Kirkpatrick, Elbert Wiley (1844–1924)

By: David Minor

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 3, 2021

Elbert W. Kirkpatrick, pioneer horticulturist, son of Jacob M. and Sarah Jane (Campbell) Kirkpatrick, was born on October 12, 1844, in Whitesburg, Tennessee. The family moved to White's Grove, Collin County, Texas, in 1854. The elder Kirkpatrick died about a year later, and Elbert took charge of the family farm when he was thirteen. In 1862 he left White's Grove to enlist in the Confederate Army. For three years he served as a private in Company I of Col. Leonidas M. Martin's Fifth Regiment, Texas Partisan Rangers. He fought in eight battles in Arkansas and Indian Territory and was wounded at the battle of Cabin Creek in Indian Territory. After the war Kirkpatrick returned home to manage the family farm. He taught in the first public school in Collin County in 1872 and for two years, 1873–74, was a land surveyor.

During this period he began experimenting with plants. Eventually he originated or introduced twelve varieties of fruits and nuts, including the English blackberry and the Benge black walnut, to Texas. His increasing interest in horticulture resulted in his establishing a nursery at White's Grove in 1874. Kirkpatrick was also instrumental in founding the Central Texas Pomological and Horticultural Association, the Texas State Nurserymen's Association, and the Texas Nut Growers Association; he served as president of the latter two organizations. He moved from White's Grove to McKinney in 1887. There he ran his own nursery and served as president of the Whitesboro Orchard and Fruit Company, the Nueces Land and Immigration Company, and the Texas Nursery Company. He was also on the board of directors of the Durant Nursery Company, the Collin County Mill and Elevator Company, the New Century Milling Company, and the Burrus Milling Company. In 1908 he was elected president of the Texas Industrial Congress and served as vice president of the Texas State Fair Association. In the early 1920s he served as chairman of the McKinney Chamber of Commerce agricultural committee. During World War I Kirkpatrick was a member of the State Council of Defense and the state food-conservation organization, as well as county chairman of the YMCA War Fund Committee.

Although he had no formal education, Kirkpatrick was a successful writer. He wrote some twenty-five articles for horticultural journals and edited the McKinney Democrat. He also rose to the rank of lieutenant general in the Trans-Mississippi Division of United Confederate Veterans. The division held its annual reunion at the Kirkpatrick home, a large white mansion that was still standing in 1986. He was a Mason, Odd Fellow, and Rotarian. He was married on November 5, 1874, to Emily T. Clive, and the couple had six children, two of whom died in infancy. On March 24, 1924, while on a business trip to Rincon, New Mexico, Kirkpatrick died of pneumonia. He was given a memorial service by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and was buried in McKinney.

Dallas Morning News, March 26, 1924. S. W. Geiser, Horticulture and Horticulturists in Early Texas (Dallas: University Press, 1945). Roy Franklin Hall and Helen Gibbard Hall, Collin County: Pioneering in North Texas (Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1975).

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

David Minor, “Kirkpatrick, Elbert Wiley,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 3, 2021