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H. Allen Anderson

ISAACS BROTHERS. William C., Sam, and John Childress Isaacs, Panhandle settlers and ranchers, were the sons of Joseph C. and Mary (Jack) Isaacs, who moved to Bosque County, Texas, from their native Alabama in 1857. Will, the oldest, was born on December 4, 1853, in Alabama and moved to Bosque County with his parents at the age of four. There Sam was born on January 26, 1864, and John in 1866. Their father served as a captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The boys were largely self-educated. Sam in 1877 reportedly attended the first school at Buffalo Gap in Taylor County. That year he began working near Abilene for the Half Diamond H Ranch, which was owned by his brother-in-law, Alex Martin. In 1883–84 he worked as an outside man for the Hashknife Ranch under John N. Simpson in the Concho country around San Angelo. John, the youngest brother, attended school for a time in Comanche County.

In 1883 Will and John Isaacs were employed by the Apple Ranch, located at the junction of Quartermaster Creek and the Washita River, in the Indian Territory (later Oklahoma) about sixty miles from the Texas border. The next year Sam was hired by Mallalay and Forbes, who were also grazing cattle on Cheyenne reservation lands. Both outfits moved their herds across the Panhandle to New Mexico in 1885 after the federal government ordered all cattlemen to vacate the Indian Territory. John Isaacs, after a brief stint with the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Cattle Company, worked on ranches in Arizona. Will and Sam remained with the Apple and Mallalay-Forbes outfits in eastern New Mexico. Sam participated in several drives between Endee and Caldwell, Kansas, where the Forbes headquarters was located. In 1886 Sam, who was in charge of the Mallalay-Forbes cattle at Endee, wintered on Palo Duro Creek about twelve miles above the T Anchor Ranch. There he constructed one of the Panhandle's first picket houses. In 1889 he drove the Mallalay-Forbes herd to Red Deer Creek near its junction with the Canadian River in Hemphill County. Among the Panhandle ranches he frequently visited were the LX and the Turkey Track. He also knew Robert Benjamin (Ben) Masterson of the Long S.

In January 1892 Will Isaacs married Mary K. Brainard, Canadian's first schoolteacher and the sister of rancher Edward H. Brainard. The next year he and Sam purchased a 30,000-acre ranch and 4,000 cattle, which bore their Circle and a Half brand. In 1906 the brothers helped establish the Canadian State Bank, with Ed Brainard as president, Will as vice president, and Sam as cashier; Will subsequently was president for several years. Their partnership lasted until 1912, when they divided the property among themselves and operated independently. Will continued ranching until 1928, when he sold 8,085 acres to Lewis Webb of Gray County. He died on May 18, 1934. Mary Isaacs remained active in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and social affairs in Canadian until her death on October 12, 1950. The Mary B. Isaacs school in Canadian is named for her.

Sam, whose ranch consisted of 13,371 well-stocked acres, served as a director of the Canadian Building and Loan Association and helped establish Canadian's Masonic lodge. He married May Louisa Stevens of Kansas City on August 6, 1907, and for years they provided high-school boys with room and board at their two-story brick home on Main Street, in exchange for the chores they did around the house. Sam was a charter member of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society and was one of the founders of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum at Canyon; he liberally supported both institutions. He retired after leasing his ranch in September 1942, and died on September 28, 1943.

John C. Isaacs returned to the Panhandle from Arizona in 1890 and worked two years for the T Anchor Ranch, earning the nickname "T Anchor Kid." After working briefly for the Frying Pan Ranch, he established his own ranch in 1893 on Needmore Creek, east of Canadian. He married Viola Bloom of Medicine Lodge, Kansas, on June 1, 1898, and they had four children. Along with his brothers, John helped organize the Canadian State Bank and the Canadian Building and Loan Association, both of which he served for years as a director. He also was a past president of the T Anchor Reunion Association and the Panhandle Old Settlers' Association. He died on October 22, 1937, and in 1986 the ranch on Needmore Creek was still being operated by his heirs.


Sallie B. Harris, Cowmen and Ladies: A History of Hemphill County (Canyon, Texas: Staked Plains, 1977). Millie Jones Porter, Memory Cups of Panhandle Pioneers (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1945). Glyndon M. Riley, The History of Hemphill County (M.A. thesis, West Texas State College, 1939). Lester Fields Sheffy, "Sam Isaacs," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 19 (1946). F. Stanley [Stanley F. L. Crocchiola], Rodeo Town (Canadian, Texas) (Denver: World, 1953).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, H. Allen Anderson, "ISAACS BROTHERS," accessed May 29, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fis08.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 10, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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