Alfred Hightower (Al) Barton, Motley County pioneer, cattleman, and founder of Barton Community, was born on December 21, 1848, near Greenville, South Carolina, to Decater (or Decator) and Catherine (Hightower) Barton. Accounts of his life differ. In 1854 the family joined the Barton wagon train headed for Texas. They settled on the frontier near Round Rock, then in Burnet County, where Indian raids were still common. When he was twenty-two, Al hired out to drive 2,500 cattle to California to sell to gold miners there. With the help of twenty cowboys he arrived with the herd, 100 horses, and two wagons intact, having lost none to Indians or stampedes. He delivered the proceeds to his employer, Dudley H. Snyder, in Denver, and the Snyder brothers hired him to trail a herd to the Texas plains.
In 1878 Barton returned to Burnet County and married Mollie Moreland. Taking a herd of cattle to Cimarron, Kansas, they moved north. A blizzard in the late 1880s wiped out most of the cattle. Mollie died soon afterward, leaving motherless her three small sons. Barton returned to Texas, temporarily leaving the two older boys with his parents and permanently leaving the youngest son with his sister Milda.
He found work on the F Ranch, owned then by Charles Goodnight and Lysander Moore, on Quitaque Creek in Floyd and Briscoe counties. He sent for his oldest son, Wilburn, who quickly became a ranchhand. Barton continued as manager when Goodnight sold his part to Moore in 1890 and when Moore sold out to the Cresswell Cattle Company in 1898. In 1889 Al married Mollie (or Millie) Sams of Della Plain; they had six children. When Mollie and her eight-month-old daughter died of pneumonia, they were buried together near the ranch headquarters in the Grey Mule Cemetery, overlooking Quitaque Creek. By this time Barton's eldest son had filed on land, built a dugout, and married, while the next, Sam, had moved to Canada.
While working for the F Ranch, Barton had accumulated sizable acreage on the Middle Pease River. When the F Ranch was dissolved, he bought some of its cattle and moved them a few miles southeast onto his ranch in Motley County. At the age of fifty-five he married Addie Bishop Seay, a widow with a son and daughter. Alfred and Addie Barton had four children. The new Mrs. Barton was very strict about cursing and drinking, but loved to dance and threw parties that often lasted all night. One time a local fiddler from Turkey, Texas, unable to make it to the dance at the Barton place, sent his fifteen-year-old son, a guitar player named James Robert (Bob) Wills, who was to play many times at the Barton dances in the years to come.
Barton Community grew as Al's many children began their own farms and ranches nearby. School was held in the east bedroom of the ranchhouse; by 1919 the students filled a one-room school built on a knoll northeast of the home. In 1930 this building was replaced with a two-room red brick building, and a teacherage was provided. At one time as many as seventy-two students were enrolled in Barton School. After 1935 students were transported to Matador so that they might graduate from state-accredited schools. Al Barton died in 1921, probably in May or June.
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Harry E. Chrisman, Lost Trails of the Cimarron (Denver: Sage, 1961). Darrell Debo, Burnet County History (2 vols., Burnet, Texas: Eakin, 1979). Eleanor Traweek, Of Such as These: A History of Motley County and Its Families (Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1973).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Barton, Alfred Hightower,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 19, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1994