James Edward Southwood, rancher and public official, the oldest of six children of Edward and Hannah (Hurst) Southwood, was born on March 5, 1854, at Martinsburg, Virginia. Two years later his father, a slaveholder, moved the family to Lafayette County, Missouri, and settled south of Lexington. There James grew up amid the chaos of the Civil War and Reconstruction. In 1873, at the age of nineteen, he accompanied William Greene, a neighbor, to Rice County, Kansas, and helped him build a new homestead. Southwood then hired out to A. B. Cady, with whom he stayed ten years while working as a freighter. In May 1886, after spending two years in Burlingame, Kansas, Southwood was hired by the Finch, Lord and Nelson Cattle Company to help drive a herd of Hereford cattle from Dodge City to the Shoe Bar Ranch in Hall County, Texas, a distance of 250 miles. The six-week trip brought the first registered Hereford stock to the Panhandle. Southwood stayed to help organize the company's Bar 96 Ranch before returning to Kansas. In December he and nine other company employees came back to the Panhandle. At Clarendon they filed on a section of railroad-grant land in Carson County, adjacent to the townsite of Panhandle City. The following spring they camped near Dixon Creek while surveying their claims and erecting homesteads. After a blue norther destroyed their main office, housed in a tent, a representative declared that the company could not afford to set it up again. All left to take jobs on the Bar 96 except Southwood, who remained to protect the claims and see the townsite project through. He greeted the first train to arrive in Panhandle City in January 1888.
Southwood served as the first county constable when Carson County was organized in June 1888. He worked at various jobs, including selling real estate, until 1890, when he entered the grain, coal, and ice business. In 1892 he was elected county tax assessor; he served two terms. He sold his grain business to John Callaghan in 1895 and then formed a partnership with John Haggart to open a grocery store, which they sold in 1904 to John Dees. Because of poor health Southwood made a prolonged visit to his brother in California and sister in Washington before retiring to his section one mile east of Panhandle, which became his permanent home. He was elected Carson county judge in 1906. He also became a stockholder in the Panhandle Bank, of which he became director after its reorganization in 1927 as the First National Bank of Panhandle. On April 25, 1911, Southwood married Dena Held, a teacher in the Panhandle school and daughter of Ludwig Held, who had come in 1900 from Petersburg, Illinois, to invest in seven sections of land. The Southwoods lived on Held's land east of town. Over the years, Judge Southwood became legendary for his tolerance, generosity, and ability as an arbitrator. He died on August 25, 1940, and was buried in the Panhandle Cemetery.