Emanuel Dubbs, pioneer, minister, and county judge, was born on March 21, 1843, on a farm near New Franklin, Ohio, the youngest of the six children of Daniel and Elizabeth (Meckley) Dubbs. He attended Mount Union College and at the outbreak of the Civil War enlisted in Company I of the First Ohio Infantry. After the war he moved to Elkhart County, Indiana, and engaged in the lumber business with his brother. He married Angeline Freed in 1868. After a fire destroyed his sawmill in 1871, Dubbs and his wife moved to Kansas, where he worked for a time with railroad-construction crews and then engaged in buffalo hunting and dairy farming. He was said to have built the first house in Dodge City. In 1873 he opened a dairy farm and beer garden on Duck Creek about five miles from Dodge. He served beer and "milk punch" to passersby, and soon his "Buttermilk Ranch" became a favorite refreshment stop for travelers. In 1874 he accompanied A. C. Myers and Charles Rath to the Texas Panhandle and helped construct the buildings at the Adobe Walls trading post. He claimed to have taken part in the second battle of Adobe Walls, on June 27, 1874 (see RED RIVER WAR). The accounts of William (Billy) Dixon and others at Adobe Walls do not mention him, however, and the most reliable sources indicate that he was not present at the battle; Andy Johnson, an eyewitness of the battle, stated that Dubbs was at Dodge City at the time.
Dubbs continued hunting and reportedly had two more close brushes with Indians. He also rode in the posse that broke up "Dutch" Henry Born's horse-stealing ring. In 1875 Dubbs and his hunting party established a headquarters camp near the site of present Clarendon. His dairy cows all died of milk fever, but by 1877 he had accumulated about 400 longhorn cattle. Weary of a barkeeper's occupation, Dubbs sold his ranch and in the spring of 1878 moved his wife and three small sons to Sweetwater Creek in Wheeler County. Near Mobeetie he built a rock house with a dirt floor and roof and made money by selling meat and vegetables to the troops at Fort Elliott. Two more sons were added to the Dubbs family in Wheeler County.
When the county was organized in 1879, Dubbs was elected its first judge. Lacking practical experience in law, he often made decisions with little consideration for legal technicalities. He was shortly compelled to resign and go to Dallas to stand trial for ruling a series of arrests by a deputy United States marshall illegal and releasing the prisoners. He was acquitted, and in January 1880 was unanimously elected to serve again as county judge. He was subsequently reelected to that office in 1884, 1886, and 1888.
In 1890 he moved to a ranch northwest of Clarendon near his former buffalo-hunting campsite in Donley County. Having always been active in church work, Dubbs became a Disciples of Christ minister in 1896 and was placed in charge of that denomination's mission work in the Panhandle. In 1898 he was made pastor of the Christian church at Clarendon, where he made his home until 1922. Dubbs contributed several sketches, including his own reminiscences of his early years as a buffalo hunter, to the book Pioneer Days in the Southwest, published in 1909. His wife died in 1910, and after 1922 Dubbs moved to Amarillo to be near his sons. He died in July 1932 and was buried in Clarendon.