"James Noble Haile"
Jim left home one morning in the spring of 1874 riding a saddle horse and leading a packhorse. Peter and Sarah were very sad to see him leave home, but they knew that his time had come to make his own way in life.
Jim passed by the infant towns of Dallas and Ft. Worth and headed on southwest about 100 miles to a little cow town called Hico, located on the Bosque river and not far from the Leon river. He had camped off the main traveled roads each night to avoid being robbed or killed by the lawless element that roamed Texas.
Jim stopped off in Hico for a day or two to see if he could find a job. He was told that he could possibly go to work for Mr. Hooker or Mr. Bruce as a cowboy and this suited him just fine because he wanted to learn more about the cattle business. Jim found Mr. Hooker's ranch about 10 miles on further south of Hico and was given a job working as a cowhand for $10 a month and room and board. He was only 20 years old, and because of his age he tried extra hard to make a good hand and prove himself to the ranch foreman and the other cowhands. Jim saved his money and was looking forward to the time when he could own his own ranch and have it stocked with many cattle and horses.
He noticed that the orphan calves and lambs were always killed because the ranch foreman didn't think it was worth the trouble to try to raise them. Jim asked if he could have these "orphans" and the foreman said "sure" and even provided him with a pen to keep them. Jim raised these orphans and sold them and added the money to his growing bank role.
Letters came several times a year from his folks in Collin county keeping Jim informed about his mother and dad and sister Susan and brother Oliver. It was good to hear from home and to know that the folks were fine. Jim was fine too. He was beginning to build up quite a little bank role and knew it wouldn't be long before he could buy some land of his own and have money left to buy a few cattle to stock it.
Jim Haile had worked for Mr. Hooker for several years and had acquired a few head of cattle, some horses and a wagon. In April of 1878 he learned that 135 acres of land just across the road east of the Hooker ranch was for sale. The owner wanted $400 for the land, which was part of the old G.W. Poe survey. Jim made a deal with the owner to give him $100 down and every horse colt from one of his mares until this land was paid for. This first of many land transactions was made April 15, 1878.
Jim's dream was beginning to be a reality. He had some land of his own! The next thing to do was to build a house on this land. Gum Branch ran through the edge of his land so he built a small one-room log cabin just above Gum Branch across the road from Mr. Hooker's land. Many nights during the winter, snow would drift through the cracks between the logs and settle on his bed so he would slip under the cover and leave the snow in place. Jim continued to work for Mr. Hooker and also to increase his own herd one or two at a time.
John J. Atkinson was born July 6, 1825 in Tennessee. He married a wife who gave him the following children: Jim, John, Nannie, Eliza Elizabeth and Bud. After his wife died he decided to take his five children and move to Texas. On March 16, 1876 he bought 160 acres of land in Hamilton County for $320, which was a part of the G.W. Poe survey and was located about 1 ½ miles from where the Jim Haile ranch was to be. Mr. Atkinson married a woman that lived on a farm that joined his farm and this second wife gave him five more children Phillip, Frank, Henry, Mary and Fannie.
John J. Atkinson rode with the Texas Rangers from time to time and helped to keep peace in Texas during the time when there was much lawlessness and disorder. He was also a neighbor and friend to Mr. Hooker, Mr. Ruce and other ranchers in Hamilton county. One of his children from his first marriage, Eliza Elizabeth, who had been born May 11, 1862 in Tennessee, attended a barn dance one night and Jim Haile was there. He noticed her immediately and decided that she was the girl for him. He didn't have far to go to court her and he was soon going to the Atkinson ranch every Sunday, and more often if he got through at Mr. Hooker's ranch before sundown.
One Sunday afternoon Jim took an extra horse and went over and got Lizzie and took her down to his farm and showed her his log cabin and farm, cattle and horses. This was about the first of May in 1879 and he decided that this was a good time to pop the question, so he did. Lizzie said "yes" and they decided to get married May 6, 1879. Jim was there bright and early and he and Lizzie stood before the preacher in Mr. Atkinson's house. After the brief ceremony they left and were at the little log cabin on Jim's ranch before noon. After they ate dinner they started planting cotton. Jim opened the rows with a hoe and Lizzie came along and dropped the cottonseed into the opened rows.
Jim had come a long way. He was just 25 years old, had a new bride who was 17, a log cabin on his own 135 acres of land, a few cattle and horses and also a good job working as a cowhand for Mr. Hooker. Jim and Lizzie picked their cotton and sold a few steers and they were very happy. Jim was a hard worker. Even though it was Christmas day of 1879 he worked all day building a rock fence around a part of his pasture.
On the 25th of February 1880, Eliza Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, a boy, and they named him Ollie Lee. It was really crowded now in the little log cabin and Lizzie started talking about a bigger house. There wasn't even an outside toilet. Everybody went to the bushes. Jim said he just couldn't afford to build a bigger house at this time. Maybe a little later. Lizzie soon adjusted to the cramped living and soon was out helping Jim with the farming and the cattle. Jim still kept his job with Mr. Hooker and other ranchers.
Grandpa J. J. Atkinson (left) was might proud of his new grandson and so were Jim's mother and dad, Peter and Sarah Haile (right).
Jim made trips to Hico at least once a month to buy a few groceries and supplies and Lizzie always stayed home and looked after Ollie and kept an eye on the farm and the stock. Jim and Lizzie milked several cows, always raised a big garden and worked in the field together planting cotton and corn and oats by hand, and then working the crops mostly with a hoe. Then in the fall they gathered their corn, picked the cotton, and put in a fall garden of turnips to have a few 'greens' during the fall. Ollie was getting to be quite a big boy now. He was walking around the place with his mother and dad as they worked in the fields and did the chores. After all, he was three years old now and was soon to help welcome a little sister.
Ada Mae was born June 24, 1883. Two grown-ups, a 3-½ year old boy, and a new baby girl were too many people for a little one-room log cabin. Jim began work on a larger house a little further up the hill north and a little east. With the help of the neighbors, he soon had a nice house with three rooms and a stone fireplace. Lizzie was so happy with all that room. She still didn't have an outdoor toilet, but that would come later. She didn't have a clothesline either and when she did her washing, she had diapers and clothes spread out on all the bushes and plank fences around the house.
Jim Haile was needing more land. On July 30, 1884, he bought 60.80 acres for $82. He now owned about 200 acres but he was still dreaming of the time when he would own thousands of acres of land and many cattle, horses and goats.
Cattle drives had been a dream in Jim's mind for some time. Texas cattlemen first began driving cattle north to Abilene, Kansas and other towns on the railroad since the early 1870's. Jim decided he would get a drive together and hope to make some fast money with which to buy more land. He had a few steers of his own. He went to the First National Bank of Hico and borrowed some money against his land and began to buy steers from his neighbors for the drive. Other cattlemen were invited to join the drive with their own steers. If they couldn't go, Jim would drive the steers for them for 50 cents a head. The time was September 1884 and Jim had probably 2,000 steers all together for the drive. He had hired more men and bought more horses and a chuck wagon. The trail was north through Oklahoma territory on the Chisholm Trail, then eastward to Kansas City.
A young man who had come from east Texas signed on for the drive. As the drive reached northeast Oklahoma, it began to rain and turn cold. The young man hadn't brought enough warm clothing and because of the cold rain, the long hours in the saddle, and the fact that he didn't have proper dress; he contacted pneumonia and died and was buried along side of the trail.
The drive continued to Kansas City and the cattle, horses and chuck wagon were sold and a careful tally was kept of each man's money. Jim paid off the trail hands and returned to Texas. The drive was fairly profitable to Jim and he paid off the bank and had some money left to pay down on more land and cattle.
He contacted the dead boy's parents in east Texas and agreed to meet them and a doctor back on the trail where the boy was buried. The boy had been shaved and wrapped in a blanket before he was buried. When he was dug up, he had a 1" growth of beard. The stench was so terrible that the men began to grow sick and faint. The parents took their son back to east Texas for burial and Jim returned home to Hamilton County.