The Age: Legacy of Jackson Brothers Ranch remembered

Guy Cade, Sr. and James Bert Jackson

By Marie Hughes, Chambers County Museum at Wallisville

After the death of John Henry “Double Bayou John” Jackson, his sons – Felix, Arthur Antonio, and Ocie – formed the Jackson Brothers Ranch on the 10,000 acres left to them by their dad.  They purchased another 4,000 acres from their cousin, Ralph James Barrow, according to the arrangement Double Bayou John made with his nephew before his death.  In the years that followed, it would be on this land that the majority of their oil was discovered.   The Jackson oil field was called Oyster Bayou.

Although the Oyster Bayou oil field at times generated more than $10,000 a day from its 39 wells, those riches never corrupted John Jackson’s sons.  Felix, Arthur A., and Ocie spent their lives on the family land. They kept on raising cattle and donated money to colleges and local charities.  Folks said the Jacksons did their giving the Bible way, without letting their right hand know what their left hand was doing.

Ocie Jackson, 1982

Ocie Jackson, youngest of John’s sons stated in a 1991 interview, “I learned most of my cowboy skills from my older brother, Arthur, who was Quinten and Arthur T’s daddy.  He was the one who took a real interest in the ranch.  My middle brother, Felix, wasn’t too interested in cattle and horses.” 

Ocie said he only saw Felix ride one time and that was when Arthur challenged him to do so.  He rode just fine but preferred his chosen trade as a tailor.  A man named Mr. Mitchell taught him to cut out the material, sew, stitch, etc.  Ocie said Felix did a lot of suits for white people in the area.  He started out with a little shop inside his mother Charlotte Lewis’ home, and later on had a shop of his own.  It is said he was quite an accomplished tailor, but never followed patterns, just created things on his own. 

Felix died in 1948 of a heart problem.  Arthur Antonio was talented in the tailor’s trade as well as the ranching business, for he also had a little tailor’s shop, perhaps picking up the trade after his brother’s death. 

Felix left instructions that his portion of the Jackson Brothers Ranch was to be divided equally between his surviving brothers, Arthur Antonio and Ocie.  Arthur A. died in 1953 a short five years after Felix, and Ocie took over as manager of the Jackson Brother’s Ranch.  Arthur had appointed Ocie as guardian of his part of the estate, upon his death, with instructions it would be turned over to his sons when they were ready to take the reins. 

Ocie said of his mother, Charlotte Lewis, “Mama Charlotte couldn’t read or write, but she was smart enough to keep my father.”  Ocie mentions the fact that his mother gave birth to all five of John’s children.  He was faithful to only her. 

Like all ranchers in the area, the Jackson Brothers worked the cattle during the fall season.  Ebony Magazine was there to witness the activity in 1982.  They wrote, “With the arrival of the fall season, Felix and Owen are joined by their brothers, who have taken off from their jobs in Houston 60 miles away to help with the spraying, branding, castration, and separation of the cattle.  To the untrained eye the whole operation looks professional — lightweight and heavyweight boys and men corralling and upending the animals with equal skill.  Yet in the estimation of veteran J. D. (Elvie) Lewis they need the most serious drills.  “Don’t let that calf get away . . . get him . . . get him . . . Ah—you waited too late!  Now watch how that cowboy handles him . . . look . . . look at that cowboy . . .”  He is referring to Felix.”  J. D. Lewis worked full time on the Jackson Brothers Ranch for most of his life and had been working there for 40 years at the time of the interview and continued until his death.  

Ocie always had a youthful spirit, up before dawn and hitting the ground running in his quick and agile way.  Janet Lagow said Ocie had a great eye for cattle and was great at knowing how to design a ranch to be multi-faceted.  “Not only did he have a cattle operation, but also farming and hunting.  He had a great business mind and knew how to handle his finances, so he always made money. He really knew oil and gas, nobody was going to “snooker” him,” concluded Janet.  Even after he handed the job of spearheading the operation over to his sons and nephews, he still made frequent trips to the center of action to survey the activity.  He died February 17, 2000, at the ripe old age of 95.  Today, his youngest and only surviving son, Felix, continues to manage his father’s portion of the Jackson Brothers Ranch.  A natural cowboy he is well equipped having not only a strong ranch upbringing, but also a degree in business management.   

Quinten Lowell Jackson Sr.

Quinten Lowell Jackson, son of Arthur Antonio Jackson, had a love for the land and livestock.  Ten years younger than his youngest sibling, he took over much of the operation of the ranch once his parents started slowing down.

He wed Georgiann Guyder, 16 April 1954, in Ohio after returning from the service, and together they had 3 children: Sabrina Angela, Karla Rosalind, and Quinten Lowell, Jr.  Together they made their home on the Arthur A. Jackson homestead. 

Quinten Lowell Jackson, Sr.

He firmly believed that if you were fortunate enough to inherit land, then it became your responsibility to take care of it, conserve it, make it productive, and leave it better for the future generations. 

He worked on projects, with Texas A & M University and the NRCS, to help improve and conserve the land for livestock and wildlife. Besides his role as a rancher Quinten followed the family tradition of promoting law and order. He held the office of Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3 which covered Double Bayou, Smith Point, and Oak Island.

Quinten wore tight-fitting jeans and scuffed hand-made James Morado boots dusted with dry dirt.  He always carried a handgun, and his spurs were polished by years of wear.   The judge wore a wide-brimmed hat respectfully taken off indoors. 

Daughter Karla Dean said, “The boots were his trademark.  Tall stove-topped boots with his eagle-winged design, his LTL brand in the front and QLJ initials in the back, and the pointed toes on the tip that could probably kill every cockroach in sight.  Moreover, you could hear him walking away before you saw him because the jingle jangle of his silver and copper spurs were always on his boots, just a dangling.”

He had a way of communicating with people but an even nicer way of communicating with his animals.  He loved his horses and his cattle and could ride the ranch on Cameo, from dawn ‘til dusk and never complain.  Morning sunrise never came too soon, and the darkened night always brought the silver stars shining down from Heaven.  Daddy rarely went anywhere without his rope by his side, his Colt six-shooter in his back pants, and his Smith & Wesson on his hip.  He was a man of great character and faith.  There was always a twinkle in his eye and that special smile on his face.  He never met a stranger, and he always had that wide-open wave to every passerby,” said Karla with pride.

Quinten was continuously developing his pastures and following governmental policies.  He was elected to the Soil and Water Conservation District 434 and was an active board member for twenty years.  He was a life member of The Cattleman’s Association, The Independent Cattlemen’s Association, The Quarter Horse Association, and Duck’s Unlimited.  He was a member of the Anahuac Hospital Board, a mason, and a member to The Episcopal Church in Anahuac for forty years.  Quinten died of cancer on May 6, 1995.

Karla, along with her husband Clay, runs cattle and manages her portion, of the Arthur Antonio Jackson estate, under the brand of the Four Apple Cross.  

Guy Cade Jackson, Sr., and the JHK Ranch

After the death of James Merriman Jackson, Guy Cade Jackson, Sr. seventh son of James and Sarah, took over management of the JHK Ranch. 

Guy Cade Jackson, Sr.

His son, Ralph Semmes Jackson, in his book Home on the Double Bayou, describes him as a stern quiet man whose reputation for honesty and integrity were never questioned and he was generous to a fault in helping his neighbors who were in trouble.  On the ranch he was known as “Cap” or “Mr. Guy.”

“During the 1890s, when the cattle were ready for market, they were driven about forty miles to Beaumont to be sold,” wrote Ralph.   “Several days were spent gathering the cattle, separating the marketable steers, and making ready for the drive to market.  Hours before daylight on the day of the drive, the cowhands started drifting the steers out of the home trap and heading them toward Beaumont.  On this one particular trip they were able to bed the herd down about dark only a few miles from the shipping point.  Early the next morning the steers were driven into the holding pens, where the cattle buyers were already at work.  As soon as the cattle were penned the cowhands started on their homeward journey.”   

This was Guy Cade’s first trip without his father.  He headed home alone with his pockets, saddlebags, and boots filled with the gold coins he had been paid for the cattle. 

Two would-be robbers tailed behind him looking for an opportunity to relieve him of his gold, however, Guy was able to give them the slip.  This was a common problem during the days of the cattle drives.

The Blue Norther of 1923

There were times when colder than normal fronts would bring freezing temperatures from the north to the otherwise mild climate of the south.  Such was the case in the spring of 1923.  Ralph reports that most of the cattle had been brought out of the marsh and put into the open upper pasture. 

“A sudden severe freezing rain drove in from the north,” wrote Ralph.  “The cattle in the upper pasture drifted into the middle fence as they sought to escape the fury of the storm and froze to death when they could no longer keep moving with the wind.  As those in front froze and went down, those behind clambered over their bodies until they, too, struck the fence and collapsed. The next morning between twenty-three and twenty-four hundred head of cattle were dead in one corner of the fence, their bodies stacked, one on top of the other, higher than the fence posts.

“The only possible salvage was in the hides of the frozen cattle.  So, as soon as the storm abated, all cowhands, men and boys, capable of wielding a skinning knife rode into the pasture to skin cattle.  The work started at dawn and continued all day until the warming weather started rotting the hides.  A wagon drawn by a team of mules carried the cold lunches for the skinning crew and a supply of firewood.  Two men worked with the crew unstacking the carcasses and dragging them to an open spot where the skinners would have room to work.  These two men kept a fire going to warm the numbed hands of the skinners and also sharpened the knives as they became dull.  Each skinner carried a wagon spoke club with which to beat the carcass of the animal to loosen the frozen hide.  The front legs and shoulder were skinned out with knives, and then men with the team of mules finished the job by driving the horns of the cow into the ground as an anchor, and then hooking the team to the loosened portion of hide they were able to peel the remainder of the hide from the carcass by one steady pull by the mules.   The hides were loaded into the wagon and hauled to the ranch house, where each hide was spread on the floor of the buggy house, salted, and rolled into a tight bundle for shipment to Galveston on the next boat.  This was hard and tiresome work, but very important, as the return on twenty hides was usually about enough to buy one cow for the new herd.”

The Spring Roundup

Ralph wrote that in the spring all ranch activity increased as the cattle were gathered and worked and the fences, troughs, and other equipment repaired.  “Late spring was roundup time—a time of excitement for a small boy,” wrote Ralph. “As soon as it was light enough to see, all hands congregated at the round pen, where the horses were waiting.  The order in which the horses were roped from the pen was governed by a rigid priority system.  Monte Humphrey, the old colored foreman, would step first to the center of the pen with the noose of his rope open in his right hand and the coils held loosely in his left.  As he started to twirl the noose slowly around his head, the horses would crowd to the circular fence and start running around and around the roper, who continued to turn slowly on his heels, all the while whirling the rope over his head until he saw the head of Dad’s horse in the clear,” explained Ralph. 

Montie Humphrey, 1862-1939

“Then with one quick step forward and a graceful throw of the rope he sent the noose floating high for a second before settling over the head of the selected horse.  Dad would step to the center of the pen, slip the bridle on, and lead his horse to the saddle house.  Then Monte roped his own horse, and after that each hand roped his horse in turn according to his seniority as cowhand on the ranch,” he continued. 

Ralph lists a few: Fred Johnson, Jim Fish, and Pal Mayes.  Once the horses were saddled, they would trot off towards the bottom of the pasture with Guy Cade and Montie leading the way.

Montie Humphrey, born a slave on the ranch, May 14, 1862, was tall and lanky in the manner of many cattlemen, and his features were almost wholly African unsullied by Caucasian blood. His hair was brittle, almost unruly, strained by the humid climate and constant exposure to the elements. He carried himself with an intensity easily revealed in his photograph. He had dark, penetrating eyes and a temper that was both electric and legendary.

James Jackson had appointed Montie as foreman of the JHK, it was unheard of during that time to appoint a black man in charge, but James was doing what he thought best for the ranch. 

He told his other hands, “If Montie tells you to do something, I expect you to follow his orders just the way you would follow my orders.” 

What James Jackson needed was someone who knew and loved the ranch as well as he did, and someone he could trust completely. Montie Humphrey fit that job description exactly.

Late in the afternoon the herd of cattle could be seen in the distance approaching in a cloud of dust.  Soon the sound of popping cow whips mingled with the shouts of the cowhands and the bellowing cattle could be heard as they pushed the herd towards the home pens.  Then the work of separating, branding, vaccinating, worming, etc. would begin. 

James Burt Jackson

Guy Cade Jackson, Sr., managed the ranch until he began to divide his time between the ranch and San Antonio.  He had built a home there due to his wife’s health condition and also for the educational benefits for his daughters.  He still maintained management of the ranch, but as he aged he handed the reins of the operation over to his oldest son, James Bert Jackson.

Jim Bob Jackson said of his Uncle James, “He was a very gentle man standing about 5’8” tall and weighing about 140 pounds.  He was a character in his own right.  He wore rubber boots about eight months of the year and packed a single action Colt 44 pistol during duck and goose season.  He also wore either a pith helmet in summer or a wool cap in winter.  Uncle James pulled up his hip boots but attached them by snaps around his knees.  He wore sun glasses patched up with tape and paper clips.  I guess the most unique thing he possessed was his pickup truck which was a ¾ ton Chevrolet.  He had just about anything one needed while cattle-working, farming, or trapping: house jacks, ropes, saddle, bridle, chairs, block and tackle, cotton, leather repair kit, come-along, shovels . . . and the list goes on and on!  The outside of his truck had numerous injuries—nothing serious.  To name a few . . . the right front fender was crushed from trying to pen horses as he skidded into a pine tree.  The rear fenders were wired up with barbed wire as they had rusted out due to the salt in the shore along East Bay, the windshield was cracked, and the tailgate was bent, so that was wired shut.”

After James Bert’s death, the ranch was managed by the family with Jim Bob Jackson handling the day-to-day operations.

Jim Bob wrote in his book JHK Ranch, that there was about 22,000 acres in the JHK Ranch during the time James Bert managed it.  Rice was grown in the upland pastures which were also used as hayfields.  “The largest pasture we had was the salt grass pasture which had about 10,000 acres and lay west of Oyster Bayou and north of East Bay,” wrote Jim Bob.  “We put the cattle into this pasture about October or November, as the salt grass would not freeze back and was a superior feed.  During that time there were 5-6 weeks of constant working of cattle.”   Many other major ranchers in the area drove their cattle to the Jacksons’ winter pasture as well: Fitzgerald’s Middleton’s, and Mayes’ to name a few. 

There is much more to be written of the JHK Ranch that space will not allow.  I encourage you to read Ralph Semmes Jackson’s wonderful book, Home on the Double Bayou, and Jim Bob Jackson’s book, JHK Ranch, 1940-1963, for an in-depth accounting of the JHK Ranch.


  1. This is an excellent piece of local history. Thanks for publishing and sharing it.

    I particularly enjoyed Jim Bob Jackson’s description of his uncle James Bert Jackson saying, “He wore rubber boots about eight months of the year and packed a single action Colt 44 pistol during duck and goose season. He also wore either a pith helmet in summer or a wool cap in winter. Uncle James pulled up his hip boots but attached them by snaps around his knees. He wore sun glasses patched up with tape and paper clips.”

    In the lead picture for the article, there is James Bert Jackson wearing his hip boots rolled down and buttoned below his knees. Anyone who ever needed hip boots often did this when working on dry land or muddy marshlands. Also, although we can’t see the paperclips and tape, there are his glasses and a wry smile that fits the profile of a man who wore a pith helmet, ‘packed a single action Colt 44 pistol’, and drove a wired together old pickup which carried ‘just about anything one needed while cattle-working, farming, or trapping’.

    I’m tempted to say they don’t make’em like that anymore isn’t that a shame? But men and women just like James Bert exist in every blue and white collar profession, at every job site. There are countless more ways and opportunities these days for them to survive, achieve, and thrive.

    The shame, IMHO, is such success stories of men and women thriving on their wits, as well as experiences and training, are squeezed out of the headlines even on page 5 by crooks, killers, criminals of all sorts, scoundrels, politicians, and so called sports heroes. Therefore, few of our youth are exposed to such characters as role models of success, loyalty, and responsibility.

    That’s my six bit opinion stirred by this great article!

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