Thomas Loyd Burnett

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Thomas Loyd Burnett

Birthplace: Denton County, Texas, United States
Death: Died in Iowa Park, Wichita County, Texas, United States
Place of Burial: Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Captain Samuel “Burk” Burnett and Ruth Bottom Loyd
Ex-husband of Olive "Ollie" Lake
Father of Anne Burnett Tandy
Brother of Frank M Burnett; Anne Valliant Johnson; Samuel Burk Burnett, Jr and Anne Valliant Johnson

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About Thomas Loyd Burnett

Profile photo: Thomas Loyd Burnett with Comanche Chief Quanah Parker

Thomas Loyd Burnett blazed his own trail. Born December 10, 1871, he was one of three children of Samuel “Burk” Burnett and Ruth Loyd, daughter of M.B. Loyd, the Fort Worth banker. At the time of his father’s death in 1922, Tom was the famous old cowman’s only living child.

Starting as a ranch hand, Tom learned the cattle business in the 1880s and 1890s in the Indian country between the Wichita Mountains. After school in Fort Worth, St. Louis and at the Virginia Military Institute, the 16-year-old began moving cattle on the Burk Burnett Ranch. When autumn came, he worked as a wagon hand in the Comanche-Kiowa Reservation, drawing the same wages as other cowboys.

For five years, he worked as a line rider on his father’s ranch, which spread over more than 50,000 acres on the Red River. As he approached the age of 21, Tom was made wagon boss of the Nation (Indian Territory) wagon. That same year, on Oct. 8, 1891, he married Olive “Ollie” Lake of Fort Worth, and the couple lived at the Burnett Ranch House while Tom ran the Indian Territory unit of the Four Sixes Ranch. They had one daughter, Anne Valliant, born in 1900.

Tom had good instincts about horses and cattle, and he was respected among cowmen and ranch hands following several incidents. In 1898, during a bitter-cold March wind, Tom had the task of moving 5,000 steers across the Red River from the Indian Territory to shipping pens on the Texas side. He got the herd across in weather few cattlemen would have faced. Another time, In 1902, with a chuck wagon and a few hands, he drove 90 horses owned by his grandfather, M.B. Loyd, through the open country from Palo Pinto County to the Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie.

In 1905, the Burnett’s hosted a wolf hunt in the Big Pasture, land leased from Comanche and Kiowa Indians, and invited President Theodore Roosevelt and others, including Chief Quanah Parker, as guests. Tom took a chuck wagon, horses and a group of cowboys to a site near present day Frederick, Okla., where he set up camp for the President’s 10-day stay. In a letter dated April 20, 1905, Roosevelt wrote to his son, Ted: “I do wish you could have been along on this trip.” The hunters, he explained, had “17 wolves, three coons and any number of rattlesnakes.” The President also wrote, “You would have loved Tom Burnett, son of the big cattleman. He is a splendid fellow, about 30 years old and just the ideal of what a young cattleman should be.” One of Tom’s proudest possessions was the saddle Roosevelt used on that hunt. The President’s assessments were accurate: at age 30, Tom had already established himself as a respected cowboy and was on his way to becoming a cattle baron. He had his own cattle, leased the old ranch in Wichita County and established his home and headquarters eight miles east of Electra. In 1910, he acquired the 26,000 acre Triangle Ranch at Iowa Park.

When M.B. Loyd died in 1912, Tom inherited one-fourth of his grandfather’s Wichita County properties and a large sum of money. Oil discoveries in the county further enlarged his fortune.

In 1918 or 1919, variously recorded, Tom and Ollie divorced. This did not please Captain Burnett, who had very high regard for his daughter-in-law Ollie and her thoughtful and sensible ways. Tom’s subsequent marriages were short-lived.

Tom continued to expand his Triangle holdings, buying five ranches in the next 15 years. These were consolidated into one vast range of more than 100,000 acres. As an independently wealthy cattleman, Tom became a rodeo impresario, financing and promoting some of the biggest rodeos in the Southwest. He also developed a passion for good cow horses and later bred Palominos that he featured in fairs, parades and rodeos.

Following in the footsteps of his grandfather M.B. Loyd and father Burk Burnett, Tom grew interested in banking and civic development and became a major stockholder in the Iowa Park State Bank. In the Depression of the 1930s, he often helped people in need, one example being a sizeable donation to the town of Wichita Falls to buy lunches for school children.

Tom Burnett died on December 26, 1938, leaving his estate to his only child, Anne Valliant Burnett. His death came in the midst of a long-range campaign to build a fortune equal to that of his father. He fell short of that objective, but he was known in the cattle world as one of the pacesetters of his time. Tom was described by friends as a man who represented the Old West and stood for its traditional ideals of generosity and rugged fair play.

BURNETT, THOMAS LOYD (1871–1938). Thomas Loyd Burnett, rancher, son of Ruth (Loyd) and Samuel Burk Burnett, was born in 1871 on the family ranch in Denton County, Texas. When he was four his family moved to Wichita County, where his father established a new ranch headquarters near the future site of Iowa Park and began running his Four Sixes cattle. Tom received his early education in rural schools near the ranch and later at a private academy in St. Louis, Missouri, prior to attending Virginia Military Institute for three years. His first love was the cattle business, and at age sixteen he was sent as a cowhand to help look after his father's herds in the Big Pasture, the vast acreage in Indian Territory that the Burnetts, Waggoners, and other area ranchers had leased from the Fort Sill Indian Agency. There Tom mastered the Comanche language and developed a lifelong friendship with several in the tribe, including Quanah Parker and his family. By that time the ranch's base of operations had been moved to the Red River near the future site of Burkburnett. At age twenty-one, Burnett was elevated to wagon boss, and his ability to manage men and cattle quickly won the respect of the ranch employees.

On October 8, 1891, he married Ollie Lake of Fort Worth. They had one child. During the Spanish-American War in 1898 Burnett served as a captain with the Rough Riders (see FIRST UNITED STATES VOLUNTEER CAVALRY). In April 1905 he, his father, Quanah Parker, and John R. Abernathy staged a famous wolf hunt on the Big Pasture for President Theodore Roosevelt. Following the breakup of the pasture shortly thereafter, Burnett moved his family back to the Iowa Park headquarters, which his father had leased to him along with the Wichita County ranch, after developing the Four Sixes Ranch in King County. By then he had accumulated a sizable herd of his own, and in 1912, on the death of his grandfather Martin B. Loyd, he inherited a fourth of the Wichita County properties and a large sum of money. About that time Burnett adopted Lloyd's Triangle brand as his own. The oil discoveries in the county further enlarged his fortune. In 1918 Burnett and his wife were divorced, a move that offended his father. When Burk Burnett died in 1922, he bequeathed Tom $25,000 a year and left the bulk of his estate in trust for his daughter, with a third of the income to go to her mother.

As an independently wealthy cattleman, Tom Burnett financed and promoted various rodeos at his Iowa Park Ranch and in Wichita Falls. Many of these featured old family friends from Oklahoma, including several of his Comanche friends, whom he invited to hunt antelope and camp on the ranch. He developed a passion for good cow horses and later bred palominos that he featured in fairs, parades, and rodeos. Between 1923 and 1925 he purchased the Pope and McAdams ranches in Foard County and the old Moon Ranch, formerly owned by the W. Q. Richards estate, in Cottle County. In 1929 he added the YL, a 32,000-acre tract that was originally part of the O X Ranchq, near Paducah. In all he owned 449,415 acres, over which he ran from 4,000 to 6,000 head of Hereford stock bearing the Triangle brand during the 1930s. Charlie Hart, longtime Burnett family employee, was hired to oversee this vast enterprise, which had branch headquarters in Iowa Park and Paducah.

On May 3, 1919, Burnett married the famous rodeo queen Lucille Mulhall, but both were strong-willed and separated after a year. He next married Lydia Sheldon of Electra in 1921 and built for her a new house in Iowa Park, but that marriage ended before the house was completed. His fourth wife, Bernice Fassett, was a widow with several daughters from her first marriage and a member of a neighboring ranch family.

During his later years Burnett grew interested in banking and civic developments. He was a major stockholder in the Iowa Park State Bank and maintained an office there. He also became involved in the civic affairs of Wichita Falls and gave generously to various charitable causes. When the Great Depression hit, he supplied school-lunch funds for needy children and came to the aid of old cowboys who had been hurt economically. In 1938 he made his last purchase by adding the 20,000-acre 7L Ranch, formerly the Dripping Springs pasture of the OX, to his cattle empire. On Christmas Day of that year, when he noticed a group of needy boys on the street at Iowa Park, he took them to a clothing store and had them outfitted entirely. Burnett died of an apparent heart attack on December 26, 1938. He willed all of his estate to his daughter, Anne, who subsequently managed his ranching empire under the name Tom L. Burnett Cattle Company, a major part of the Burnett estates. Mrs. Perry McArthur of Thornton, Washington, filed suit to set aside Burnett's will, claiming to be the daughter of Burnett and Jennie Ho-We-Ah, an Indian woman. Her claim was denied by the Wichita County District Court, and the decision was upheld by the Second Court of Civil Appeals on February 26, 1943. Burnett's home in Iowa Park was given to the city as a library building in 1981 by his granddaughter, Anne Windfohr Marion.


Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). John M. Hendrix, "Tom Burnett," Cattleman, May 1939. Dorothy Abbott McCoy, Texas Ranchmen (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Jesse Wallace Williams, The Big Ranch Country (Wichita Falls: Terry, 1954; 2d ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1971).

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Thomas Loyd Burnett's Timeline

Denton County, Texas, United States
Age 29
Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, United States
Age 67
Iowa Park, Wichita County, Texas, United States
Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, United States