Whittenburg, James Andrew (1857–1936)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: September 1, 1995

James Andrew Whittenburg, cattleman, the son of George and Sarah (Jarvis) Whittenburg, was born on May 7, 1857, in Chillicothe, Missouri. After the Civil War Whittenburg's imagination was fired by reports of the cattle trade, and at the age of twelve he devised plans to join his older brothers in Texas. When his mother sent him out for wood one morning, he caught a freight train that took him as far as the Indian Territory. After selling various trinkets for meals, lodging, and passage on the Red River ferry to Texas, he spent the next five years working with his brothers on Ben Slaughter's ranch in Parker County. In four years he had his own herd of twenty head. When he arrived back at his home at age seventeen, he walked in the door carrying a load of wood. After attending school for a year, he returned to Texas and went to work for John Proffitt at Fort Belknap, in Young County. During the next four years Whittenburg made several drives over the Western Trail to Dodge City; on one drive he suffered from heatstroke, which affected his eyes and left him almost blind for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, by 1878 Whittenburg owned over 100 cattle. At that time he filed on eighty acres of land in Young County. There he met Tennessee Ann (Tennie) Parham, whom he married on July 3, 1879. They had three children, one of whom died in infancy. The Whittenburgs lived and ran their cattle for a time in Lamar County. However, a severe drought compelled them to parlay their holdings into a larger spread in Wilbarger County. After purchasing a wagon and team, the couple peddled groceries and supplies, bought at Doan's Crossing, to the Comanches and other tribes in western Oklahoma. They soon won a reputation among the Indians as shrewd traders, and husband and wife took turns standing, shotgun in hand, on night guard over the team and supplies. During one venture the Comanche chief Big Bow became impressed with their son George's blond hair and offered from seventy-five to a hundred horses for the boy, promising to make him a chief.

In 1887 Whittenburg filed claim on land in Roberts County near Miami. Here he carried the mail from Miami to the Adobe Walls post office, then run by William (Billy) Dixon. George became one of Olive King Dixon's five pupils at Garden Creek School. Whittenburg was instrumental in the organization of Roberts County and served as a commissioner. When Oklahoma was opened for settlement in 1889, he grazed cattle in Kay County and for four years carried mail on a star route. Whittenburg continued his operations in Oklahoma until 1898, when he filed on four sections of land in the center of Hutchinson County. Panhandle, in Carson County, was the family's banking and supply center until 1901, when the townsite of Plemons was platted on land donated from the Whittenburg homestead section. Because of his father's failing eyesight, George took charge of the physical labor and growing management responsibilities of the Whittenburgs' MM Ranch, which accumulated 25,000 acres and over 3,000 cattle by 1920. In 1924 oil was discovered on the Whittenburg holdings. After the death of his wife in 1927, Whittenburg moved to Amarillo and rented rooms at the Amarillo Hotel. On October 19, 1936, Whittenburg died of injuries he received when the car in which he was riding collided with a freight train in Amarillo. He was buried in the Dreamland Cemetery in Canyon. The family's MM Cattle Company, headed by Roy Robert Whittenburg, still operated the ranch in Hutchinson County in 1986. One of his grandsons, S. B. Whittenburg, founded the Amarillo Times, which he merged with the Globe-News after buying an interest in the company in 1951.

Amarillo Daily News, October 20, 1936. Garland H. Bell, "Willis P. Hedgecoke," in Amarillo Genealogical Society, Texas Panhandle Forefathers, comp. Barbara C. Spray (Dallas: National ShareGraphics, 1983). Hutchinson County Historical Commission, History of Hutchinson County, Texas (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). John L. McCarty, Adobe Walls Bride (San Antonio: Naylor, 1955). Thomas Thompson, North of Palo Duro (Canyon, Texas: Staked Plains, 1984). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
  • Ranch Managers
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Whittenburg, James Andrew,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/whittenburg-james-andrew.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995