Happy Birthday Texas Jack!
173 years ago today, on July 26, 1846, John B. Omohundro was born on his father's plantation, called Pleasure Hill, near Palmyra, Virginia.
Today, we'll talk about how Jack, being born in Virginia, earned the lasting sobriquet 'Texas Jack'.
Jack had already earned a few nicknames in his lifetime. His family had always called him Johnny, but when he had left for Texas as a young man he had been given the nickname Happy Jack, for his cheerful demeanor and easy-going personality. During the Civil War, where the teenaged Jack served as a scout for General J.E.B. Stuart, Jack was called "The Boy Scout of the Confederacy."
It was when Jack headed to Texas after the war that he earned his most famous appellation. In the years after the war, the deep south suffered both due to reconstruction and a series of droughts that ensured a scarcity of meat. Omohundro invested all of his money into buying a herd of beef cattle and hiring a crew of cowboys to help him drive the herd east from Texas, across Indian country, and to the hungry citizens of Tennessee.
News of the man bringing meat traveled fast, and in one Tennessee town, the town’s officials came out to greet the herd. The town’s mayor asked who was in charge of the operation.
“Jack,” answered the nearest cowboy, pointing to the tall man on horseback.
“Where you from, Jack?” asked the mayor.
“We’re in from Texas,” replied Jack, nodding to the herd.
“Well boys,” said the mayor, turning to the crowd who had by now assembled to inspect the cattle, “Here’s Texas Jack, who has saved us!” The appreciative crowd cheered and men walked up to shake the hand of Texas Jack, who had braved the Indians to bring their starving families meat from Texas. The other cowboys began referring to Omohundro as “Texas Jack” as they reached other towns along their journey, and the name remained with him for the rest of his life.
‘Texas Jack’ wasn’t the last nickname that Jack earned. As he hunted with the Pawnee in Nebraska, Jack showed off his lasso skills, and the Pawnee named him ‘Whirling Rope’ in admiration of his skill, and Nebraska newspapers referred to Jack as “the hero of the Loup Fork” after he saved Buffalo Bill’s life in a skirmish with Sioux Indians. Jack’s wife often called her husband ’Teck’ in her delightful Italian accent, while his friend Wild Bill Hickok preferred the older nickname ‘Happy Jack.’ While the three friends toured together, Buffalo Bill could refer to both of his friends as ‘JB.'
Dime novel writers would add more nicknames, like Ned Buntline’s 'The White King of the Pawnee’ or Prentiss Ingraham’s ‘The Mustang King.'
Johnny, Happy Jack, JB, Teck, Whirling Rope, the White King of the Pawnees, the Mustang King, and the Hero of the Loup Fork may have all been fitting nicknames for J.B. Omohundro, but we prefer the same one that he did.