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Ranchers led the charge to build Lubbock

Rollie C. Burns & Frank E. Wheelock
1857-1945, 1863-1932

As the 20th century neared, it became clear that one element would determine the fate of efforts to develop a thriving city in Lubbock County.

Compromise was the key.

Frank Wheelock and Rollie Burns would bring that spirit to the table.

The two pioneers were from vastly different backgrounds.

Burns was born in Missouri and moved to Texas with his family in 1861, settling first in Collin County and later in Grayson County. In 1873, he went on the Wegefarth surveying expedition in the Texas Panhandle. His duties included scouting and providing buffalo meat for the expedition.

For the next several years, he worked on ranches. He made cattle drives for George Loving in 1874 and 1875 and worked on the 22 Ranch about 1881. In 1883-84, he was manager of the Llano Cattle Company's Curry-Comb Ranch in Garza County.

From 1884 to 1888, Burns was manager of the Square and Compass Ranch. For the next eight years, he was range boss on the IOA Ranch in Lubbock County.

Wheelock, the son of a physician, was born in Holland, N.Y. The Wheelock family had come to America from England during the "Great Migration" of the early 17th century to escape persecution by the Stuart kings.

His childhood was spent in Wisconsin, North Dakota, Illinois and Minnesota, where he finished school. His first job was with a fruit commission merchant in Minnesota. But in 1887, at the age of 24, he accepted a new position as a manager on the IOA Ranch. The Western Land and Live Stock Company, which owned the IOA, was controlled by Stillman W. Wheelock, a great uncle of Frank Wheelock.

It was at the IOA that Burns' and Wheelock's paths merged - fortunately, for today's Lubbock residents.

The IOA, established in 1884, covered most of the southern half of modern-day Lubbock County and was stocked with 20,000 cattle. But the size of an operation did not guarantee success.

The ranch was never profitable, according to "Lubbock and the South Plains, an Illustrated History." Before it ever produced calves for market, prices dropped 200 percent or more. The drought of 1886 was devastating. Prices rose by 1891, but the ranch was hit by another major drought. Its principal investors opted for Burns to liquidate the venture by selling the land and livestock. The sale to stockmen and farmers bought major ranching in the county to an end in 1896.

In the waning days of the IOA, Wheelock and Burns watched with interest as clusters of homes began to develop just north of the ranch.

The village, which had come to be known as Lubbock, continued to grow as a cattlemen's and farmers' trade center.

Two distinct and competing communities had developed -- one north of the Yellowhouse Canyon, known alternately as Lubbock or North Town, and another, newer endeavor by Stonewall County developer Walter Rayner, which was known as Monterey or Ray Town.

Rivalry was fierce, sometimes underhanded, between the two towns. Wheelock, who had sided with the North Town group, once took advantage of Rayner's absence to offer to move South Town residents across the canyon and give them property.

Rayner's insistence on the southern location was based on his belief that if the railroad was to come to the area, it would come from the south.

By 1890, Old Lubbock was said to have about 37 buildings and a population of about 50. Monterey reportedly was home to 32 buildings and about as many people.

One factor made the establishment of a single town much more important than competition between the two. At issue was the designation of a single town as county seat so that Lubbock County, which was then under the jurisdiction of Crosby County, could be organized as a governmental entity.

Compromise was not difficult.

Realizing the need for quick action, the two sides came together in late 1890 and in a matter of weeks were able to agree on all issues, including the location of the county seat - which was neither of the existing towns.

The primary terms: the two factions would consolidate, select a site suitable for a new town, Wheelock would be their mutual representative, all buildings would be moved from the old towns to the new site within a month except for one small building left at each of the original sites.

It took less than a month to locate a desirable site in the center of the county and to purchase the land for $1,920.

The moves began immediately, with the most memorable being the transfer of the Nicolett Hotel across the canyon to the new town square.

Together Wheelock and Rayner immediately transferred lots to approximately 100 settlers. These new residents, together with settlers on outlying farms and ranches, cowboys from the IOA and transients or drifters were thought to be enough to organize the county and establish Lubbock as the county seat. A petition was circulated in the county, gathering the names of 150 eligible voters. It was submitted to the Crosby County judge on Feb. 9, 1891.

A century's worth of lore suggests that Burns may have helped boost the numbers by registering several horses from the IOA. Court records with the signatures have never been found. But the fact that only 94 people paid poll taxes in Lubbock County in 1891 suggests the legend may have merit.

Lubbock, though still not incorporated, and the county were set for the boom that farming would soon bring to the area.

Wheelock and Burns adapted to the changing economy and remained as civic leaders. Wheelock was elected to the first group of county commissioners and was chosen to spearhead the constructon of a local cotton gin.

Burns was chosen to actively court a railroad for the city.

In 1907, Burns and Wheelock established the first auto-bus line with four two-cylinder, chain-drive Buicks. Burns and others bought the autos in Amarillo, where they also learned to drive them. A trip from Lubbock to Amarillo took a full day. The venture failed when the railroad finally did arrive. However, Burns remained in the car business, selling two-cylinder Buicks.

By 1909, with a population of about 1,800, Lubbock was ripe for incorporation. With the backing of civic leaders, an incorporation election was held March 16, 1909. It passed 84-46.

Lubbock was a city.

An election for the city commission was held on April 6, 1909. Wheelock stood as the only candidate for mayor. He captured all 168 votes and would continue in the post until 1915.

Burns and some associates received a charter from the city in August 1909 to build a light, heat and power plant and system. By May 1910, the Lubbock Ice and Light Company was in business at 300 Main St.

Recognizing the service of these two founders, a school and subdivision are named for Wheelock and a park bears Burns' name.

Previous City's Most Influential:
#5 - Dr. M.C. Overton #6 - Charles E. Maedgen
#7 - Walter S. Posey #8 - W.H. Bledsoe
#9 - Roy Furr #10 - Robert Snell
#11 -W. Cuury Holden #12 - Christine DeVitt l Helen DeVitt Jones
#13 -John T. Montford #14 - Kent Hance
#15 -Marsha Sharp #16 - Dr. J.A. Chatman
#17 -A.B. Davis #18 - T.J. Patterson
#19 -Jose Ramirez #20 - Delbert McDougal
#21 - Mac Davis #22 -W.B. "dub" Rushing
#23 - The Cavazos Family #24 -Glenna Goodacre
#25 - George Hunt #26 - J. T. Hutchinson/J. T. Krueger
#27 - Ella Iles #28 - Clifford B. Jones
#29 - "Dub" Rogers #30 - Linda DeLeon
#31 - Sedberry Family #32 - H. A. Sessions
#33 - Mae Simmons #34 - O. L. Slaton
#35 - Maggie Trejo #36 - Bob Knight
#37 - McMillan Family #38 - Ventura Flores
#39 - Halbert O. Woodward #40 - George Wolffarth
#41 - Spenser Wells #42 - Underwood Family
#43 - Dirk West #44 - Talkington Family
#45 - Grover Murray #46 - Mollie Abernathy
#47 - Ernesto Barton #48 - Adolph Hanslik
#49 - The Maines Family #50 - Alan and Sandy Henry
#51 - Ray and Lou Diekemper #52 - Murphee and Sherrod families
#53 - Polk Robinson, Huffman family #54 - Marciano Morales
#55 - Robert Duncan #56 - Roy B. Davis
#57 - F. W. Mattox #58 - George Simmons
#59 - Bobby Moegle #60 - Larry Combest
#61 - Charles C. Crenshaw #62 - George Singer
#63 - Judge W. D. Crump #64 - M. M. Dupre
#65 - George E. Green #66 - Marjorie Cone Kastman
#67 - Dudley Strain #68 - Maxey family
#69 - Caldwell, Hancock, Stubblefield
#70 - Elmer Tarbox
#71 - H. I. Robinson #72 - Paul Milosevich
#73 - Father Halfmann #74 - John A. Logan
#75 - Roscoe and Smylie Wilson #76 - Jim Courtney
#77 - Carolyn Lanier #78 - Waggoner Carr
#79 - "Rip" and Mark Griffin #80 - The Hometown Boys
#81 - Theodore Phea #82 - Dr. Bricker, Dr. Selby
#83 - Sam Medina #84 - Alan White
#85 - Joan Ervin #86 - Sister Maureen Van der Zee
#87 - S. E. Cone #88 - Clent Breedlove
#89 - Paul Horn #90 - Dudley Faver
#91 - Lee Lewis #92 - William Harrod
#93 - James H. Milam #94 - Jane Anne Stinnett
#95 - B. O. McWhorter #96 - Windy Sitton
#97 - James Granbury #98 - David Gutierrez
#99 - Delwin Jones #100 - Retha Martin
They built this city with a lot of work
Lubbock's 'builders' to be featured


The A-J Remembers The Most Important People in Lubbock's History

SPECIAL SECTIONS: 1909-1933 / 1934-1958 / 1959-1983 / 1984-PRESENT | PRINT VERSION