JAMES N. STUART, a prominent man of affairs in Palo Pinto county, for over forty-five years identified with its industrial and business development, is at the head of the firm of J. N. Stuart and Sons, whose business interests center at the town of Strawn, but which extend pretty well all over the county. Mr. Stuart is a most representative old-time cattleman, merchant, capitalist, of the class which has accomplished most for the material welfare and upbuilding of this state. A man in the shadow of his seventieth year, Mr. Stuart was born in 1837, in Monroe county, Tennessee, a son of Richard and Iri (McCray) Stuart. This branch of the Stuart family is descended from the Mary Stuart ancestry of England and Scotland, and when its progenitors came to this country they settled first in Virginia and then later crossed over the mountains and settled in Tennessee, Kentucky, and other states to the west of the Old Dominion. When the son James was ten years old his parents moved to Lawrence county, Missouri, where they lived until the early part of 1859, when they moved to Palo Pinto county, Texas, this early settlement making them one of the old-time families of the county. They settled on a place on Palo Pinto creek, about two miles a little south of east of the present town of Strawn, in the southwestern part of the county. Here the parents made for themselves a comfortable home, as far as that was possible in such pioneer surroundings, and here their last years were spent and death found them.
When James N. Stuart came to this county he was a young married man, with abundance of energy and great ambition to do well in the new country. He at once began th3e hard work which has been responsible for the development of his large material interests. In those early days, as is still true to a considerable extent, cattle was the foundation industry in West Texas, and it was in this business that Mr. Stuart got his start, and stock still forms the principal feature of the Stuart enterprises. Mr. Stuart remained on the home place with his parents until after their death, and in 1874 moved to his present home ranch, his residence being in what is now the town of Strawn, and was the first residence on the site of that town, which, however, was not established until the advent of the Texas and Pacific Railroad in 1881.
Mr. Stuart has seen and experienced many of the phases of pioneer history described on the various pages of this work. Preceding, during and subsequent to the Civil war, Palo Pinto county, though now situated so securely within the precincts of civilization, was exposed to the ravages and outlawry of the Indian tribes. The property of the settlers was never safe from the red men, and oftentimes in the defense of that the white men lost their lives. Mr. Stuart and the other members of his family suffered much from these depredations, which were not finally ended until the seventies; he has often protected his home with the trusty gun, has joined his neighbors in pursuit of cattle thieves, and can related many incidents of the desultory Indian warfare which made Texas a battleground long after other parts of the United States had been entirely conquered to civilization and peaceful industry.
In the days before the railroads Mr. Stuart made frequent trips over the old trail to Kansas with his cattle. As his operations extended he increased his land holdings, reaching northward from the home place, until now the Stuart estate comprises over fifteen thousand acres of land, with the town of Strawn its southern boundary, and for two sections in width extending north about half the length of the county. At one place a section and a half laps over into Stephens county. Ioni creek flows through the northern part of the estate, and Palo Pinto creek through the southern part. There are two ranch headquarters, at the north and at the south end of the domain, and besides the vast range afforded by this large amount of acreage, three small farms have been set aside for systematic cultivation in general farm and feed crops. The whole comprises one of the largest and richest ranches that now remains in Texas. In addition to this extensive acreage already mentioned, certain large bodies of land have been sold to the coal companies which have developed the now important coal mining industry of Strawn. Other parts of the Stuart ranch have prospects of coal, and these, taken in connection with the increasing value of lands in Palo Pinto county, make the Stuart holdings a very rich possession.
For many years Mr. Stuart was associated as partner with S. B. Strawn (whose history is given elsewhere) in the cattle business and, for a time, in the lumber business (Stuart and Strawn), and this firm donated much of the land on which the town of Strawn was built. Mr. Stuart is responsible for much of the progress and upbuilding of his home town, and during the early history of the town was connected with all the prominent business enterprises there. As his sons grew to young manhood the firm of J. N. Stuart and Sons was established, which company engaged extensively in mercantile undertakings, the last and perhaps the most important of which was their drug store. Mr. Stuart established the first lumber yard in the town, and he was also in the grocery, hardware and feed trade. Although these mercantile interests have of recent years been disposed of, the firm of J. N. Stuart and Sons is still continued in existence for the operation of the land and cattle business. This firm, so well known and exerting such a large influence throughout this section of the state, consists of Mr. Stuart and his four sons—Thomas B., Joseph P., William B. and S. James, each of whom has charge of a separate department of the business. All of these sons were born in Texas, and inherit the progressiveness and ability of their honored father. One of the specialties of the firm is the breeding of high-grade Durham cattle, and they have been foremost in this section of the state in grading up cattle. Also they are dealers in farms, ranches, live stock of all kinds, and town property.
A man of broad-gauge principles and general public spirit and enterprise, Mr. Stuart has also figured as a prominent factor in building up the educational and church institutions of Strawn, contributing to all such with the open-handed generosity so characteristic of the western cattleman. But during the past three or four years his activities have been very much limited, owing to a stroke of paralysis in his left side which has practically made him an invalid and necessitated a confinement that is particularly irksome to a man of vigorous physique who has always found his greatest pleasure in wholesome and strenuous activity. At the same time this sound constitution enables him to bear his present infirmity with much patience and courage.
Mr. Stuart has fraternal affiliations with the Knights of Pythias, and he and his wife are members of the Methodist church. He was married in Lawrence county, Missouri, to Miss Sarah Allen, who was born in Giles county, Tennessee, and in babyhood was brought to Lawrence county by her parents. Mr. and Mrs. Stuart’s children are the fours sons who have already been mentioned.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 651-653.