1822-1900 — Tivoli, Texas
Born in Maury County Tennessee in 1822 to Samuel and Rebecca Thompson Gullett, Newton Cannon Gullett was named after Tennessee Representative and Gubernatorial candidate Newton Cannon who represented Maury County and lived in nearby Williamson. Gullett was educated in neighboring Columbia, Tennessee. Following his formal schooling he was apprenticed to a storekeeper in Lynnville, Tennessee. On December 16, 1845 he married Elizabeth Hendrick in Columbus, Lowndes County, Mississippi. The marriage ended in divorce nine years later. At the age of thirty-two he moved to New Orleans and in 1850 removed to San Antonio, Texas where, for the next five years, he engaged in the general loan business, buying and selling notes and land speculation. During this period he acquired several thousand acres in various Texas Counties including a coal mine near Fueldale in Bastrop County. In 1856 he returned to New Orleans where he operated a grocery store at 30 Gravier Street and also at 33 Natchez Street and dealt in imported liquors and wines. He married his second wife Louisiana Jane Canter in New Orleans in 1859.
Heeding the call of the Confederacy he enlisted in Millaudon's Company (Jefferson Mounted Guards) in 1861 and served on the staff of Gen. R. V. Richardson. Later he attained the rank of Captain under infamous General Nathan Bedford Forrest. At the close of the war he returned to New Orleans where he operated one of the only post war commission houses dealing in cotton and cottonseed oil. He is said to have made over $ 100,000 per year for several years following the war. For a time he worked in conjunction with H. Kendall Carter and was the agent for Louisiana and Texas for the Gullett Cotton Engine Company of Amite, Louisiana. Said to have been a ladies man and a bit of a dandy, he spent a good portion of his time riverboat gambling following the death of his wife L. J. Canter in 1870.
In 1872 he married Charlotte Dozarie Osborn Bernard, widowed mother of four children, and the daughter of D.C. (Daniel Clark) Osborn a wealthy New Orleans area sugar cane planter. In addition to the Pecan Grove Sugar Plantation and Saw Mill near Barataria, Louisiana, Osborn was possessed of a vast parcel of land along the Texas coast and upon his death in 1871 his daughter Charlotte and other heirs(Geraldine and Paul Osborn) asked N. C. Gullett to oversee the property owing to his business acumen and experience in Texas. Already a landowner there, he agreed and he and third wife Charlotte began the process of turning 20,000 contiguous acres along the San Antonio River and Guadalupe,San Antonio and Hynes Bays into a showplace ranch. They erected a large home on a knoll about two miles northeast of the present town of Tivoli and named the venture Tivoli Ranch either after Charlotte's home near the Place Du Tivoli in New Orleans (present day Lee Circle) or Tivoli Gardens a city park near Lake Ponchartrain.
Accustomed to the finer trappings of sophisticated New Orleans, they brought with them fine furnishings, blooded horses and stock and fanciful carriages and livery previously unseen along the Texas Gulf Coast. A wharf was constructed near the confluence of the San Antonio and Guadalupe Rivers and was known as Gullett's Landing. Here the Gullett schooner LADY DORA would land lumber and building materials, furniture, clothing, food and other supplies from New Orleans and Galveston. The couple entertained lavishly and their home became the social center of the region.
In 1876 Colonel Gullett was the first rancher in Texas to erect a wire fence. That year he traveled to New York to purchase the newfangled product. To that point ranchers either let their cattle range freely or erected wooden plank fencing which was difficult to maintain. The vast majority of Tivoli land was pasture under fence. Gullett's cattle bore the diamond stickpin brand and the Colonel himself always wore a diamond stickpin. Eschewing the mode of the western rancher, Colonel Gullett preferred the fancier dress of the southern planter. Unlike his neighbors Gullett fashioned his ranch after the plantations of his former home State of Louisiana. A pioneer in upbreeding, Gullett experimented with Durham and Brahma before settling on Angus as the most adaptable breed to the region. In addition to Scotch Polled Angus cattle the ranch became widely known for its thoroughbred horse stock. At times Gullett carried as many as 5,000 head of cattle and 1,200 horses on Tivoli Ranch. His nephew, Captain John T. Lytle, would become the greatest trail driver in Texas history, driving over a half million head of cattle to market in the 1870's, handling herds valued in excess of nine million dollars and founding the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raiser's Association of which association Colonel Gullett was a founding member.
As Tivoli Ranch grew, additional personnel were needed to maintain the operation and as the area became more populous support services became necessary. In addition to a store, Gullett would erect a cotton gin outfitted with a Gullett Cotton Engine, bring the first telegraph line into Refugio County, donate the material for the construction of a school/church building and, by 1877, establish a United States Post Office on the ranch known as Tivoli. Colonel Gullett incorporated the Gulf Coast Fair Association to promote the economy of the area , financed a portion of the Gulf and West Texas Railway and was a lobbyist in Washington D.C. on behalf of Texas Cattle Raisers.
Following the death of his third wife in 1883, the Colonel bought out the remaining heirs and set about colonizing what was by that time the 40,000 acre Tivoli Ranch by selling small farm tracts to the hard-working German farmers he was familiar with from the Bastrop area where the Colonel also owned a coal mine. Sadly these plans would never fully materialize as a result of an altercation with a business associate.
At the age of 75, widowed for the third time following the death of his fourth wife Mattie Deseker-Gullett in Selma, Alabama, the then elderly Gullett had formed a partnership with Alonzo Roland Allee, the well-liked former Texas Ranger and ex-Sheriff of neighboring Goliad County. After breakfast August 18, 1897 an argument ensued over work which was to have been done by one of Allee's men. In a scuffle Gullett was knocked to the ground by Allee and beaten. Upon arising the argument continued with the Sheriff firing his rifle at Gullett but missing. Gullett drew a pistol from his vest and returned fire killing Allee. The Refugio County judge J. Y. Hamilton was a witness to the incident and was thus unable to hear the resulting case for murder against Gullett. Venue was moved to Bee County where Colonel Gullett was eventually vindicated. Unfortunately, owing to his vast wealth as much as to the affability and popularity of Allee, the shooting branded Gullett a social pariah. He moved from Tivoli to live full-time at his town house in Victoria at Glass and Santa Rosa streets.
While enroute from New Orleans he stopped at the Tremont House in Galveston where he was when the great storm of 1900 hit Galveston. He perished of fever following the storm and his body was located one month to the day following the hurricane. His body is believed to be interred beneath a large monument in the historic Evergreen Cemetery in Victoria, Texas.
Having died intestate, it was almost two years after his death before Colonel Gullett's sizeable estate was probated at Victoria, Texas with proceeds dispensed to relatives from the Gulf Coast of Texas to as far away as Eagle, Alaska. His nephew W. H. Daimwood of Corpus Christi closed the estate in 1902. A syndicate composed of Preston Rose Austin, J. C. Dilworth. Jesse McDowell, J. K. Hexter, F. C. Proctor and others purchased the remnants of Tivoli Ranch and formed the Refugio Black Land and Irrigation Company to continue Gullett's ambitious colonization plans. They greatly improved the town of Tivoli and started the neighboring community of Austwell. Sadly, over a century later, neither town had blossomed into the bustling metropolis or seaport that Gullett and his successors foresaw.
Colonel Gullett's nephew George Washington Gullett continued to farm and raise stock at his ranch on Hynes Bay near Crescent Village until he perished in a house fire in 1941. Oddly, few remember the name and little more is known about Colonel Gullett or his family although descendents still live in the area. A Texas historical marker in Tivoli erroneously credits the founding of the town to Preston Rose Austin in 1907, thirty years after Colonel Gullett established the U. S. Post Office at Tivoli.
An interesting sidebar: Col. Gullett's sister Eliza was married to Henry Boone Daimwood a nephew of Daniel Boone the famous frontiersman. Later in life Col. Gullett would marry Charlotte Osborn whose grandfather John Osborn had once rafted down the Green River and explored Mammoth Cave with Daniel Boone.