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MYRES, SAMUEL DALE

MYRES, SAMUEL DALE (1871–1953). Samuel Dale (Tio Sam) Myres, saddlemaker, businessman, and civic leader, son of David Rittenhouse and Mary Jane (Dale) Myres, was born on November 22, 1871, in Johnson County, Texas, near the Cordova Bend of the Brazos River. He became a skilled frontiersman by riding, roping, and fence building to help his father and neighboring ranchers, and by the age of fifteen he often served as a scout and guide for families seeking land. He attended school for only three terms but retained a lifelong interest in history and mathematics. When his mother's health failed and his responsibility for his younger siblings increased he left school and did not return. A knee injury caused by a fall from a horse prevented him from going west to become a cowboy in the cattle boom of the 1880s, and he worked for three years as an apprentice to T. R. James and Sons, Saddlers, in Cleburne. He later left James, traveled for several years doing piecework, and settled in Weatherford in 1893. There he began to develop his talent for drawing and carving his own designs and making holsters.

In 1894 Myres married Drusa Rogers, with whom he had three children; one of them, Samuel Dale, Jr., became a historian and author. In March 1897 the family moved to Sweetwater, and in 1898 Myres purchased his own saddlery and harness business. Extensive advertising, plant innovations, and attention to fine materials and workmanship contributed to his growing reputation and business from 1898 to 1902. In addition to the forty-dollar saddles he made for working cowmen, he designed and made saddles for movie stars, western show performers, and the Texas Rangersqv. In 1914 he produced the widely publicized "Miller $10,000 Saddle," with its intricate design, fifteen pounds of silver and gold, and more than 300 precious stones. His works were distinguished by an oak-leaf design and western images patterned after the work of Charles Russell. In World War I Myres turned to war production and made McClellan saddles for the cavalry. In 1920 he received a certificate of merit and a citation from the government for his war efforts.

Myres served as mayor of Sweetwater from 1908 to 1911 and as a member of the school board in 1914–15. As mayor he was instrumental in bringing the Santa Fe Railroad through the town, helping to keep Sweetwater the Nolan county seat, and overseeing annexation of new subdivisions, street improvements, and the building of a new city hall and fire station. In 1919 the saddlery burned, and in 1920 Myres opened a new factory in El Paso. By this time he had divorced his wife and married Eva Forkner, a young woman suffering from tuberculosis, who died in 1928. Lessened demand for horse equipment during the 1920s, a generous divorce settlement for Drusa, large medical bills for Eva's illness, and the 1920s depression put Myres deeply in debt. Between 1934 and 1936 his son William and nephew Dace Myres joined the firm, and the three partners turned to volume production of quality holsters and gunbelts, which became as famous as the company's saddles. The Sweetwater store, which had been partially rebuilt, was sold in 1937 to pay debts. The business was solvent by 1941, and by 1950 the S. D. Myres Saddle Company was known as "Cowboy Headquarters for the Southwest."

Myres was raised a Presbyterian but joined the Mormon Church when he married Eva. He taught Bible classes and, though tolerant of other religions, devoted much time and effort to proselytizing. He was also a Mason. He supported the El Paso Chamber of Commerce and the Kids Rodeo of El Paso, for which he repeatedly donated the championship saddle. During World War II, when he let his beard and hair grow long, Myres bore a striking resemblance to Uncle Sam; hence his nickname, Tio (Uncle) Sam. He died on July 2, 1953, in El Paso.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Big Spring Daily Herald, July 7, 1953. Eugene Cunningham, "Tio Sam-Saddle Man," Horselover Magazine, February-March 1951. Sandra L. Myres, S. D. Myres: Saddlemaker (Kerrville, Texas, 1961).

Patricia P. Kinkade

Citation

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

Patricia P. Kinkade, "MYRES, SAMUEL DALE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmy04), accessed December 17, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.