Addison Jones, the famous African-American cowboy who could top off horses other cowboys feared

Stephen Nartey February 14, 2023
Photo via America Comes Alive

Gonzales County in Texas was one of the places where riding horses and tending to cattle was the first love of many boys in the 1800s. This tradition was not lost on one of the famous African-American cowboys, Addison Jones, who began his career on the Littlefield family ranch.

The Littlefield ranch was a family business that started on the outskirts of West Texas before the Civil War, according to America Comes Alive. Jones worked under George Littlefield, a war veteran who retired from active service in 1863 after getting wounded during the Battle of Mossy Creek. The business was entrusted into his hands after his predicament. The Littlefields had invested heavily in the ranching business and were expecting substantial returns.

Littlefield’s dexterity in investment and efficient running of the family business paid off and he became an influential cattleman, banker and philanthropist. One of the secrets in the running of the cattle business to a large extent depended on the best hands to handle the animals and Jones was one of those trusted hands.

Jones had superior skills in handling of the cattle on the trail, roping or bronc riding. He was regarded as a legend throughout west Texas and eastern New Mexico. Even the toughest horses could not stand the skill and trick Jones used in subduing them. When he showed up, no matter how many men have failed to top off horses, the crowd was certain Jones would break it.

At age 30, many cowboys had given up the job, but, Jones still worked for the Littlefields. Despite the hits he took from the horses and cattle, he retired at 70. Historian J. Evetts Haley said Jones was an embodiment of confidence, skill, and above all had a splendid appreciation of timing and animals.

A song was composed about Jones’ legendary feat by N. Howard Thorp. The song was titled “Whose Old Cow?” Thorp was reported to have indicated that he did a song about Jones because he was one of the best when it came to taming cows and horses.

Though African-American cowboys enjoyed some privileges like their white counterparts, they were not free from racial discrimination. On the ranches, they were treated equally but once they stepped out they endured scorn and mistreatment from the white majority.

One day, Jones was visiting a neighboring ranch when he was thirsty and needed to drink water. The culture was that, after you are done drinking from a water bucket you find, you must refill the bucket to leave for others. To refill the bucket, Jones had to draw water from the hose with his mouth.

When Jones attempted to do that, a white cowboy smashed his head causing him to lose consciousness. When he woke up, he just rose and returned to the Littlefield ranch.

There are scanty details about his formative years. But, on his death certificate, his wife said he was born in 1845 in Gonzales County, Texas. Jones married Rosa Haskins, a cook at a rooming house in Roswell, New Mexico in 1899.

Jones was 54 when he married Rosa who was 36 years. He died in 1926.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 14, 2023

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