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Despite ranchhands' desperate rides, Panhandle cattleman dies of smallpox

March
16
1883

On this day in 1883, pioneer Panhandle rancher Joe Morgan died of smallpox despite the heroic efforts of two of his cowboys. Little is known of Morgan's life before he arrived in Texas in 1877. He located his spread in Lipscomb County on a Canadian River tributary. Morgan was a charter member of the Panhandle Stock Association, organized in 1880, and served on the Wheeler County grand jury in 1882. By the summer of that year he was reported to have significantly increased his rangeland. Because of his triangle brand, his ranch became known locally as the Triangle. In March 1883 he and his two small sons came down with smallpox. Edward H. Brainard, who had been working at the Triangle for two months, rode thirty-five miles to Mobeetie for a doctor while another ranchhand, Frank Biggers, rode 150 miles to Fort Dodge, Kansas, trying to find a doctor there in time to save his employer's life. Though both doctors came, it was too late to save Joe Morgan. Brainard and another cowboy, John Dilly, drove Mrs. Morgan and the two boys to Fort Dodge with the doctor in hopes of saving them there. Six-month-old Johnny recovered, but his three-year-old brother died. Mrs. Morgan eventually sold the ranch to Henry W. Cresswell.

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