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 »


Harwood P. Hinton

WYLIE, ROBERT KELSEY (1836–1910). Robert Kelsey Wylie, trail driver and rancher, son of Samuel Kelsey and Maria (McNeil) Wylie, was born in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, on June 6, 1836, the fifth of eleven children. Robert Wylie moved to Texas with his parents about 1850 from Mississippi and settled on a farm in Anderson County. As a youth he learned to build brick chimneys. He accepted cattle as payment and in 1852 moved to Erath County, where he and three brothers engaged in ranching. In 1862 Wylie joined several families in establishing a settlement called Picketville (later Ballinger) in an area that became Runnels County. Soon afterwards he located the Flat Top Ranch on Elm Creek to the southeast in Coleman County and remained there during the Civil War. In June 1865 Wylie and four others drove a herd south for sale in Mexico, and in the late summer he entered the employ of James Patterson, a beef contractor at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. In the fall of 1865 Wylie piloted his first herd over a well charted cattle trail (later followed by Charles Goodnight) up the Pecos to Fort Sumner; he delivered cattle to Patterson and others on the Pecos for nearly ten years. In 1873 Wylie sold a herd to John S. Chisum on credit, settled at Ballinger, and built up a stock herd under his Cross brand with imported Durham bulls. In 1878 Wylie and the Coggin brothers reclaimed 8,000 cattle from Chisum and sent them to the head of the Pease River in Motley County, where they were sold to form part of the foundation herd for the Matador Ranch. In 1879, with other ranchers contesting his range in Runnels and neighboring counties, Wylie moved a herd to Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos and established the first ranch there. He also purchased and fenced land to preserve his claims in Runnels County (organized in 1880). By 1885 he had started a sheep ranch in the Van Horn area; his flocks increased to 60,000. The Wylie Mountains, with Bob and Mollie peaks, are named for him and his wife. By 1905 Wylie had sold his ranch holdings and moved to Mineral Wells to live in retirement as a millionaire. Wylie married Mollie Modina Jewell, a schoolteacher, on December 4, 1883, and adopted her daughter Lillian. The couple had no children of their own. Wylie was a member of the Cattle Raisers' Association of Texas but apparently took no active role in civic, political, or religious affairs. On July 11, 1910, while vacationing in Colorado with his wife, Wylie fell off the back of a Pullman car near Trinidad and was killed.


James Cox, Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry (2 vols., St. Louis: Woodward and Tiernan Printing, 1894, 1895; rpt., with an introduction by J. Frank Dobie, New York: Antiquarian, 1959). History of the Cattlemen of Texas (Dallas: Johnson, 1914; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1991). Mr. and Mrs. Mavis P. Kelsey, Samuel Kelso/Kelsey, 1720–1796 (Houston, 1984). Charlsie Poe, Runnels Is My County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1970). Rosa Lee Wylie, History of Van Horn and Culberson County (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1973).

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, Harwood P. Hinton, "WYLIE, ROBERT KELSEY," accessed May 26, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwy07.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 10, 2019. 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...