Those Who Came Before

Courtesy Jim Donnell Archives, Fowlerton, TX
.... Courtesy of John E. Conner Museum, Texas. .....A&M University-Kingsville

"A Man's Man; a Texan's Texan"

Graves Peeler was a man's man, a Texan's Texan, and to folks throughout the world, he is known as the "Savior of the Texas Longhorn". He was definitely a rare breed and one of a kind, though his kind had many faces matched with his tough spirit.

Connecting all his attributes, Graves was a rancher and hunter. He became a Texas Ranger. Then for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raiser's Association,  he traveled throughout Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona tracking down cattle theives.

Peeler's hunting began at age 8 and during his lifetime, he amassed 264 trophies from his hunting quests throughout North America. Most of these now reside in the Conner Museum, Kingsville, Texas in the Peeler Hall of Horns (pictured above).

Peeler is best known for his preser-vation of the Texas Longhorn. While he was not alone in this endeavor, J. Frank Dobie admired and helped him while encouraging Sid Richardson to back Graves financially.

Peeler's work contributed to the Wildlife Refuge bloodline and created the Graves Peeler Longhorn bloodlines. He raised Texas Longhorns on his McMullen County South Texas ranch until he died at the age of 90 in 1977.


...........Courtesy of John E. Conner Museum, Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Graves Peeler- "The Savior of the Texas Longhorn"

Graves Peeler was the third of seven children born to Thomas Madison and Alice Jane Irvin Peeler. Graves was born on March 29, 1886, four years after his parents had settled on their ranch in Atascosa County, Texas. Graves grew up on this ranch, called the Basin Hill Ranch, with his brothers and sisters: Mary Peeler Shannon (deceased December, 1978), Alonzo Madison (deceased), Jefferson (deceased), Grady (deceased January, 1972), Beatrice Peeler Thomson (deceased 1977), and Travis Lee, now residing in Christine, Texas.

Graves and his brothers and sisters were taught by governesses at the ranch when they were very young. Later, Graves attended school in Pleasanton and then went on to graduate from West Texas Military Academy in San Antonio, Texas. He spent two years at San Marcos business school and attended Texas A & M where he played football for a short time.

During World War I Graves operated his mother's ranch, his father having been murdered in Campbellton, Texas in 1897. After the end of the war, his brother Grady who served in the Army, returned to the ranch and took over the operations. Graves then took a position with the Cattle Raisers Association as a range detective, sending him on many assignments across the state of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, tracking cattle thieves.

In May, 1930 Graves resigned his position with the Cattle Raisers Association. He then accepted a position as foreman of a large ranch in Brazoria County, Texas, which he held until he resigned in May, 1944.

J. Frank Dobie, author and folklorist, contacted Graves in 1932 and enlisted his aid in a search for the famous original Texas Longhorns. After many months of searching over Texas and adjoining states, Graves assembled a herd of thirty cows and three bulls. Ten cows and one bull were placed in two state parks and Graves kept ten cows and one bull for his own ranch in McMullen County, Texas. Texas Longhorns were bred and raised on his ranch from then until his death in 1977.

Not only did Graves help keep the Texas Longhorns from becoming extinct, but he was also an avid big game hunter. He began hunting big game in 1944, in Arizona, Wyoming, British Colombia and Yukon, bringing home many trophies which he housed in his own museum. Graves killed big game and small game in great numbers, but he was also an animal lover, especially dogs. Whenever you saw Graves in Atascosa or McMullen County he always had at least one dog with him.

During his lifetime Graves made many friends, both men and women; however, he chose to remain a bachelor. He was well known for his honesty, integrity and dry humor. Once a visiting cousin came to Graves ranch while he was away. Upon stepping from his automobile to open the ranch gate, one of Graves' dogs bit the cousin on the leg. Subsequently, the cousin wrote Graves a letter to determine if the dog had been vaccinated for rabies. Graves reply was, "no, but he already bit twenty-five people and none of them have rabies''.

Collecting Indian artifacts was another hobby of Graves. He began collecting them while just a young boy and had a large collection before selling most of it to the King Ranch in the late 1960's.

In December, 1943 Graves purchased the first of six tracts of ranch land in McMullen County from Mr. Stockton. He moved to this property in May, 1944. October, 1944 he purchased two more tracts of land from Josey and Hayes. He added the Roos property in January, 1947, the Baker in December, 1950 and the Hoffman in September, 1956. Graves resided on this property until ill health forced his admittance to a Nursing Home in Pleasanton, Texas where he passed away March 11, 1977. 

Attribute McMullen County Historical Commission South Texas Ranch and Heritage Center website: McMullen County History. Author name and publisher unavailable. 1981. 341.

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