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Cortez Lira, Gregorio (22 June 1875–28 February 1916), cowboy and Mexican-American folk hero, was born in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, near the U.S.–Mexico border, the son of Roman Cortez Garza, a rancher, and Rosalia Lira Cortinas. In 1887 his family moved to Manor, Texas, near Austin. Two years later Cortez joined his older brother, Romaldo Cortez, in finding seasonal employment on the farms and ranches of South Texas. Some time in this period, Cortez married Leonor Díaz; they had four children. After eleven years as vaqueros, or cowboys, and farmhands, Cortez and his brother settled on a farm in Karnes County, Texas, renting land from a local rancher. Cortez and his first wife divorced in 1903, and in 1905 he married Estéfana Garza. They had no children and later separated....

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Dart, Isom (1848–03 October 1900), black cowboy and rustler, also known as Ned Huddleston, was born in Arkansas. Dart’s early life is an enigma. Biographical accounts give a lively “Wild West” picture of an itinerant cowboy and occasional gang member based on legend and folklore. What is known is that sometime in the mid-1880s, Dart settled in Brown’s Hole, an isolated area where the borders of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah meet. He worked initially for the Middlesex Land and Cattle Company but later found gainful employment on the Bassett Ranch....

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Doolin, William (1858–25 August 1896), cowboy and bank and train robber, was born in Johnson County, Arkansas, the son of Michael Doolin and Artemina Beller, farmers. Bill Doolin had a normal childhood and remained on the family farm until 1881. He was a tall, slender man, lacking a formal education and barely literate but generally regarded as intelligent and personable. At twenty-three, Doolin left home to seek his fortune on the closing frontier. He quickly became a proficient cowboy for Oscar Halsell and other ranchers operating near the Cimarron and Arkansas rivers of the Oklahoma Territory. For several years Doolin worked his way across the western ranges of Wyoming, Montana, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, earning the reputation of a reliable, capable, and good-natured hand. He was considered to be a fine rider, an excellent shot, and a natural leader when he returned to the cattle ranches of Oklahoma....

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Glass, Charlie (187?–1937), cowboy, was apparently born in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Little is known about his parents or early life. According to “The Ballad of Charlie Glass,” by William Leslie Clark, Glass was “one quarter Cherokee” (Wyman & Hart). Legend has it that Glass moved to western Colorado after shooting the man who had killed his father. What is certainly factual is that Glass was working as a cowboy for the S-Cross Ranch in western Colorado by 1909....

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James, Will Roderick (06 June 1892–03 September 1942), western author and artist, was born Joseph Ernest Nephtali Dufault in St. Nazaire de Acton, Quebec, Canada, the son of Jean Dufault and Josephine (maiden name unknown). When the Dufault family moved to Montreal, he attended a Catholic school and his father ran a hotel, in which the boy heard stories of trappers that he later used to fabricate parts of his ...

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Love, Nat ( June 1854–1921), cowboy and author, was born in Davidson County, Tennessee, the son of Sampson Love and a mother whose name is unknown. Both were slaves owned by Robert Love, whom Nat described as a “kind and indulgent Master.” Nat Love’s father was a foreman over other slaves; his mother, a cook. The family remained with Robert Love after the end of the Civil War....

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Tom Mix. In Mr. Logan, U. S. A., 1919. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92336).

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Mix, Tom (06 January 1880–12 October 1940), cowboy and motion picture star, was born Thomas Hezikiah Mix in Mix Run, Pennsylvania, the son of Edwin Elias Mix, a teamster in the lumber industry, and Elizabeth Smith. When Tom was eight, his father moved the family to DuBois, Pennsylvania, where the elder Mix took a job as stableman and chauffeur for the wealthy John E. DuBois family. It was in DuBois that Tom, who quit school after the fourth grade, developed an interest in his father’s work, especially the handling of horses. The locals would frequently comment that “Tom learned to ride anything that could walk.” This early experience laid the foundations for the trick riding and roping that was to become an integral part of Mix’s identity as a western film star....

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Nigger Add (1845?–24 March 1926), cowboy, roper, and bronc rider, also known as Negro Add or Old Add, was born Addison Jones, reportedly in Gonzales County, Texas; his father and mother are unknown. The early life of Add is clouded in conjecture. He may have been a slave on the ...

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Will Rogers Left, with Will Hays, c. 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-83080).