Source: The Handbook of
The RO (Rowe) Ranch was named for its founder,
Alfred Rowe. It began in 1878 when the adventurous
Englishman erected a dugout on Glenwood Creek, just above
its junction with the Salt Fork in Donley County, and
began buying cattle.
His first herd, which he branded with the RO, consisted
of longhorns trailed up from South Texas by James Hughes,
Joe Horn, and a man named McCormick. Charles Goodnight
helped Rowe choose his first cattle and, as a favor, also
lent him an employee, Green McCullum. In 1880 Rowe
located his foundation herd on Skillet Creek and built a
two-room adobe headquarters.
After forming a partnership with his brothers Vincent and
Barnard, Rowe negotiated with neighboring ranches for the
purchase of additional grazing lands with choice water
supply. Gradually he extended his range over an area of
about thirty square miles, parts of four counties, most
of which was eventually fenced.
Beginning in July 1887 the Rowes leased sixty-three
sections in northwestern Collingsworth County for two
years. In 1898 the partnership was terminated, with
Alfred retaining sole ownership. By 1900 the RO covered
100,000 acres (200 square miles) and ran 15,000 cattle,
which had been improved with the purchase of Hereford and
By 1885 a seven-room frame ranchhouse had been
constructed just north of the adobe, which was
subsequently used as a messhall and bunkhouse. Jasper
Stevens, the range boss who hauled the lumber in by
oxcart from Dodge City, and his bride were the first
occupants of this house.
Later L. C. Beverly, formerly of the JA Ranch, and his
wife resided there after his appointment as manager of
the RO. A garden provided vegetables not only for RO
employees but also those of neighboring ranches. About
1894 Rowe bought from R. B. Edgell another ranchhouse
within five miles of Clarendon overlooking the Salt Fork
of the Red River.
He enlarged it into nine rooms with lumber hauled from
Wichita Falls. After its completion Rowe set up the
"River Ranch" as a second RO headquarters and
guest house, furnishing it with solid pieces from
England, old clocks, and hunting prints. It was to this
new headquarters that Rowe took his bride, Constance
Ethel Kingsley, in 1901.
Corrals, sheds, barns, and a new bunkhouse were added to
this isolated bit of England. Bob Muir and Matthew
(Bones) Hooks were among the notable cowboys who worked
for the RO. William Beverley, Joe Williams, and Jim
Christal served successively as foremen.
After Rowe's death in the Titanic disaster of 1912, the
family continued to run the ranch. W. H. Patrick, Rowe's
banker in Clarendon, administered the Texas properties
until the appointment of Bernard Rowe as permanent
administrator of the estate.
By that time the RO range had been reduced to 72,000
acres in Donley and Gray counties. In 1917 William J.
Lewis, a former top hand for the RO, arranged to purchase
this acreage and the cattle from the Rowes for
$595,113.26. The deed, which was formally signed on July
1, 1918, required $565.50 worth of revenue stamps. Lewis
and his son, Will, Jr., continued to use the RO brand and
Rowe's policies over the years.
By 1936 the ranch covered 62,289 acres and ran more than
8,000 cattle. After the younger Lewis's death in 1961 the
family sold much of the ranch. The large, rambling
English-style ranchhouse, built by Rowe in the 1880s and
backdropped by gaunt cottonwood trees planted by Jasper
Stevens, stands near Skillet Creek about five miles south
of McLean, which Rowe helped found at the turn of the
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands
(Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass
and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,
1943). Willie Newbury Lewis, Between Sun and Sod
(Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1938; rev. ed.,
College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976).
Willie Newbury Lewis, Tapadero: The Making of a Cowboy
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972). Estelle D.
Tinkler, "Nobility's Ranche: A History of the
Rocking Chair Ranche," Panhandle-Plains Historical
Review 15 (1942). J. N. Weaver, History of the Rowe Ranch
(MS, Interview Files, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum,
Canyon, Texas, 1934).
H. Allen Anderson
(information from The Handbook of
Texas Online --
a multidisciplinary encyclopedia of Texas history,
geography, and culture.)