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GROOM, B. B.

GROOM, B. B. (1812–1906). B. B. (Colonel) Groom, cattleman, was born in England about 1812. As a young man he married Elizabeth Thomson, whose father was among the breeders of Bates shorthorn cattle in England; they had a son. Sometime after their marriage the young couple migrated to the United States, where for forty years the colonel engaged in the business of importing shorthorns and polled Angus cattle. Soon Groom's cattle came to be well known among breeders throughout the nation. During this period he bred and fattened blooded stock in the bluegrass region of Kentucky and owned an estate near Winchester, Kentucky, known as Vinewood. The panic of 1873 caused Groom's fortune to decline, however, and in 1875 he was compelled to auction off most of his shorthorns.

By 1882 he was a widower and seventy years old. Because of his kinship to Charles G. Francklyn he was selected to locate choice rangelands in the Texas Panhandle for the newly formed Francklyn Land and Cattle Company. Although he considered himself "capable of judiciously selecting lands and a location for the purpose," Groom was soon to discover that different methods from those he had utilized in Kentucky were needed to manage a ranch in the harsh, treeless prairies. Nevertheless he plunged ahead to buy land and build up the company's herds. He was the first in the Panhandle to hire men to drill wells to provide water for the cattle, among which were imported Angus and shorthorns. Groom personally managed the Bar X range in the disputed Greer County and took a keen interest in the struggle over the grass-lease fight during the late 1880s. His extravagant spending soon caused the Francklyn Company's expenditures to run into the millions, however, leading to its bankruptcy and subsequent reorganization as the White Deer Lands Trust in 1886.

Always optimistic, Groom and his son, Harry, next became managers of the Chicago-based Mortimer Land Company's holdings in southeastern Gray County just north of the Rock Island tracks. This small acreage was known for years as the old Groom pasture. On it the Grooms built several barns and raised forage crops for their herd, considered by many to be the finest Hereford cattle in the Panhandle. At his spacious, landscaped ranchhouse, the colonel lavishly entertained guests, with his black servants in livery. He demonstrated his ingenuity by using steam-powered tractors, then a novelty in the Panhandle, to break up the sod on several sections. It took so much coal to fire the steam engines that long lines of heavy wagon trains, consisting of from twelve to fourteen wagons, hauled the fuel from the railroad to Panhandle City.

The Mortimer Land Company was closed in Gray County when Timothy D. Hobart, manager of White Deer Lands, refused to renew its lease. Harry Groom subsequently went to El Paso, where he engaged in further cattle ventures and eventually became president of the American Livestock Association. Colonel Groom disappeared from the Panhandle and reportedly lived in Massachusetts for a time before returning to England, where he died in March 1906. The town of Groom in southeastern Carson County is named for him.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

J. Evetts Haley, "The Grass Lease Fight and Attempted Impeachment of the First Panhandle Judge," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 38 (July 1934). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966–72). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876–1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Francklyn Land & Cattle Company (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963).

H. Allen Anderson

Citation

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

H. Allen Anderson, "GROOM, B. B.," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgr75), accessed December 28, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.