Waggoner, Daniel (1828–1902)

By: B. Jane England

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 21, 2017

Daniel Waggoner, rancher, son of Solomon and Elizabeth (McGaugh) Waggoner, was born in Lincoln County, Tennessee, on July 7, 1828. He moved with his family to Blackjack Grove (now Cumby) in Hopkins County, Texas, about 1848. His father, a successful farmer and cattleman who traded in horses and slaves, died in 1849. Shortly thereafter Daniel married Nancy Moore, daughter of William Moore of Hopkins County. Their only child, William Thomas Waggoner, was born on August 31, 1852. Nancy died the following year. In 1854 Daniel purchased a herd of longhorn cattle and together with his son, mother, brothers, sisters, and a fifteen-year-old slave boy, moved to a small farm of 160 acres located on Catlett Creek in Cooke County (now in Wise County). During the 1850s and 1860s western Wise County was a frontier area frequented by hostile Indians and marauding cattle thieves. In 1856 Waggoner purchased 320 additional acres close to Cactus Hill, eighteen miles west of Decatur. His family lived near Decatur until 1859, when Daniel married Scylly (or Sicily) Ann Halsell, the sixteen-year-old daughter of Electious and Elizabeth J. Halsell. Daniel then moved his family into his log house at Cactus Hill, where they lived until after the Civil War. Waggoner was a member of the local militia and often chased after raiding Indians while Sicily and W. T. concealed themselves in the cornfield. In order to protect his family Waggoner relocated seven miles east of Decatur on Denton Creek. In 1883 he built a $50,000 Victorian mansion, El Castile, on a rocky hill overlooking Decatur.

Daniel Waggoner carefully trained his son to handle stock and supervise the ranch. By 1870 they were partners operating under the title of D. Waggoner and Son. That spring a successful cattle drive to Kansas netted a profit of $55,000 and provided the financial impetus for the Waggoner empire. During the next thirty years D. Waggoner and Son heavily invested in land and cattle in Wise, Wilbarger, Foard, Wichita, Baylor, Archer, and Knox counties. Their single D brand was changed to the triple reversed D, which became the Waggoner trademark. Eventually the longhorn cattle were phased out and replaced by Hereford and Durham stock which increased the weight and value of the herds. Although he had no formal education, Waggoner was a shrewd businessman whose investments included not only land and livestock, but also five banks, three cottonseed oil mills, and a coal company. As the Waggoner holdings increased, W. T. moved the ranch headquarters to the Zacaweista Ranch south of the Red River near Vernon; Daniel, however, remained in Decatur. When he died of kidney disease in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on September 5, 1902, Daniel Waggoner owned approximately 80,000 cattle, 525,000 acres of land, and leases on more than 100,000 acres in Indian Territory. The 500,000-acre Waggoner Ranch, administered by Daniel's great-great-grandchildren in 1986, was the largest family-owned block of land in Texas.

Cliff D. Cates, Pioneer History of Wise County (Decatur, Texas: Old Settlers Association, 1907). Dallas Morning News, September 7, 1902. C. L. Douglas, Cattle Kings of Texas (Dallas: Baugh, 1939; rpt., Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1968). Rosalie Gregg, ed., Wise County History (Vol. 1, n.p: Nortex, 1975; Vol. 2, Austin: Eakin, 1982). Harry H. Halsell, Cowboys and Cattleland (Nashville: Parthenon, 1937). Buckley B. Paddock, History of Texas: Fort Worth and the Texas Northwest Edition (4 vols., Chicago: Lewis, 1922). Roze McCoy Porter, Thistle Hill (Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1980).

  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

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

B. Jane England, “Waggoner, Daniel,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 08, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/waggoner-daniel.

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April 21, 2017