McGee, Thomas T. (1849–1894)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: April 1, 1995

Updated: July 14, 2019

Thomas T. McGee, first sheriff of Hemphill County, was born on September 13, 1849, in West Virginia. In 1877, after working as a cowboy for a time in Colorado, he accompanied Henry W. (Hank) Cresswell's Bar CC herd to its new location in Ochiltree County. He was listed as a resident of Roberts County in the 1880 census. Later he worked for the Moody-Andrews Cattle Company (PO Ranch) and helped drive herds to Dodge City for several ranches, including Nick T. Eaton's U Bar U. In December 1883 he registered his own Quarter Circle C brand at Mobeetie. About 1886 he bought William Young's interest in the PO Ranch and became foreman of it. During his tenure as foreman McGee was elected the first sheriff of Hemphill County when the county was organized in 1887. With his deputy sheriff, Vastine Stickley, as a partner, McGee operated a wagonyard and livery stable in the town of Canadian until 1893. On June 5, 1889, he married Mary Blandy Taylor at the home of her uncle, George T. Lynn, in Kansas City.

In the fall of 1894 George Isaacs sent five envelopes reported to contain a total of $25,000 from Kansas City to his home base in Canadian. After the train pulled into Canadian on the evening of November 24, the money was transferred to the Wells Fargo safe in the railroad station. Moments later gunfire erupted outside the station. Sheriff McGee, who had just stepped out onto the platform, was fatally wounded and died later that night. When the envelopes were opened they were found to contain a total of only $500 in small bills. The obvious scheme of Isaacs to swindle Wells Fargo of thousands of dollars had miscarried. Isaacs was subsequently charged with McGee's murder, convicted in 1895 on a change of venue to Quanah in Hardeman County, and sentenced to life imprisonment at Huntsville. He later was reported to have escaped and fled to Mexico, then to Arizona, although some sources indicate that he was released. Three men accused of being his accomplices-Jim Harbolt, Dan McKenzie, and Tulsa Jack, a member of the Doolin Gang-were later apprehended by deputy marshals and returned for trial to Canadian. After her husband's death, Mary McGee reportedly had difficulty in settling his estate, since he did most of his banking in Kansas City. She served as a nurse's aid in England during World War I and remained there until her death. Her ashes were returned to Canadian for burial beside her husband.

Ernest R. Archambeau, "The First Federal Census in the Panhandle, 1880," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 23 (1950). Jerry Sinise, George Washington Arrington (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1979). F. Stanley [Stanley F. L. Crocchiola], Rodeo Town (Canadian, Texas) (Denver: World, 1953).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Sheriffs
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Politics and Government
  • Government Officials

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

H. Allen Anderson, “McGee, Thomas T.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 23, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995
July 14, 2019