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Aunt Annie, Clay McGonagill and the Old Sweet Home Cattlemen and Trail Drivers

Added: Monday, October 7th 2019 at 11:13am by halfback


Aunt Annie, Clay McGonagill and the Old Sweet Home Cattlemen and Trail Drivers
Bernard Pyron

Clay McGonagill (1879-1921) was a well known roper and steer rider of
the early rodeo.

He was so well known that Elmer Kelton threw him in as a
character in his Western novel set in the first years of the 20th
century in the Midland, Texas area. Its called The Good Old Boys. I saw
the movie version but in it Clay McGonagill makes only a brief
appearance in a rodeo in San Angelo. I read the novel and Clay
interacts more with the two main characters.

Clay McGonagill appears as a character in Frank O"Rourke's High
Vengeance, 1954. O'Rourke spells his name McGonigal, and Clay
appears in a rodeo in this western novel.

McGonigill is in the Cowboy Hall of
Fame in Oklahoma City, and they published an article
on him. That article is by Eve Ball, "Clay McGonagill: A Colorful
Cowboy," Persimmon Hill 9 (Winter 1979).

Other stuff on Clay McGonagill include: Bill Modisett, "Clay
McGonagill: The Wildest Cowboy, The Greatest Steer Roper," in Cowboys
Who Rode Proudly: Carrying Cattle...And the Methods of Handling Them ,
comp. and ed. Evetts Haley, Jr. (Midland, Texas: Nita Stewart Haley
Memorial Library, 1992). Willard H. Porter, Who's Who in Rodeo
(Oklahoma City: Powder River, 1982). Guy Weadick, Clay McGonagil: A
Fast Man with a Rope ( Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1962).

There are many stories
of Clay's exploits, some of which are in the Hall of Fame article - about
his rooster fighting, living in West Texas as a working cowboy,
supposed friendship with W.C.. Fields and Will Rogers, supposedly
being a member once of the Wild Bunch with Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid.

Here is more on Clay from the Online Handbook of Texas: "Any chance
for formal education was cut short in 1897 when Clay and a friend, Joe
Gardner, threatened to kill the school principal and a grade school
teacher after a fight with the school superintendent. In 1907 he was
charged with horse theft, though the charges were later dropped and
Clay won a "malicious prosecution" suit. In March 1912 charges were
filed in the district court of Gaines County against him for "robbery
with firearms" of a bank in Seminole. Allegedly, Clay and notorious
outlaw Tom Ross perpetrated the offense, but charges were later
dropped against Clay, apparently for lack of evidence. "

An article on Clay appeared in Old West, Winter 1971, Vol 8, No 2,
called "Arizona's Great Horse Gather," by Dan Woods.

But who was Clay McGonagill's mother?

The Online Handbook of Texas does not agree with Lovington cemetary
records in
Lea county, New Mexico,on the name of Clay McGonagill's mother, and
neither give his mother's full maiden name.

In the mid nineties I exchanged letters with a first cousin of mine,
Billy Pyron Kinney, through his daughter Patricia. Billy says that
before Clay McGonagill was killed he was in San Antonio for a rodeo
and stayed with our grandparents A.M. and Virginia Pyron who lived
just south of the city. At the rodeo Clay found someone had cut his
horse's cinch. Clay's so called "Billy" horses were a vital part of
his champion peformances.

Billy Kinney thought that our grandfather was Clay's uncle. Billy
was born around 1903 or so. Since we knew who the two other sisters of
grandfather Pyron married and didn't know who aunt Annie married, she
was the suspect for being the possible mother of the cowboy Clay

Lets see what the answer is to these questions about the mother of
Clay McGonagill:

A lady in McCulloch county, Texas, Ann Hoft, supplied me with
information on the mother of
Clay McGonagill and the name of the other McGonagill that my great
aunt Annie Pyron married. Information she dug up from
www.ancestry. com shows that great aunt Annie Pyron married William
Washington McGonagill in Lavaca county, Texas in 1870. They later
moved to the northern part of the Texas hill county. She is buried in
McCulloch county.

The father of Clay McGonagill was George Monroe McGonagill, the uncle
of William Washington McGonagill that great aunt Annie married.

Clay McGonagill was born in the Sweet Home area of Lavaca county to
George M. McGonagill and Narcissa J. Payne McGonagill in 1879. The article on Clay
by Eve Ball, "Clay McGonagill: A Colorful Cowboy," Persimmon Hill 9
(Winter 1979) says "Clay McGonagill was born at old Sweet Home,
Texas, September 24,1879. In 1883 his father, George, moved his
family to West Texas, where he was sheriff of Ector county while
running cattle on his homestead a few miles out of Odessa, the county

n a history of Lavaca county "On the Headwaters of the Lavaca and the
Navidad", by Paul C. Boethel, there is a chapter called "Cattlemen on
Headwaters," mostly about George West, his brothers and Henry B.
Shiner who ranched in the Sweet Home area on or near Mustang Creek,
but it also includes Gideon Blackburn. George West later moved down
south of San Antonio and founded the town of George West in the brush
country. In fact, almost all the cattlemen on Mustang Creek near Sweet
moved to less settled parts of Texas. The chapter on the cattlemen on
the headwaters also mentions L. B. Allen, Willis McCutcheon and J. T.
Woods as being cattlemen in the Mustang Creek and Sweet Home area of
Lavaca county.

George West, his brothers, Henry B. Shiner and several other Sweet
Home cattlemen ranched in that same area were
trail drivers. George West and Henry B. Shiner became founders of
Texas towns(George West south of San Antonio and Shiner in central
western Lavaca
county. My grandfather, A. M. Pyron, with a neighbor Carl Kurz founded
the town of
Somerset in southwest Bexar county in about 1910.

Another trail driver of the Sweet Home area, William Ward Allen, made
several trail drives to Kansas
before establishing a cattle ranch in 1898 in the Texas Hill Country
about 15 miles south of Junction, in what are now Kimble, Kerr
and Edwards counties. Allen bought 20,000 acres for $1.05 per acre in
that part of the Texas Hill Country. His cowboys operated much like
they did in the trail driving era. They lived out of chuck wagons on
the large unfenced range and had to herd cattle who were free to roam.

Sometime before 1900 George West bought a huge tract of land in the
brush country south of San Antonio
in what was or became Live Oak county. At least when I was in college
in Kingsville,ranch land that once belonged to him surrounded the town
of George
West. Many of the Sweet Home area cattlemen must have made money from
trail driving their herds to Kansas, for otherwise they would not have
been able to buy such huge tracts of land.

The huge book, Trail Drivers of Texas is online and has a place to
search for names.
Great Grandfather Gideon B. Blackburn is in the book, but the online
version does not say where he is mentioned. Gideon B. Blackburn was
born in 1817 and died
in Lavaca county in 1881, and so he belongs to an older generation
than the West brothers, George Monroe McGonagill, and most of the
other Sweet Home cattlemen.

In his closing paragraphs for his chapter, "The Cattlemen on the
Headwaters," Paul C. Boethel says "The inroads of the European
immigrants in the '80s to the sector was heavy; their farms closed the
range and fenced in the cattlemen." He says George West was the first
to move from the Sweet Home area, moving to Live Oak county where
Boethel says he bought 200,000 acres of land. Moore and Allen moved
to Uvalde and Kinney counties while John W. Bennet, Solomon and Isaac
West went to Jackson and Victoria counties on 50,000 acres. Willis
McCutcheon with Beau McCutcheon in 1883 went to the Davis Mountain
area of West Texas. Walsh West, a brother of George, stayed in the
Sweet Home area, and died there in 1889.

Here is what I found on a few of the Cattlemen and Trail Drivers from
the Sweet Home and Mustang Creek area of Lavaca county, Texas:

http://www.lib. utexas.edu: 8080/search/ txclassics/ search.jsp? collections= txclassics& maxDocCount= 500&docsCount= 10&query= James+Blackburn
Results for The Trail Drivers of Texas

Your search for the word(s) James Blackburn found 1 entries
1. Trail drivers of Texas : interesting sketches of early cowboys and
their exper... (Size 2,641k)

http://www.lib. utexas.edu: 8080/search/ txclassics/ search.jsp? collections= txclassics& maxDocCount= 500&docsCount= 10&query= Gideon+Blackburn

Results for The Trail Drivers of Texas
Your search for the word(s) Gideon Blackburn found 1 entries

There does not seem to be a link to the pages that mention Gideon
Blackburn and his son, my Great Uncle, James Blackburn, born 1859..

 But for the more famous Sweet Home area cattlemen, like L. B. Allen,
there are links which lead you to the stories about him and others he
was associated with.

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