History of Justin Boots
H. J. Justin came to Texas from Lafayette, Indiana in 1879 where he had been a boot repairman. He settled in the west Texas town of Spanish Fort on the Texas-Oklahoma border. At this time in the Old West, the ranchers had cattle drives to move the herds to the markets in the East. During the Civil War most of the men in Texas fought in the war and the cattle were not attended to. The herds grew in size and freely roamed the State of Texas. When the war ended the state’s only assets were its countless longhorns, for which no markets were available. Missouri and Kansas had closed their borders to Texas cattle in the 1850’s. By 1866 cattle in Texas were only worth $4 per head. In the North and East the same cattle would bring $40 per head. In 1867 O. W. Wheeler built stockyards in Abilene, Kansas. He encouraged Texas cattlemen to drive their herds to his stockyards. The Chisholm Trail became the route from ranches in Texas to the Kansas railhead. The railroads moved the cattle to the eastern markets. Daddy Joe moved his family next to the Chisholm Trail. He realized that the cowboys needed tough and protective footwear. This was different type of footwear from what was needed in Indiana. The cowboys needed a tall shaft to protect the calf of the leg from the constant contact with the saddle. The toe needed to be pointed to find the stirrup when they mounted the horse. The high heel was a safety feature. It prevented the foot from becoming tangled in the stirrup. It was the equivalent of today’s seat belt in automobiles. The leathers available were very soft. To provide a stiffer shaft the boot-makers would stitch a pattern on the boot’s shaft. They quickly learned a decorative stitch would sell better to their customers to young and brash cowboys.
When the cowboys came to town on the cattle drives, Daddy Joe would measure their feet for custom crafted western boots. He hand made every pair of boots. Daddy Joe did not have stock boots and the cowboys did not have the money to pay for the boots as they drove the cattle down the trail to the new railroad. With their measurements Daddy Joe would begin the process of hand crafting the cowboys boots and the cowboys would continue up the Chisholm Trail to deliver the cattle.
When the cowboys delivered the herd they received the payment for their services on the cattle drive. Now they had the money to pay for their boots. As they made their way down the Chisholm Trail back home they would pick up their boots from Daddy Joe Justin.
This lasted until 1887. In that year the railroad came through Nocona, Texas, just south of Spanish Fort. Daddy Joe moved his family and business to Nocona, Texas, for better shipping facilities.