Volume 7, Number 1 - Fall 1979

It Happened in Barry County Back in 1853
By Senator Emory Melton

In the 1888 bound edition of Goodspeed’s History of Barry County on Page 71 there appears under the title of "Civil and Military Murders", a single obscure sentence stating that in 1853 ‘Dudley H. Snyder murdered Charles Wolfger.’

In a 1978 edition of ‘The Cowboys" from the current Old West series of Time-Life books, on page 58 appears a photograph of one Dudley H. Snyder with a short commentary which noted that Snyder after the Civil War was considered one of the leading cattle barons of the west with large ranch holdings in Texas, Colorado and Wyoming. The brief article says Snyder was of puritanical mien when it came to observing the Sabbath as a day of rest. Also, his employees were forbidden to drink, gamble or swear.

Could this be one and the same person? Dusty records in the Barry and Newton County Court Houses and records kept by three Texas Universities in their archives prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is the same man.

Barry County’s brief encounter so long ago with a man destined to become famous and wealthy making history in the cattle industry of the west occurred in the decade preceding the Civil War.

Dudley Hiram Snyder, the eldest son of Charles W. Snyder (a native of Pennsylvania) and Susan Hail Snyder. was born in Yazoo County, Mississippi, in 1833 and died in Georgetown, Texas. September 12, 1921. He had two younger brothers, John W. and Tom, along with a younger sister, Lizzie. The parents continued to live in Mississippi until the death of the father about 1840.

Some two years thereafter, in March of 1842, the young widow married John Wulfjen (Goodspeed’s History is incorrect in referring to him as "Charles Wolfger’) in Mississippi and the newlywed couple and her four children moved to Arkansas. Her father, Dr. Thomas Hale, a medical doctor, some ten years later moved from Mississippi to Round Rock, Williamson County, Texas.

After the Wulfjens moved to Arkansas, their first child, J. Durham Wulfjen, was born in 1845 in Johnson County; the next, Charles W.; after him, Mary Janet then Sarah E.; and finally Albert, on September 20. 1850.

Shortly after the birth of the last child the family, consisting of the father and mother, the four Snyder children and the five Wulfjen children, moved to Barry County.

They settled south of Cassville in what is now the Pasley Community. On July 11, 1853, John E. Wulfjen bought, for $l00.00, an 80 acre tract described as the East half of the Southwest Quarter of Section 18, Township 22, Range 27 (located one-half mile south of the Corinth Cemetery)

The eleven members of the family lived in a small log house on the property.

Shown above are the three Snyder brothers who grew to adults in the Pasley community south of Cassville.

Left to right are Dudley H. Snyder, the principal in the accompanying story Thomas, and John W. his younger brother.

The family came to Barry County from Arkansas about 1850 and remained here for some eight years before moving on to Texas where the three sons achieved fame and fortune in the cattle industry.

This photograph appears to have been made shortly after the Civil War. It is reprinted here courtesy of the university of Texas at Austin.

Late in the fall, probably about the first of November, John E. Wulfjen was murdered. The old court records have long since been lost and the exact date and circumstances are unknown, but the list of witnesses (who were all close neighbors) would indicate that the death occurred at or near the home. The 20-year-old stepson, Dudley Hiram Snyder, was indicted for the murder of his stepfather by a Barry County grand jury. He was held in the jail at Cassville until November 18, 1853, when, after his attorney took a change of venue to Newton County, the circuit judge ordered the sheriff, accompanied by two guards, to take him to Neosho.

The witnesses, John Perkins, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert B. Perkins, William Perkins, Amanda Cornielson, Henry McCary and A. B. Thomason, all of whom were near neighbors, gave bond at Cassville to appear at the Circuit Court in Neosho on "the first Monday after the fourth Monday in April, 1854" for the trial.

The first entry in the court records at Neosho by Circuit Judge C. G. Yancey is under date of June 7, 1854.

After reciting the charge, the court entered the name of the jurors and the record reads as follows:


"Wm. H. Hatcher, Hugh Carter, Allen Wells, Abner Moore, Nathan J. Phillips, Jno. Saltsman, Joel Mccarty, William Dunegan, Robert Wheading, John Marcus, J. C. Murray and Miller Grase."

8 A.M. June 8 1854
"George F. Ray replaces Wm. H. Hatcher as a juror. Trial could not be completed this day."

8 A.M. June 9, 1854
"Trial still not finished."

7 A.M. June 10, 1854
"We, the jury, find the defendant not guilty in manner and form as he stands charged in the bill of indictment. N. J. Phillips, foreman.’

So far as the records are concerned, the cause of death is unknown, whether by gun, knife, beating or other means. There are indications that Dudley Snyder was acquitted by reason of self-defense.

The story could very easily end at this point except for the illustrious career that Dudley Snyder later made for himself.

Probate court records here show that Susan Wulfjen, the mother, asked the court to sell her land in 1858 on the grounds that she was leaving the state, and in 1859 the 80 acres was sold to Joseph G Peevey, who was then sheriff of Barry County.

After his acquittal in Newton County, Dudley Snyder returned briefly to the family home, and in late summer purchased apples here which he hauled by wagon to Austin, Texas, and sold for a good profit. Over the next two or three years he repeated these trips.

With his grandfather, Dr. Hale, already in Texas and the allure of the young and growing southwestern part of the country beckoning, Dudley was joined by his two brothers, John W. and Thomas S., for a permanent settlement in that area.

The Civil War came on and all three of the brothers became captains in the Confederate Army. During most of the War, Captain Dudley Snyder trailed herds from Texas to the Confederate Armies at Natchez, Mississippi delivering them after swimming the cattle across the Mississippi River. According to a letter written in 1938 by one of his sons, he was acting both as a citizen furnishing beef to the Army and also as a soldier.

After the war, the three brothers decided to make Texas their permanent headquarters and to build their homes in Georgetown, the seat of the Southwestern University. In the beginning they engaged in the cattle business in a small way but they were so successful that in 1886 they were rated in the million dollar class with probably the largest individual ranging interests in Texas.

In 1868, Dudley Snyder drove the first herd from Texas to the Northwest, selling part of these cattle at Fort Union, New Mexico, and the balance of them he drove on in to the State of Colorado. This was the first herd that safely crossed the Indian Country for just a few weeks ahead of them John Chisum’s herds were all captured and taken away from Chisum by the Indians. In the spring of 1869, he drove a herd to Abilene, Kansas. This herd was attacked in the Indian country by the Indians. Most of them were stolen, for which, many years later, he was paid by the U. S. Government.

In the Centennial Edition of the Georgetown, (Texas) newspaper in 1940, the following excerpt appeared:

"It was well known in the cattle world that no man who drank, gambled or swore need apply for a job with the Snyder brothers. They just did not tolerate any of these vices among their crews. All of their employees were required to observe the Sabbath Day as a day of rest, as far as practicable, according to the biblical injunction. If the camp was near a town, most of the men attended church. In the early stages of the trip, other cattlemen with their herds would pass the Snyder brothers and joke with them and occasionally jeer them for such waste of time. But as the end of the journey approached, the Snyder herds invaribly arrived at market in advance of the others. This is good proof of the economic value of the old Jewish Law--One day of rest out of seven for man and beast."

The Snyder brothers used much of their fortune to build and endow Southwestern University at Georgetown, which is still in operation today.

Dudley Snyder married in Williamson County, Texas, and reared ten children. After the war, he became a devout Methodist and was a delegate many times to the general conference of that denomination.

During the last 12 or 15 years of his life, he became totally blind, but he continued to occupy his pew in the First Methodist Church in Georgetown.

It is perhaps interesting to note that a book published in 1973 entitled "Land of Good Water: A Williamson County Texas History" stated Dudley made a trip from Missouri to Round Rock to work for his grandfather in collecting accounts in 1855. "On his ride to Texas, a horse trader taught him that profits were not made by selling horses, but in buying them. Young Dudley became well acquainted in central Texas. In the spring of 1856, he returned to Missouri and that fall brought his middle brother, John, back to Texas with him. They had enough money to buy 25 bushels of apples in Missouri, which they loaded onto their two horse wagon, selling them along the way to Round Rock at $1.00 a dozen. With the $250 in gold this venture netted them, they rented a farm in Palm


Valley from S. M. Swenson. A late freeze in 1857 killed their crops but they found work with other farmers and traded or sold Spanish horses from San Antonio. That autumn they returned to Missouri, picked up young Tom and two loads of apples and all three of the boys returned to Texas, marketing their fruit for $500 profit.

There is no record of the burial site of John E. Wulfien, but it is likely he is buried in an unmarked grave in the Washburn Prairie Cemetery since that was probably the closest cemetery to the home in 1853.

Texas records briefly note he was buried in Barry County.


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