Mary's Family and Childhood
Mary was born around 1856 in Arkansas to James Robertson (J.R.) Couts and Martha Hardin Couts. Couts made his living through ranching and farming. While living in Arkansas, US census records document that he owned 13 enslaved people.
In 1859, J. R. Couts moved the family to Parker County, Texas, and settled on 160 acres along the Brazos River opposite the mouth of the Palo Pinto creek. He used money earned through cattle driving to start Citizen's Bank in Weatherford. In a short time, Couts grew to be one of the wealthiest men in his community. He also had a reputation as a tough guy, with an oft-told story of defending his family from 'bandits' on the way to church one Sunday morning. He also signed up for the Home Guard, a local militia of white men created for "frontier protection."
The Couts' had five surviving daughters, Mary, Susan, Martha, Margaret, Leah, and a son, James. Family legend states that J. R. once lashed out physically at his son during an argument, permanently injuring the young man. This shocking act of violence profoundly affected the Couts family. James, Jr. never fully recovered from this incident and spent the rest of his life confined to a sanitarium in San Antonio until he died in 1915. As an adult, Mary served as her brother's conservator, acting as his guardian and providing for his care until he passed away.
As a prominent banker, business leader, and cattleman in Weatherford, Couts made connections in nearby Fort Worth that would greatly affect Mary's life. He was also a Freemason and met many other powerful Fort Worth leaders through that organization. Over the years he formed business and social connections with Samuel Burk Burnett, who his daughter would go on to marry.