Amos Harris/Black Cowboy

Image: Public Domain Born south of Galveston, Texas along the Brazos River, Amos Harris was born the son of a freed slave. Although his exact birthday is not known was sometime in the mid 1800s. Mr. Harris died Feb. 23, 1911. He suffered from multiple strokes. The exact cause of his death is not known. It was rumored that he may have died from lead poisoning, however, no one really knows. He is buried at the Grand Island cemetery. A tombstone, donated by the black people of Grand Island was erected at his gravesite.

His nature was known to be kind and gentle. He was a man of imposing size standing 6' 3" and weighing as much as 300 pounds. Amos Harris was sometimes referred to as a "Prince of a man" as well as "One of G-d's true noblemen" and "Big Amos". He is also considered Nebraska's first black cowboy. Amos Harris had many talents including proficiency in 5 languages. He was also an excellent roper.

Mr. Harris married two times. His first wife was Eliza Young, daughter of R. Young of Bollus, Nebraska. He married her in 1897. In 1904 Amos went to Wheeler county and took a 400 acre claim west of Lake Erickson. They started a ranch on the Calamus River, north of Brewster. He raised and sold cattle. Although he was admired for his ways and his cowboy knowledge he lost his ranch to a homesteader. He and his wife, Eliza, moved to Ord. Eliza died. Amos remarried Elizabeth Jame Fears in 1908. She was about 18 years his junior. They settled down to homesteading a ranch in Wheeler County where she died. He is buried in the Grand Island Cemetary.

There are many legends about Amos Harris. He was known to be a member of the famous Olive crew. He was reported to have driven 5 herds of cattle up from Texas over the Chisholm Trail to Nebraska in 1878. The number of cattle was over 15,000 head of Texas cattle to the open range in Custer County and along the Dismal River. From here, Amos Harris began his colorful career as a cowboy in the central counties of Nebraska. It was on one of these trips, that he brought and sold cattle to the Ed Cook and Tower Ranch at Ainsworth. In the 1880 census he was listed as being in the household of Ed Cook, for whom he was working at the time around Ainsworth, Brown county and around Blaine and Loup counties for various other ranchers. It lists his birth year as 1852, and his parents as being born in Tennessee. His birth date is questionable, unknown even to himself. It was known to be between the 1840s to the 1860s.

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First posted: , 2014
Last update: Jun 22, 2014