T. D. Hobart

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Timothy Dwight Hobart

Mayor of Pampa, Texas
In office
November 1927 – April 1928
Preceded by F. P. Reid
Succeeded by D. W. Osborne

Born October 6, 1855
Berlin, Washington County
Vermont, USA
Died Pampa, Gray County
Texas
Resting place Fairview Cemetery in Pampa, Texas
Political party Republican (national)

Democrat (state level)
Non-partisan (as mayor)

Spouse(s) Minnie Wood Warren Hobart (married 1888-1935, his death)
Children Four children
Residence (1) Palestine, Anderson County
Texas

(2) Mobeetie, Wheeler County
Texas
(3) Pampa, Texas

Religion Congregationalist-turned-Presbyterian

Timothy Dwight Hobart, known as T. D. Hobart (October 6, 1855 – May 19, 1935), was a Vermont-born businessman, landowner, surveyor, and civic leader in the Texas Panhandle.

Hobart resided primarily in Pampa, which he helped to establish in 1902. Pampa became the seat of government for Gray County. On November 22, 1927, Hobart, was elected without opposition as the mayor of Pampa, a non-partisan position, but served only five months until April 1928. In his later years, he was the manager of the large JA Ranch, based in the first third of the 20th century in four counties southeast of Amarillo:  Armstrong, Briscoe, Donley and Swisher.[1]

Background

Hobart was born in Berlin in Washington County near the capital city of Montpelier in northern Vermont. He had an interest in outdoor pursuits from fishing and hunting to sleigh riding. A friend called him "a boyd who was always looking for better thins, and he always insisted on fair play."[2] Hobart attended the public schools in Berlin, the Montpelier Seminary, and Barre Academy in Barre, also in Washington County. He had wanted to attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, but his father's helth issues compelled him to be educated at h9ome.He read extensively, particularly history books but also ecelled in mathematics and law.[3]

Hobart began teaching school at the age of twenty and was named the Berlin school superintendent a few months later. After four years as the superintendent, he heeded the advice of a cousin, Ira Hobart Evans (1844-1922),[4] to relocate to Texas to work as an agent for the New York and Texas Land Company. At the time, the firm owned some five million acres from Brazoria on the Gulf of Mexico to the Panhandle. Hobart arrived in the fall of 1882 in Palestine in Anderson County in East Texas, at which he worked with a surveying crew under E.A. Giraud in southwestern Texas during an apprenticeship  and learned about Texas climate, soil, vegetation, and wildlife. Increased business compelled that he be shifted to the state capital of Austin for access to official records. In 1886, Evans placed Hobart in complete charge of a million acres of open range in the Panhandle.[5][6]

Disposing of Panhandle lands

Hobart based himself at Mobeetie in Wheeler County, one of the first three Panhandle settlements, where one of his contemporaries was Temple Lea Houston, youngest son of Sam Houston. Working out of this base, he surveyed the lands with intent subdivide them for lease to cattle operations. Hobart noted that sales increased where pastures were fenced, and water was easily available. He devised a plan, approved by Evans, to lease land to large cattle operations for grazing at the rate of four cents an acre, with the rent for the first year applied to improvements. Hobart reasoned that the improvements would bring greater profits down the line. Execution of the plan required the stringing of hundreds of miles of barbed wire, cutting thousands of fence posts, and the digging hundreds of wells with windmills. There were also earthen dams to hold the water. The fence posts came from the Palo Duro Canyon to the south; most were cut by two bachelor brothers, Ben and Sebe Merry, believed to have been over seven feet tall, who were paid seven to nine cents for each post.[5] With an increase in settlers came a demand for smaller tracts of land. Some of the largest sales included the North Fork Pasture of 190,000 acres, the Sam Lazarus Pasture of 10,000 acres, and the Nick Eaton Range of 88,000 acres. By 1897, a decade after passage of the Texas Land Act of 1887 that guaranteed homes for settlers on the remaining state lands, more people began to inhabit the lands west of the 100th meridian, the traditional boundary between "dry" and "humid" country.[7] Most of the large cattle concerns were divided into smaller units, and large tracts were no longer readily available for leasing. That situation had compelled the legendary cattleman Charles Goodnight to end his partnership in the JA Ranch in 1888. The leasing of smaller parcels, at from five to eight cents per acre, continued to fund improvements. By 1900, Panhandle lands had been improved and priced at $1.75 to $3 an acre.[5]

White Deer Lands

In January 1903, Hobart left the New York and Texas Land Company and instead became general manager of the new White Deer Lands Trust Company, which had purchased 631,000 acres from the NYTLC[7] in Carson, Hutchinson, Roberts, and Gray counties in the northern Panhandle and Greer County in Oklahoma. Hobart remained with White Deer for twenty-one years until 1924.[8] At the time Hobart had been living with his family on a small ranch near Canadian in Hemphill County in the Panhandle. Soon he was active in the settlement of Pampa.

Hobart skillfully recruited farmers to the Panhandle lands. Among the early settlers to purchase such lands were Henry Thut and Perry LeFors. Farming communities developed, such as Lefors in Gray County and Groom in Carson County. The company located in the new railroad town of Pampa. The Diamond F Ranch, then consisting of 630,000 acres, sold cattle and leased land to cattlemen. White Deer Lands followed the insolvency in 1886 of the former Francklyn Land and Cattle Company, which had originally 631,000 acres. White Deer sold most of the remaining 400,000 acres of Francklyn lands.[8] The history of the company is found in the White Deer Land Museum, located in a 1916 structure at 112-116 South Cuyler Street in Pampa.[9]

Hobart and the JA Ranch

In 1914, JA manager James Wolcott Wadsworth, Jr., a nephew of ranch owner Cornelia Adair, was elected to the United States Senate from New York. Adair asked Hobart to take over the management of the JA Ranch in 1915. On the passing of Cornelia Adair, Hobart became a co-executor of her estate. As the sole JA administrator in 1932, Hobart had urged Adair’s grandson and principal heir, Montie Ritchie, to sell off the ranch. Ritchie, however, who became sole owner and manager upon Hobart’s death, believed that he could reverse the fortunes of the ranch, which had declined sharply during the 1930s Great Depression as well as drought and the estate debts of his Cornelia Adair. The ranch remains in fifth-generation hands of the original Adair family.[5][10]

Civic and political leadership

Hobart was the president of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society during the late 1920s and early 1930s, in which capacity he helped to procure money to begin construction of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon in Randall County south of Amarillo. The museum was dedicated on April 14, 1933. Additionally, he was twice the president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, based in Fort Worth.[11]

Reflecting his Vermont heritage, Hobart was a Republican at the national level. In March 1881, he had traveled to Washington, D.C. to witness the inauguration of U.S. President James A. Garfield, who was soon cut down by an assassin. In 1896, Hobart was a determined supporter of William McKinley and the gold standard over the Democrat, William Jennings Bryan. He opposed Franklin D. Roosevelt, the New Deal, and the diplomatic recognition in 1933 of the former Soviet Union. Internationally, he admired  Winston Churchill though he did not live to see Churchill become in 1940 the Prime Minister of Great Britain. He did make several business trips to England and met numerous influential persons there. Statewide, Hobart often voted in Texas's then pivotal Democratic primaries, after such contests were first established in 1906. He once compared the Texas Republican Party, a weak entity in his day, to the status of the minority Democrats in Vermont; in each a small group controlled the party in anticipation of political patronage whenever their party held the White House. Hobart of course never lived to see Texas become heavily Republican and Vermont staunchly Democrat, reversals which would have undoubtedly surprised him had he survived until the end of the 20th century. In 1911, Democratic Governor Oscar Colquitt appointed Hobart as a delegate to the National Irrigation Conference held in Chicago because of Hobart's expertise in land and water issues. Hobart was non-partisan under state law as mayor of Pampa and eschewed partisanship regarding international crises. Hobart favored the deportation of illegal aliens but was a critic of the Ku Klux Klan, which he said "divides communities, churches, and even families."[7]

Legacy

Hobart had  been reared a Congregationalist in Vermont—his grandfather was a Congregationalist pastor—and would have followed that denomination to the Texas Panhandle had it existed there. Instead, he became a Presbyterian after having attending various community church services wherever they were available once he reached Palestine, then Mobeetie, and finally Pampa.[7]

In 1888, Hobart married the former Minnie Wood Warren (1859-1949) of Vermont. The couple had four children; a son, Warren D. Hobart died in 1910 prior to his twentieth birthday. Minnie and the three other children survived Hobart, who succumbed in 1935 to pneumonia.[11] Daughter Laura Prescott Hobart Fatheree lived until 1990.[12]

In 1950, Lester Fields Sheffy published a 322-page biography of Hobart entitled, The Life and Times of Timothy Dwight Hobart, through auspices of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society.[7] The Reverend Clinton Earl "Clint" Lancaster (1888-1961) of the First Baptist Church of Pampa, a Mississippi native who had been a chaplain in World War I,[13] delivered Hobart's funeral oration. The Reverend Lancaster said, accordingly:

His clear intelligence was resistant to hasty conclusions; once reached, they were dispassionate and final. He was fitted by native character and habits of life for great administrative work. He was vigilant, patient, cordial, and an intuitive judge of men. He was never swayed by trends of public opinion, though responsive to them, which fitted him for so tremendous a place of responsibility as he always carried. His vigorous intellect, lofty principles, honest feeling of heart, brought him into the councils  of our nation's responsible men in government, education, religion, and economic life. He was Pampa's first citizen.[7]

Hobart is interred at Fairview Cemetery in Pampa. His epitaph reads:

A pioneer, loved and respected by all who knew him
With a character strong and rugged as the hills of Vermont from whence he came

and a vision as broad as the Texas prairies[12]

A street and park in Pampa are named for Hobart.[12]  

References

  1. Hobart, Timothy Dwight. Texas State Historical Association: The Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved on February 15, 2015.
  2. Eloise Lane (died 2010), T. D. Hobart becomes Second Manager of White Deer Lands," White Deer Land Museum, accessed December 1, 2015.
  3. Billy Hathorn, "Land, Cattle, and Settlement: Timothy Dwight Hobart and the Shaping of the Texas Panhandle," West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 92 2026, p. 79; hereinafter cited as Hathorn, page number.
  4. Ira Hobart Evans was a New Hampshire native, a Medal of Honor recipient while serving in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and briefly a Texas state representative and the House Speaker during Reconstruction.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 New York and Texas Land Company. Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved on December 2, 2015.
  6. Hathorn, p. 79.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Lester Fields Sheffy, The Life and Times of Timothy Dwight Hobart, 1855-1935: Colonization of West Texas (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1950), pp. 5 (education), 118, 170, 258 (lands) 294-298 (politics), 306-307 (religion), 309 (legacy).
  8. 8.0 8.1 Francklyn Land and Cattle Company. The Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved on February 15, 2015.
  9. Welcome To The White Deer Land Museum. museuminpampa.org (February 14, 2015).
  10. JA Ranch exhibit, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Gray County Biographies
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Timothy Dwight Hobart. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on February 6, 2015.
  13. Eloise Lane (1985). Rev. C. E. Lancaster was a chaplain during World War I. Gray County Heritage. Retrieved on February 15, 2015.