Walter James (Frank) Collinson, buffalo hunter, cattleman, and student of the frontier, was born on November 13, 1855, in Yorkshire, England. Shortly after his sixteenth birthday he left boarding school in Beverly and sailed for the United States aboard the San Marcos. He landed at Galveston, Texas, in the fall of 1872 and went to work on the Circle Dot, Judge George H. Noonan's horse ranch near San Antonio. In December 1873 Collinson went to work for rancher John T. Lytle in southeast Medina County, where he once helped round up and brand a herd of 3,500 cattle and drive them to the Red Cloud Indian Reservation in northwest Nebraska; there the stock was turned over to George Armstrong Custer.
In October 1874 Collinson became a partner in the two-wagon, six-mule buffalo-hunting outfit run by Jim White and Thomas L. (George) Causey. After buying supplies at Frank Conrad's store at Fort Griffin, Collinson moved westward onto the Llano Estacado and helped complete the destruction of the southern buffalo herd. In spring 1877 he returned to Fort Griffin with 6,000 tongues, 11,000 hides, and 45,000 pounds of dried meat (see BUFFALO, BUFFALO HUNTING).
He then headed westward toward New Mexico Territory, apparently to fight in the Lincoln County War of Billy the Kid fame (see MCCARTY, HENRY), but upon meeting cattlemen S. R. Coggin and Robert K. Wylie along the way, he changed his mind. He hired out to Coggin to go to Granada, Colorado, and return a herd of 8,000 Jinglebob cattle, recently purchased from John S. Chisum, to good grass in Texas. Collinson chose his old buffalo-hunting grounds on the Tongue River (now the South Pease), located at the eastern edge of the Staked Plains. There he ran the Jinglebob herd until 1881, when it was sold to the Matador Land and Cattle Company. For about the next fifteen years he ran stock, either as a partner or independently, on various West Texas ranches. In 1882 he joined S. R. and M. J. Coggin in running a ranch on the Colorado River. From there he made several trail drives northward to the Yellowstone River in Montana. Around 1900, in King County near his old Jinglebob Ranch, he became the partner of the pioneer Panhandle rancher Robert B. Masterson.
In 1887 Collinson married Jessamine Anne (Jesse) Bremner, a Scot, at Lamar, Colorado, and honeymooned in England. The next year he returned to the Big Bend country in Southwest Texas, where he ran his own ranch through a series of drought years until 1895, with marginal success. Thereafter he lived in several places, among them Clarendon in the Panhandle, before moving in 1922 to El Paso, where he spent his last years. He died there in 1943 and was buried at Clarendon. He and his wife had ten children.
Frank Collinson's significance lies in the fact that not only did he literally follow the frontier for fifty years, but during his last ten years he recorded many of his experiences and impressions in interviews, letters, and a series of articles published in the popular magazine Ranch Romances. The bulk of these, now housed in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum library at Canyon, are rich in anecdote and offer valuable insights into the unfolding of the frontier, especially in West Texas. Collinson's observations on the clash between Whites and Indians, on the cattle industry, on the buffalo slaughter, and on the little-publicized mustangers (see MUSTANGS) and ciboleros, as well as on the flora and fauna of the region, make a major contribution to our knowledge of the Southwest frontier, despite the fact that Collinson was given to occasional exaggeration. He also offered new information on notable personalities in the region, many of whom he knew personally, including John L. Bullis, Charles Goodnight, Quanah Parker, Francisco (Pancho) Villa, William A. A. (Big Foot) Wallace, and John S. Chisum.
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Frank Collinson, Life in the Saddle, ed. Mary Whatley Clarke (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963).
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Authors and Writers
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,
“Collinson, Walter James,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
October 7, 2020