Past Rotating Exhibits

Legacy of Ranching

Legacy of Ranching: Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future

Thursday April 6, 2017 to Sunday January 7, 2018


To view photos of this exhbit, visit our Flickr page at the link below: 


Stephen F. Austin (1793–1836)

  Considered the “Father of Texas,” Stephen F. Austin was a land impresario (agent). He negotiated with Mexico to bring Anglo-Americans to settle land in Texas who, in return, would become Mexican citizens. The first colonists began to arrive in Texas by December 1821 to settlements located on the Brazos and Colorado rivers. Austin persuaded congress to grant him a contract to introduce 300 families and offered to each married man a league of land (4,428 acres), for which he was obligated to pay the state thirty dollars within six years.

By 1835 there were over 30,000 Anglo-Americans in Texas, outnumbering the native Texans.When the Mexican government tried to ban American immigration, feelings of resentment and power struggles arose.These settlers had strong traditions of independence and self-government. Eventually, a full-scale rebellion broke out, culminating in the establishment of the Republic of Texas. Austin saw the wilderness transformed through his unremitting labor, perseverance, and tactful management. He wrote in July 1836, "The prosperity of Texas has been the object of my labors, the idol of my existence-it has assumed the character of a religion, for the guidance of my thoughts and actions, for fifteen years."

Courtesy of Handbook of Texas Online published by the Texas State Historical Association

 José De Escandón (1700–1770)

  José de Escandón founded and served as the first governor of the colony of  Nuevo Santander, a region of South Texas which extended from the Pánuco River in Mexico to the Guadalupe River. His career began as a soldier in the Spanish army in Mexico, where he distinguished himself by successfully pacifying raiding Indians. Escandón was commissioned to inspect the country between Tampico and the San Antonio River and present a colonization plan. He lobbied the government to allow him to settle the area without the assistance of the military. After the appointment of a royal commission in 1767, the settlers of Nuevo Santander were assigned land grants, thus starting the colonization of South Texas from the Rio Grande to the San Antonio River.

Escandón founded over twenty towns or villas and a number of missions in the colony, including Camargo, Reynosa, Mier, and Revilla south of the Rio Grande and Laredo and Nuestra Señora de los Dolores Hacienda north of the Rio Grande. For his colonization efforts, Escandón is sometimes called the "father" of the lower Rio Grande valley.

Courtesy of: Handbook of Texas Online published by the Texas State Historical Association

Richard King (1824–1885)

  Richard King started as an impoverished, indentured jeweler’s apprentice in New York City. Restless for adventure, he stowed away on a ship heading to the southern United States. A fast learner and tireless worker, King rose quickly in the steamboating business and soon became a captain. He moved to South Texas and founded a steamboat line with his lifelong friend Mifflin Kenedy, moving goods and people along the lower Rio Grande River.

While traveling to Corpus Christi, King came across the cool, refreshing waters of Santa Gertrudis Creek and it was here his vision for a great cattle ranch began to take shape. In 1853, King purchased the 15,500-acre Rincón de Santa Gertrudis, a Mexican land grant.  A year later, a much larger Spanish land grant, the 53,000-acre de la Garza Santa Gertrudis, located due west of the Rincón, was purchased. Later in life, King would purchase sixty additional pieces of land and amass vast land holdings throughout South Texas. From these purchases grew what became known as King Ranch.

The 1860s were busy, challenging years for King. Ever the innovator, he developed a new approach to tame the land. He borrowed from two models of operation – the southern plantation and the Mexican hacienda systems to synthesize a hybrid approach to ranching. While buying cattle in Cruillas in Tamaulipas, Mexico, King proposed that the villagers should follow him and work on his ranch. He would, in turn, provide them with food, shelter, and income. Approximately 100 men, women, and children returned withKing. These expert stockmen and horsemen became known as Los Kineños – King’s people. They and their descendants would go on to weave a large portion of the historical tapestry of King Ranch.

During the Civil War years, King's steamboat business was thriving by running the Union blockade. By war’s end, King Ranch had grown to 146,000 acres, supporting thousands of head of cattle. It was a dangerous challenge to get these cattle to market, which was around one thousand miles away. His domesticated longhorns were hardy and some of the very first hoof stock to comprise the early northward Texas cattle drives. It was around this time that King registered the famous “Running W” brand. Richard King’s sense of adventure was rivaled only by his vision and ability to seize on new business opportunities. In addition to tirelessly working to improve the ranch, he invested in building railroads, packinghouses, ice plants and harbor improvements for the port of Corpus Christi. He was keen on creating the infrastructure that would get his product to market in the most efficient way.

One of Captain King’s most important contributions to the legacy of ranching was his introduction of an aggressive, thorough and studied upbreeding (breed improvement) program. Scientific upbreeding programs have been hallmarks of King Ranch since its inception, transitioning the hardscrabble longhorns and wild horses of his lands into some of the finest cattle and horses in Texas. By the time of his death in 1885, Richard King had created a legacy that would become known, far and wide, as one of the birthplaces of American ranching. Through his resourcefulness, vision, willingness to innovate and tireless work ethic, he has made his indelible mark on the landscape he treasured. 

Courtesy of: King Ranch Archives, King Ranch, Inc., Kingsville, Texas

 Gideon K. “Legs” Lewis (1823-1855)

  Born in Ohio, Gideon K. “Legs Lewis was a soldier, newspaperman, and Texas Mounted Ranger in the Mexican War before settling in Corpus Christi where he partnered with Richard King running cattle. He was shot and killed by Dr. J.T. Yarrington after it was discovered he was having an affair with Dr. Yarrington’s wife.  After his death, Richard King purchased his share of the land, transforming it into King Ranch.

 Mifflin Kenedy (1818-1895)

 From a Pennsylvania Quaker family, Mifflin Kenedy began his working career at the age of sixteen as a teacher and cabin boy. He was working on steamboats where he met Richard King. Mifflin Kenedy and Richard King became partners in a steamship business and King Ranch. After dissolving his ranch partnership with Richard King, Mifflin Kenedy purchased and sold the 242,000 acres Laureles Ranch in South Texas later becoming Texas Land and Cattle Company. Kenedy then bought 400,000 acres naming it La Parra Ranch. Mifflin Kenedy was successful in many business ventures when he decided to help the construction of the railroad funding 700 miles of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway before his death in 1852.

 Francisco Yturria (1830-1912)

  At the age of 18, Francisco Yturria moved to Brownsville and became an apprentice to Charles Stillman, the city’s founder. Stillman was the financier of the riverboat company owned by Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy, and through that relationship, Yturria became their friend. During the Civil War, the Union blockaded Confederate trade. Yturria aided his friends by becoming the "owner of record" of their boats. This enabled King and Kenedy to continue shipping cotton overseas by flying under the flag of Mexico. He even provided sanctuary in Mexico for them and Stillman during the Civil War. After the war, Yturria turned to ranching and often combined cattle drives with King, Kenedy and Stillman. At the time of his death, he owned 130,000 acres and was considered one of the wealthiest and most influential men of southwest Texas.

Courtesy of: Handbook of Texas Online published by the Texas State Historical Association

Charles Goodnight (1836–1929)

  A daring idea and the determination helped Charles Goodnight become one of the most prosperous cattlemen in the American West. Goodnight moved to Texas when he was ten, and at twenty he entered the cattle business. He served with the local militia battling Comanche raiders, joined the Texas Rangers and fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. After the war, Goodnight returned to Texas and joined a near state-wide round-up of cattle that had roamed free during the war years. After recovering his herd, Goodnight he had to get it to market. Goodnight's partner in this venture was Oliver Loving and in 1866 they set out with two thousand head to blaze a trail from Belknap, Texas, to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, which became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. During this time he repurposed an army Studebaker wagon and created the “chuck wagon”. Over the following years, Goodnight continued cattle drives, even joining John Chisholm to extend the trail.

In 1876, Goodnight consolidated his operations at a ranch near Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle. He then formed a partnership with an Irish investor, John G. Adair, and their ranch soon covered more than a million acres, with a herd of one hundred thousand head. A pioneer in cattle breeding, Goodnight crossed the tough but scrawny Texas longhorns with Herefords to produce a longhorn breed that was both independent and commercially lucrative. He also crossed buffalo with cattle to produce the first "cattalo."

In response to cattle rustlers constant stealing, he established the Panhandle Stockman’s Association to deal out vigilante justice. While Goodnight played his part as a rancher in every aspect of the cowboy myth, he was at the same time a shrewd and immensely successful entrepreneur. After selling off his ranch, he spent his last years investing in Mexican mining operations, trying his luck as a movie producer, newspaper, banker and enjoying the acclaim of his community at a small ranch near Goodnight, his namesake town, where it is said he had the first barbed wire fencing in the panhandle.

Courtesy of: Handbook of Texas Online published by the Texas State Historical Association

 Daniel Waggoner (1828-1903)

After leaving Tennessee, Daniel “Dan” Waggoner settled in Hopkins County Texas in the 1840s with his family. He began his cattle career near Decatur, Texas. With his son, Tom, they continued to increase their land and cattle until his death in 1903 in Colorado. Dan Waggoner was one of the original inductees in 1960 to the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Descendants of Dan Waggoner raise Quarter Horses, including winning race horse, Poco Bueno, who was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. Today, the 535,000 acres of the W.T Waggoner Ranch near Vernon, Texas, established by Dan Waggoner in 1849, continues its cattle and quarter horse traditions.

William Thomas Waggoner (1852–1934)

W. T. “Tom” Waggoner was destined to follow his father’s dream of being a successful cattleman. His father Daniel acquired a farm at Cactus Hill with a herd of longhorns. It was a dangerous place, and Tom later recalled one night while his father was away, he and his stepmother hid out in the cornfield from Indians who were lurking about the ranch; the next morning the bodies of the family dog and a mare were found full of arrows.By 1869 he had become his father's partner in the cattle business. In 1870 they drove a herd of cattle to market in Abilene, Kansas, and netted the profit that became the foundation of the Waggoner Ranch. Tom Waggoner married Ella Halsell in 1877, and they had two sons and a daughter.

By 1879 Waggoner was the manager of the ranch's China Creek headquarters. Over the next two decades, he gradually extended his holdings, and by1900 he was able to give each of his children 90,000 acres of land and 10,000 head of cattle.Oil was discovered on his ranch in 1903, and development of that resource increased his fortune to one of the largest in the Southwest. Waggoner moved to Fort Worth, where he was a director of the First National Bank and established office buildings, but he continued to divide his time between his home in Decatur and his Fort Worth ranch. In April 1905,  Waggoner was among the cattlemen who hosted President Theodore Roosevelt during his publicized wolf hunt on the "Big Pasture" in Oklahoma. One of Waggoner's greatest loves was the breeding of fine horses, and during his later years, he invested in a large ranch in New Mexico for that purpose. In 1931 he restored his old home at Decatur. At about the same time he built Arlington Downs Racetrack. It was largely through his efforts and backing that the 1933 Texas parimutuel racing bill was passed and signed into law by Governor Miriam A. Ferguson.

In addition, Waggoner and his wife were donors of three buildings on the campus of Texas Woman's College at Denton. In 1933 he was honored with recognition as the "first citizen of Fort Worth."

Courtesy of: Handbook of Texas Online by the Texas State Historical Association; and waggonerranch.com

Armstrong Ranch

The Armstrong Ranch began with James H. Durst, who had moved from Nacogdoches to Rio Grande City to establish a profitable mercantile business. In 1852, while traveling with Richard King through the Wild Horse Desert, he saw potential in the vast prairie and herds of wild horses and cattle. Later that year, Durst purchased approximately 92,000 acres of the La Baretta Spanish land grant. This purchase, with other smaller parcels of land, became the first large American ranch holding in South Texas. During his lifetime, Durst fought in the Texas Revolution, was a Texas Ranger, prospered in his mercantile business, served as a State Senator, and established the future Armstrong Ranch.

Upon his death, his widow Mary was forced to sell the ranch and move to Austin. Unfortunately, Mary mistakenly hired two disreputable attorneys to arrange the sale and never received payment. Her daughter Mollie later married John B. Armstrong, III, who had arrived in Texas from Tennessee in 1872. A member of the Travis Rifles and a Texas Ranger, Armstrong rode with McNelly’s Rangers. He was best known as the man who arrested desperado John Wesley Hardin. Armstrong collected $4,000 in reward money, and in 1878 married Mollie Durst. In 1882 they started their cattle business on the 50,000 acre Armstrong Ranch. They also began a 21-year battle to claim clear title to the ranch, and in 1904 they finally won.  

The ranch continued under John B. Armstrong’s son, Charles, who was succeeded by his brother Tom and then by Charles’ son Tobin. They were all recognized as innovative leaders in the field of ranching, with talents that extended into other areas as well. Tom Armstrong’s service with the oil giant, Standard Oil placed him in a leadership role in the development of the oil industry, to be followed by his management of the ranch and service as a founding director of Santa Gertrudis Breeder’s International.

A leader in the beef industry, Tobin Armstrong often worked closely with Texas A&M’s meat scientists in the university's Department of Animal Science. Making his case with data and scientific evidence, he was a key contributor to revolutionary changes in beef grading practices. He was active with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and served on numerous government committees. He also served as an advisor to Congress on the European Common Market’s agricultural policies, as the Appointments Secretary to Texas Governor Clements, as well as serving as Kenedy County commissioner.

In 2004 the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association awarded Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong the Swan Family Leadership Award, which recognizes individuals in the beef industry who have made a difference during a lifetime of involvement in local, state and national beef organizations. Today, the Armstrong family continues to positively impact the South Texas community and the nation.

Courtesy of: Museum of South Texas History

 J.D. Hudgins, Inc.

In 1839, Joel Hudgins settled on land 50 miles southwest of Houston. One of his sons, J.D., formed a partnership with his children in 1908 to raise commercial cattle and farm. J.D. Hudgins, Inc. grew out of that original partnership. As the family searched for a type of cattle that would thrive in the heat and parasites of Gulf Coast, they turned their interest to humped Indian cattle. In 1915, J.D. Hudgins and his son Walter began gathering all the Indian cattle they could afford, including a group of females who were direct descendants of a 1906 importation from India. In 1924, they were able to purchase a group of bulls that had been imported from Brazil. These and other breeders’ cattle formed the basis of the first breed to be developed in the United States – the American Brahman.The registry for the American Brahman breed was organized in that same year.

Walter Hudgins acquired Manso, a very thick, heavy set, fleshy, large and docile bull in 1933. He proved to be an excellent sire and very prolific. His first calves were born in 1934. Many cattlemen offered to buy the bull calves directly off their mothers at $100 each, unusual during this depression era when grown, unregistered, Brahman-type cross cows with calves at their sides were only bringing $10/pair. The Manso bred cattle set the standard of quality that became the Hudgins trademark. At the time of his death at age 17, Manso had produced 316 offspring for the ranch. It’s estimated that over 75% of all cattle registered by the American Brahman Breeders Association carry Manso breeding. 

The Hudgins herd has expanded into 2,000 registered females grazing on 20,000 acres. Today’s breeding program maximizes traits that are most important to the commercial cattleman. The ranch uses artificial insemination and embryo transfer to enhance the utilization of the superior genetics of top animals. J.D. Hudgins cattle have won over 1,500 national and international championships and is annually recognized by the National Cattlemen’s Association as being one of the ten largest purebred producers in the United States. The ranch is run by fifth and sixth generations of the family who, like Coleman Locke, President of the Locke division, are active in the daily operations.

Courtesy of: J.D. Hudgins, Inc.

 Guerra Family

Ignacio Guerra came with his brother Francisco from Cerralvo, Nuevo Leon, to settle in Mier, in 1753 as part of the José de Escandón settlers. The Guerras received land grants in what is now Starr County, and their descendants have played important roles in the region ever since. In 1877Manuel Guerra opened a store in Roma and dominated Starr County politics until his death, in 1915. Manuel’s cousin Deodoro Guerra was the sheriff of Starr County for many years. Three of his sons established a store in the new town of McAllen in 1908. The storefront, with its sign “D. Guerra and Sons,” still stands there. Enrique Guerra, the twelfth generation of his family, started raising criollo cattle, or Longhorns, on his San Vicente Ranch, in northern Hidalgo County. He then tried Brahmans, Brown Swiss, Beefmasters, Herefords, and Charolais, among others, but returned to Longhorns, in an effort to rebuild a herd that has been decimated by drought.

Guerra was also a collector of art and artifacts of the Spanish borderlands. He has surrounded himself with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century paintings, religious objects, weapons, costumes, and other items from both sides of the Rio Grande. “My mother was a collector, and her brother was an antique dealer,” he said. “They made trips to Mexico in the thirties and forties, when old families were selling good things, and I sometimes went with them. I inherited their regard for beautiful objects.” The Guerra family collection is the most significant of its kind in Texas, and some of its prize items are now on exhibit at the Briscoe Western Art Museum, in San Antonio.

Courtesy of: Briscoe Western Art MuseumFrom Texas Monthly

 V- 8 Ranch

V8 Ranch was established in 1944 by Howard Parker of Center, Texas. Parker was a Ford automobile dealer and named his cattle ranch "V8 Ranch" after a V8 engine. Parker, who didn't know much about cattle at the time, bought 40 females from Marshall Johnson. Parker asked for Johnson to have the cows separated from the calves. He would then select the 40 fattest calves as the ones he wanted and would then have them matched to their mothers. A unique selection process but is seemed to work, as cow power has been the basis for our herd ever since. The original V8 herd was based on Jacobs bloodlines and later introduced some Manso and Imperator breeding.

Ethel Hudgins, daughter of J.D. Hudgins, married James Boone Ferguson and set the foundation for the family's love of the cattle business, and strong women. Her granddaughter, Mollie, married Sloan Williams, who in 1971, purchased the V8 herd, negotiating the million-dollar-deal via a pay phone. For four generations, V8 Ranch has remained steadfastly independent and family-owned. V8 Ranch founder Sloan Williams, his son, Jim Williams, and Jim’s son-in-law, Brandon Cutrer, are the only three individuals authorized to brand a cow or bull with the V8 stamp of excellence because the meaning behind the process is so very important. The branding iron represents an original bloodline that now roams four hemispheres. It reflects the passionate men and women who have devoted their lives to creating a superior Brahman breeding process and elevation program.

Courtesy of: V-8 Ranch.com

 Bonds Ranch

The Bonds Ranch was established by P.R. “Bob” Bonds in 1933. At that time, the ranch was known for producing some of the most elite Hereford cattle in the industry. After his father’s passing, 18-year-old son Pete Bonds, with the help of ranch supervisor, Pete Burnett, took over the ranch. Pete decided that one of the most important keys to his success was to get an education. After completing his business degree at TCU, he continued his education by completing the Ranch Management Program in 1973. Since the early 1930’s, the Bonds Ranch has diversified from producing strictly Hereford cattle, and moved towards a more commercial influence, using Charolais bulls.Always looking for opportunities and expansion, he currently has cattle and/or ranching interests in 28 U.S. counties, as well as Canada and Mexico. Pete is the current president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Daughters Missy and April are 3rd generation ranchers. Missy oversees operations in close to 30 US counties, as well as Mexico and Canada. April is involved in the day to day activities at the Bonds Ranch in Saginaw, TX.

Courtesy of: charolaisusa.com

 Captain Samuel “Burk” Burnett (1849-1922)

Samuel “Burk” Burnett moved from Missouri to Denton County, Texas when he was ten years old. The family soon found the cattle business, and Burk learned about it from watching his father work. By the time he was nineteen years old he bought his first herd of cattle, but soon saw the need to own the land where he drove the cattle. After a drought, Burk, like many other ranchers, negotiated with Comanche Indians for leasing their lands, establishing a friendship with Comanche Chief Quanah Parker. As the open range era came to a close, he bought more than 300,000 acres creating the present day 6666 Ranches in the Texas Panhandle.

Courtesy of: 6666ranch.com

McFaddin Ranches

In 1831, Rachel and William McFaddin established a ranch in Liberty County, after receiving a land grant from the Mexican government. The following year the family moved to Jefferson County, where William established a ranch near Beaumont. In 1858 his son, James McFaddin, established his first ranch on Melon Creek in Refugio County, using 130 cattle from his father's ranch in Jefferson County. He married Margaret V. Coward in 1861, and fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, joining the Refugio Guards. After the war, he returned to Refugio County and continued his interest in developing cattle ranching and farming in the area.

For years he served his neighbors as a "one-man bank," keeping their money in his safe until a bank was established. He commanded a company of militiamen for Refugio County and in 1875 was involved in overseeing road construction in the county. In 1881, McFaddin bought land in Victoria County and moved his family there around. During these years he began to incorporate Brahman blood into his herds; he was one of the earliest cattlemen to do so. By 1879 he had begun cross-breeding experiments which later resulted in a recognized new breed under his grandson, Claude K. McCan. He continued to use the M6 brand, designed by his father in 1837 and added the N6 and Z brands.

McFaddin was also one of the first to fence pastures with barbed wire, and he drained and reclaimed about 5,000 acres of swampland by building a twelve-mile levee along the Guadalupe River. To combat rustling, he became one of the founders of the Cattle Raisers Association of Texas. With J. J. Welder and Harry Rathbone, he helped organize the Guadalupe Navigation Company, which extracted and transported sand and gravel to clear the rivers for riverboat traffic. In 1883 McFaddin, Thomas M. O'Connor, and others organized the Texas Continental Meat Company, the first meat-packing plant in Texas. By 1885 McFaddin was one of the wealthiest ranchers in the county.

McCan descendants, Bob and Kerry McCan, continue the legacy. Bob is the President of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association. He manages the family ranch, business affairs and the Hereford-Brahman crossbreed known as the Victoria Braford his grandfather put in place to battle the harsh elements of the coastal plains. Kerry McCan, is an author of several Texas novels who’s non-fiction family heritage story in ranching followed the American dream to success.

Courtesy of: The Texas State Historical Association Online

 Robert Justus Kleberg, Jr.  (1896–1974)

Robert Justus Kleberg, Jr., rancher, the son of Alice Gertrudis (King) and Robert Justus Kleberg, was born in 1896. He was the grandson of Richard King, founder of King Ranch in South Texas. Despite the connotation of his name, he was the third rather than the second Robert Justus Kleberg. He began his ranching career at King Ranch in 1916 and managed the ranch after his father's death in 1932. He was named the president of the operation when it became a family corporation in 1935. In addition to King Ranch, estimated to comprise between 800,000 and 900,000 acres in six South Texas counties, Kleberg also managed holdings in Florida, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, and in Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Morocco, Australia, Cuba, and Venezuela.

King Ranch is credited with developing the first United States breed of beef cattle, the Santa Gertrudis, and known in agriculture with the development of grazing grasses. Bob Kleberg received honorary doctorates in agricultural science from Texas A&M (1941) and in science from the university of Wisconsin (1967), where he had done undergraduate work. Under Kleberg's direction, King Ranch developed Thoroughbred racetrack winners that averaged $825,000 a year in purse money. The best known were 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault and 1950 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes’ winner Middleground. He was married to Helen Campbell in 1926 and had one daughter. He died in 1974 and was buried at the King Ranch.

Courtesy of: Handbook of Texas Online by the Texas State Historical Association

 Mark Francis (1863–1936)

In 1888, Dr. Mark Francis, the first trained veterinarian at what was then the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, began lecturing to agricultural students. Although he had no labs or equipment, Dr. Francis made his mark in veterinary medicine when he proved the tick was the cause of Texas cattle fever (which had plagued Southern livestock since the late 1700s) and developed inoculations against this devastating disease. In 1903, the first Veterinary Association in Texas was organized and Dr. Francis elected president. In 1916 the School of Veterinary Medicine opened, with 13 students and Dr. Francis as the first Dean.

In the 1930s, the veterinary hospital building was erected along with an anatomy building and stables to provide the students with useful hands-on learning opportunities. The veterinary hospital has been one of the cornerstones of CVM's history and academic prowess. As a teaching hospital, it still provides students with real-life medical cases while also providing much-needed services to the community.

Courtesy of: vetmed.tamu.edu

McKnight Ranch Co.

Robert E. McKnight was born in 1931 in San Angelo and moved with his family to Fort Davis in 1968. Besides being a successful rancher, McKnight served as a director of the First National Bank of Odessa, the Fort Davis State Bank and the First National Bank of Alpine. He was also a past president of the Fort Davis School Board. In addition, McKnight was an active member of the Sandhills Hereford and Quarter Horse Show of Odessa, along with the Texas Cattleraisers Association and the Texas Hereford Association where he served as a vice president. In 1993, McKnight was named a recipient of the Community Statesman Award and Distinguished Former Odessan Award for Ranching. And, in 2003, he was elected as an Honorary Director of the Texas Hereford Association.

His son, Robert “Bobby” McKnight, Jr. is a fifth-generation rancher, is a partner in McKnight Ranch Co. The Ranch, operating in Jeff Davis, Brewster, Reeves, Crane and Ector counties, raises registered and commercial Herefords and crossbred cattle. McKnight is a director of the National Cattleman's Beef Association and is on the executive committee of the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He also serves on the El Paso Federal Reserve Bank board of directors. Previously, he served on the board of governors for the Permian Basin Area Foundation.

Courtesy of: Odessa American Newspaper; and dallasfed.org

 Matador Ranch

In December 1882, the Matador Land and Cattle Company was formed by Scottish investors who assumed the Texas ranching operations for $1.25 million. The acquisition included about 1.5 million acres in Motley, Floyd, Dickens and Cottle counties. In 1951, the company, which then owned about 800,000 acres, was sold to Lazard Freres and Company of London for $18.9 million. Upon its purchase from the Scots, Lazard Freres sub-divided the land for sale. In 1952, Fred C. Koch, co-founder of what has become Koch Industries, Inc., bought the Flying V cattle brand and the “50” horse brand, both of which were used by the Scots during their 70-year ownership. He also acquired the ranch headquarters, south of the city of Matador.

The Matador now has 130,000 acres for cattle raising in five counties. The Matador is noted for its quail, dove, small deer, and cattle fattened on particularly nutritious grass. In 1960 and through the 1970s, the ranch conducted a program to eradicate the mesquite tree. It's Matador Hunting Lodge, located north and west of the former ranch headquarters, has twelve bedroom suites each named after a person central to the history of the ranch. The current mission of the ranch is an improvement of the health and productivity of its livestock, wildlife, and renewable natural resources.  On April 2, 2011, The Matador received the 2010 "Outstanding Rangeland Stewardship Award" from the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

Courtesy of matadorcattle.com; and Wikipedia.com

 R.A. Brown Ranch

The R.A. Brown Ranch is a fifth generation family business producing quality cattle and Quarter Horses since 1895. It focuses on the Angus, Red Angus, Sim-Angus and Hotlander breeds, and strives to provide excellent quality cattle made up of sound genetics from the breed leaders. In the 1980s, with the help of Dr. Keith Gregory of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and Dr. Ronnie Green from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, they developed the Hotlander composite.

Back in 1906, R.H. Brown brought the first registered Hereford cattle to Throckmorton County and started selling bulls. His son, R.A. Brown, grew up working at the Fort Worth Stockyards, and during the summers worked at the ranch in Throckmorton. At the age of 15, R. A. Brown enrolled in school at Woodson, TX so that he could stay and help at the ranch through the severe drought. By 1922, R. A. was a student at Texas A&M and a member of the collegiate polo team. He quit school to return to the ranch, due to his father’s declining health and economic hardships. With the death of R.H. Brown in 1929 and the impact of the Great Depression, the family advised R. A. to give up the ranch. Instead, he got his mother and his sisters to deed their parts of the ranch to him so he could borrow enough money to save it.

R. A. married Valda Thomas, whose family were also ranchers. When her father died in 1934, R. A. Brown assumed management of the Thomas Ranch as well as the Brown Ranch, raising commercial as well as registered Hereford cattle and selling Hereford bulls. The management of the ranches was passed down and expanded through generation after generation. Descendants Rob & Peggy Brown concluded their lifetime in the ranching business by effectively managing a generational transfer to their four children. Through love and desire to see the next generation succeed, they kept the ranch in the family and the “family in the ranch.”R.A Brown Ranch is now run by Donnell and Kellie Brown.

Courtesy of: R.A. Brown Ranch

 Broseco Ranch

Broseco Ranch is a premier and renowned Texas Cattle Ranching operation. During the mid-20th century, P. Pewitt purchased land between the Sulphur River and White Oak Creek to create the Pewitt Ranch.  The Ranch was then purchased by Donaldson Brown, of Maryland, in the early 1960’s and renamed Broseco Ranch, an acronym for Brown Security Company.  The original ranch encompassed more than 40,000 acres as over the years additional small tracts were added.

Best known for its long-standing and award-winning red cattle operation and beef product, the primary focus of the ranch has been commercial cattle production. Since the beginning, the cattle have been a cross of several breeds.  Hereford and Angus were used in the early years and since the early 1980’s the ranch has employed a systematic crossbreeding system to produce animals that will perform well in all segments of the industry. The ranch has extended its involvement from the cow/calf enterprise to the stocker, feeding and final product segments of the industry. 

Wildlife and timber resources have played a significant role for Broseco for many years. Strategic plans have been developed for wildlife and habitat for wildlife. These areas are under intense management to provide the habitat necessary to provide nutrition and cover for deer, waterfowl, turkey and other wildlife. The ranch is home to record book whitetail deer, two large lakes stocked with Florida bass, and some of the best waterfowl habitat in the state. An abundant hog supply optimizes and enhances its destination appeal together with the guest fishing and hunting operations. A wildlife biologist manages hunting and fishing so that a growing stock of trophy whitetail, doves, ducks, bass, and other wildlife is maintained.

Courtesy of: Broseco Ranch

 V.I. Pierce Ranch

The V.I. Pierce Ranch is a ranch that traces its roots through two families. On one side was Joe S. Pierce Sr. He started sheep ranching in Sanderson country before moving to Crockett County. He had a son, Victor I. Pierce, born in 1894. V.I. was known for his prize Rambouillet sheep, Hereford cattle and business sense. He entered banking in 1927 and was a director of the San Angelo National Bank until his death in 1984. In the early 1980s, Pierce entered the oil and gas business, drilling wells on his ranches. He started Moleo Gas Corp. V.I. Pierce diversified operations by focusing on brush control - cedar and mesquite and prickly pear - and by using rotational grazing systems on the ranches. Hunting was added in last 20 years as an added income.

Family lineage from the other side was through Jones Miller of Gonzales County. He brought his family by covered wagon and lived in a tent until he built a two-room house with a porch. They located 15 miles east of Ozona in 1891. He later purchased 5,120 acres of land west of Ozona and operated it until 1908 when he bought 19,840 acres of the old Metcalf ranch from T.A. Kincaid, Sr., 20 miles south of Ozona.

Through the marriage of these two families, descendants have worked together to hold on to the inheritance from both the Millers and Pierces. Pierce Miller, the fourth generation of the family to ranch in Crockett County says, “It's not only a means of livelihood, but I feel an obligation to hold the family legacy together by retaining the land. I was reared in agriculture, spent part of my professional life in the finance business and truly have interest in both the business community and agriculture, but my asset base remains in the love of the land.”

Excerpts courtesy of: Jerry Lackey for the San Angelo Standard-Times

Brown Ranches

The history of the Brown Ranches begins when the first Brown arrived in Bee County from Georgia after the Civil War. The ranching began when the first Austin Brown bought his initial ranch north of Beeville in 1924. In the late 1940's, Brown, Beasley & Associates, Inc. (a ranch mortgage loan company) was co-founded, by Austin's son, Edwin. It has since become Brown Ranch Group, LLC.Today, Brown Ranches remains centered in Bee County in South Texas.  After breeding registered Herefords and selling hundreds of breeding bulls and raising Tigerstripe and Super Baldy replacement heifers for over 80 years, the Browns transitioned into Akaushi beef production in 2005 in order to take advantage of the high demand for this high prime, unmatched beef.

Brown Ranches is a leader in Calf Backgrounding, also known as Pre-conditioning. This process of immunizing and feeding calves and tracking all aspects of the calf's history has been standard practice with Brown Ranches since the mid-'80's. And, in the last few years, this process has moved toward becoming the standard of the industry.The recent drought conditions in Texas, the downturn in the US agricultural economy, and the resulting high retail feed prices gave the Ranch the opportunity to expand the feeding facility to include a bull and heifer development program. Currently, they are growing and developing Hereford, Angus, Charolais, and Akaushi bulls and heifers for select customers across the State. Following the family tradition, Austin Brown II and Austin Brown III, both obtained degrees in Agricultural Economics from Texas A&M University, as did Edwin.The family has grown up with the land and continues to work cattle on horseback.  

 Courtesy of: Brown Ranches

Frank and Sims Price Ranch

The Price family began ranching in 1876. Frank Price has managed his family’s ranch for 40 years, first in partnership with his father, and then in partnership with his son Sims in 2011. Together, they run their cow-calf operation on 68,000 acres. Sims and his wife Krista are the fifth generations of Prices on the ranch, which they operate in four counties. The ranch operates with three primary income enterprises including sheep, cattle, and hunting. The Price family has two primary goals. First, the ranch is operated as a separate business, self-sustaining, and is expected to show an annual profit. Second, but equal, their goal is to leave their natural resources in the best possible condition for the next generations.The family is dedicated to these goals. They have recently started using Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) dollars to make continuous improvements to the ranch, and they also use controlled and prescribed burning to their benefit by adjusting their livestock grazing charts to include speed of moves, flash grazing, animal density and total deferment.

In 2012, Price Ranch was recognized for their range management when they were presented the Outstanding Rangeland Stewardship Award by the Texas Section, Society for Range Management and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. And it was recognized as a 2013 regional Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) winner during the 2013 Cattle Industry Summer Conference.

“The father-son partnership at Price Ranch represents the fourth and fifth generations of Prices to ranch in west Texas. In a normal year, they receive 18 inches of rainfall. These last two years have been abnormal, with exceptional drought and devastating wildfires, particularly in their area,” said Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association President Joe Parker, Jr. “Even though they had to reduce their herd to protect their land, they still found lessons in flexibility during the adversities. The Price family’s experiences with wildfire lead them to be a leading voice in Texas on inter-agency cooperation in fighting wildfires. We are glad to have his practical and sound leadership in such an important area.”

Courtesy of: environmentalstewardship.org

 JA Ranch

The JA Ranch was established in 1876, in a partnership between Charles Goodnight and Cornelia and John Adair. Goodnight became its manager and, under orders from Cornelia Adair, paid high salaries for experienced, law-abiding ranch hands. After Adair died in 1885, Cornelia became Goodnight's partner. In 1887 she traded the second ranch for his one-third interest in the JA. The JA has remained to this day under the ownership and management of Cornelia's descendants, without any benefit of oil and gas production.The J.A. Ranch is a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 2013 Lone Star Land Steward Award Winner. It is one of the oldest ranches in Texas and at one point, the ranch was over one million acres in size. Today, the ranch is run by a fifth generation descendant of one of the original founders, Andrew Bivens. By using GPS technology and various databases in an innovative approach, Bivens has brought the ranching operations into the 21st Century.

Courtesy of: The JA Ranch; and The Texas State Historical Association Online

Caesar Kleberg (1873 – 1946)

Caesar Kleberg was one of the great conservationists of our time. His vision first took root on King Ranch at Norias, where he laid the foundation for a wildlife conservation program which would become his lasting legacy. As a young man, Caesar worked in Washington, D.C., as congressional secretary to his father, Congressman Rudolph Kleberg.  Not suited to this type of indoor work, Caesar moved to King Ranch in 1900 to work for Henrietta King and his uncle, Robert J. Kleberg, Sr. with ranch operations.  Caesar would later move to the Norias Division of King Ranch, where he worked for 30 years as foreman.

It was in his early years at Norias that he noticed the depletion of game. By 1912, Caesar had set the hunting rules:  no game could be taken around watering areas; turkey were to be taken only with a rifle – and then to be shot in the head or neck; quail were not to be fired on at covey rise; deer season ended when the rut began.  He oversaw the restoration of the white-tailed deer, turkey and bobwhite quail back to a rangeland that was nearly depleted of them. In 1924, he released Nilgai antelope from southern Asia on the Texas range, the first such release in the western hemisphere.

In 1929, Caesar was appointed to the State Game, Fish and Oyster Commission (now the Texas Parks and Wildlife), serving for 20 years.  His lobbying succeeded in closing the turkey season for a decade, aiding in the recovery efforts of the wild turkey.  He convinced Bob Kleberg to hire Val Lehmann as one of the first wildlife biologists to work on a private ranch in South Texas.

When Caesar Kleberg passed away in 1946, his will created the Caesar Kleberg Foundation for Wildlife Conservation.  Initially, the Foundation funded wildlife projects across a broad spectrum. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the Trustees began to redirect the funds and focus on South Texas, the place where Mr. Caesar’s work had first begun. In January 1981, the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute was created with a gift from Caesar Kleberg Foundation for Wildlife Conservation. Fortunately for all concerned – Mr. Caesar’s legacy continues.

Excerpts from: Caesar Kleberg and the King Ranch”

By Duane M. Leach, Ph.D., Trustee, Caesar Kleberg Foundation for Wildlife Conservation

Robert Justus Kleberg, Sr. (1853-1932)

  Robert Justus Kleberg, Sr., received his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1880. He began his law practice in Cuero and later moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, where he met Captain Richard King. On one occasion, Kleberg became acquainted with King’s daughter, Alice Gertrudis, and a courtship soon developed. Though they were engaged in 1884, they were not married until 1886 because of Captain King’s failing health and eventual death.  Later that year, Henrietta King appointed her new son-in-law as Ranch Manager.

Under Kleberg’s management, Ranch operations were streamlined and made more efficient. One by one, the problems of running a growing Ranch were addressed. Cross fences were built to divide the sprawling acreage into more manageable pastures, and crews were assigned to clear land and slow the ever increasing encroachment of mesquite brush which was quickly displacing the native prairie grasses.Upgrading the breeding stock program started by his father-in-law, Captain Richard King, Kleberg introduced Hereford, Brahman, and Durham-Shorthorn cattle to the Ranch for improved beef quality.  In addition, he continued to upgrade equine stock on the Ranch.

During the horrible years of drought in the early 1890's, known as “the great die,” Kleberg experimented with various ways of getting water to the land, including working with the Department of Agriculture in rainmaking experiments. He brought in the best men and the best equipment trying to obtain a reliable source of water for the land. With the completion of the first artesian well on June 6, 1899, at a depth of 532 feet and at a rate of seventy-five gallons a minute, South Texas’ landscape and history were changed forever. It allowed for the development of the vast agricultural resources of the land holdings, induced further railroad construction into South Texas, and encouraged the building of small communities centered on an economy of diversified agriculture.

Kleberg also led the fight against the dreaded Texas Fever. Working with the Texas A&M University Experiment Station, the Fort Worth Stock Company, and the United States Bureau of Animal Industry, it was determined that the Fever was transmitted by the cattle tick.  Robert Kleberg, Sr., built what is thought to be the first dipping vat in the world in 1891 whereby the cattle could be completely submersed and coated with a solution to rid them of the ticks. Working to unite all of the Texas ranchers in the fight against the disease, Kleberg sponsored the organization of the Texas Livestock Sanitary Commission and served as its first head. By 1928, King Ranch was declared cattle tick free. Successful eradication of the tick was probably the most arduous and the most difficult range work ever accomplished on the Ranch.

During this era, Kleberg continued to improve and diversified the assets of King Ranch with agricultural development, land sales, and town building projects. In 1904, he was instrumental in helping to build the St. Louis, Brownsville, & Mexico Narrow Gauge Railway, as well as several towns along the newly laid track including Kingsville.

Courtesy of: King Ranch Archives, King Ranch, Inc., Kingsville, Texas

East Family

Tom T. East Sr. was just 23-years-old when he registered the Diamond Bar brand in Brooks County on May 6, 1912, before he owned much land. Between 1913 and his death in 1943, Tom Sr. had ranched across more than 400,000 acres of deeded and leased land throughout South Texas. Throughout much of his life in South Texas, the Wild Horse Desert was still untamed, offering both challenges and opportunities.

On January 15, 1915, he married Alice Gertrudis Kleberg, the granddaughter of Captain Richard and Henrietta King, the founders of King Ranch. Alice’s cousin Caesar Kleberg was Tom’s best man, foreshadowing a relationship that would chart the course of wildlife conservation in Texas. Developing their San Antonio Viejo Ranch near Hebbronville became a centerpiece of their life’s work, ultimately growing to 148,000 contiguous acres.

Severe, recurrent drought made a hard life even tougher. Drought was a constant threat, impacting the way they ran the ranch and the way they approached life. Despite the hardships, the young couple created a home for their three children: Tom Timmons East Jr., Robert Claude East and Alice Hattie “Lica” East. The children were reared to see the land, the wildlife, the livestock and the people as an integrated whole, with the understanding that land was the foundation of it all. It had a lasting effect. The trust documents directed the lands be used as a “working laboratory.” The East family loved their land and its diverse wildlife and habitat and protected it fiercely. Their vision of compatibility between livestock and wildlife can now be studied and carried on in perpetuity through the East Foundation. The knowledge gained from these studies will encourage South Texas ranchers and landowners to be wise stewards of this great habitat, resulting in lasting benefits to the South Texas landscape and all the people of the State of Texas.

Courtesy of: Texas Wildlife, May 2015, article by Lori Woodward Cantu. 

View Flickr Gallery