OPINION COLUMNS

All the Wiser: The other W.T. Waggoner

By Joy Burgess-Carrico | Published Saturday, May 4, 2019
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Two Homes 1

TWO HOMES – William Trimble Waggoner lived the last years of his life at 1026 Bewick St. in Fort Worth. Photo from maps.google.com

Two Homes 2

William Thomas Waggoner lived in Fort Worth three miles away, at Thistle Hill. Photo from maps.google.com

W. Calvin Fields of Decatur wrote to me. While looking over headstones in Bluegrove Cemetery in Clay County, he came across the grave of W.T. Waggoner. “Would you check this out to determine if this grave is Dan’s son? I know some about their big ranch near Vernon, but could there be another W.T. Waggoner?”

The Bluegrove Cemetery holds a gravestone for William Trimble Waggoner, 1859-1925. Next to him is his wife, Ida Waggoner, 1860-1934.

Joy Burgess-Carrico

Dan Waggoner’s son, William Thomas Waggoner, who everyone called Tom, was born in 1852 and died in 1934. He was married to Ella Halsell Waggoner and is buried in Fort Worth’s Oakwood Cemetery in the Waggoner family crypt.

So, this is a rare instance when I can actually answer a question. The W.T. Waggoner buried in Bluegrove Cemetery in Clay County is not Dan’s son, he is the son of James M. Waggoner.

The two W.T.’s had lives that ran parallel in several ways.

William Trimble Waggoner was born in 1859 in Tennessee to James Waggoner and Mary Ann Higginbotham. His father was a farmer. He lived in towns in northwestern Tennessee throughout his childhood and was still living with his parents during the 1880 census, when he was 21.

In 1882, he married Ida Ann Gattis. All of his children were born in Tennessee. His last child, J.W. Waggoner, was born in 1894.

At some point between his last child’s birth and the 1900 census, the Waggoners moved to Texas, as the census lists him in Williamson County. He was a farmer. He owned his farm without a mortgage. Four of his six children, aged 16 to 11, were listed as farm laborers. Child five, age 8, was “at school” and only child six, age 5, had no occupation listed.

In 1910, he was living in Clay County with his wife and youngest child, Jesse, who was 15. Waggoner was still a farmer of a general farm, which he owned free of a mortgage. He did not incidate that he was a veteran, that he was blind or deaf and/or dumb.

In 1920, it was he and his wife in the home, which was now in Fort Worth. He again owned his home free and clear. He was no longer a farmer, but listed his occupation as a carpenter. He built houses for a salary.

He died of stomach cancer at 66, in 1925 in Fort Worth, at his home, 1026 Bewick Street, a mere 3 miles from Thistle Hill, Tom Waggoner’s mansion.

He was a Methodist and he was survived by his wife and all of his six children. They took him back to Bluegrove to be buried.

William Thomas “Tom” Waggoner was born in 1852 in Sulphur Springs, his father had immigrated from Tennessee to Texas before his birth. He grew up in and around Decatur and moved to Fort Worth sometime before 1910, where he died in 1934 after several strokes. He married Ella Halsell, the youngest sister of his stepmother, and had five children, three of whom survived to adulthood, and two of whom survived him.

Tom Waggoner was partners with his father in their ranch. And, not too long after his father’s death in 1902, while digging a water well, they struck oil on the Waggoner ranch, making him insanely rich, and, I imagine, deeply complicating his life. He moved his residence to Fort Worth by 1910 and lived there until his death in 1934.

When William Trimble died, two short paragraphs appeared in the Fort Worth Star Telegram at the bottom of page 5, listing survivors and service information. When Tom died, it dominated the newspaper.

In fact, the daughter of Tom Waggoner, Electra, died one month after William Trimble Waggoner, and her illness and death in New York City was the subject of national news for several months, primarily because her brother paid an incredible amount of money to rent an entire train to take him to her and it broke speed records getting there. The whole thing was very dramatic. There was no such coverage of William Trimble’s illness.

I could find no relational connection between our two W.T.’s. Before Texas, the ancestors of Tom were from Tennessee, and before that, they were from North Carolina. They had moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania. And they had immigrated to Pennsylvania sometime in the mid-1700s from Europe.

William Trimble’s family also came to Texas from Tennessee, and his grandfather moved to Tennessee from North Carolina. Before North Carolina, these Waggoners also moved from Pennsylvania in the 18th century. And they also immigrated to Pennsylvania from Europe in the mid-1700s. I could have easily missed some connection between them, but I tried to find two brothers or something from which these two Waggoner families could have splintered off, but came up with nothing definitive. If they had a common ancestor, I didn’t find him.

And that’s not really too surprising. Waggoner, Wagner, Wagoner, Wagnor, etc. is a fairly common name, especially in Germany. It’s a profession name and means one who drives or makes wagons.

My research indicated that the majority of American Waggoners immigrated to Pennsylvania starting in the mid-1700s to escape religious persecution of one sort or another. Today, Pennsylvania holds the greatest number of people with that surname in the U.S.

It’s interesting that these two different Waggoner families each migrated from Europe to Pennsylvania to North Carolina to Tennessee to Texas. But it is probably evidence of similarly situated people making choices based on historical events and opportunities rather than family relationships. That is the nature of migration, I guess.

So, once upon a time, two intrepid Waggoners, independent of each other and at different times, made their waya to this country (before it was a country in both cases), settled in Pennsylvania and had many children. Their children had many children, etc. Eventually each family produced a W.T. Waggoner, both of whom happened to find themselves in the same geographic vicinity during their adult lives, one famously wealthy, the other not.

They were born seven years apart and died nine years apart. But in terms of the lives they led within miles of each other, they were worlds apart.

Joy Burgess-Carrico is a Messenger graphic artist. Email her at jcarrico@wcmessenger.com.

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