Kuykendall, Wylie Martin (1839–1920)

By: Marshall E. Kuykendall

Type: Biography

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: June 13, 2020

Wylie Martin Kuykendall, pioneer traildriver, was born in Fort Bend County, Texas, on October 22, 1839, to Robert H. (Gill) and Electra (Shannon) Kuykendall. He was the grandson of Robert H. Kuykendall, Sr., one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred. He was named after a family friend and prominent colonist, Wyly Martin. His mother died shortly thereafter, and in 1846 his father was presumed killed by Indians. In 1849 Kuykendall left his home in Fort Bend County, riding on a mule behind his black servant, Lark, who eventually left him in Matagorda, where he lived for a while with his grandmother, Susan K. Tone. He got a job punching cattle at the age of ten, and at twelve he was trailing cattle to Missouri for Bill Hurnden, who paid him twenty-five dollars a month. At the age of fifteen Kuykendall assisted on a drive from Matagorda County to Weberville, Missouri. In Indian Territory the tribes were so hostile that the owner of the herd secured an escort of United States soldiers to accompany the traildrivers into Missouri. Kuykendall was gone nine months and claimed that it was the hardest drive he ever made. He was trailing herds of 600 head to Quincy, Illinois, by 1857-a decade before the big cattle drives out of Texas became common. In late 1865 or early 1866 he went to work for Abel H. (Shanghai) and Jonathan E. Pierce as range boss on El Rancho Grande at Demings Bridge in Matagorda County. From 1869 to 1879 he made ten trail drives to Kansas in charge of herds for the Pierces and for W. B. B. Grimes. He also was in charge of a large herd drive to Kansas in 1887. Kuykendall joined the Confederate Army on August 10, 1862, at Camp Henry E. McCulloch and served in Capt. James C. Borden's Company D, Yager's Battalion, Texas Mounted Volunteers. His name last appeared on the company muster role for March 1863. The company, which also included Kuykendall's uncle, J. Hampton Kuykendall, was stationed on the Rio Grande near Brownsville. Kuykendall married Susan Pierce, Shanghai's sister, on April 22, 1869, and they had four sons and a daughter. They operated the Buckeye Ranch on the Colorado near Blessing until 1902, when they bought the Robinson Ranch on Onion Creek and the Blocker pasture on the Blanco River, both in Hays County. Kuykendall contracted pneumonia during a cattle-buying trip to Cuero and died on January 31, 1920. He was buried in the Kuykendall plot in the Hawley Cemetery, near Blessing, in the shadow of the statue of Shanghai Pierce.

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). Chris Emmett, Shanghai Pierce: A Fair Likeness (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953; rpt. 1974). Jonathan Hampton Kuykendall Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Robert H. Kuykendall, Sr., Family Genealogy (MS, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin).

  • 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.

Marshall E. Kuykendall, “Kuykendall, Wylie Martin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 02, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/kuykendall-wylie-martin.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995
June 13, 2020