J.B. FERGUSON LETTER TO JANE MACKAY

April 23, 1954


This page transcribed by Janet Barrett Hobizal May 2007,

From a photo copy found at the Wharton County Historical Museum


J.B. Ferguson

Farm and Ranch - Mackay, Texas

Mailing Address

Route 1- Box 338

Wharton, Texas

April 23, 1954



Dear Jane Mackay,

We received your letter yesterday. You seem very interested in finding out about the town of Mackay. It is not a large town or not even a small one. It does have a population of one hundred and eleven, but it can't even boast of having a dry goods store or a post office. The Farm and Ranch Bureau and Superior Drilling Company are the only two buildings of any kind in Mackay. Mackay really is a five thousand acre ranch now owned by Mr. J.B. Ferguson. It is located four miles west of Wharton.

You might have been related to the man Mackay was named for. Here is a brief history of the town. I thought you might be interested in it.

Around 1885 Shanghai Pierce took title to a vast area from Tres Palacios to a point north and west of Wharton on the Colorado River. This was his dream ranch. He had no way to take his cattle to market from this ranch except to drive them, so Mr. J.W. Mackay, a wealthy miner, was granted permission by the United States Government to build a railroad from New York to Mexico. He applied for a charter and christened it the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway Company. Therefore the Railway Company named "whistlestops". Mackay was named for Mr. J.W. Mackay. Many other towns were named for his family such as: Telferna, Hungerford, Louise, Edna and Inez. Shanghai Pierce decided that since the railroad ran through his land he should get to name some of the "whistlestops". Therefore he reserved for himself two stations, "Pierce" and "Shanghai".

However on January 1, 1895 Mr. Pierce sold 1,420 acres of his land around Mackay to his nephew, Mr. A.P. Borden. Then on February 20, Mr. Borden bought 386 acres from Mr. Pierce. Then again on August 1, 1899 Mr. Borden bought two more tracts of land from Mr. Pierce known as the "First Tract" which contained 160 acres and the "Second tract" which contained 100 acres. (Shown on map 1 on page 1 of illustrations)

Mr. Borden and his wife, Marie, did not live at Mackay foe a long time. Mr. A.P. stayed on and ran Mr. Pierce's ranch for him. During this time Mr. Borden had

Page 3 missing

tea., Although the American importation of tea was heavy. As a result, the Department of Agriculture secured an appropriation. George F. Mitchell of New York became "tea examiner" for the United States government. Mr. Borden heard of the experiment and offered cooperation as well as 600 acres. The government sent Mr. Clark to help with the growing of the tea. By 1905, there were 105 acres of tea growing in Mackay. The plants for five hundred more acres were in the Pierce Estate barns ready for planting when the Colorado overflowed and killed them.

It was around this time when Mr. Borden became interested in the Brahman cattle. Mr. Borden went to Washington to get permission to bring cattle into this country form India. He was given permission, so he went home to get Mr. Pierce to finance his trip.

A landing site was selected on Simonsons Islands, adjoining Staten Island. There special quarantine quarters were provided for Mr. Pierce had given Mr. Borden his consent, and Mr. Borden was now ready to to bring back the cattle.

On March 31, 1906 Mr. Borden and Dr. William Thompson, inspector for the Bureau of Animal Husbandry, met at Bombay, India. From Bombay they went to Miraji, where twenty two bulls were purchased. Nine Brahmans were brought from Ahmadahad, and six others from Madrens. They kept collecting them until they had fifty-one cattle - forty six bulls, two cows, one heifer and two calves. They were then shipped to Bombay where they left on April 27. )On page four illustrations is a letter of Mr. Borden's to one of Pierce's lawyers while still in India.)

The cattle reached New York on June 16, 1906. The cattle were kept on Simonsons Island and were given all types of tests to see if they would spread any disease. Some rabbits were taken out there to test with and one of the rabbits caught a cold. The government decided to kill the cattle because they believed they would spread diseases. Mr. Borden had Mr. Proctor write to the President of the United States and so thirty- three surviving cattle were shipped to Pierce ranch. These thirty-three became foundation stock for the Brahman cattle in the United States.

Of these thirty-three only one was taken to Mackay. He was named Buck. (a picture of him is shown on page five) Mr. Borden had an image made of him and put on top of a silo at Mackay where it remains to this day. He had a picture made of this and used it for his business stationary (shown on page six of illustrations). As you can see Mr. Ferguson also copied this to use as his stationary.

Again in 1906 Mr. Borden expanded his acreage. He bought some 800 acres of land from J. H. McCroskey.

Many of Mr. Bordens crops were ruined by the floods of the Colorado River caused by a raft there. However, Mr. Borden was on the board to get rid of the raft. After this there were no more floods caused by rafts on the Colorado River.

The farmers in those days depended on an almanac for weather predictions (on page seven of the illustrations is a page of an almanac). This was the only thing the farmers of that time had for advice, weather predictions, etc.

In 1924 Mr. and Mrs. Borden built a beautiful Spanish type home. They called it the "La Casa Rosada". The house was painted pink because it was the Mexican's favorite color. It was dedicated to the Lord before they entered it. There was a "Prophet's Chamber", as they called it, which was occupied by preachers, bible teachers, and missionaries from all over the world. Dr. bell of China was their guest once. he was with his wife and two girls. The younger of the two girls married Billy Graham, noted Baptist Evangelist.

Mr. Borden was a perfectionist. Instead of saving a backlog he would spend the money he received from his crops for fixing the barns, painting the houses, and keeping his wife happy. However, around 1924 the first oil was discovered in Mackay. An oil well was drilled and many many barrels of oil were produced.

Mrs. Borden was a very devoted church worker. She was very prominent in working for the American Leprosy Mission. She raised live pigs for money to send to missions. She was often called the "Pig Lady" pf Wharton. Mrs. Borden is still working for this mission. She has sent more money to foreign missions than any other person in the United States.

Some of the People they had working the ranch were: Mr. Emil Yockey, who was foreman of the farming; Miss Tranino, who taught the children many many years. She also had a little orchestra. She was Latin American; Mrs. Leonard Chappel, who was also a teacher and a daughter of Mr. Clark, who planted tea at mackay; Lois Lory, the kindergarten teacher; Mr Rudik, a man from White Russia who was the blacksmith, and many more.

Dr. Bolton Outlar was their doctor. Mrs. Borden told me that he was one of the best doctors and best men who had a big kind heart and came to see the sick; night or day, in mud and rain.

The Borden's also raised satsumas, kumquats and lemons on their place. In season, large baskets were filled with these fine fruits, and many homes were made happy with these welcome offerings of love. The sick, the needy, and good friends, all were remembered. The freeze in 1946 killed most of the fruit trees. Mrs. Ferguson, the present owner, has tried to replace them but has had little success.

Around 1935 Mr. Borden passes away. Mrs. Borden took over the Borden Estate on March 21, 1935. (The change of legal status is on page eight of illustrations). At this time there were a lot of tenants on the ranch. (A list of sharecroppers on page nine of the illustrations). Also an inventory of the ranch at that time was taken. (It is shown on page ten of the illustrations).

Mrs. Borden became so in debt as time went on by sending money to the missions everywhere that she finally had to sell. This great generosity of hers was her downfall. Many old timers of Wharton County remember her as a gracious, unselfish lady, who was never to tired or too sick to listen to others troubles.

In 1942 Mr. J. B. Ferguson bought Mackay from Mrs. Borden. (a map shown on page eleven of the illustrations shows the Borden s Mackay when Mr. Ferguson bought it and a map on page twelve shows the Ferguson's Mackay of today).

There have been twelve oil wells drilled on the ranch since Mr. Ferguson bought it. Eleven were dry holes but one made a well.

Mr. Ferguson still has Brahman cattle on the ranch. He has a total of 1,000 head.

There have been several prize quarter horses raised at Mackay. Joe Louis, Mr. Ferguson's beautiful red stallion, has won many trophies and blue ribbons. (On top of page thirteen of Illustrations is a picture of Mr. Ferguson and his daughter, Joan on Joe Louis.

Several of his race horses hold honors. Moondeck still holds the world record for the 549 yard race. Mae West, Skippy, Mackay Boy, Stardeck and others are some of his other famous horses. The trophies of these famous horses hold a very prominent place in Mr. Ferguson's office at Superior Drilling Company at Mackay.

In 1949 Mr. Ferguson moved his office of Superior Drilling Company from Pierce to Mackay. It is located in the building where A.P. Borden Mercantile Store once reigned.

He doesn't have as many sharecroppers as Mr. Borden did for now the ranch is mostly grazing land for cattle, horses, sheep, goats, hogs, etc. His foreman is Sonny Bahner. Mr. Bahner lives at Mackay and takes care of the ranch for Mr. Ferguson. He has been with him from the beginning. (His picture is shown on the bottom of page thirteen of illustrations). These are the few sharecroppers now; Favian Savola, Leon Nunez, and Leandro Reyes. They raise cotton mostly now; however, during the other seasons they plant whatever they like.

There are several families that live in the Ferguson's rent houses. Most of those work for the Superior Drilling Company.

Mr. Ferguson is married to Beatrice Bea Biggs Ferguson. They have two children, Joan Vi Ferguson Attaway and Kenny Ferguson. Joan is married now to Harold A. Attaway but they still live on the ranch. Mr. Attaway is truck foreman of Superior Drilling Company. They have one daughter Javon Bea.

The Fergusons have made Mackay a beautiful place. Their home is now painted white but it is still the same house built by the Bordens. Mrs. Ferguson has added on the house considerably and has made it a beautiful home with a winding driveway lined by palm trees. (Shown on page fourteen of illustrations). The interior of the house has been modernized to a great extent to suit the personality of the present owners, but a great deal of the past charm still exists.

Within its walls, Mrs. Ferguson manages to run the household with the aid of several faithful colored women, who were brought up ad trained by Mrs. Borden.

The gracious hospitality of the Fergusons and their many charitable gestures have won them many friends in this community.

In closing I hope that I have pictured a little of Mackay's charm and beauty and it's owners charm and graciousness. Although the air-conditioned Cadillac of the present owner has replaced the horse and buggy of the first owner the memory of the past forever dear in the hearts of those who knew Mackay in its infancy.

Good bye, dear Jane, and may God bless you for reminding me of all that has been.

Affectionately yours,

Webmaster note: This letter is not signed. All "Illustration page" references, I have not found as of yet in the files.


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