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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

From Slavery to Cattle Rancher, Cowboy of a different Breed

Daniel Webster Wallace

Story by Roger Edison

As we reflect to imagine the Cowboys who operated the long cattle drives of the late 1800's; we likely think of it as perhaps a scene from a "John Wayne" movie. Perhaps pondering ideas of the life without much thought to the actual daily hard work, inclement weather, long hours in the saddle and sleeping each night on the ground. Rarely do we imagine the many men from several races and their stories nor the many true dangers they endured each day operating the cattle drives.

Many of these cow punches came to Texas looking for work after the end of the Civil War as there was a high demand for beef and Texas had plenty of longhorns needing men to drive herds often over a thousand miles to market. These men came from almost every imaginable background. Many were Anglo, though a large number of Mexican Vaqueros were already working the longhorn cattle and several blacks helped with these drives. Some of these negro wranglers changed history and became very famous, such as Nat Love and legendary Bose Ikard who was Charles Goodnight's most loyal friend.....This is the story of a man less famous but grew a fortune as a Texas Cattleman....This is the story of "80 John",

It was September 15, 1860 when Mrs Mary Wallace, a negro slave in Inez, Texas gave birth to her son. Mary had been sold to the O'Daniel family just three months prior. Mrs O'Daniel who was present asked, "Mary, he a handsome lad. What will you name him?" Mary replied, "Daniel. How about Daniel Webster Wallace".

While Daniel was born into slavery, he was treated much like family on the O'Daniel farm growing up playing and working with the O'Daniels two sons, M. H. and Dial. However, Daniel did not care much for farming growing tired of his job chopping cotton. The Civil War had ended several years earlier and Daniel now being a free man dreamed of being a COWBOY. He was a mere 17 years old when he ran away venturing his dreams of the west and cattle drives. Although, he remain good friends with the O'Daniel family through out his life.

Young Daniel truly just a green horn found his first job as a Cowboy with little effort joining the cattle drives of 1877. He drove cattle for C. C. Slaughter, Isaac L. Ellwood, Andrew B. Robertson, Sam Gholson, C. A. "Gus" O'Keefe, and for the Bush and Tillar Cattle Company. He worked for John Nunn's N.U.N. cattle outfit on the headwaters of the Brazos River as a wrangler and horse breaker.

However, Daniel with no education and much bigger dreams than the many peers he worked with knew he needed schooling if he planned to be a businessman. At age twenty-five he returned to school in Navarro County, where he was admitted to the second grade, and in two winters learned to read and write.

Now in his later-twenties, Daniel joined Clay Mann's outfit near Colorado City in Mitchell County, Texas. The Mann's cattle brand was a large eight zero read as 80 on the side of cattle that Daniel branded. Daniel could out brand, out work and perform better than any other wrangler in the outfit. It was there that Daniel earned the nickname "80 John". He voiced his dream with Clay Mann about wanting to one day own a Ranch. Mann agreed to help him become his own rancher by taking wages as cattle rather than dollars. Mann implemented a plan that would pay Daniel Webster Wallace "80 John" five dollars a month from his thirty-dollar wage for two years and put the remainder aside to invest in his own herd, for which Mann provided free pasture. This working relationship nurtured a bond of mutual trust and respect which lasted until Mann's death in 1889. Two years later Wallace moved his cattle to 1,280 acres which he had purchased in 1885 and started ranching for himself southeast of Loraine in Mitchell County.

He became one of the most respected black ranchers of his time. His Durham cattle brand was a D triangle and on his Herefords he used a D on the right hip and a running W on one side. "80 John" married Laura Dee Owens who was considered highly educated to his standards on April 8, 1888; they had three daughters and a son. Daniel Wallace was a member of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association for thirty years. He died on March 28, 1939, leaving an estate worth more than $1 million, and was buried on his ranch. A state historical marker in Loraine, Texas commemorates his life.


  1. Daniel achieved success with his strong determination and hard work. This is really very motivating story.

  2. Was well respected by all who knew him.