SKAGGS, THOMAS VERNER
SKAGGS, THOMAS VERNER (1887–1945). Thomas Verner Skaggs, Big Bend entrepreneur, son of Thomas Jasper and Josephine Emogene (Wilson) Skaggs, was born in Beeville, Texas, on March 31, 1887. He had one brother, James Sterling, two years older. The two brothers visited the Big Bend often in their early lives, staying with their uncle, Jim P. Wilson, and his wife, Ella. Little is known of Skaggs's early education, but he notes in an autobiographical sketch that he received private lessons as a child and attended boarding school for two years. His checkered college career included "bookkeeping in a business college," two years at "A&M College of New Mexico," and three terms in the Preparatory Department of Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana (1909–10). There is no record of his graduation. Skaggs was in Farmington, New Mexico, in late 1910 and was an agent with Dwight B. Heard Investment Securities in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1913. His brother's death at Santa Helena, Texas, on February 21, 1915, brought Skaggs back to Texas. He settled in 1916 at Lajitas, where he pursued several occupations, including "farming, mining, ranching, merchandizing, the development and raising of registered Poland China hogs, [and] oil exploration." He also owned most of the town, served as a trustee of the school district, was postmaster, and owned and operated the Lajitas Trading Post and the Candelilla Wax Company. He sold out his businesses at Lajitas in 1924 and was in Los Angeles, California, by 1925. There he worked first for the Metropolitan Hotel, then for the YMCA in 1926, and for the Bank of Italy in 1927. For the rest of his life Skaggs dabbled in various entrepreneurial enterprises, including a partnership with Bob Reid of San Angelo brokering land transactions and buying oil leases. He became a partner of Howard E. Perry in the Bonanza Mine at Sierra Blanca and looked after both the mine and Perry's Terlingua businesses and property. Skaggs's maverick business ventures included the unsuccessful promotion of a Big Bend dude ranch and movie set, schemes to market "Price-o-Gas" signs for gasoline pumps, investment in the Waldron Quicksilver Properties, and two El Paso, Texas, ventures-management of a refrigeration business and of the St. Regis Hotel. From 1936 to 1945 Skaggs lived in San Angelo brokering in the oil business. His last entrepreneurial fling was a gold mine in Nogal, New Mexico.
He first married Altheda Harrison Oliver, an opera singer from Monrovia, California. The date of their marriage is uncertain, but they were engaged by 1911 and divorced on September 16, 1914. Skaggs corresponded with numerous women after the divorce and was romantically involved with several, one of whom, Dorothy Knolle, he married in 1935. That Skaggs soon ceased to mention her in his correspondence suggests that the marriage was brief, and many years later Skaggs listed Dorothy in his will under her maiden name. He had no children. In his later years he developed diabetes and other health problems. He died at Lajitas on May 26, 1945, of "chronic valvular heart disease."
Alpine Avalanche, February 25, 1915. Beverly Six Case, "I Will Love You in Atlantic City...," Journal of Big Bend Studies 3 (January 1991). Thomas Verner Skaggs Papers, Archives of the Big Bend, Sul Ross State University.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Beverly Six, "SKAGGS, THOMAS VERNER," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fskjm), accessed December 12, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.