McFaddin, James Alfred (1840–1916)

By: Rosine McFaddin Wilson

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

James Alfred McFaddin, rancher, was born on May 5, 1840, near the site of Beaumont, Texas, the eldest son of Rachel (Williams) and William M. McFaddin. His grandparents, James and Elizabeth McFaddin, moved to Texas in 1821 from Tennessee. William McFaddin established a ranch in Liberty County, where he received a land grant from the Mexican government in 1831, and the following year the family moved to Jefferson County, where William established a ranch about a mile from the site of present Beaumont. In 1858 James McFaddin established his first ranch on Melon Creek in Refugio County, using 130 cattle from his father's ranch in Jefferson County. He married Margaret V. Coward in 1861, and their first child, Allen M. McFaddin, was born while McFaddin was in the Confederate service. In 1863 McFaddin joined the Refugio Guards as a second corporal under Capt. Dan Doughty, and he appears to have attained the rank of first lieutenant by the end of the war. After the war he returned to Refugio County and continued his interest in developing cattle ranching and farming in the area. For years he served his neighbors as a "one-man bank," keeping their money in his safe until a bank was established. He commanded a company of militiamen for Refugio County and in 1875 was involved in overseeing road construction in the county.

McFaddin bought up land in Victoria County in the fork between the Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers in 1878 and moved his family there around 1881. During these years he began to incorporate Brahman blood into his herds; he was one of the earliest cattlemen to do so. By 1879 he had begun cross-breeding experiments which later resulted in a recognized new breed under his grandson, Claude K. McCan. He continued to use the M6 brand, designed by his father in 1837, and added the N6 and Z brands. McFaddin was also one of the first to fence pastures with barbed wire, and he drained and reclaimed about 5,000 acres of swampland by building a twelve-mile levee along the Guadalupe River. In February 1884 he helped organize the Building and Loan Association, and in 1897 he invested in the Guadalupe Valley Railroad, which was abandoned in 1899. When the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway was established in 1903, one of the stations was placed on the ranch and named after McFaddin. To combat rustling, he became one of the founders of the Cattle Raisers Association of Texas. With J. J. Welder and Harry Rathbone, he helped organize the Guadalupe Navigation Company, which extracted and transported sand and gravel to clear the rivers for riverboat traffic. In 1883 McFaddin, Thomas M. O'Connor, and others organized the Texas Continental Meat Company, the first meat-packing plant in Texas, which employed at its peak eighty-seven butchers. By 1885 McFaddin was one of the wealthiest ranchers in the county, with land worth $95,800 in three ranches. He died on June 25, 1916, at his home in Victoria and was buried in Victoria.

Mary Whatley Clarke, "Big Hearted `Mr. Al': Favorite Victoria Son," Cattleman, February 1952. 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). Roy Grimes, ed., 300 Years in Victoria County (Victoria, Texas: Victoria Advocate, 1968; rpt., Austin: Nortex, 1985). Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955).
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

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

Rosine McFaddin Wilson, “McFaddin, James Alfred,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995