Perry and Emma LeFors Biography

(reprinted with permission from Gray County Heritage ©1985)

James J. LeFors, father of Perry, was born July 8, 1808, near Louisville, Kentucky.· His second wife, Perry's mother Mahala West, was born May 11, 1827 a native of Tennessee.· They were married November 30, 1845

This growing family moved from Missouri to Arkansas in 1851, to Paris, Texas, 1863, back to Arkansas in 1868 and in 1869 to Indian Territory about 10 miles east of now Vinita, Oklahoma.

On August 21, 1875, Mahala died and was buried on the north bank of Cabin Creek on the Berry Johnson farm leased by James J. LeFors.

Perry and brothers, Bill and Sam, were on a cattle drive in 1876 from south Texas through the Panhandle to Dodge City and had sent back such glowing description that they urged the family to move here after they had sent the youngest girl Ida, age seven, to a boarding school in Waco, Texas.

Father James J. age 70 and six sons from 11 to 25 years old, started out in three wagons for the Panhandle by way of Ft. Sill to avoid the Indians. After leaving Pt. Sill, they were seized by Indians and held two days without food until soldiers came to their rescue. With more supplies, a week later they started again and arrived at Mobeetie without incident.

Within a short time, they found Wells, a settler on East Cantonment Creek who wanted to move on and was willing to exchange his squatters rights for two horses. Shortly after settling in the dugout and picket house, they received word from Perry that Sam had been killed by Indians near Dodge City.

Perry and his brother, Rufe, continued to drive cattle while the other members of the family found jobs near their home. In 1881 James J. and young sons -- Joe, 16, and Bob, 14 -- left for Caddo Grove near Cleburne, Texas to take boys to school. Bill and family were living there. Soon after they arrived, James J. died September 19, 1881, and was buried in the Caddo Grove Cemetery. (Berton Doucette says he visited this site two miles west of Joshua in 1954 and found the headstone in good condition.)

While working as foreman of the Diamond F Ranch, Perry had acquired several more sections of land and had built a camp on the old Travis Leach place for a stage stop between Tascosa and Mobeetie. This camp was later to be called Lefors.

In May 1884 Henry and Anna Thut, two children and Anna's sister, Emma Lang, came to the stage stop. Their third sister, Lena, had married Alex Schneider and would arrive later.

As the Thuts and Emma left the train at Dodge City and approached the Panhandle by hack, they made overnight stops at ranches and line camps. One of the most memorable stops was at the Diamond F Headquarters where Perry LeFors was ranch foreman. He was a handsome cowboy, and as fate would have it, fell in love with the lovely Swiss girl, Emma Lang.

Perry LeFors was a frequent visitor while Emma was in the Thut's home and later at Mobeetie where Emma stayed with Mrs. O'Loughlin. Emma met many of the prominent citizens there, lawyers and officers from the nearby Ft. Elliott, but Perry was always uppermost in her mind.

Three years after Perry met Emma they were married January 15, 1887. The wedding was in Mobeetie at the Huselby Hotel. Everyone in the Panhandle was invited and all envied Perry and his bride. Champagne was served at the wedding feast. All drank to the health and happiness of the couple, then danced the night away.

Perry bought a a house in Mobeetie where they lived for three years. They took part in the town social activities, the most popular being the theatrical club. Their first two children born in Mobeetie were Vera, December 14, 1887 and Emmett September 27, 1889. The family then moved to their home on East Cantonment Creek, where his father and brothers had originally started and improved the home site. Later they moved to West Cantonment Creek, where Henry Weckesser built a house on a section of land Perry had bought from Gus Hartman in 1882. This was to be the home place and farm, section 18, Block A6 while the original site, section 20 and others adjoining were to be the expanding ranch.

The new home was a fertile valley among the cottonwood trees near a natural spring with cool good water. Jess Wynne helped Perry plant a large apple and peach orchard. The fruit and an abundance of vegetables kept the family well supplied with only one trip a month to Mobeetie, 10 miles east, for needs such as flour sugar, coffee and other necessities.

Five girls, Mava, Ersa, Eva, Freda and Molita -- were born on the ranch, and for each birth a man was sent on horseback to Mobeetie to bring the kind, family Doctor Brice, who always arrived in time.

Perry and Emma were very eager to educate their children. While all were still very young, governesses were employed (whose accomplishments included music and elocution.) Seven governesses were employed through the years. During these busy, happy years, neighbors from far and near came to the LeFors home for picnics, wading parties, horseback riding, croquet and baseball, which was always a part of Sunday entertainment. Emma never failed to have more than enough pies and cakes for all.

Perry applied for a post office for the stage stop on the North Fork of the Red River, and it was granted October 12, 1892. However, the Postal Department in Washington decided the capital letter "F" must be changed to a small letter, and so the post office and later town became Lefors, Texas. The land had been donated by Perry.

By 1902 there seemed to be enough people in the area, and so with Perry's influence and promotion, over 150 voters out of 175 petitioned for an election to organize Gray County and separate it from the jurisdiction of Wheeler County. The election was held, and on May 27, 1902, Gray County was formed and Lefors was named as county seat.

Times were good, and people were happy and prosperous when suddenly the LeFors family was stricken with the dreaded typhoid fever that was sweeping through the country. Perry died from the fever on September 6, 1909 and within six weeks four of the girls also died by October 26, 1909.

With an undying faith and courage of a real pioneer, Emma with her little girl Molita, two and a half years of age, closed the old home and went back to Frankfort, Kentucky to her sister, Lena, and family. A year later she returned to McLean and entered into social and church work. In 1918 Emma bought a house in Pampa, but she went to Los Angeles where Molita finished high school. Returning to Pampa in 1928, Emma organized the Christian Science Church, which met in her home at 311 N. Frost for over a year. Her philosophy for a long life was, "Keep your hands and mind filled with labor and love, your heart with charity,and faith in God." She was honored many times over the years for her social and church work, also as 'Good Neighbor' and in 1952, by the naming of the local airport, the Perry LeFors Field, in memory of her late husband.

Emma passed away January 25, 1958, just before her 90th birthday. She is buried beside Perry and their daughters in Miami.

Emma was born March 4, 1868, Rhinefelden, Switzerland, to Anton and Babette (Speise) Lang. Anton was born in Vienna, Austria, and had lived in France before coming to Switzerland. The Langs were one of Rhinefelden's most prominent families and were engaged in the furniture upholstering business, which had been an occupation of the family for over 100 years.

Vera, the eldest daughter of Perry and Emma, married a young surveyor, A.H. Doucette, and they lived a long and fruitful life in the evergrowing town of Pampa. Mr. Doucette died October 26, 1964, and Vera passed away 20 years later March 6, 1984, at the age of 96 years and 3 months.

--Berton Doucette