Shaeffer, Franklin Wingot (1825–1886)

By: Frank Wagner

Type: Biography

Published: June 1, 1995

Franklin Wingot Shaeffer, entrepreneur, was born on August 4, 1825, in Lancaster, Ohio, son of Frederick W. and Mary (Boose) Shaeffer. He joined the gold rush of 1849 and operated a freight line and store in northern California. With his accumulated money and experience he subsequently moved to New York, where he lost heavily in the fierce conflicts of the 1850s in the New York Stock Exchange. With remaining funds he bought a 40,000-acre tract near Boerne, Texas, in 1857. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Corpus Christi ship channel and purchased shares in it. An opportunity arose to buy 70,000 acres along Agua Dulce Creek, so he moved to Nueces County to establish a sheep ranch. During the economic disorders following the Civil War he lost all the money he had put into the ship channel, but he still supported a narrow-gauge railway proposed by Norwich Gussett. He threw himself into developing sheep pastures on fenced property with regularly spaced wells. When he recognized that sheep raising was declining, he disposed of his entire sheep interest and bought cattle. Because cattle required more water than sheep, Shaeffer was more successful in cattle raising, and his demonstration of the presence of artesian water in South Texas promoted growth in the region. He married Rowena Davidson, a woman considerably younger than himself, at Galveston on August 7, 1877, and she survived him. His death was the result of a broken leg. His inexperienced carriage driver was bringing Shaeffer and his wife and children from their ranch into San Diego when the mules shied. The vehicle overturned, and part of the frame caught Shaeffer's foreleg, breaking both the bones near the knee. The surgeon, uncertain of how to set the leg, was unsuccessful; after a sudden breakage of the great vessels of the leg Shaeffer died, on October 25, 1886. He was buried at Old Bayview Cemetery, Corpus Christi.

John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Corpus Christi Caller, March 2, April 13, 1884, October 31, 1886.
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Business
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists

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

Frank Wagner, “Shaeffer, Franklin Wingot,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995