While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Nolan Thompson
Mathew Hooks
Mathew "Bones" Hooks. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

HOOKS, MATHEW (1867–1951). Mathew (Bones) Hooks, cowboy and horsebreaker, was born on November 3, 1867, to former slave parents in Robertson County, Texas. At age seven he began work as the driver of a butcher's meat wagon, and at nine he began driving a chuck wagon for Steve Donald, who used the DSD brand. Hooks became one of the first black cowboys to work alongside whites as a ranchhand. He remained with Donald until adulthood and then joined J. R. Norris's ranch on the Pecos River. With Norris he made many trail drives from the Pecos country, raised horses in partnership with a white man, and became a top horsebreaker. Hooks later recounted that cowboys in the Pecos River country kept bringing him wild horses as a challenge, until they finally realized there was none he could not ride.

Hooks lived at Mobeetie for a time before moving to Clarendon as a ranchhand in 1886. He later operated a grocery store near Texarkana but after eighteen months returned to Clarendon. While continuing to work as a cowboy, he established one of the first black churches in West Texas. He imported a preacher from Fort Worth and supposedly a congregation as well. He worked as a cowboy at Clarendon until 1900, when he became a porter at an Amarillo hotel. In 1910 he took a job as a porter on the Santa Fe Railroad, where he worked for the next twenty years. It is said that when Hooks was forty-three years old, during the short time of a train's service break, he broke a horse that no one had been able to ride.

Dogie Club
Dogie Club Meeting at Pioneer Hall in Amarillo, 1934. Hooks is pictured far right. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Bones Hooks
Bones Hooks: Pioneer Negro Cowboy, by Bruce G. Todd. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

He retired from the railroad in 1930 and became a civic worker in Amarillo, where he made his home. He had a particular concern for juvenile delinquency and aided in its prevention by serving as "Range Boss" for the Dogie Club, an organization established for underprivileged black male youths in the city. Hooks also became the first black person to serve on a Potter County grand jury. He gained additional popularity for his presentation of white flowers to the families of recently deceased pioneers and to others with worthwhile accomplishments. He sent out over 500 single flowers in his lifetime, including one each to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, one to each of the forty-eight nations present at the 1945 UN conference in San Francisco, and a number to both a unit of WAACs and a unit of WAVEs based in Texas. The white flower also appeared at the dedications of new buildings and churches in Amarillo.

Hooks' Grave
Grave of Mathew "Bones" Hooks and wife, Anna. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Hooks participated in several pioneer and cowboy associations across the country in his later years, including the Old Settlers associations of Amarillo and Pampa, the Western Cowpunchers Association, the Montana Cowpunchers Association, and the XIT Ranch organization. He was also a charter member of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society. Hooks attended many pioneer gatherings and gave a number of interviews recounting his memories of the old West. His generosity toward needy friends left him penniless near the end of his life, but when word that he was ill became publicized, friends established a fund for his care. Bones Hooks died in Amarillo on February 2, 1951, at the age of eighty-three.


The Afro-American Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1975). Jean Ehly, "Bones Hooks of the Panhandle," Frontier Times, June–July 1963.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Nolan Thompson, "HOOKS, MATHEW," accessed May 24, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhoal.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on May 23, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...