Source: The Handbook of
QUARTER CIRCLE T
FOUR SIXES RANCH
TURKEY TRACK RANCH
CIRCLE T RANCH
The Quarter Circle T Ranch, the second ranch in the
Panhandle, was established in late November 1876 when
Thomas Sherman Bugbee brought his family, trail hands,
two wagons, and about 1,800 cattle to the Panhandle from
the vicinity of what is now Lakin, Kansas. An early
blizzard caused the Bugbee cattle to drift south to the
Canadian River breaks in an area that is now Hutchinson
County, where the family decided to stay.
The resourceful Mary Catherine Bugbee chose a spot in the
earthen wall of a riverbank near the creek that now bears
her husband's name. Here she constructed a
"half-human," or family-sized, dugout of mud
and pickets with deerskin windows and buffalo-hide
carpets as a home for their two small children. The
cattle grazed on the abundant grasses in the sheltered
breaks. Buffalo were still numerous in the area, and
Molly, who was a crack shot, had no trouble supplying
The buffalo also were a menace, however, and Bugbee was
compelled to hire extra men to keep them away from his
cattle and their grazing areas. He adopted his Quarter
Circle T brand in 1876, and Tom Coffee served as range
boss. The Quarter Circle T made its own trail to Dodge
City, a 200-mile, ten-day journey by wagon. All supplies
were freighted by ox teams. This connection helped
alleviate the family's isolation; as many as three months
might pass without mail or news from the outside world.
The nearest neighbors were Charles and Mary Ann
Goodnight, seventy-five miles away in Palo Duro Canyon.
Mrs. Nancy Thompson, Molly's mother from Kansas, soon
joined the young family. In 1878 the Bugbees hired two
itinerant Portuguese stonemasons to construct a five-room
ranchhouse from native stone quarried near the site. A
milkhouse was erected over a nearby spring, with troughs
where water could cool dairy products and trickle down to
water a garden. Barns and corrals completed the Quarter
Circle T headquarters. In the new house, the Bugbees'
third child, Ruby, was born, the first white child born
in Hutchinson County.
With proceeds from cattle sales Bugbee purchased more
stock, and his herds rapidly grew. When the Prairie
Cattle Company offered $175,000 for the ranch in 1881,
Mrs. Bugbee persuaded him to wait for a higher price. In
December 1882 they accepted a $350,000 bid from the
Hansford Land and Cattle Company. At that time Bugbee's
cattle numbered 12,500. The Bugbees moved to Kansas City
and later to Clarendon after he became involved in
further ranching ventures.
The Quarter Circle T brand ceased to be used after the
sale. The land and cattle were added to the Hansford
company's Turkey Track Ranch. Cape Willingham, manager of
this enterprise, moved his family into the stone house
and made it the Turkey Track's main headquarters. The
house, located ten miles east of Stinnett, continued more
than 100 years later to serve the Turkey Track's owners,
the Whittenburg family, who preserved its original
atmosphere. The portholes made to fire through during
Indian raids and the porch from which Mrs. Bugbee shot
buffalo are still prominent features. The spring that
kept milk and vegetables cool for the Bugbees now feeds a
concrete swimming pool.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. L. Douglas, Cattle Kings of Texas
(Dallas: Baugh, 1939; rpt., Fort Worth: Branch-Smith,
1968). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Pauline D.
and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier
Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876-1887 (Amarillo:
H. Allen Anderson
The Scissors was the first ranch established at the Adobe
Walls site and the second in Hutchinson County, after
Thomas Sherman Bugbee's Quarter Circle T. The ranch was
founded in 1878 by William E. Anderson and named for its
cattle brand, which resembled a pair of scissors. The
brand was officially registered at Mobeetie in 1880. The
1880 census reported Anderson as owning 1,600 acres of
pasture valued at $800.
He had 485 cattle, fifteen milk cows, fifty-four horses,
nine mules, and 7,000 sheep, all valued at $25,265. In
1879 he sold forty cattle, lost fifty dead, strayed, or
stolen, and had a calf increase of 100. With his sheep
Anderson apparently suffered a severe setback, for in
1879 he lost 200 to disease and 1,000 more from
"stress of weather." During that year he sold
only 646 sheep, slaughtered 200, and had a lamb increase
of 1,500. He also clipped 4,200 sheep to get a total of
20,000 pounds of wool. Evidently Anderson had at least
five men in his employ, since he paid out $1,500 for an
estimated 260 weeks of employee time during 1879.
Orville H. Nelson noted Anderson's ranching activities at
Adobe Walls in 1879 while he was traveling from Kansas to
buy cattle for the first time. Anderson was a charter
member of the Panhandle Cattle Raisers' Association in
1880. He was among the jurors summoned for Wheeler
County's third district court in 1881. The occasion was
the trial of John McCabe, accused of killing Granger
Dyer, Charles Goodnight's brother-in-law. The jurors,
among them Cape Willingham, Emmanuel Dubbs, and R. E.
McAnulty, found the defendant not guilty.
In 1882 Anderson sold his holdings to the Hansford Land
and Cattle Company, which was buying up ranches in the
vicinity. It subsequently became part of the Turkey Track
Ranch, and the Scissors brand was no longer used.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Millie Jones Porter, Memory Cups of
Panhandle Pioneers (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press,
1945). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country:
Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876-1887
(Amarillo: Paramount, 1981).
H. Allen Anderson
The Four Sixes (6666) brand was established by Samuel
Burk Burnett in the early 1870s. Although legend persists
that Burnett's brand was devised to honor a winning poker
hand of four sixes that he once held, sources indicate
that Burnett, after successfully completing his first
drive to Kansas as trail boss for his father's herd in
1867, saved his earnings and in 1871 used them to buy 100
cattle bearing the Four Sixes brand from Frank Crowley in
Burnett's brother Bruce used the brand in reverse (9999)
for his ranching operation, which he moved to Knox County
in 1889. In 1874 Burnett moved his cattle to the region
of the Wichita River, bought land, and established his
ranch headquarters near the site of present Wichita
Falls. Due to the drought of 1881 Burnett was forced to
drive his cattle to the Red River to survive. He
subsequently leased 300,000 acres of Comanche-Kiowa
reservation land. In 1893 he began the process of
purchasing the Old Eight Ranch, 140,000 acres and 1,500
head of stock, from the Louisville Land and Cattle
Company of Kentucky. The purchase was finalized in 1900,
and Burnett moved his 6666 Ranch headquarters to King
By 1900, when the government opened the Kiowa-Comanche
reservation for settlement and ordered the cattlemen to
vacate their leases, Burnett obtained from President
Theodore Roosevelt a two-year extension to enable him and
his fellow cattlemen to move out and dispose of their
herds in an orderly fashion.
In 1902 Burnett bought 107,520 acres in Carson and
Hutchinson counties from the British-owned White Deer
Lands for $2.65 per acre. This choice Panhandle range,
which had previously been leased to Al Popham and J. L.
Harrison, was located along Dixon Creek and contained
abundant water. It became known as the Burnett-Dixon
Creek-6666 Ranch. Over the next few years Burnett
acquired sufficient adjoining range land to constitute an
operation totaling almost a third of a million acres.
On his Four Six ranges Burnett began improving his cattle
by careful culling of cows and importation of purebred
Hereford and Durham bulls. The resultant offspring soon
became consistent winners as feeder cattle in livestock
shows nationwide. The Dixon Creek Division, sometimes
known as the Stocker Ranch, was set up to receive calves
produced on the other Burnett properties. Gradually, the
Four Sixes became a strictly Hereford operation, and
Burnett's cattle were among the first to be spayed to
better fatten them prior to slaughter.
The Four Sixes acquired its first cow horses from
Burnett's father-in-law, Col. M. B. Lloyd of Fort Worth;
since then all horses on the ranch have been branded with
the letter L on the left shoulder. Burnett's purebred
quarter horses likewise became well known throughout the
Southwest. Outstanding Four Six employees during its
early years, some of whom had worked for the Eight Ranch
before Burnett bought it, included John Humphreys, Jim
Gibson, Sid Williams, Charlie Hart, Joe Crystal, and Oak
(Coley) Owens. Bud Arnett was retained as the first
foreman. The Four Sixes brand was used on the Burnett
properties in Wichita County, headquartered at Iowa Park,
until 1910, when Burnett leased them to his son Thomas L.
Burnett, who subsequently adopted Colonel Lloyd's
Triangle brand as his own.
Although Burk Burnett at first utilized the Old Eight
Camp as his headquarters in King County, he later moved
it west to the county seat of Guthrie and in 1917 built
his magnificent $100,000 stone ranch house on a hill
overlooking the town. Barns, corrals, a bunkhouse, and
other outbuildings were erected around it. In 1918 a
severe Panhandle blizzard wiped out 2,000 cattle on the
Dixon Creek Division, but the losses were practically
forgotten in 1921, when the first seven of Carson
County's oil and gas wells, including Eugene S. Blasdel's
Gulf No. 1 and No. 2, were drilled on the ranch.
After Burnett's death in 1922 the Four Sixes was
inherited by his granddaughter, Anne Burnett Tandy. Known
affectionately among the ranch people as "Miss
Anne," she became nationally famous as a judge and
breeder of horses; among the well-known champion racers
and show horses acquired by or bred on the Four Sixes
were Grey Badger II and Hollywood Gold. The ranch and its
overseers were prime movers in the organization of the
American Quarter Horse Association. When Bud Arnett
retired as foreman in 1930, his son-in-law filled the
position for two years and then was succeeded by a
second-generation Four Sixes cowhand, George P.
Humphreys. By 1936 around 20,000 Hereford cattle stocked
the Four Six ranges, ably run by the S. B. Burnett Estate
in Fort Worth, of which John C. Burns served as trustee
for many years. In 1961 John Boyce (Jay) Humphrey III was
appointed as trustee and general manager; he held the
position until 1980.
The Four Sixes Ranch, which occupies some 208,000 acres,
continues to be the primary economic mainstay of King
County. The imposing ranch house, occupied by the foreman
and his family, stands at the end of a paved driveway
just off U.S. Highway 82. A rock watertower stands behind
it, and other ranch facilities, including barns and
corrals, a dining room, and a bunkhouse for single
employees, cover about eighteen acres. Four line camps,
the South, North, Old Eight, and Taylor, are located on
the ranch. Each camp is run by an overseer, who looks
after an allotted number of acres and cattle. Living
quarters are furnished for him and his family.
The wagon boss and other married ranch employees reside
with their families in Guthrie, in furnished, rent-free
housing. The town's high school and nondenominational
church are supported by tax money from the ranch, and the
Four Sixes Supply Store is another well-known landmark.
The ranch continues to use the old horse-drawn
chuckwagon, where cowboys and visitors are welcome to a
Western-style meal out on the range at roundup time. The
Dixon Creek Division (108,000 acres) in Carson and
Hutchinson counties contains several producing oil and
gas wells and a spacious stone headquarters house, which
is easily spotted from State Highway 207 north of
After Miss Anne's death in 1980, the Four Sixes was
passed on to her daughter Anne V. (Little Anne) Windfohr
Sowell and granddaughter Windi Phillips. George
Humphreys, known in later years as the "Little
Sheriff" of King County, remained as foreman until
his retirement in 1970. His successor was another
second-generation employee, James J. Gibson, Jr. In
addition to conducting an extensive brush-control
project, Gibson's main contribution in recent years has
been the introduction and crossbreeding of Brangus cattle
with ranch Herefords to produce the Black Baldie, a hardy
breed more resilient to cedar flies, a common pest in the
cedar brakes of West Texas. Champion quarter horses
continue to reap profits for the Four Sixes. George
(Coon) Jeffers became foreman of the Dixon Creek Division
in 1949. In the 1980s Gibson became general manager of
the ranch. Mike Gibson was the foreman in 1994.
In addition to its high-grade livestock, the Four Sixes
has won fame as a setting for several Marlboro cigarette
television ads during the 1960s, with certain ranch
employees posing as the "Marlboro Man."
Portions of the movie Mackintosh and T. J., which starred
Roy Rogers, were filmed at the Old Eight Camp in 1975.
The ranch has likewise been a favorite subject for
paintings by area artists such as Tom Ryan and Mondel
Rogers. One of the original red Four Sixes barns, which
was for years a prominent landmark in Guthrie, is now on
the grounds of the Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: James Cox, Historical and Biographical
Record of the Cattle Industry (2 vols., St. Louis:
Woodward and Tiernan Printing, 1894, 1895; rpt., with an
introduction by J. Frank Dobie, New York: Antiquarian,
1959). Dallas Morning News, September 4, 1991. C. L.
Douglas, Cattle Kings of Texas (Dallas: Baugh, 1939;
rpt., Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1968). Gus L. Ford, ed.,
Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). King County
Historical Society, King County: Windmills and Barbed
Wire (Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1976). Dorothy Abbott McCoy,
Texas Ranchmen (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987). Jo Stewart
Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson
County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72).
Mondel Rogers, Old Ranches of the Texas Plains (College
Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976). Jesse
Wallace Williams, The Big Ranch Country (Wichita Falls:
Terry, 1954; 2d ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1971).
H. Allen Anderson
The Turkey Track Ranch began in 1878 when Richard E.
McNalty arrived at the Texas Panhandle from Colorado with
a herd of cattle bearing a brand that he called Turkey
Track (though it was often called Rafter I). McNalty
chose a rolling expanse of free grass on Moore Creek in
what is now Hutchinson County for his new range, and by
1879 he reported 6,500 head of cattle and fifty-five
horses on 7,000 acres of pasture, with about seven or
eight employees on his payroll.
In 1881 McNalty sold this ranch to Charles W. Word of
Wichita County, Texas, and Jack Snider, of Snider
Brothers in Kansas City, and reportedly moved back to
Colorado. Word and Snider began building up their herd,
and in 1882 they helped other Panhandle ranchers
construct a 200-mile drift fence to save their grass from
the cattle drifting southward and to control the spread
of tick fever. In January 1883 they sold the Turkey Track
to a new Scottish syndicate, the Hansford Land and Cattle
Its founder, Scottish-born James M. Coburn, who worked as
a banker in Kansas City, had begun combining several
northern Panhandle herds. He bought out Thomas S.
Bugbee's Quarter Circle T for $350,000 and also William
E. Anderson's Scissors Ranch near the Adobe Walls site
WALLS, TEXAS). With the addition of
the Word and Snider holdings, the Hansford Company
adopted the Turkey Track brand for all its cattle. The
combined ranches thus covered northern Hutchinson and
southern Hansford counties.
A. H. Johnston, a former livestock agent for the Santa Fe
line, was made general manager, with Coburn as secretary.
Bill Hudson was the company's first range boss. After
Johnston was killed by lightning while riding up on the
Cimarron, Coburn assumed the managerial duties. However,
he was not suited by experience or temperament to run a
It was thus a stroke of good fortune that Coburn obtained
the services of Caleb B. (Cape) Willingham, former Oldham
county sheriff, for the job. Willingham quickly won the
respect and loyalty of the cowhands, and under his
supervision the Turkey Track prospered for the next
twenty years. When drought threatened the Panhandle
ranges, Willingham drove 1,500 steers to fatten for
market on the Cherokee Strip in Indian Territory.
Until 1887-88 he sent herds to the railhead at Dodge
City, but after the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway built
through, he shipped cattle from the new towns of Canadian
and Miami. During this time, Willingham and his family
resided in T. S. Bugbee's old Stone House, and later they
constructed the county's first frame dwelling nearby, out
of lumber freighted in from Dodge City. Other structures
at the headquarters included a three-room bunkhouse, a
smokehouse, and various sheds and corrals. Coburn, in the
meantime, continued to reside in Kansas City but brought
his family out for annual summer visits.
By 1890 the Hansford Company owned 85,000 acres of land
and leased an additional 350,000, with an average cattle
count of 30,000 head. Among the ranch's prominent
employees were Tom Coffee, former range boss of the
Quarter Circle T, and his six nephews, all of whom stayed
to put down roots in the Panhandle. One, Woodson Coffee,
later succeeded Willingham as manager. Another noted
resident of the Turkey Track was William (Billy) Dixon,
who became postmaster when the Adobe Walls post office
was established in 1887.
Dixon took up some subirrigated school land near ranch
headquarters, planted an orchard, and moved to that site
a two-room log house, which he used as his home and post
office. In 1889 Dixon and S. G. Carter, who carried the
mail twice a week from Canadian, opened a store in
connection with the post office. Here Olive King Dixon
first set up housekeeping after marrying the hero of
Adobe Walls in October 1894.
In 1893 Willingham purchased a tract on the Pecos River
near Roswell, New Mexico, formerly a part of John S.
Chisum's range, intending to make it his main ranch later
on. For the next few years, he commuted from one ranch to
the other, looking after both. The difficulties of this
situation, in addition to cattle thefts, persuaded Coburn
to sell off a large part of the Panhandle herd and send
the remainder to the Pecos range.
The land was sold to Mart Cunningham, a longtime Turkey
Track employee, who paid $5,000 for the headquarters and
bought 7,280 acres at $3.00 an acre, with 500 high-grade
Hereford cattle. Subsequently, in 1903, both Cunningham
and Dixon sold out to the partnership of Price, Patton,
and Hyde. Price later bought out his partners and became
sole owner. By 1916 the ranch had become the property of
William Thomas Coble, a rancher who had settled on Moore
Creek in 1899 and had begun expanding after building up
The Turkey Track brand, which Coburn and Willingham had
taken to New Mexico, had been closed out by 1916, along
with the Hansford Company, which had begun to sell out
after 1900. Coble adopted the brand for his cattle and
continued buying up several small ranches and farms. Over
the next few years he accumulated a sizable spread of
thirty-two pastures and hay meadows, 100,000 acres in
all, on the very land where McNalty had begun the Turkey
Track in 1878. The Adobe Walls post office remained in
operation until 1921. In the mid-1980s the Turkey Track
Ranch was owned and operated by the descendants of
Catherine (Coble) Whittenburg, W. T. Coble's only
surviving child. Whittenburg cattle still bore the Turkey
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands
(Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass
and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,
1943). John L. McCarty, Adobe Walls Bride (San Antonio:
Naylor, 1955). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's
Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle,
1876-1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981). Jesse Wallace
Williams, The Big Ranch Country (Wichita Falls: Terry,
1954; 2d ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1971).
H. Allen Anderson
In the early 1880s the Panhandle and South Plains regions
of West Texas were beginning to be crowded with ranchers.
Before long the ranges were overstocked, and the
depletion of grasses threatened the cowmen's livelihood.
During the northers and blizzards of harsh Panhandle
winters, cattle tended by instinct to drift southward,
sometimes for over 100 miles, to seek shelter in various
canyons and river valleys. Range outfits often had a hard
time separating their cattle. Barbed wire fencing seemed
to be an answer.
Accordingly, drift fences, fences intended to keep cattle
from drifting, were built. In 1882 the Panhandle Stock
Association ranchers erected a drift fence that ran from
the New Mexico line east through Hartley and Moore
counties to the Canadian River breaks in Hutchinson
County. Over the next few years more sections were added,
so that by 1885 barbed wire drift fences stretched across
the entire northern Panhandle, from thirty-five miles
deep in New Mexico to the Indian Territory. These formed
an effective barrier for northern cattle attempting to
drift onto the southern ranges.
Beginning in late December of 1885, a series of blizzards
struck the southern plains. Cattle retreating to the
south were stalled by the drift fences and unable to go
any farther. They huddled against each other along the
fence line in large bunches, some of them 400 yards
across. Unable to stay warm or escape the crush, these
cattle either smothered or froze to death in their tracks
within a short while.
Others bogged down in icy creek beds and draws. Many,
caught in open areas without sufficient food, water, or
shelter, either died of thirst or afterward fell victim
to wolves or coyotes. When the storms dissipated in
January 1886, thousands of dead cattle were found piled
up against the Panhandle drift fences, and hundreds more
along lesser, but similar, man-made barriers on other
rangelands. The Cator brothers' Diamond C herd was almost
wiped out, and others like Henry Cresswell's Bar CC and
the Seven K suffered staggering losses.
The following winter, 1886-87, brought more such
blizzards to the Panhandle, and again the corpses of
cattle trapped by the fences were appallingly numerous.
Ranchers in Wheeler County estimated many herd losses to
be as high as 75 percent along the cooperatively built
barrier that followed the course of Sweetwater Creek near
Mobeetie. An LX Ranch employee reportedly skinned 250
carcasses a mile for thirty-five miles along one section
of drift fence. The "Big Die-up" was followed
by prolonged summer droughts, and many cowmen went broke.
Though some, like James Cator and Hank Cresswell,
eventually recovered, others sold out at a loss, and
several ranches changed hands.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Henry D. and Frances T. McCallum, The Wire
That Fenced the West (Norman: University of Oklahoma
Press, 1965). David L. Wheeler, "The Blizzard of
1886 and Its Effect on the Range Cattle Industry in the
Southern Plains," Southwestern Historical Quarterly
94 (January 1991). David L. Wheeler, "The Texas
Panhandle Drift Fences," Panhandle-Plains Historical
Review 55 (1982).
H. Allen Anderson