Fant, Dillard Rucker (1841–1908)

By: Craig H. Roell

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 21, 2019

Dillard Rucker Fant, Texas trail driver pioneer, was born on July 27, 1841, in the Anderson district of South Carolina, the son of W. N. and Mary (Burriss) Fant. In 1852 the family moved to Texas and settled at Goliad, where W. N. Fant established himself as a merchant and served as county judge. Dillard Rucker Fant began his career freighting with ox teams between Indianola, Goliad, and San Antonio. During the Civil War he enlisted in Col. George Washington Carver's Twenty-first Texas Cavalry and served in the Trans-Mississippi Department, seeing duty in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana and achieving the rank of orderly sergeant. After the war "Colonel" Fant returned to Goliad, where he married Lucy A. Hodges on October 15, 1865, and became a farmer and rancher. From 1867 to 1869 he drove cattle to Rockport, Texas, and sold them to packeries. Upon learning that some North Texas cattlemen drove small herds of cattle through Indian Territory to Kansas at good profit, he decided to redouble the effort by taking a large herd from Southwest Texas. He first went "up the trail" in 1869 and was so successful that others followed suit. In 1874 he began improving his cattle with Durham and Hereford stock. For fourteen years he held government contracts to supply thousands of beeves to various military posts and agencies in Dakota and Indian Territory and wintered herds on pastures in Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho. During the fifteen years he was in business he took between 175,000 and 200,000 cattle up the trail, reportedly never losing more than 3 percent. So extensive were his operations that he had several tremendous herds on the trail in a single season. In 1884 he employed 200 cowboys to drive one of the largest herds on record--42,000 cattle and requiring 1,200 saddle horses--to Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming. Though these cattle cost him from twelve to twenty dollars a head, he sold the stock for almost $1 million. He was still driving cattle as late as 1889, long after rail service had been extended northward from the Texas interior. Fant is credited with extending the Chisholm Trail to Corpus Christi and financing the construction of Texas public schools and railroads. By the 1890s his extensive Texas ranch holdings totalled 700,000 acres in Goliad, Refugio, Frio, Live Oak, Tarrant, and other counties and included the 225,000 Santa Rosa Ranch in Hidalgo County. Many cattlemen, such as George W. Saunders apprenticed with him and then became operators themsevles. Fant disposed of his cattle and land upon his retirement in April 1901 and moved to San Antonio's King William District. He is described as a large man of 262 pounds, "vigorous and healthy, with those special qualities that make the domestic circle delightful and happy." Fant died on January 15, 1908, while visiting in Goliad. Lucy Fant, his widow, died at her home in San Antonio in March 1909. During her lifetime she dispensed probably $200,000 in charity and devoted much work towards educating Mexicans.

James Cox, Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry (2 vols., St. Louis: Woodward and Tiernan Printing, 1894, 1895; rpt., with an introduction by J. Frank Dobie, New York: Antiquarian, 1959). J. Marvin Hunter, Trail Drivers of Texas (2 vols., San Antonio: Jackson Printing, 1920, 1923; 4th ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985). Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955). "Dillard R. Fant," Pioneer, September 1922.

  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Trail Drivers and Riders

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

Craig H. Roell, “Fant, Dillard Rucker,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 24, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 21, 2019