John Tarleton Of Tarleton State Fame

Tarleton Ranch House courtesy Stephenville Historical Museum

If you’ve had any contact at all with Tarleton State University, you’ve heard of John Tarleton, the man who gave some amount of money for the school to be built. If you’ve been to the Stephenville Historical Museum (and I suggest you go), you’ve seen the old ranch house of Tarleton there on the grounds.

Today, I came across the 1895 obituary of John Tarleton himself, and I have to say that I am extremely glad that we are a little kinder in our obits today!

I can make plenty of grammatical mistakes myself so I’ll not lay claim to the ones in this old Comanche Chief.

“A telegram was received here Wednesday announcing the death of Mr. John Tarleton on Tuesday night. ‘Uncle Johnny,’ as he was familiarly called, was an old-time citizen of Waco and was widely known as peculiarly eccentric. He owner [sic] a large ranch on the line of Erath and Palo Pinto counties and there in the mountains he has for years lived the life of a hermit.

“He was never seen in Stephenville except when he passed through on foot annually to and from Waco to his ranch.

“Some months ago he employed a lawyer of this place to go into Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas to see that all his vast properties were in proper shape. On the lawyer’s return he executed a will covering upwards of $1,000,000 worth of unincumbered  properties. The lawyer was made the sole ececutor.

“Among his numerous bequest he willed $100,000 for a college at Stephenville, the trustees of which are the governor, superintendent of public education in Texas and the county judge of Erath County…”

The obituary goes on to say that his other bequests are not known and that he owned a lot of property in Waco where he had at one time been in business. John Tarleton died without a heir.

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for and marketing small-town Texas.
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7 Responses to John Tarleton Of Tarleton State Fame

  1. Bill Tarleton says:

    Enjoyed your story. Still trying to figure out my “connection”.

    Bill Tarleton
    West, Texas

  2. C. V. Dickson says:

    John Tarleton must have really been eccentric, walking back and forth, living like a hermit in the mountains. I am surprised that some woman didn’t try to capture his heart for the sake of all that money and property.

  3. Lavonne Stone says:

    I spent two happy years on the Tarleton campus.

  4. Bryce Carleton says:

    I must pay my respects to Mr. Tarleton. His university has been home at one time or another to an aunt, uncle, myself, and hopefully in the coming year my daughter. I have fond memories of watching the current admin building being built back in the 80’s. In the 50’s my aunt attended school with Barry Thompson, who was the university president while I was there. How many places can a student walk across a college campus and have the school president call you by name? A great school.

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