La Salle Co

William A. Waugh

Pioneer La Salle County Rancher

By Stanley D. Casto

waugh.gif (12901 bytes)

(Prepared for the Dedication of a State Historical Person Marker in honor of the memory of William A. Waugh, 1832-1901, Millet Texas, October 21, 1978.)

Little is known of the early life of W. A. Waugh other that the brief statement from his obituary1 that he was born in Ohio in 1832 and as a young man went West to the California gold fields. After amassing considerable money from this adventure he reportedly moved in 1850 to Brownsville, Texas, where he lived for several years. In 1856, accompanied by a few Mexican ranch hands, Waugh moved North into Bexar County where he established his cow camp near the Cibolo Creek Crossing on the San Antonio-Laredo Road. The land upon which Waugh ran his cattle was at that time open range. A ranch house was apparently build and Waugh speaks in his diary of tending the small garden, which was planted to supply fresh vegetables.

In 1858 La Salle County was created and Waugh found himself to be one of the few residents of the newly formed county. For unknown reasons, Waugh abandoned his ranch in November 1858 and moved to the Rio Grande Valley. His diary notes that he arrived in Brownsville on 14 December 1858 and on 28 December he "moved everything to Santa Rita" a small village located about five miles from Brownsville. 2 Waugh's diary contains entries on 30 December 1858 and 23 March 1859 which indicate that his father and possibly other members of his family were living in the Valley during this time.

While living in the Valley, Waugh server with the Texas Rangers during the Cortina War of 1859 and 1860. Captain W. B. Tobin later certified that Waugh had server in his company and was entitled to pay from 18 October 1859 until 1 January 1860. Other papers in Waugh's file indicate that he also server under the command of Captain John Littleton. 3 Although in later years Waugh was often referred to as "Capt. Waugh" there is no documentation that he ever held a command position with the Rangers.

In January 1861 Waugh returned to La Salle County to find his ranch in a dilapidated condition with a number of items having been carried off during his absence. The ranch headquarters were quickly repaired and Waugh again entered into the stockraising business. Although other settlers were moving into La Salle County during the early 1860's the land around Wuagh's Rancho was still open range and would remain so for several years. 4 The first record of Waugh's land purchases in La Salle County is a deed dated 27 April 1877. 5 Waugh's ranch was never large and in 1882 it consisted of only 5,340 acres with 1000 cattle and 60 horses and mules. 6 Waugh was, however, active in the cattle business and his diary mentiones numerous transactions with well-known ranchers and traders of southwest Texas. In the spring of 1880 Waugh sent a herd of cattle up the trail to Dodge City where in June of that year they were sold to John T. Lytle, a prominent rancher and cattle trader of the 1870's and 1880's. 7

Bill Waugh was a civic-minded individual and for the ten-year period from June 1879 until February 1889 he allowed his ranch headquarters to be used as a post office to serve the settlers at nearby ranches. Waugh's brother-in-law, Lawrence W. Earnest, was approinted the first postmaster and served until August 1883. 8 In 1881 Waugh contracted with the I&GN Railroad to freight lumber to their new depot at Cibolo Station (now Millett). 9 In order to accomplish this task, Waugh had to cut a wagon road from the Cibolo Creek Crossing to the railroad depot, a distance of 15-20 miles. In later years this business was expanded to the sale of wood and posts which were hauled by wagon to the railroad station at Millett. 10

In May 1883 Waugh expanded his ranch holdings through the purchase of the 23,400 acre El Sordo Ranch in Starr and Zapata Counties. 11 In order to pay for this new property, he apparently sold large tracts of his La Salle County ranch to A. J. and J. J. Dull and to his son-in-law, Henry C. Yeager. In August 1884 the firm of Wuagh & Company was formed to administer the El Sordo Ranch. This company consisted of Waugh, H. W. Earnest, L. W. Earnest, A. W. Earnest, and C. W. Earnest. 12

Little is known of Waugh's activities during the period from 1884 until the late 1890's. It is assumed, however, that he divided his time between the management of the La Salle County homestead and the El Sordo Ranch. In February 1897 Waugh posted bond as a Justice-Of-The-Peace for the Millett Community13 and in 1898 he bought half-interest in two lots of Front Street. 14 At about the same time he entered into the mercantile business with his nephew, Henry Wilkerson Earnest. The business proved to be successful and Waugh continued in this endeavor until his death in February 1901.

Bill Waugh was a public-minded individual and, following the organization of the county, he served at various times as an Election Judge, 15 a Deputy Clerk of the District Court, 16 and as a Justice-Of-The-Peace. Waugh was a literate, well-traveled, law-abiding man who for many years kept a daily log of his activities and saw to it that his three daughters - Florence, Josephine, and Martha [Mattie] - received a college education. His only son, Albert Earnest Waugh (1869-1976), died as a child and was buried on the ranch. Waugh was a devoted family man and many of the entries in his diary speak of the numerous letters which he wrote to the members of his family while either he or they were away from home. Each of Bill Waugh's daughters married into pioneer families of La Salle County. Florence married Henry C. Yeager, a pioneer rancher, Josephine married Frank B. Earnest the second La Salle County Judge, and Mattie married William P. Shields, an early settler of the Millett Community.

The La Salle County Historical Commission believes that the pioneer services of William A. Waugh were a credit to both the county and to South Texas. "Waugh's Rancho" at the Cibolo Crossing was for many years a welcome haven for travelers on the San Antonio-Laredo Road. His contributions to stockraising and the mercantile business greatly aided the economy of the developing county. In an era characterized by lawlessness, Waugh was always an advocate of law and order as evidenced by his services as a Ranger, Court Clerk, and Justice-Of-The-Peace.

Upon his death, Bill Waugh was mourned by his daughters and his many friends. He was reportedly the first person to be buried in the Millett Cemetery.


1 Cotulla Record, February 15, 1901.

2. Handbook of Texas, Vol. III, p 855.

3 Ranger Service Records, Texas State Archives.

4 Portions of what later became the Waugh Ranch were part of the Charles Patton Land Grant which was not patented until 1878 and 1879 (Bounty and Donation Land Grants of Texas, 1855-1888).

5 La Salle County, Deed Records, Vol. A, p. 42. The exact site of the ranch headquarters is unknown and it is possible that it was moved at least once for the entries in Waugh's diary for 22-24 February 1882 mention moving the family to a new rancho.

6. La Salle County, Ad Valorem Tax Assessment Roll, 1882.

7 Trail Drivers of Texas, p. 322.

8. U. S. Postmaster Appointments, National Archives.

9 Diary, 4 August 1881.

10 Agapito Morales was born on the Waugh Rancho in 1886 and recalls that his father would cut wood and posts along the Cibolo and haul them by wagon to the railroad station at Millett (Interview, 17 August 1965).

11 Starr County, Deed Records, Vol. F, pp. 333-334.

12 Starr County, Deed Records, Vol. I, pp. 99-101.

13 La Salle County, Record of Official Bonds, p. 53.

14 La Salle County, Deed Records, Vol. K, p. 543.

15 La Salle County, Commissioner's Minutes, Vol. 1, Nov. 1, 1882, p. 53.

16 Bond posted 11 October 1882 (La Salle County, Record of Official Bonds, p. 303).

Sketch of W. A. Waugh by Josie Levy from a photograph courtesy of Mrs. W. A. Tarver.



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