The Causey Brothers

The Causey brothers were formerly buffalo hunters. The big lumbering buffalo were hunted in the southwest to the point where they declined from a peak of over 100 million animals to near extinction in only a few decades during the late 1800s.

Likely the best known Causey brother went by George Causey, though his given name was Thomas Leander Causey. He was born in 1849 in Madison County, Illinois and died in Roosevelt County, New Mexico in 1903. How he came by the nickname of George is unknown. He was a single man most of his life. He married in 1903 but died by his own hand only a few weeks after he married.

George was the first born of ten children to George Washington Causey and Mary Adeline Crowder Causey. The others were Mark, John Van Cleave, Eliza Jane, Mary Adeline, Charles Grant and Nellie Grant (twins), Robert Lincoln, George Washington, Jr. and Rose Evelyn. All but one or maybe two of the children were born in Illinois. George W. (the father) had been born in Tennessee and in the 1870 census, his occupation was listed as farmer and was still shown as being a farmer in the 1900 census before his death in 1907 at around 80 years of age. He died in Guthrie, Logan County, Oklahoma. Mary Adeline had predeceased him, also in Oklahoma, in 1895.

Thomas Leander “George” Causey does not appear have served in the Civil War, although he may indeed have done so. Near the end of the war, however, he is said to have worked as a freighter hauling supplies to Army forts and trading posts in Kansas. This profession became less profitable as the railroad system expanded and goods could be transported reliably via rail.

At some point, George began to hunt and trade in animal hides, following the buffalo herds south and west from Kansas to Oklahoma and later to Texas and New Mexico. George is reputed to be a prolific buffalo hunter, and by esimates of others is said to have killed over 40,000 of these animals, living off money he earned from selling both hides and meat.

By around 1877, George and at least two brothers, Robert and John, had come to Yellow House Canyon, apparently near the current town of Littlefield, Texas. The brothers, George, John and Bob, came to the area in the late 1870s. They are first believed to have settled with a couple of other partners on the western side of Yellow House Draw.

Yellow House Draw was a natural old watercourse, or stream bed, in the Llano Estacado that ran for about 150 miles originating around 20 miles south of Melrose, Roosevelt County, New Mexico all the way to near the current town of Lubbock, Lubbock County, Texas. There it ties into a fork of the Brazos River. There, still hunting for the remnants of the buffalo herds, the Causeys built an adobe house at a water hole there before exploring a bit further south into the Four Lakes area, in the northern part of what is now Lea County. They eventually settled on the southern end of the county near Monument Spring, still hunting the last of the buffalo which had been hunted until around 1880 in this area.

By the early 1880s, the brothers had tried to make the transition to capturing and selling wild mustangs. They began by capturing 100 mustangs along with about 50 stray beef cattle after the brothers moved to what became Lea County. An early task was to look for water, which they found in the northern part of the current county. George bought an Eclipse direct stroke windmill. Their ranch is referred to as being the first ranch in Lea County. After operating there for some time, that ranch was sold and George relocated some five miles south of Lovington. He had to supply water from Monument Spring and built a rock house. Causey ran his horse and cattle operation for a number of years from that location. He also contracted to drill water wells and set windmills for other settlers.

Around 1900, the exact date is unknown, Causey was riding a horse in a mustang roundup. The mount got spooked and fell after possibly stepping into a badger hole and breaking its leg, after which it rolled over Causey. Ranch hands came upon him two days later, sent for a wagon and brought him back to the headquarters at Four Lakes and then taking Causey on to Roswell for further medical treatment. Causey was then transported to Missouri for further treatment but never regained full health, reportedly suffering from a continuing spinal injury causing him extended pain and discomfort. Causey sold his ranch to the owners of the Hat Ranch. He and his brothers continued to operate a mustang operation on the open range in Chaves County. His employees also continued the water well drilling operation.

Albuquerque Journal – May 30, 1903

Causey was married to a nurse of German ancestry named Johanna Fewson on April 8, 1903 and established a ranch between Kenna and Roswell. About six weeks later on May 18, 1903, Causey is believed to have taken his own life. Witnesses heard a gun shot, ran to the room and found Causey fatally wounded. When he died, Causey was 54 years old. Funeral services were held in Roswell at the First Christian Church after which Causey was buried in Southside (now called South Park) Cemetery there. His brothers Bob and John moved away and lived until the mid 1930s. Bob is buried in Arizona and John is buried in California.

Sources: Elvis E. Fleming’s articles in the Roswell Daily Record on George Causey. Fleming gives much credit to Gil Hinshaw’s book “Lea: New Mexico’s Last Frontier” and to Vivian H. Whitlock’s book “Cowboy Life on the Llano Estacado.” Sources also include genealogy records on the Causey family and various other newspaper articles.

4 thoughts on “The Causey Brothers

  1. On the Causey story, at the bottom, was that Elvis Fletcher or Fleming??

    Happy Trails!

    David L. Minton
    Lea County Historian
    Lea County Courthouse
    100 N. Main, Ste. 4
    Lovington, NM 88260

    Office 575-396-1125


    Liked by 1 person

  2. My grandfather was Vivian Hiram Whitlock, son of the Causey brothers sister, Mary Grant Causey Whitlock Palmer. My grandfather raised my sister and me. We were raised on the wonderful stories of the Causey brothers and the old times. I helped my grandfather write his book my doing a lot of the typing for him. I will never forget his stories about his younger days. The written article here is a real truth. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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