Abernathy, Mollie D. Wylie (1866–1960)

By: Seymour V. Connor

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: August 1, 2017

Mollie D. Wylie Jarrott Abernathy, rancher and businesswoman, was born on April 27, 1866, in Hood County, Texas, the daughter of John N. M. and Elizabeth (Robertson) Wylie, both members of prominent ranch families. She grew up at Thorp Spring and was a member of the first class at Add-Ran College (forerunner of Texas Christian University). She spent the summers on her father's ranches in Erath and Runnels counties, where she acquired knowledge of the cattle industry. On September 26, 1886, she married James William Jarrott, who served that year in the Texas legislature. The next year the couple moved to a ranch near Phoenix, Arizona, where their first child was born. In 1889 the family returned to Thorp Spring and in 1890 moved to Stephenville. There Jarrott became county attorney for Erath County. The couple had three more children in Stephenville.

In 1901 the Jarrotts filed for themselves and twenty-three other families under the Four-Section Act on a mile-wide strip of vacant land extending from the western boundary of Lubbock County to New Mexico. The tent that they pitched on their claim was the only human habitation within a thirty-mile radius; by 1902 they had settled all of the other families on the land. The influx of small landowners living in tents and dugouts aroused the hostility of the area ranchers, and on August 28, 1902, Jarrott was shot and killed. Mollie was in a hotel in town convalescing from an illness at the time of the murder, but she returned to the claim and operated the Swastika Ranch alone. She expanded it from four to sixteen sections and developed a prime herd of registered Hereford cattle. In 1905 she married Monroe G. Abernathy, a real estate developer, for whom the South Plains towns of Monroe (later New Deal) and Abernathy were named. Together they successfully promoted the construction of the Santa Fe Railroad into Lubbock. The ranch properties were sold in 1920, after the extension of the railroad caused a demand for farmland.

During the same period, Mollie Abernathy was investing in business property in the fledgling city of Lubbock, and in 1916 she financed the construction of the J. C. Penney building, one of the largest downtown commercial structures. On the eastern and northeastern borders of town she and her husband acquired more than a thousand acres of undeveloped land. Portions of the properties were later developed into Mackenzie State Recreation Area and a residential addition overlooking it. Her astute management of her ranch and business holdings led to Mrs. Abernathy's reputation as Lubbock's first businesswoman. She was a charter member of the Business and Professional Women's Club and served as president of both the League of Women Voters and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Lubbock. She chaired the first Woman's Democratic League in Texas and actively promoted full citizenship responsibility for women. She was a member of the First Christian Church. She died in Lubbock on June 4, 1960, and was buried in the city cemetery.

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Seymour V. Connor, ed., Builders of the Southwest (Lubbock: Southwest Collection, Texas Technological College, 1959). Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, June 5, 1960. J. W. Turner, "A Woman's Ranch and Its Products," Farm and Ranch, September 4, 1915. Who's Who of the Womanhood of Texas, Vol. 1 (Fort Worth: Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, 1923–24).

  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
  • Women
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • Pioneers
  • Landowners and Land Developers
Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • West Texas
  • Lubbock

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

Seymour V. Connor, “Abernathy, Mollie D. Wylie,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/abernathy-mollie-d-wylie.

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August 1, 2017

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