Wright, William Crow (1837–1906)

By: Michael E. McClellan

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1996

Updated: April 7, 2021

William Crow Wright, founder of the Chain Seven Ranch, was born on February 28, 1837, in Clarksville, Texas, in Red River Territory, the son of Sally (Caruthers) and James G. Wright. He attended McKenzie College and graduated about 1856. He then went to work for four years as a clerk in Sherman. When he had saved enough money, he and his younger brother, Robert C. (Bob) Wright, went to Mexico and bought some Spanish mares to start a horse ranch in Denton County. Although Wright purchased the livestock, his father probably provided the money and some of the land. The Civil War broke out soon after the establishment of the Chain Seven Ranch, and both Wright and his brother joined Madison's Third Texas Cavalry battalion. Crow served in F Company and Bob served in D Company. Both participated in numerous skirmishes and battles associated with Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks's unsuccessful Red River campaign. At the end of the war the Wright brothers returned to Denton County and began a desperate struggle to rebuild and preserve their ranching operations. Renegade Whites, Indians, and horse thieves made life hard for those who tried to run horses on an open range in North Texas during the late 1860s. From 1868 to 1872 the Chain Seven herds were constantly raided by Kiowa and Comanche Indians from Oklahoma's Fort Sill Reservation. Accounts of the largest attack, though frequently exaggerated, place the number of Indians at 250 warriors. Wright, who was elected to head a county militia company, had lost 341 horses to Indian raiding parties by 1872, when Indian raids in Denton County ended. He then expanded to the West Texas area. In the early 1880s he and his brother built a sizable cattle ranching operation in what was then Hardeman County. Some estimates place the size of their herd at 2,400 head. Available records indicate that Wright probably did not actually own the 58,000 acres that the cattle ranged, but that it was public school land leased for grazing. Later the Chain Seven land, located about thirty miles southwest of the site of present Quanah, became part of Cottle County. In the early 1880s Wright began to sell his ranching interests, and by 1892 he had disposed of his landholdings, with the exception of farms and small land holdings in Denton County that he gave to his children. With his ranching interests liquidated, he invested in an opera house in Denton and built a large brick mansion, whimsically named Boscobel. Wright retired but continued to pursue claims against the United States government for losses in his stock caused by Indian depredations. He married Julia A. Gober on January 7, 1869, and they had seven children. Wright died in May 1906 in his home in Denton.

Edward Franklin Bates, History and Reminiscences of Denton County (Denton, Texas: McNitzky Printing, 1918; rpt., Denton: Terrill Wheeler Printing, 1976). Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas (Chicago: Battey, 1889; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Denton Record and Chronicle, December 8, 1946, March 25, 1976. Jesse Wallace Williams, The Big Ranch Country (Wichita Falls: Terry, 1954; 2d ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1971).

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

Michael E. McClellan, “Wright, William Crow,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wright-william-crow.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996
April 7, 2021