FRANK E. WHEELOCK has been a foremost man of affairs and influence in Lubbock county from before its time of organization, having been actively connected with the immense cattle ranch which only a few years ago—but before the time of most of the present residents—covered most of what is now Lubbock county. Mr. Wheelock, being a man of great business energy and force of character, has naturally been foremost in various enterprises and events which have taken place in the history of the county, and his life work, if described in detail, would contain a narrative of all of importance that has been effected in the county during the past seventeen or eighteen years.
Born in Erie county, New York, in 1863, he lost his mother when he was a child and does not remember her maiden name. His father, a native of Erie county and reared on a farm, later became a physician, graduating from the medical department of the university of Michigan. For several years of his life he practiced medicine at Boston, Massachusetts, San Antonio, Texas, and in one or two other places. He died at Lubbock in February, 1902.
At the age of six years Mr. Wheelock went west with his father, who located first at Madison, Wisconsin, then lived a while in North Dakota, and from there went to Rock Island county, Illinois. His school days were nearly all spent at Moline, Illinois. When a young man he went to Minneapolis and for some time had a position with S. J. Palmer, a fruit commission merchant of that city. Through his uncle, of Moline, he secured the position as manager of the Iowa ranch in Lubbock county. He arrived in this part of Texas on May 1, 1887, three years before the county was organized. The Iowa ranch was owned by the Western Land and Live Stock Company, in which his uncle Wheelock had a controlling interest.
This uncle of Mr. Wheelock’s, it should be stated, was a millionaire manufacturer of Moline, now deceased, and as is the case with so many other men of his class there is a romantic interest attached to the career by which he made his way from obscurity to financial renown. Starting in life as a poor boy in Erie county, New York, in the early days he came on foot to Chicago, with his clothes and a few belongings carried in a red bandana handkerchief swung on a stick across his shoulder; came out to Rock Island county and obtained employment in a sawmill near Moline, afterward buying an interest in the mill; later establishing a paper mill at Moline, and in its struggling days he took the paper product from the mill and peddled it himself from a wagon to grocers and other merchants, there being very limited railroad facilities in those days. Thus his interests continued to grow form year to year, until in the city of which he was one of the pioneers he became one of the foremost manufacturers, and at the time of his death was a millionaire, and president of the following corporations, the first one especially being known all of the world: Moline Plow Company, Moline Malleable Iron Works, Moline Paper Company, Moline National Bank.
The Iowa ranch, of which Mr. Wheelock became general manager In 1887, comprised at that time 86,940 acres, an immense demesne which took up a large part of the entire county, and there was only one other established ranch in the country in 1887. Only a small part of the Iowa was under fence, so that Mr. Wheelock was at once initiated into the fascinating cowboy life that prevailed in those days and which has largely passed away before the era of small fenced pastures. He continued as manager of the Iowa ranch for several years, until the Western Land and Live Stock Company finally went out of business and the land under their control was divided up into smaller areas. Mr. Wheelock then went into the cattle business for himself, and has since continued in that lien as one of the leading cattlemen of this part of the state. His ranch consists of seven sections adjoining the town of Lubbock on the east, and is very valuable property, especially in view of Lubbock’s prospects for being the leading city of the plains country. His stock is of the best, consisting of registered and high-grade Hereford cattle.
In 1897 Mr. Wheelock bought an interest in the mercantile establishment of Irvin L. Hunt in Lubbock, the firm becoming Hunt and Wheelock, which continued a prosperous business until they sold out in the latter part of 1901.
Mr. Wheelock was prominent in the townsite controversy which took place when the county was organized in 1890. He owned half the site of the town which was started north of Yellowhouse canyon and which was proposed as the county seat. But when the compromise was effected by which the town of Lubbock was started at the present place and the county seat established there, he at once lent his efforts for the up building and progress of the new town, and has been one of its most public-spirited supporters ever since. He built the Nicolette Hotel, the first hotel in the county and which has since remained the leading place of public entertainment. He was the first man to bring a self-binding harvesting machine into the county. He has been “first” in various other affairs. He was the first man in the county to get married, which happy event in his own life, and also noteworthy in the annals of the county, transpired in December, 1891, his bride being Miss Sylva B. Hunt, a sister of Mr. Irvin L. Hunt, of Lubbock, whose history appears elsewhere in this work. Mr. Wheelock was a member of the first board of county commissioners elected in the new county, their first regular meeting being held on March 19, 1891, and he served four years. Fraternally he is a Royal Arch Mason, and his wife is a member of the Methodist church.
In the fall of 1904 the first cotton gin in Lubbock county was established at Lubbock, and Mr. Wheelock was one of the backers of this enterprise, which will result in the encouragement of cotton growing in a county which has hitherto been devoted almost exclusively to stock raising, and as an already demonstrated success cotton culture will prove of untold benefit in accelerating the growth and development of Lubbock county.
Mr. and Mrs. Wheelock have six children: Cyril E., Eve M., Elwin B., Howard E., Fern and William A.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 646-647.