Coble, William Thomas (1875–1958)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

William Thomas Coble, rancher and oilman, was born on October 18, 1875, in Douglas County, Missouri. After his parents died, he was brought to Texas at age twelve by his grandfather, T. M. Johnson, who settled at Henrietta in Clay County. Coble earned fifteen dollars a month working as a farmhand for E. W. Grogan and over a period of five years saved $400. With this money he purchased twenty-five two-year-old steers in November 1896. He grazed them with the herd of John William Dunn on the Canadian River near Cheyenne, Oklahoma, and shipped them for $1.50 each to the Kansas City market. That venture, along with his earnings as a farmhand, netted him over $1,000.

Coble decided to stay in the cattle business and moved to the Panhandle in the spring of 1899. There he bought forty-five cattle from Charles Goodnight and ran them on a leased section ten miles north of Clarendon. After this herd doubled during the winter, Coble brought four sections of land on Moore Creek, just west of the Turkey Track Ranch in Hutchinson County. Shortly afterward he made further land purchases. On November 16, 1905, he married Maud Roberts, daughter of James R. Roberts, former foreman of S. Burk Burnett's Four Sixes Ranch. The Cobles, the first couple to be married at Amarillo's new white frame Baptist church, established their home on North Julian Boulevard in Amarillo. They had a son who died young and a daughter, Catherine Elizabeth, who later married a grandson of James A. Whittenburg. In the meantime Coble continued supplementing his Hutchinson County holdings, and in 1916 he bought the original Turkey Track headquarters after the lease on it had expired. At that time he revived the famous Turkey Track brand. In all, he built up a vast ranching empire amounting to 105 sections of choice grazing land divided into thirty-two pastures and stocked with thousands of high-grade cattle. Later he acquired interest in several cotton farms in Hockley County.

He was also among the Panhandle ranchers who profited greatly from the oil boom of the 1920s. In 1918 the geologists Scott and Alba Heywood explored the Turkey Track lands and found that they had oil potential. Subsequently, the Coble-Heywood Oil Company was organized with $75,000 capital. Coble served as president and Scott Heywood as general manager of the syndicate, which leased 10,000 acres of Turkey Track land and was among the first to pay a dividend. Phillips Petroleum drilled thirty consecutive producing wells on Coble's properties. Coble later formed the Coble-Whittenburg Oil Company with his in-laws and let out contracts for wells in the south Hutchinson County oil pool.

Coble was a member of the First Baptist Church in Amarillo and president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association from 1934 to 1936. He was also a benefactor of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society and supported that organization's museum in Canyon. In December 1938 Coble's wife died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. He married Gladys Marion Martin on September 18, 1952, and moved into a house on Crockett Street in Amarillo. He died on June 13, 1958, and was buried in Llano Cemetery, Amarillo. His Turkey Track Ranch became part of the Whittenburg family's ranching empire.

Hutchinson County Historical Commission, History of Hutchinson County, Texas (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). F. Stanley [Stanley F. L. Crocchiola], The Early Days of the Oil Industry in the Texas Panhandle, 1919–1929 (Borger, Texas: Hess, 1973).


  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Oil Entrepreneurs and Wildcatters
  • 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, “Coble, William Thomas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 27, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994