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CONRAD, FRANK EBEN

CONRAD, FRANK EBEN (1842–1892). Frank Eben Conrad, frontier merchant, was born on May 4, 1842, at Rockford, Illinois. After his parents' death in Tampa, Florida, he was taken to San Antonio, Texas, and reared by an uncle and aunt. He was clerking in his uncle's store at the outbreak of the Civil War. He enlisted in Hood's Texas Brigade and served with the organization until the end of the war. Upon the Union reoccupation of Fort McKavett in 1868, Conrad was appointed post trader. In 1871 he became post trader at Fort Griffin, where he established an enviable reputation as a frontier merchant. During the Indian campaigns from 1872 to 1875, Fort Griffin was Ranald S. Mackenzie's supply base, and Conrad's post store did a thriving business with the soldiers. Upon the conclusion of the Indian campaigns, the buffalo kill in Texas got under way, and Conrad's store supplied buffalo hunters with guns, large quantities of ammunition, and provisions of all kinds. Conrad grubstaked the hunters, advanced them cash, accepted orders for cash to their skinners, and bought their hides as they were freighted in from the range. Conrad provided an iron safe from which his cash payments were made and in which the hunters and employees deposited their money. For these services he became known as a banker.

By 1875 the drovers of South Texas had blazed the Western Trail to Kansas. Conrad's post store was for the first few years the only provisioning point on the trail, and later his store in the town of Fort Griffin and a new store at Albany continued to get a major share of the drovers' trade. At various times he had partners in his general merchandise business, the best known of whom was Charles Rath. Conrad and Rath moved their $40,000 stock from the post store to the town of Fort Griffin in December 1879. When they became associated as partners, the buffalo kill was about over, but they bought large quantities of buffalo bones (see BONE BUSINESS) and specialized in drovers' supplies and supplies for ranchmen moving into the area. In 1880 Rath withdrew from the partnership; Conrad continued under the name of Conrad and Company and in 1881 opened a branch business at Albany. In 1882, when that town became the terminus of the Texas Central Railroad, he moved to Albany, advertising, as he had in Fort Griffin, that he carried the largest stock of merchandise west of Fort Worth. In the middle 1880s Conrad became one of the largest wool buyers on the frontier, did a thriving business in buffalo robes, continued to buy bones, and did a wholesale business in pecans.

In 1889 his advertisement in an Albany paper stated that his business had been established since 1870 and summarized his career: "We were here in Early Times. We were here in Indian Times. We sold goods in Soldier Times. We did a little business here in Buffalo Times. We went slow here in Hard Times. We handled wool here in Sheepmen's Times. We boomed things here in Booming Times." Having acquired a ranch in Shackelford County, Conrad retired in 1891 to devote his time to ranching. He was married twice. All that is known of his first wife is that she was from Tennessee and that he divorced her sometime prior to 1880; they had one son. On April 22, 1881, Conrad married Rose Ellen Matthews; they had five children. He committed suicide in Albany on May 4, 1892.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Don Hampton Biggers, Shackelford County Sketches (Albany, Texas: Albany News Office, 1908; rpt., ed. Joan Farmer, Albany and Fort Griffin, Texas: Clear Fork Press, 1974). Carl Coke Rister, Fort Griffin on the Texas Frontier (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956).

J. R. Webb

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

J. R. Webb, "CONRAD, FRANK EBEN," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fco44), accessed October 31, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.