Sunday, January 16, 2022

Jake Spoon: Horse thief or simply a cow-punching cowboy?

Was he really a horse thief, and which ancestor actually is Jake Spoon?

This remains somewhat of a mystery, but it certainly makes for good conversation. A story handed down through the Spoon generations speaks about a cowboy who lived in Texas and was infamous for stealing horses from Indian territory in Oklahoma. Some speculate that the character Jake Spoon in the "Lonesome Dove" book and movie was based on our Spoon ancestor. Larry McMurtry, the author of the book, isn't saying, although he grew up in that area of Texas.

There are two most likely Spoon ancestors who were the Jake Spoon of cowboy folklore. One is John M. Spoon, born in 1866 in Arkansas. Descendants of John M. often tell the story of Jake Spoon and believe John M. was that person.

This narrative comes from Debby Spoon Looney, the great granddaughter of John M. Spoon:

"I don't know how true the story about John Spoon being a horse thief is. It may just be a stab my grandpa made at a dad he hated. I just found it all so interesting that the movie 'Lonesome Dove' had this character Jake Spoon, who was being chased by Sheriff July Johnson for accidentally killing somebody in Ft. Smith, Arkansas and was ultimately hung for being a horse thief. The Ft. Smith area is where my great grandfather John M. and grandfather Harry Frederick Spoon and siblings were living at that period of time.

"I have researched the making of the movie several times. It is said that author used some factually events in his story, but the story itself is totally fictional."

The other Spoon ancestor who might possibly by the Jake Spoon we speak of is Jacob Andrew Spoon, who was born in 1864 in Illinois and died in 1922 in Menard, Texas. The Facebook page "Traces of Texas" reports the following:

"Many Texans know that there was a character named 'Jake Spoon' in Lonesome Dove, the book and TV miniseries, with Robert Urich playing the part of Jake in the miniseries. But most Texans probably do not realize that there was a real life Jake Spoon who, though he was also a trail-riding cowboy, was quite different from ex-Ranger Jake Spoon in the story. The real life Jake Spoon was born in 1864 and, as a young man, made 10 trips up the trail, driving cattle from Texas to Kansas. He died on a cot in his front yard in Menard, Texas, in 1922, and is buried in the Pioneer Rest cemetery there."

There is no mention of this Jake Spoon being a horse thief. His identity as a trail-riding cowboy is confirmed through the above photo, however.

We may never know whether Jake Spoon really was a horse thief or which man the movie character may refer to, but it remains one of the most interesting stories in Spoon family history.

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