Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Three Bills of Thurber, Texas

Left to Right: J.W. Ivey, J.W. Gailey Sr, and W.T. Fulfer in downtown Thurber (ca 1917)

The T&P Coal Company that owned and operated Thurber generally strove to run a self sufficient town but sometimes it had to lean on area farmers and ranchers to meet its needs. This was the case when the need arose for a new source of beef cattle in about 1900.

T&P Coal awarded a cattle supply contract to a partnership consisting of three local cattlemen, John William Gailey, John William Ivey, and William Thomas Fulfer. The three men became known as “The Three Bills” to their customers. The contract indicated that they needed to supply 50 head of cattle by each Friday for slaughter. This demand required the partnership to travel great distances at times to purchase cattle.

The Three Bills would become very popular with their customers for maintaining a reputation of fairness and honesty. They had a policy of not making a profit from widowed women and if a rancher quoted a price that was too low they would give them a more reasonable price for their stock. J.W. Gailey, who essentially lead the group, became known as “Uncle Bill” to many of his clients due to his fair dealings.

This business venture proved to be very profitable for the three men. All three were able to live well supporting their large families and expand their ranches considerably. JW Gailey was able to expand his ranch into Erath County stretching from the road south of Thurber westward to present day Highway 16. After purchasing his Erath County land he build his family a larger home, which still stands 110 years later.

NOTE: This photo started my interest into family history. I was looking through a Palo Pinto County history book back in 1992 (as a high school freshman) and ran across the image. Noticing the name J.W. Gailey below the photo I figured that the man must be related. I sent a copy of the photo to my grandmother, Dovie Gailey Hunt, and she was elated to see it. She shared with me that he was indeed her grandfather and sent copies of the photo to several relatives in the family. This of course led to more questions from me and over time I wanted to find out everything I could about J.W. Gailey and his family. For years we only had a grainy copy of this photo from the book and it wasn’t until I started working on the Gailey book that I was sent a much clearer copy from the MC and Edna Fry collection, which is the source of this version of the photo.

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