OLIVER-EAKLE, MELISSA DORA CALLAWAY (1860–1931). Dora Oliver-Eakle, financier, real estate developer, and philanthropist, was born near Eufaula, Alabama, on September 23, 1860, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Callaway. She attended Georgia Female College in Macon and graduated in 1879. On March 4, 1884, she married William Oliver, industrialist and principal stockholder of Mississippi Mills, then the South's largest textile manufacturer. In 1890 Mrs. Oliver visited Amarillo for the first time, on invitation from her merchant brothers, John and James Callaway. After her husband's death in 1891, she returned to the Panhandle on several occasions and purchased land in Potter and Randall counties; she moved there permanently in 1895. She caused a stir among townspeople when she arrived with her fine horses, carriage, and household servants, who were said to be the first blacks in Amarillo. Soon her spirited chestnut horse, elegant attire, and aloof public manner caused her to be labeled the "Duchess." To her family and friends, however, she was known for her warmth and generosity. Her personal fortune exceeded the combined capital of all the area banks, and she began to contribute funds to the town at a time when money was needed for growth. Because the entrance of a woman into the financial world was unusual at the time, she used the name M. D. Oliver. Those to whom the banks lent money on her behalf were rarely aware that the actual lender was a woman.
After being widowed for eleven years, Dora Oliver was remarried in 1902 to O. M. Eakle, an organizer and director of the Amarillo National Bank and first president of the Amarillo Board of Trade. Eakle had come to Amarillo from Fort Worth in 1890 as a furniture dealer and undertaker. The marriage was rocky, and the couple were often estranged. They had one daughter. Eakle died in 1914. In 1903 Dora Oliver-Eakle, as she was henceforth called, filed with the city a residential plat that comprised part of the land she had bought in 1891. The initial development of the M. D. Oliver-Eakle Subdivision extended from Fifteenth to Thirty-fourth streets and from the Santa Fe tracks to Washington Street. The land on which Amarillo College and Memorial Park are located was part of her original holdings, and she also gave the city Oliver-Eakle Park with its colored light fountain. As part of her contributions to Amarillo's social and cultural development, she encouraged her niece, Pearl Bethune Lawrence, to organize the Just Us Girls (JUG) Club to collect books for the town library in 1900. Seven years later she helped finance the Amarillo Opera House, where such famous artists as Amelita Galli-Curci appeared. She also helped establish the Tri-State Fair and sponsored the local temperance movement. Because of her firm stand against liquor, Chicago mobsters made several kidnapping and extortion attempts against her, after which she carried a revolver in her purse. In 1927 she completed Amarillo's first skyscraper, the ten-story Oliver-Eakle Building, later renamed the Barfield Building. Dora Oliver-Eakle died in El Paso on November 16, 1931, and was buried in the family mausoleum in Llano Cemetery, Amarillo. Area newspapers headlined and reported her death for four days. Her grandson Bourdon R. Barfield later donated a collection of her papers, furniture, and personal effects to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon. On September 16, 1985, a Texas historical marker in her honor was unveiled by Lieutenant Governor William Hobby at Oliver-Eakle Park.
Biography Courtesy of the Texas State Historical Association
William Buford Plemons
PLEMONS, WILLIAM BUFORD (1844–1901). William Buford Plemons, judge, was born on June 2, 1844, in Macon County, North Carolina, and spent his early years on his father's farm. When the Civil War broke out he enlisted in the Sixteenth North Carolina Regiment and served as color-bearer. He was later promoted to sergeant and assigned to line duty; he saw action in almost all of the major campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia. He was wounded three times and was present at Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox in April 1865. After the war Plemons returned home and in 1867 married Mary Elle Kelly of Mesic County, North Carolina. She died the following year after giving birth to a son. Soon afterward Plemons decided to move to Texas, where he planned to establish a colony of settlers from his home state. On the way he met a group of people from Alabama also journeying to Texas. Among them was Mary Elizabeth "Mittie" Martin, whom Plemons married soon after their arrival in Wood County, Texas. Their first home was at Winnsboro. The couple had four children.
Plemons exchanged his colonization scheme for the study of law and began a lifelong friendship with James Stephen Hogg, later governor of Texas. After his admission to the bar in 1872 he moved to Henrietta, in Clay County, where he established his practice. He was elected judge of Clay County in 1876 and served two terms before moving to the Panhandle in 1886 and settling on the section which became the Plemons Addition in Amarillo. His oldest son, Barney, filed on land in Hutchinson County that became the site of the town of Plemons, the first county seat, and also bought a section in Potter County. W. B. Plemons was elected the first Potter county judge in 1887, and two years later he purchased from John Merchant a section of former Frying Pan Ranch pasture on Amarillo Creek northwest of the townsite. The marriage of his daughter Belle Helen to James R. Gober, first sheriff of Potter County, is said to have been the first wedding in Amarillo.
As a pugnacious criminal attorney who worked zealously on behalf of his clients, Plemons became judge of the Forty-seventh District in 1890. He was elected to the Texas legislature in 1894 and served on the judiciary committee, where he was an advocate of land legislation to benefit the Panhandle area. He was instrumental in the passage of the Four-Section Act, which was designed to allow settlers sufficient land for stock raising in a semiarid environment. Plemons declined reelection to the legislature and formed a law partnership with John W. Veale in Amarillo, an association continued until Plemons's death. He died of apoplexy on the morning of December 14, 1901, and was buried in Amarillo.
Biography Courtesy of the Texas State Historical Association