Causey, Thomas L. [George] (1850–1903)

By: James I. Fenton

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: August 11, 2020

Thomas L. (George) Causey, buffalo hunter and West Texas pioneer rancher, son of G. W. Causey and brother of R. L. Causey, was born in Alton, Illinois, in 1850. In the late 1860s he hauled supplies to army outposts and traders in western Kansas by mule team. When railroad competition diminished the hauling business, he took up buffalo hunting, using Hays City and later Fort Dodge as marketing points. In 1874 he crossed the Arkansas River and moved south to hunt the more plentiful herds on the Texas plains. Within a few years the Causey outfit was one of the largest ever organized for hunting buffalo commercially. Initially Causey hauled his skins to Dodge City, Kansas, then, after a trading post was established, to Adobe Walls, Texas. Indians were a constant threat until army campaigns cleared them from the region. Causey was among those who relieved other hunters and traders at the second battle of Adobe Walls in 1874. Although they repulsed the Indians, the hunters abandoned Adobe Walls and again used Dodge City as their marketing base. As the buffalo grew scarce, Causey prepared to join the gold rush to the Black Hills of South Dakota, but was deterred by news of the Sioux Indian uprising. His disappointment was relieved at reports of huge buffalo herds roaming the Llano Estacado of West Texas, and of Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie's removal of the Comanches and Kiowas from their former hunting grounds. Causey seized the opportunity and hunted along the Canadian and Washita rivers, trading at Camp Supply and then at Fort Elliott, where the town of Mobeetie developed.

As the buffalo herds moved, the hunters and traders followed across the Red River and the Pease River in increasing numbers, thus setting the stage for the last great hunts. Soon Fort Griffin, on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, became the trading center for hunters as well as for cattle drivers bringing cattle north to markets. Causey moved south to the Salt Fork and Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos and found splendid hunting. It was said, perhaps with some exaggeration, that a single hunt yielded a bounty of 4,000 hides. Fort Griffin was Causey's usual market, but occasionally he hauled hides all the way to Fort Worth, where prices were slightly higher than the Fort Griffin price of two dollars for bulls and one dollar for cows. In early 1877 Causey changed his location once again to establish a permanent camp in Yellow House Canyon, where he built the first house in Hockley County. Sources differ on whether his house was sod or adobe. As time passed the herds grew smaller, and the returns to hunters were reduced. Causey found a supplementary income from the sale of salted and dried buffalo meat, particularly the hump, tenderloin, and tongue. His market was Las Vegas, New Mexico, where Santa Fe Railroad construction camps were located. Railroad construction also benefited his business when the Texas and Pacific Railway established service within reach of his hunting ground. Causey hauled buffalo bones to the rail point of Colorado City by bull team (see BONE BUSINESS) and served the growing numbers of pioneer settlers by hauling supplies to them on his return trips.

After six years at Yellow House Canyon, during which Causey's home had become something of a cultural center for military visitors and pioneer ranchers like Charles Goodnight and George W. Littlefield, he observed a considerable change in the country. The day of the Indian and the buffalo had passed, and with it the day of the hunter. Increasing settlement offered hazards as well as amenities. On one occasion vigilantes in pursuit of rustlers visited Causey's camp on the Cedar Fork of the Brazos and almost lynched him because he had received the rustlers hospitably. Hunter Jim White, an old friend, interceded just in time to prevent the hanging. In 1882 Causey killed the last herd of wild buffalo on the Llano Estacado at Cedar Lake, near Seminole, Gaines County. After hauling the hides to Midland, he closed down an operation of thirteen years' duration that had been comparable in success to that of John W. and J. Wright Mooar. His total estimated kill was some 40,000 animals, with records of 7,500 skins in 1876–77 and 7,800 skins in 1878. Such skillful associates as Sam Carr and Bob Parrack could kill and skin as many as thirty animals a day, and earned twenty to twenty-five cents for each hide. George Causey himself, sensitive to the belated outcry at the buffalo's virtual extermination, did not make any estimates.

Statewide events affected Causey's next moves. He had taken up horse and cattle raising in 1882 at Yellow House Canyon, where he mated mustangs with stallions brought from East Texas. Because his holdings were threatened by the establishment of the XIT Ranch, which encompassed his range, he sold his stock and buildings and moved to Lea County, New Mexico. He then sold his water rights and improvements to the Littlefield Cattle Company and moved thirty-five miles south to the future site of Knowles, New Mexico. Midland, Texas, was the supply center for his cattle ranch.

In 1902 Causey received a spinal injury when his horse threw him during a mustang roundup. Seeking help beyond the little relief available locally, he visited hospitals in Saint Louis and Kirksville, Missouri, exhausting most of his life's savings in the process. In Missouri he married his German-born nurse, Johanna Feuson. The couple returned to New Mexico and soon moved to Kenna, where they built a smaller home. Causey continued to suffer "severe head pains," however, and, on May 19, 1903, committed suicide. He was buried in Roswell, New Mexico. Two Texas hills bear his name: one in the eastern part of Lubbock and another in western Cochran County near the Texas-New Mexico line. A third place perhaps named for him is the hamlet of Causey, platted in 1908 twenty-five miles southeast of Portales, just inside New Mexico.

Lillian Brasher, Hockley County (2 vols., Canyon, Texas: Staked Plains, 1976). Wayne Gard, The Great Buffalo Hunt (New York: Knopf, 1959). Lawrence L. Graves, ed., A History of Lubbock (Lubbock: West Texas Museum Association, 1962). Orville R. Watkins, "Hockley County: From Cattle Ranches to Farms," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 17 (1941). Vivian H. Whitlock, Cowboy Life on the Llano Estacado (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970).

  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

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

James I. Fenton, “Causey, Thomas L. [George],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 11, 2020