considered an extensive herd for northern Texas. There he staked a claim and turned his cattle and ponies out to graze.
A few weeks afterward he crossed the Brazos river into what is now Hood county, Texas, to gather some cattle that had strayed. Returning the next day he camped in the same spot as on the preceding day and was surprised to see there had been two campfires instead of one, while Indian moccasins told the tale. He abandoned his cattle and, putting spurs to his pony, rode home, where lie found his wife and two babies standing in the yard waiting for him. She informed him the Indians had come, killed their nearest neighbor, stolen all the ponies in that section and that all the men in the neighborhood were out on the trail. This was enough to warn him of the awful risk of leaving wives and babies unprotected and he immediately yoked up two oxen to his schooner wagon, leaving his cattle on the range, and started with his family to a place of safety. He stopped on Mustang creek, in Tarrant county, remaining there throughout the remainder of the summer and winter, and the following spring located on Rucker’s creek, in Hood county.
This was in 1861 and soon afterward he enlisted in the Confederate army, as a member of Company K, Fifth Texas Mounted Volunteers, commanded by Colonel Tom Green, this being the second regiment in General Sibley’s brigade. He has seen active service through various campaigns and was a participant in all the trans-Mississippi fighting, which was principally a skirmish warfare. The principal engagements in which the regiment took part were at Mansfield, Pleasant Hill, Marksville Prairie, Moroville and Yellow Bayou. These were a series of engagements with only a few days intervening, as they followed up the enemy on their retreat. His brave wife, during that period, unaided and buffeting the dangers and hazards of frontier life, supported herself and her two children and eight others dependent upon her.
After the war, Mr. Middleton returned to his family, whose possessions consisted of good health and a dozen cows, and began the battle of life anew. He engaged in freighting, buying five yoke of oxen on credit, and his first load was salt from East Texas, a commodity that brought ten dollars a sack. He followed freighting and trading two years and then took advantage of the demoralization of the cattle industry, the war having broken up and scattered the herds throughout the state. He bought cattle to the value of thirteen thousand five hundred dollars to be found and gathered wherever possible. Having no money he gave notes for this amount. In two years he had paid off all his obligations and branded eight hundred cattle as his profit. At this time he fenced the first pasture ever enclosed in Hood county. With this second start his cattle business constantly increased until the agitation and legislation concerning the free grass, which checked the whole cattle industry. Mr. Middleton was at one time cattle inspector. His brand is sixty years old, the oldest on record in the state, and his dealings date back to the days when cattlemen gave each other power of attorney to look after mutual interests on the ranges all over the plains. Each handled the other’s branding iron and branded and disposed of the other’s cattle when found on their range, and settled once a year at the general round-up—a mark of honesty and trust never found in any other line of trade. As the years advanced Mr. Middleton prospered in his undertakings and is now in a financial position that will enable him to spend the evening of life in ease and comfort, without further recourse to labor. He and his sons have a ranch in Jones county of ten thousand acres, on which they carry one thousand stock cattle and one hundred ponies, and they lease pasturage each year in the Creek nation in the Indian Territory, on which they fatten cattle for the market.
Mr. Middleton has been a member of the Masonic fraternity since 1865, taking his first degrees at Weatherford, Texas. In 1874 he became a member of the chapter at Cleburne and was made a Knight Templar in Abilene in 1891. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Middleton, seven in number, are all living: Elizabeth, the wife of J. M. Daugherty, of Abilene; Martha M., the widow of John A. Wisenhurst; D. H., who resides at Abilene; A. C. living in Jones county; Virginia O., the wife of J. A. Ryburn, who resides in Cresson, Hood county, Texas; Tarleton, living in Abilene; and Charles O., also of Abilene. The sons are all associated with their father in the cattle industry, except the youngest, who is a traveling salesman.
The life history of Mr. Middleton, if written in detail, would furnish a most interesting and authentic picture of an important epoch in Texas history, and would especially set forth the conditions met by the cattleman, as he has braved the dangers of Indian attack and his depredations upon the live stock, also faced the usual hard-ships of frontier life and likewise the trying conditions brought on by the war. All this Mr. Middleton knows from actual experience and he is to-day one of the typical men of the southwest, who in the face of obstacles has won fortune.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 615-617.