A history of Deaf Smith County, featuring pioneer families Page: 59 of 174
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Deaf Smith County
PORTER LEE JOHNSON, 1899
Got Mail By Flour Sack
The first white residents in Deaf Smith County can attest
that mail service then was slower than in recent years,
but Mrs. Essie Johnson Edwards of Amarillo says the
pioneer method was sure though slow. She is a daughter
of Porter Lee Johnson and lived with the family on a
ranch in the county before the turn of the century.
Cowboys would pick up the mail in Amarillo and bring
it in a flour sack to the ranch, where it was dropped in
an orange crate back of the stove. At the next passing it
was sent to another ranch...and so on. Often more than
a month elapsed before all of it reached its destination,
but the mail was never lost or tampered with.
Porter Lee Johnson was born Aug. 6, 1872, in Tarrant
County and came from there to Deaf Smith County in the
summer of 1899. The family traveled by covered wagon
across the open prairies. Johnson had the first well
drilling machine in the country. Later he operated a blacksmith
shop in Hereford. Mrs. Johnson was an active church
Mrs. Edwards lives at 1627 Hayden, Amarillo. Other
members of the family living are Author Johnson, Clovis,
N.M., and Mrs. Bonita Johnson Morris, Burbank, Calif.,
Mrs. Morris is a make-up artist for Paramount Pictures.
GEORGE RATLIFF JOWELL, 1887
Rancher Tried Irrigation
George Ratliff Jowell brought his family by wagon from
Palo Pinto County to Deaf Smith County in 1887. Their
first home here was on their ranch some eight miles
south-east of Hereford in an area later known as Sulphur
He had fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War
as a very young man. He was a charter member of the
First Christian Church here when they met in the home.
Neighbors came to hear traveling preachers who made
their way over the country by horseback.
Jowell realized the fertility of the soil and was one of
the first to try irrigation, using a hydraulic pump for
water from the creek.
Empriss Jowell Ball is the only living survivor of the
G. R. Jowell children. She is Mrs. Robert L. Ball, Fort
George Ratliff Jowell (11, known as Rat Jowell, was 12
years old when he came with his parents to the plains.
He was the only one of the original family to make his
permanent home here as other children married and
Rat Jowell was married to Eugenia Birdie Cox, a member
of the pioneer J. C. Cox family. They, too, were pioneers.
Mrs. Jowell always got a chuckle from telling an incident
during their courting days. Both she and her husband
liked fine horses. One beautiful afternoon he hitched a
high spirited horse to a training cart, and they went for a
ride across the prairie. He had turned the lines over to
her and was sitting there making such romantic music
on his harmonica. She took a buffalo wallow at a pretty
fast clip, jolting him off the seat and leaving him sitting
in the dust, unhurt except for his vanity.
"Raet Jowell was elected sheriff of Deaf Smith County
when he was 24 years old and still unmarried; he was the
first sheriff after Hereford became a town. Later he resigned
as that office took too much time away from his
ranching. He had previously been in partnership with
L. R. Bradly. They bought the first registered Herefords
here, and both were prominent in ranching circles.
Corinne Jowell Neely remembers that her father used
to spend much time grooming fine cattle for area livestock
shows, and he brought home his share of the blue
ribbons. She recalls that he often was puzzled when certain
animals failed to behave as he thought they should,
despite his work with them. He learned much later that
his sons had "boogered' the animals by poking at them
through the fence with sticks, jumping at them, or anything
they could think of to get back at the animals that
had chased them out of the lot.
Although roping the registered calves was taboo, Mrs.
Neely remembers the fun she and her brothers had practicing
roping them when their father was away from home
or they could catch the calves down near the creek where
they could not be seen from the house.
She remembers long, cool drinks drawn in a bucket
from the well and the fun the children had playing in the
cellar where dried fruit, apples in barrels, and cured
meats were stored.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Rat Jowell are deceased. Their
children are: Corinne (Mrs. Henry F.) Neely, Hereford;
Mabel (Mrs. Forest U.) Randall, Long Beach, Calif.;
Inez (Mrs. Curtis) Brown, Wilmington, Calif.; Richard
Cox Jowell, Hereford; George Ratliff Jowell (III) Hereford;
Louise (Mrs. Glenn) Roberson, Friona, and Jack
Henry Jowell, Camarillo, Calif.
Rat Jowell, right, front row, was a member of
Rat Jowell, right, front row, was a member of
this baseball team in 1903 when they put on
an exhibition game with team members decked
out in "mother hubbards" and fancy hats; left
to right, front row, Hopson, Bob Parker, Frank
Vanderburgh, manager, John Clark, and Rat
Jowell; back row, Gene Dyer, Allan Bell, Artis
Daniel, John Boyd and Jess Mercus.
R. J. KIBBE, 1891
Joys Of Pioneer Life
In search of health for himself and a daughter, Ida Mae,
R. J. Kibbe moved his family toDeaf Smith County in 1891.
He had looked the country over the year before, filing oni
a section of land six miles north-west of Hereford. Returning
in the spring of 1891, he had built a house on the land
when his wife and three children arrived onApril 19. TheY
had made the trip from the former home in Persia, Iowa,
Mrs. W.A. Vaughn (Ida Mae Kibbe) remembers that trail
ride as slow but exciting. Wild flowers were blooming as
they came through Kansas; noting the six year old girl'S
fascination with the colorful prairie flowers, a man stepped
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Patterson, Bessie. A history of Deaf Smith County, featuring pioneer families, book, 1964; Hereford, Tex.. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth16011/m1/59/?q=rat: accessed December 11, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Deaf Smith County Library.