Pryor, Isaac Thomas (1852–1937)

By: Jimmy M. Skaggs

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 1, 1995

Isaac T. (Ike) Pryor, cattleman, the third and youngest son of David Christopher and Emma Almira (McKissack) Pryor, was born in Tampa, Florida, on June 22, 1852. Orphaned at age five, he lived with relatives in Alabama and Tennessee until age nine, when he ran away and attached himself as newsboy to the Third Ohio Cavalry, Army of the Cumberland. He witnessed battles at Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, and Lookout Mountain. He lived with a cousin's family in Tennessee after the war and eventually moved with them to Alabama. In 1870 his brother A. M. visited from Texas and described the opportunities there so enthusiastically that Ike, then eighteen years old, decided to pursue them. Pryor arrived at Galveston by way of New Orleans and immediately made his way to Austin. He worked as a farmhand near Austin until 1871, when he found employment with Llano County rancher Bill Arnold helping to drive a herd of longhorns to Coffeyville, Kansas; the next season, at age twenty, he was trail boss for the drive. In 1873 Pryor went to work for Mason County rancher Charles Lehmberg (Lemberg) as a hired hand; before the year's end he was foreman. Lehmberg sold his 20,000-acre 77 Ranch to Pryor in 1874, and the young businessman immediately diversified operations by contracting to deliver his neighbors' cattle to Kansas during the spring and summer, and by supplying nearby Austin with butcher cattle during the fall and winter. Between 1878 and 1885, in partnership with a brother, Ike Pryor delivered as many as 45,000 cattle annually to northern railheads, ranges, and Indian reservations. In 1885 the Pryor brothers moved 20,000 head of cattle to free range in Colorado just as the oversupplied market crashed. They sold out to an Ohio syndicate, the final price to be determined by the spring roundup, but the winter of 1886–87 decimated their herd. The brothers were left penniless and dissolved the partnership.

On his reputation as a cattleman, Pryor borrowed $70,000 from Evans, Snider, and Buel Livestock Commission Company of St. Louis. He used the money to invest in and became president of the Texas and Colorado Land and Cattle Company, which leased lands and ran cattle entirely in Indian Territory. When the blockade of Cuba was lifted at the end of the Spanish-American War, Pryor shipped live cattle on speculation to Havana for spot sale and earned a considerable profit. With revenue from these enterprises, he invested in Evans, Snider, and Buel in 1901 and became vice president in charge of Texas operations. About the same time he bought 100,000 acres of Zavala County ranchland for $1.40 an acre, stocked it with 10,000 cattle, and named it the 77 Ranch. In 1908 he founded the nearby town of La Pryor. Pryor was director (1887–90) and president (1906–08) of the Cattle Raisers Association of Texas, president of the Texas Livestock Association in 1907, and president of the Trans-Mississippi Commercial Congress at Denver in 1908. He also presided over the National Livestock Shippers' Protective League in 1915 and the American National Livestock Association in 1917–19. In 1909 he organized and accepted the presidency of City National Bank of San Antonio. He married Sarah M. Rapp of San Antonio in 1878. They had two sons and one daughter. After Sarah's death he married Myra (Stafford) Early of Columbus in 1893. Pryor died in San Antonio on September 24, 1937.

J. Frank Dobie, "Hunting Cousin Sally," Southwest Review 48 (Summer 1963). C. L. Douglas, Cattle Kings of Texas (Dallas: Baugh, 1939; rpt., Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1968). History of the Cattlemen of Texas (Dallas: Johnson, 1914; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1991). 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, The Cattle-Trailing Industry: Between Supply and Demand, 1866–1890 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 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.

Jimmy M. Skaggs, “Pryor, Isaac Thomas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995