Christian, James Terrill (1868–1950)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

James Terrill Christian, rancher, the second of the ten children of George Richard and Louisa (Terrill) Christian, was born near Moberly, Missouri, in 1868. In 1881 the family moved to a homestead on Lynn Creek, near Antelope, Jack County, Texas, where they engaged in ranching and the children received much of their elementary education. In 1889 Jim Christian and his older brother Paul rode west to the Panhandle and were employed as cowhands on the JA Ranch. Although Paul returned to the Jack County homestead after a year, Jim stayed on and was later joined by four younger brothers, Will, Ben, Robert, and Ernest. Robert and another cowhand were killed by lightning during a roundup in 1895.

During his fifteen years as a JA employee, Christian gradually worked his way up from horse wrangler to wagon boss. In 1900 he was made manager of the JA's Mulberry Creek Division, near Claude. On April 5 of that year he married Georgia Jones, whom he had known from his youth; the couple had four children. In 1902 Christian began homesteading two sections of choice land near the rim of Palo Duro Canyon in western Armstrong County and next to the tracts filed on by his brothers Ben and Ernest. He remained with the JA for another year and then began building up his own herd of cattle, which he branded with a Figure 3, similar to that of R. O. Watkins in Kaufman County. After their first two-room house burned in March 1904, the Christians were forced to build again. They also donated a plot of land for a schoolhouse.

Jim and Georgia Christian were both active in community affairs in Claude. He served for years on the school board, while she helped form Armstrong County's first Union Sunday school. They were members of the Disciples of Christ and charter members of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, which they helped to organize. Christian was a longtime Mason and Shriner and was active in the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. The Christians turned their ranching operations over to their sons in August 1929 and spent their retirement years in Claude. Christian died on March 28, 1950, from the effects of a stroke he had suffered in 1945; he was buried in Claude. Since the breakup and reduction of the JA properties, the Figure 3 remains one of the few ranch homesteads still owned by the family of the original founder. It is noted for its registered purebred Herefords and famous Cowboy Breakfasts held on the north rim of Palo Duro Canyon for tour groups and visiting notables.

Armstrong County Historical Association, A Collection of Memories: A History of Armstrong County, 1876–1965 (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1965). Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936).
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Christian, James Terrill,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994