Coleman, Thomas Atlee (1860–1923)

By: Keith Guthrie

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: October 2, 2019

Thomas Atlee (Little Tom) Coleman, rancher, son of Margaretta Susan (Atlee) and Thomas Matthew (Big Tom) Coleman, was born on June 5, 1860, in Goliad, Texas, and educated at the universities of Tennessee and Virginia. His father and paternal grandfather, Youngs Levi Coleman, helped found the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company. His maternal grandfather, John N. Keeran, moved to Texas in 1867 and became a prominent rancher in Victoria County. Coleman ranched in Dimmit, La Salle, Webb, and other counties. From his office in San Antonio he supervised a spread that included the towns of Carrizo Springs, Catarina, Encinal, Cotulla, Artesia Wells, and Asherton. In addition he purchased the 1.5 million-acre Milmo Ranch in Mexico, for which he paid $3.5 million.

Not only did Coleman bring improved conditions and breeds to the range, but he improved Bermuda onions and citrus fruit and contributed greatly to the conversion of the lower reaches of Texas into an agricultural area. He sold a substantial amount of land to farmers interested in truck farming. At one time he entered into a partnership with John M. Green and Joseph F. Green (no kin to each other) to lease the 224,000-acre Catarina Ranch from David Sinton. After Sinton's death in 1900 Joseph Green took over the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company as manager, and Coleman took Sinton's place on the board of directors, where he served until 1907. The company operated a ranch-supply store in Encinal named Green, Coleman, and Company. Coleman was also a large stockholder in Southwestern Casualty Insurance Company and general livestock agent for the International-Great Northern Railroad, as well as a member of Governor James E. Ferguson's personal staff.

Coleman married Birdie Keeran on June 16, 1886, and the couple had five children. Coleman was a member of Masonic organizations, the Elks, the Shriners, the San Antonio Country Club, the University Club, and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. He died on March 30, 1923, and was buried in San Antonio.

Ellis A. Davis and Edwin H. Grobe, comps., The New Encyclopedia of Texas, 3d ed. Keith Guthrie, History of San Patricio County (Austin: Nortex, 1986). History of the Cattlemen of Texas (Dallas: Johnson, 1914; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1991). Coleman McCampbell, Texas Seaport: The Story of the Growth of Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend Area (New York: Exposition, 1952). Men of Affairs of San Antonio (San Antonio Newspaper Artists' Association, 1912). A. Ray Stephens, Taft Ranch (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Clarence R. Wharton, ed., Texas under Many Flags (5 vols., Chicago: American Historical Society, 1930).


  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

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

Keith Guthrie, “Coleman, Thomas Atlee,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
October 2, 2019