Sawyer, Monroe Brown (1861–1941)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: June 1, 1995

Updated: November 1, 2017

Monroe Brown Sawyer, rancher, one of five children of William M. and Catherine (Thayre) Sawyer, was born on September 12, 1861, on the family farm near Georgetown, Texas. On July 25, 1863, William Sawyer, his brother Coston, his brother-in-law George Thayre, and five companions were executed by Confederate militiamen at San Julian Creek near Bandera while traveling to Mexico. Although accused of desertion, their actual motives for making the trip remain unclear. In March 1881, at the age of nineteen, Monroe Sawyer enlisted in Company C of the Frontier Battalion of Texas Rangers under Capt. George W. Arrington. During his eighteen months as a ranger, Sawyer saw service at Tascosa and Camp Roberts, Arrington's headquarters in Blanco Canyon. Arrington ever afterward regarded him as "one of my best Rangers." Sawyer was mustered out in September 1882 and returned to Williamson County, where he and his brothers began building a substantial herd of cattle. Sawyer married Rebecca Elizabeth Skeen, daughter of a German immigrant farmer, on October 9, 1884. After the family cattle business grew, Sawyer invested in land farther west. He moved his part of the herd and his growing family to Runnels County in 1888, then in 1892 to Howard County, where they endured a short period of drought and recession. Monroe and Rebecca Sawyer had three sons and ten daughters, one of whom died young.

In 1901 Sawyer purchased twenty-one sections of choice ranchland in Terry County, southwest of the site of present Brownfield. The following spring he moved his cattle and family to the new site, on which he erected a spacious five-room ranchhouse. He hired eight cowboys to look after his cattle, which at one time numbered 2,500 Herefords. When Brownfield was established as the permanent county seat, the Sawyers became leaders in that community. After the Santa Fe Railroad extended its line to Brownfield in 1911, Sawyer allotted his vast landholdings among his children and turned the remainder into farms, which he rented or hired people to work. Arguing correctly that the county's sandy soil helped conserve moisture, he had his employees turn under green cane stalks on land he wished to put in feed. He believed that with proper cultivation West Texas soils would grow more grain than the higher-priced lands in the Midwest and that Terry County cotton production would surpass that of the fertile Central Texas farmlands. As a result Sawyer built up extensive agricultural holdings that at one time numbered sixty-seven farms.

During the 1920s and 1930s Sawyer's kindness and generosity to others, even at the height of the Great Depression, became legendary throughout West Texas, as did his annual family gatherings on holidays and special occasions. He died of a heart attack at his home in Brownfield on March 19, 1941, and was buried in the community cemetery. He was survived by his wife, twelve children, forty-three grandchildren, and thirteen great-grandchildren. The old Sawyer ranchhouse, remodeled over the years and designated by the Texas Historical Survey Committee (now the Texas Historical Commission) as a historical landmark in 1970, is still owned by Sawyer heirs.

H. Allen Anderson, "Monroe Brown and Rebecca Skeen Sawyer: Pioneers of the South Plains," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 60 (1984). Cattleman, May 1941. J. Marvin Hunter, "A Bandera County Tragedy," Frontier Times, August 1924.


  • Agriculture
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Sawyer, Monroe Brown,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 27, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995
November 1, 2017