Lytle, John Thomas (1844–1907)

By: Jimmy M. Skaggs

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 19, 2020

John Thomas Lytle, traildriver and rancher, son of Francis and Margaret (Collins) Lytle, was born on October 8, 1844, at McSherrystown, Adams County, Pennsylvania. He moved with his family in 1860 to San Antonio, Texas, where he worked in the Bexar county clerk's office until 1861, when poor health forced him to resign. He then moved to a ranch in Atascosa County owned by an uncle, William Lytle, where outdoor work restored his health. From 1863 until 1865 he served in Company H, Thirty-second Texas Cavalry (Wood's Regiment), and rose to the rank of sergeant. After his discharge he returned to the Atascosa County ranch, but in 1867 he established his own ranch near Castroville.

In 1871 Lytle formed a partnership with a cousin, Thomas M. McDaniel, in what is now Lytle, Texas, for the purpose of trailing the herds of area ranchers to northern railheads and ranges. During the next three years he personally conducted a number of drives to Kansas. In 1874 Charles A. Schreiner of Kerrville and John W. Light of Kimble County joined the firm, thereby increasing its capital and prestige. The trailing firm operated out of Lytle and Kerrville and became one of the most outstanding in Texas; it ultimately handled more than a half million cattle. The size of the operation forced Lytle to turn management of trail herds over to employees, but he continued to supervise the organization of the drives in Texas and the sale of cattle at the railheads. In 1887 Schreiner bought full control of the firm, whereupon Lytle became general manager of the American Cattle Syndicate's Texas holdings. In 1891 he resigned to devote full time to his own ranching enterprises.

With George W. Saunders and Jesse Presnall, he had in 1886 established the Union Stock Yards in San Antonio; three years later, with Thomas Jefferson Moore, John Rufus Blocker, and W. H. Jennings, he purchased the half-million-acre Piedra Blanca Ranch in Coahuila, Mexico; he was also one of the founders of the Southwestern Livestock Commission Company at Fort Worth. In 1901 he was elected vice president and member of the executive committee of the Texas Cattle Raisers' Association (see TEXAS AND SOUTHWESTERN CATTLE RAISERS ASSOCIATION). Three years later he was named secretary of the organization, a salaried position he held until his death. Lytle married Elizabeth Noonan of Medina County in 1869; they had two children. He died of influenza on January 10, 1907, in San Antonio.

Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). J. Evetts Haley, Charles Schreiner, General Merchandise (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1944; rpt., Kerrville, Texas: Charles Schreiner, 1969). J. Marvin Hunter, Trail Drivers of Texas (2 vols., San Antonio: Jackson Printing, 1920, 1923; 4th ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985). Jimmy M. Skaggs, "John Thomas Lytle," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71 (July 1967).


  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
  • Trail Drivers and Riders

Time Periods:

  • Reconstruction

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

Jimmy M. Skaggs, “Lytle, John Thomas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 02, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 19, 2020