Reed, James D. (1830–1891)

By: Joan Druesedow Griggs

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: May 3, 2019

James D. Reed (One-Arm, One-Armed Jim, or One-Armed Reed), a prominent Texas cattle drover and trader, was born in Alabama in 1830. When he was still a young child, his parents moved to Mississippi and later, around 1845, accompanied the father of cattleman George W. Saunders to Texas. The Reeds settled in Goliad County. Although he already owned an extensive ranching operation at the outbreak of the Civil War, Reed joined with other Texas men to fight for the southern cause. Sources differ about the units in which he served. He was wounded and taken prisoner at Arkansas Post and lost his right arm as a result of the wound. After he was exchanged, he returned to Goliad County to become an independent stock raiser and continued to serve the Confederacy until the war ended.

Prior to the Civil War, James Reed had engaged in driving and trading cattle in addition to maintaining his thousand-acre ranch. His large herds also ranged over a vast area of land belonging to the state of Texas. In 1861 he began to drive herds into Louisiana but was interrupted by the Civil War. Later, he drove cattle into Mexico and shipped them out of Powderhorn (later Indianola) by boat. After the close of the war, he once again turned his herds to the market at New Orleans and continued to do so for the next five years. When a new market that revolutionized the cattle industry opened trails to the north, Reed became one of the big drivers into Kansas. In 1871 he turned his herds toward the railheads in Abilene, Kansas, by way of the Chisholm Trail. However, by this time Reed's sons and other cowboys were responsible for the cattle on the drives; Reed himself no longer did much work on horseback but chose instead to trade, receive, and deliver the cattle.

Reed reportedly had such unerring judgment and thorough knowledge of the cattle business that he seldom failed to be successful in his operations. In May 1872 he arrived in Wichita, Kansas, with a herd of over 20,000 cattle he had bought from other cowmen. When the panic of 1873 resulted in losses for many Texas cattlemen, Reed joined with Abel H. (Shanghai) Pierce and bought 7,000 cattle at panic prices. They wintered the herd free in central Kansas and made large profits the following spring. In 1877 Reed followed the trend of many ranchers and moved to a new location with better rangeland and closer proximity to the markets. He sold the Goliad ranch and moved to Fort Worth. That year he bought a ranch in Stonewall County. With the assistance of his son Paul, he brought in 3,000 head of longhorn cattle to the property that became known as the Double Mountain Horseshoe T Cross, or simply the Horseshoe Ranch. At this location Reed built a large stone house designed to serve not only as a residence but also as a fort for protection from hostile Indians. Reed was running three operations in Stonewall County by June 1880. Besides the headquarters, there were also the Reynolds Ranch, located near the buffalo hunter's camp of Rath City, and Reed's Lower Ranch. In September 1880 Reed's holdings were increased with the purchase of a ranch from W. P. Dewees and P. A. Jordan for $25,000.

Reed was described as the "best experienced and by far the wealthiest man about Ft. Worth," but circumstances pushed him further west in 1883, when he sold the Stonewall County ranch with its cattle and bought again in Socorro County, New Mexico. There he continued to buy land and build the J. D. Reed Cattle Company until his death in 1891. Reed married Cynthia McPeters from Arkansas in Gonzales, Texas, on July 25, 1851. They had a daughter and two sons. In 1867 Reed married Georgia Best, from Goliad, who bore him another daughter. The two sons rode with Reed's herds to Kansas and later assisted in the management of the Stonewall County properties. James D. Reed has been called the "cattle king of the West."

J. Marvin Hunter, Trail Drivers of Texas (2 vols., San Antonio: Jackson Printing, 1920, 1923; 4th ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985). Joan Griggs, "One-Armed Jim Reed," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 59 (1983).

  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Trail Drivers and Riders

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

Joan Druesedow Griggs, “Reed, James D.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
May 3, 2019