Mooar, Josiah Wright (1851–1940)

By: C. Robert Haywood

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: December 8, 2020

J. Wright Mooar, buffalo hunter, freighter, and rancher, son of John Allen and Esther K. (Wright) Mooar, was born at Pownal, Vermont, on August 10, 1851. As a young man he followed the western migration, working in Illinois for a time and then moving on to western Kansas. After a stint in 1870 at Fort Hays cutting cordwood and killing buffalo for meat, he moved to the vicinity of Dodge City and hunted buffalo for the railroad crews laying track there. He was among those who supplied Myers and Rath of Dodge City with the first buffalo hides shipped to England for tanning. When Mooar sent fifty-seven hides to his brother in New York City, John Wesley Mooar sold the hides to a tanning firm that judged them of sufficient quality to order 2,000 more. This sale began the American buffalo-hide industry.

J. Wright Mooar's greatest contribution was opening the Texas Panhandle to White hunters and settlers. The hunters falsely believed that the treaties made at the Medicine Lodge Council (1867) had reserved the Panhandle as Indian hunting grounds and required the United States Army to prevent Whites from entering the territory. Mooar and Steel Frazier were elected to clarify the matter with Col. Richard I. Dodge, who, as commander of the troops at Fort Dodge, was responsible for the enforcement of frontier treaties. When Dodge advised them to "hunt buffalo where the buffalo are," the Mooars moved south, scouted the Panhandle in July 1873, and established a hunting camp on the Canadian River. Several brushes with hostile Indians did not prevent the slaughter of buffalo and freighting of the hides to Dodge City. News of the success of the Mooars and the Cator brothers (see CATOR, JAMES HAMILTON) prompted other hunters to head south the following year. Dodge City merchants were also encouraged to establish a trading post, which they named Adobe Walls. The Mooars were hunting in the area when Quanah Parker raided the post. In late 1874 they retreated to the Kansas plains.

In 1876, when the herds were nearly exterminated there, the brothers moved south to Fort Griffin. They were among those supporting the new buffalo post, Rath City. That fall, when Josiah Wright Mooar shot a rare white buffalo, Teddy Roosevelt is said to have offered him $5,000 for the hide, but Mooar declined the offer. J. Wright Mooar is reputed to have killed 20,000 buffalo during his career. When the buffalo were finally destroyed, the Mooars stayed in Scurry and Mitchell counties as freighters to the ranchers. Among the first to see the ranching potential of the region, J. Wright established a ranch ten miles northwest of Snyder and spent his remaining years there. He married Julia Swartz and adopted a son, T. J. McDonnell. Mooar's recollections were published in five numbers of Holland's Magazine in 1933; his amazingly accurate and detailed recall of events of the early hunting days has been a valuable source of information for plains historians. He died on May 1, 1940.

Charles G. Anderson, In Search of the Buffalo: The Story of J. Wright Mooar (Seagraves, Texas: Pioneer, 1974). David A. Dary, The Buffalo Book (Athens, Ohio: Swallow, 1974). Frederick W. Rathjen, The Texas Panhandle Frontier (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973).

  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

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

C. Robert Haywood, “Mooar, Josiah Wright,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 8, 2020