Hey, friends. We’re only a month into 2018, but it’s already been a busy year at Under the Lone Star, and while we have great things planned, none of it would be possible without you. Thanks as always for your readership.
Have you ever wondered how Texas went from lawless wilderness to becoming the economic powerhouse it is today? It happened the same way the United States went from being just thirteen British colonies to a global superpower, because men and women of vision risked everything to achieve their dreams. One such man is the subject of today’s blog.
Christopher Columbus Slaughter was born in Sabine County, Texas on February 9, 1837, and claimed to be the first male child born of marriage under the Republic of Texas. He was born less than a year after Texas won its independence from Mexico, and he certainly was not one to squander this hard-fought freedom. History doesn’t reveal where Slaughter got his drive to succeed. Perhaps it was from his parents, or maybe it was from the scores of settlers he saw pulling a living from the land despite the dangers faced on the Texas Frontier. No matter where it came from, he hit the ground running and would eventually become one of the richest men in Texas.
As a child, young Christopher worked cattle with his father, and by the age of twelve, he was helping the family drive a herd to their new ranch in Freestone County. He became such an expert at crossing the swollen Trinity River that he hired out to drovers moving cattle to Shreveport, and by his late teens, he had saved enough money to buy out his uncle’s interest in the family herd. As a natural entrepreneur, Slaughter learned everything he could about the cattle business, and observed that the Brazos River stock was superior to their own herd, so he persuaded his father to relocate their ranch further west in Palo Pinto County. There they developed a thriving trade selling cows to Fort Belknap and the local Indian Reservations.
During the wars with the Comanche, he joined the Texas Rangers and took part in the expedition that liberated Cynthia Ann Parker. He continued to serve with the Rangers during the Civil War, providing much needed protection from those seeking to take advantage of the fact that all the troops had been moved out of the state to take part in the war. In 1861, he married Cynthia Jowell and together they had five children. After her death in 1876, Slaughter married Carrie Averill in 1877, with whom he had four children.
After the war, Slaughter led an expedition to Mexico in search of ranch land, but during the venture, he suffered an accidental gunshot that left him incapacitated. During his long recovery, he saw his fortune start to slip away, so in 1867, he organized a cattle drive to New Orleans. Along the way, he was able to make a deal for his herd with a packing company, selling them for thirty-five dollars a head and paid in gold.
Flush with cash, Slaughter began regular drives to Kansas City, Missouri, where he sold his cows for as much as forty-two dollars a head. With his fortune, he expanded his interests into cattle breeding and bought many acres of land in West Texas, including the Long S Ranch in 1877, which stretched from Plainview to Big Spring. Eventually he became one of the largest land owners in the state, and the largest tax payer. By the time he was done, he owned over one-million acres of land stretching across nine west Texas counties earning him the name “Cattle King of Texas.”
During the 1870’s, he diversified into banking, establishing both City Bank and American National Bank in Dallas. Christopher Columbus Slaughter was not only a rancher and businessman, but was also a devout Christian, and he used a large portion of his riches to help the church. He donated two-thirds of the cost for the construction of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and he also contributed to the establishment of the Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium, which later became Baylor Hospital.
In 1910, Slaughter suffered a serious hip injury that caused a steep decline in his health. Unable to maintain the rigorous demands of running his many businesses, he turned control of them over to his oldest son, George. On January 25, 1919, Christopher Columbus Slaughter died at his home in Dallas.
The history of Texas was built on the dreams and ambitions of ordinary people who put everything on the line to see their vision come to life. It is these same types of visionaries that today are creating the history of future generations. What is dreamt today will become tomorrow’s reality. Until next time, saddle up, get out there, and enjoy all that the great state of Texas has to offer.