Among the men who have grown up on Texas soil and achieved a fair measure of success upon the grassy sward of its northern and western frontier and whose individual trail is like a spider’s web over the plains of two territories and as many states in the pursuit of his favorite vocation, is LaFayette Abraham Wilson, of Jacksboro, named in the introduction of this personal review. His life has spanned nearly fifty years of Texas history, and while at time he residence has been briefly without the borders of the state, his interests in the Empire Commonwealth of the west has never lagged and when he finally quit the trail and chose a refuge for his declining years the Lone Star state welcomed him with her hospitable portals, as she does the worthy citizen from whatever clime and treasures them as architects and builders of her future greatness.
As a citizen of Texas we have to deal with our subject from the year 1857, when his parents with their overland caravan brought their little flock into the state and after a brief sojourn in Hill county, located on Keechi creek in the northern portion of Palo Pinto county, where their son LaFayette, grew up. They started their westward journey in Washington county, Arkansas, where February 25, 1848, the latter’s birth occurred. The father, James R. Wilson, was born in 1814, was reared to vigorous youth in Missouri and probably born in that state. At about sixteen years of age he dropped down into Arkansas, married in Washington county and was a farmer there until his departure for the Texas frontier in the prime of an active life.
The life of the senior Wilson was devoted to the stock business for nearly forty years, beginning out on Keechi creek before the Civil War and ending on a farm on Caney river in Chautauqua county, Kansas, in 1896. His was an humble beginning in Palo Pinto in that early day, a country scourged more or less with Indians until after he abandoned it, yet he made some progress up the ladder of fortune and when he transferred his interests to the Arkansas river country of Colorado, near where La Junta was subsequently located, he has accumulated a good bunch of cattle. In 1875 he again moved, this time to Adobe Walls, the Panhandle country, and in 1880 he disposed of his holdings and purchased a farm in Chautauqua county, Kansas, where general farming and a modest attempt at stock-raising occupied him until his death. As a citizen he was unassuming, without ambition beyond success in his business venture, aided Democracy in politics and served in the Home Guard during the Secession War.
In his family connections James R. Wilson had no brother but a single sister, who married a Ritter and died in Arkansas, on White river in early life. He was twice married, the first time to Elizabeth Pettigrew, who died in 1852, and the second time to Jane Hughes, who passed away in Texas in 1879, at old Fort Davis. His children by the first wife were: Charles of Roswell, New Mexico; William J. of Lawton, Oklahoma; Nancy, who married Al Anderson, a stockman on the Washita river in Oklahoma; LaFayette A. of this sketch; James P. of the Washita country, and Emma, wife of John Anderson, who also resides there. The oldest of the second family of children was Sarah, widow of Alfred Polk, of La Junta, Colorado; Henry, of Chautauqua county, Kansas; likewise John; and Bell, who married Thomas Cabbler and died in Chautauqua county, Kansas.
The little education LaFayette A. Wilson acquired was obtained in about eight months of school in Palo Pinto county and by riding some four miles to school. At seventeen years of age he ceased to be a part of his father’s domestic establishment and hired to Goodnight and Love [sic], cattle drovers, from points in Texas to near La Junta, California. In the two years he remained with them he made seven trips across the plains and he worked also for the Andersons, who handled cattle in the same way. Gradually he acquired cattle of his own and grew into a drover himself, first with a brother and afterward in his own name. In 1870 he took a bunch from Fort Griffin to La Junta, and when he disposed of them he located, in 1871, in San Saba county, Texas, where he pursued his vocation for two years, driving his stock then into Jack county, taking advantage of the open range here until 1880, when he began ranching in Crosby county. While he owned his ranch there fourteen years, closing it out by sale in 1893, in 1884, he took much of his stock to New Mexico, sixty-five miles west of Santa Fe, and maintained a ranch there till 1890, returning thence to Crosby county, Texas, and finally, in 1893, going to Day county, Oklahoma, where in 1897 he exchanged his stock and land for cash and retired, after nearly a third of a century of strenuous existence as a cow man.
Having decided to locate in some good healthy point in Texas and among old friend and neighbors, he returned to Jacksboro and purchased the old home he built in 1883, large and roomy, with extensive lawn and attractive surroundings, one of the most homelike in Jacksboro. At once upon his return to the county seat Mr. Wilson joined Henry Hensley in the erection of a three-story hotel building in Jacksboro, of Jacksboro limestone, modern in appointment and the center of interest of all the attractive business houses of the town. For some time he was the proprietor of the hotel, but following his determination to live a less strenuous life and with responsibilities reduced to the lowest ebb he leased the premises, and a land trade or a sale now and then furnishes him all the diversion he needs for the promotion of a long life.
November 2, 1880, Mr. Wilson married Charity A. Hensley, born in Carroll creek, in Jack county, in 1862, and a daughter of the late John Hensley, mentioned somewhat extendedly elsewhere in this work. Their marriage being without issue, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson have lived for each other and found happiness and contentment in their dual companionship.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 138-140.