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  • Matthew Kerns

Texas Jack Junior



On one of his cattle drives through Texas in the late 1860s, Texas Jack Omohundro chanced upon a number of ransacked wagons with an escort of soldiers dead and scalped nearby. Inspection of the wagons revealed a number of dead settlers who had come with this military escort bound west across the plains. Texas Jack rode to the nearest fort and lead some of the soldiers there in pursuit. Following the trail of horses leading away, they came upon a group of Comanche. Getting the drop on the Indians, Jack and the soldiers were able to rescue a boy and two girls that had been taken as a captive by the warriors.


Escorting the children to safety on the backs of the Comanche ponies he took with him, Jack pondered what to do with the children. He asked the boy, the oldest of the children, “What’s your name, son?”

The shy boy hesitated and then asked, “What’s yours?”

“Jack”

The boy thought about it for a moment.

“Me too.” Texas Jack took the children to a Fort Worth orphanage where he sold the ponies and generously offered to fund their education. For the rest of his life, the boy called himself “Texas Jack Jr.” He would later take up his benefactor's mantle as an actor and showman, starring as Frederick Russell Burnham, American Chief of Scouts in an early British film called Major Wilson’s Last Stand, which depicted battles between the British South Africa Company and native Ndebele warriors in present day Zimbabwe. Having made his mark on cinema, he came back to America and started “Texas Jack’s Wild West Show & Circus," which he would tour around the world.

An Australian advertisement for Texas Jack Junior's "Wild West Dramatic Company" dated Friday, January 12, 1900.

Jack Junior toured in America, Australia, Europe, and South Africa, carrying on the tradition of showing audiences a stylized version of the cowboy lifestyle established by his namesake. Traveling the world, the show was in Ladysmith, South Africa in 1902 where a young man approached Texas Jack Jr. to ask him if he was really from Texas and to ask for a job wrangling horses or setting up tents for his shows. Demonstrating his namesake’s keen eye for showmanship, Jack Jr. asked the young man if he could pull together a rope trick act. The young man said he believed he could and Jack Jr. hired him on the spot. Texas Jack Jr. suggested the young performer adopt the nickname “The Cherokee Kid." This was Will Rogers's first job in show business.



Later in his life, as part of his traveling show, Texas Jack Junior wrote a poem about his life, including a verse about his capture by the Indians and rescue by Omohundro:


Come, give me your attention,

And see the right and wrong,

It is a simple story

And won’t detain you long;


I’ll try to tell the reason

Why we are bound to roam

And why we are so friendless

And never have a home


My home is in the saddle,

Upon a pony’s back,

I am a roving Cow-boy

And find the hostile track;


They say I am a sure shot,

And danger, I never knew;

But I have often heard the story,

That now I’ll tell to you


In eighteen hundred and sixty-three,

A little emigrant band

Was massacred by Indians,

Bound West by overland;


They scalped our noble soldiers,

And the emigrants had to die,

And the only living captives

Were two small girls and I.


I was rescued from the Indians

By a brave and noble man,

Who trailed the thieving Indians,

And fought them hand to hand;


He was noted for his bravery

While on an enemy’s track;

He has a noble history

And his name is Texas Jack.


Old Jack could tell a story

If he was only here,

Of the trouble and the hardships

Of the western pioneer;


He would tell you how the mothers

And comrades lost their lives,

And how the noble fathers

Were scalped before our eyes.


I was raised among the Cow-boys,

My saddle is my home,

And I’ll always be a Cow-boy

No difference where I roam;


And like that noble hero

My help I volunteer,

And try to be of service

To the Western pioneer.


I am a roving Cow-boy,

I’ve worked upon the trail,

I’ve shot the shaggy buffalo

And heard the coyote’s wail;


I’ve slept upon my saddle.

And covered by the moon;

I expect to keep it up, dear friends,

Until I meet my doom.



The year stated in the poem of 1863 is incorrect. On his passport application forms, Jack Junior stated that he was born in either 1866 or 1867, but that he did not know the particular date of his own birth:



Texas Jack Junior, who dropped the "Junior" when he began to perform outside the United States, married fellow performer Lily Dunbar on March 25th, 1891 in Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia. Lily took the surname "Jack" as a married woman. They had one child, named Hazel Jack.


Hazel Jack

By 1897, the couple was living in London, England, and Jack was listed as a professional horse trainer. In November of that year, Texas Jack Junior filed for divorce from Lily, stating that "on the 13th day of October 1897 my said wife the said Lily Jack committed adultery with F.E. Mannell at No, 25 Whitcomb Street, Coventry Street in the County of London." Included in the divorce petition is a brief description of Jack's childhood:


"My parents are unknown, and...ever since my birth I have always been known and called by the name of Texas Jack, and have no other christian or surname whatever; as when a child my parents were killed by the American Indians in Texas, who carried me off to their camp, where I lived until I was recovered from them by the United States of America's troops, about 1868."


It is unknown if the divorce was granted, but Lily Dunbar Jack died shortly afterwards, passing away in London at the age of 31 in April of 1902. Sadly, Texas Jack Junior died just over five years later, on October 25, 1905, in Kroonstad, South Africa, where he had recruited Will Rogers three years before. His death notice lists him as a widower and notes that he left the entirety of his estate to his 14-year-old daughter Hazel Jack, listed as living in Prahran, Melbourne, Australia.






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