Early History and the Families of the Franklin Farm

Many Pampans have memories of Louise Franklin who died on February 14, 2002. She was the wife of H. Joe Franklin and the mother of Larry Franklin and Jean – Anne (Mrs. Mike) McComas, all of Pampa.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

A cookbook dedicated to Louise, “The Cross F Collection,” has been published recently by Yvonne Franklin of Amarillo. Yvonne is the wife of James B. Franklin (a brother of Joe), and they are the parents of Ann Franklin Austin and Jane Franklin Austin — two Franklin sisters married two Austin brothers. Yvonne explains that the cookbook was originally intended to be a compilation of two cookbooks she had hand printed for her daughters in the early 1980s with recipes she had used when they were growing up in Amarillo. Then she decided to use recipes from the Franklin Ranch, and her cookbook, like Topsy, just “growed.”

She has written the history of the Franklin Ranch and also the history of each family who has lived on any part of the ranch, and she has included recipes from all of their families — beginning with the Lefors family in 1878. The Franklin Ranch consists of 14 sections in Block A-6 of the Houston and Great Northern Railway Survey. Excavations have revealed that a Pueblo Indian culture existed which preceded the advent of the Plains Indians by several hundred years, and that there are similarities to the Navajo cultures which still exist in New Mexico and Arizona. In June, 1852, Captain Randolph Barnes Marcy passed through the area when he was sent to explore the Red River to its headwaters. A historical marker near the ranch commemorates the “Battle of North Fork” which occurred on September 29, 1872.

In an attempt to keep the Indians on the reservations, a military post was established on a creek several miles north of the North Fork of the Red River. On February 3, 1875, the site was designated as Cantonment North Fork Red River. Eleven miles northeast, a new site which became Fort Elliott was established and troops transferred there between June 5 and June 19, 1875, leaving only the name “Cantonment” to the creek in Gray County. Both East Cantonment Creek and West Cantonment Creek flow through the ranch and merge at the southern border of the ranch before flowing two miles south into the North Fork of Red River.

The first persons, other than Indians and soldiers, known to live on the ranch were Gus Hartman (a buffalo hunter on West Cantonment), a Mr. Wells (who had squatter’s rights on East Cantonment) and F. A. Ward (who raised potatoes and other crops on West Cantonment). It is thought that the original ranch headquar- ters house was built by Charles J. Spittel who owned several sections of land in the early 1890s and early 1900s. The first family to live on what is now part of the Franklin Ranch was that of James J. Lefors, who, urged by his son Perry, brought his family in 1878. After he exchanged two saddle horses for Wells’ squatter’s rights, the family lived in Wells’ dugout until a picket house with adjoining corral could be built.

Perry was foreman of the Diamond F Ranch when he met Emma Lang, younger sister of Anna (Mrs. Henry Thut, Sr.) and Lena (Mrs. Alex Schneider, Sr.). Perry Lefors and Emma Lang were married on January 15, 1887 at Mobeetie. Perry bought several sections of land, including some from Gus Hartman in 1882, and he built a camp on the old Travis Leach place for a stage stop between Tascosa and Mobeetie. On October 12, 1892, a post office was established at the stage stop with the U. S. Postal Service requiring that Lefors should be written with a small “f” instead of the capital “F.” Perry Lefors was instrumental in having Gray County organized on May 27, 1902, with Lefors as the county seat. Perry, stricken with typhoid fever, died on September 6, 1909, and by October 26, four of his daughters had died also. His son, Emmett, who was away from home at the time of the tragedy, lived to be 104 years old. Shortly before his death, he dedicated a statue in memory of his father at the intersection of Hobart and Somerville Streets in Pampa.

Although the C. H. and Marie Sohns family never resided on any part of the Franklin Ranch, their home place was located within a quarter mile of the Franklin property. The Sohns were close neighbors to the Perry Lefors family and were invaluable to them during the tragic deaths of Perry and his daughters. They kept the youngest daughter, Molita, to prevent her from contracting typhoid. The second family to settle on land that was later to be a part of the Frank- lin Ranch was the family of Joseph Wilson and Emmogene Harrah. In 1881, the Harrahs settled on land where F. A. Ward had raised potatoes. In 1884, the Har- rahs hired Henry Weckesser of Miami to build a home for them about a mile from their first home on West Cantonment.

This was the first rock house in the area and was to be their home for the next sixteen years. After they moved into their new home, the first of many social occasions was the housewarming and all night dancing that took place. Perhaps the best known occasion, occurring in 1886, is related in the well-known story, “Christmas on the Cantonment,” by Laura V. Hamner. On June 26, 1901, A. B. McAfee acquired from Charles J. Spittal ten sections that are now part of the Franklin Ranch. A. B. and Ariana Bush McAfee and their four children, Alfred, Ophelia, Ariana and Frank, moved into the original head-

quarters ranch house. Around 1905, they moved to Miami where they lived until they settled on the McAfee Ranch 13 miles east of Pampa. Ariana McAfee married W. S. Tol- bert of Miami, and they were the parents of Mildred, Burton and Frances Tolbert. In 1941, Burton Tolbert married Jeff Bearden of Pampa. W. W. (William Washington) Mars was the first person to put together the complete fourteen sections that later became the Franklin Ranch. Just when Mars and his wife, Sarah Elizabeth, first came to Gray County is unknown, but It is known that in the fall of 1905, he shipped cattle to the Mars ranch located 18 miles north of McLean.

It was at that time he hired W. S. (William Silas) Copeland from Commerce, Texas, as foreman. In December of 1905, Mars returned to Commerce and brought Copeland’s wife, Rosalette, and four daughters, Nettle Lee, Dollie, Sybil and Kathleen, back to McLean with him. He then arranged for other transportation to take them to the ranch. The Copelands moved into the rock house that had been built for the Harrah family, and it was there that Frances Marie and Faytie Belle were born. At a Fourth of July picnic in Lefors, Copeland was encouraged to file as a candi- date for the nomination of Sheriff and Tax collector of Gray County in the Democratic Primary. He won the election and served three consecutive terms.

For several years Faytie Belle Copeland Porter Barton served as curator of the McLean/Alanreed Museum in McLean. After Mars moved from the ranch in 1912, the Copelands moved across the creek into the original headquarters house. For a time the rock house was then used as a schoolhouse. In 1914 Copeland resigned from his work with Mars and the family moved to Lefors. During the depression beginning in 1929, Mars ans Mars Cattle Company, owned by Mars and his son Bert, had financial as well as personal problems as Mrs. Mars died in Denton, Texas, on July 15 of 1930.

Mars later used the ranch as collateral for loans from the First National Bank in Fort Worth and as liens to other creditors. Before Mars died in 1935, the bank had foreclosed on the property which in December, 1936, was purchased by Dr. and Mrs. O. M. Franklin.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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