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GULLETT, NEWTON CANNON

GULLETT, NEWTON CANNON (1822–1900). Newton Cannon Gullett, merchant and rancher, was born in 1822 in Maury County, Tennessee, the son of Samuel and Rebecca (Thompson) Gullett. He attended public schools in Columbia, Tennessee, and at the age of nineteen left home to work in a store in Lynnville. In 1850 he moved to New Orleans. The following year he began a general loan business in San Antonio, buying and selling notes for a commission and engaging in land speculation. He returned to New Orleans in 1856 and operated a successful grocery business until the Civil War began, when he offered his services to the Confederacy. He served on the staff of Gen. R. V. Richardson and was promoted to captain under Gen. Nathan B. Forrest.

After the war he returned to New Orleans and opened a commission house that dealt very profitably in cotton and cottonseed oil. His first wife, L. C. (Carter), died in 1870. In 1872 he married Mrs. Schortalle D. Barnard, who in 1875 became one of the heirs to a large, undeveloped estate on the Texas coast between the San Antonio River and Hynes Bay in Refugio County. Gullett already owned land in several Texas counties, and his proved business ability led the heirs to name him trustee of the property, which his wife named Tivoli Ranch, after a suburb of her native New Orleans. Gullett formed a company to carry on his New Orleans business and immediately set about transforming the estate into a successful cattle operation. In the fall of 1876 he traveled to New York City to purchase wire fencing, and in November of that year built the first wire stock fence in the state.

He and his wife made Tivoli Ranch their home, but under their influence it was much more a Southern plantation than a Texas cattle enterprise. The Gulletts built a cotton gin and a general store, and their formal home was the center of social and cultural life in the area. Upon his second wife's death in 1883, Gullett bought out all other interests and became the sole owner of one of the finest ranches on the coastal plain, encompassing 25,000 acres, a great percentage of which was fenced pasture. In 1889 he married Mattie A. Deseker of Selma, Alabama.

In 1892 Gullett became the first big landowner in Refugio County to subdivide large portions of his property into farm plots and seek colonists, especially German and Bohemian immigrants. He maintained the cattle operation at the heart of Tivoli Ranch by forming partnerships with other land and stock owners. One such partnership, with Alonzo R. Allee, former sheriff of Goliad County, involved co-ownership of some cattle and a contract with Allee to see to the repair of fences on the ranch, but in August 1897 the partners disagreed over the suitability of one of Allee's men. A quarrel on August 18 apparently lasted through breakfast. After the meal Allee knocked Gullett down. Gullett called to bystanders to bring him a rifle, but Allee leaped upon him and persuaded Gullett to promise to behave himself if he were released. Once released, however, Gullett stepped back, both men drew guns, and in an exchange of fire Allee fell, mortally wounded. Gullett was indicted for murder and tried in Beeville, since the Refugio county judge was a witness to the shooting. Gullett was acquitted but sold the remainder of his holdings, his business ruined by the scandal, and moved to Galveston, where he was when the Galveston hurricane of 1900 swept over the island. Although he survived the storm he died of an epidemic fever a few months later.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

James Cox, Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry (2 vols., St. Louis: Woodward and Tiernan Printing, 1894, 1895; rpt., with an introduction by J. Frank Dobie, New York: Antiquarian, 1959). Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955). Memorial and Genealogical Record of Southwest Texas (Chicago: Goodspeed, 1894; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978).

Frank Wagner

Citation

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

Frank Wagner, "GULLETT, NEWTON CANNON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgu24), accessed September 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.