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Lipscomb County Ranches

Source: The Handbook of Texas Online



The S Bar T Ranch, located on Mammoth Creek in north central Lipscomb County, had a relatively brief existence. Its significance lies in the fact that it was a by-product of the Oklahoma land runs. On April 22, 1889, settlers throughout the West, particularly those in Kansas and along the Texas border, took advantage of the formal opening of the Indian Territory.

As the "boomers" moved out of Lipscomb County, ranchers reasserted their control. One partnership that availed itself of land left vacant by departing nesters was that of Porter and North of Denver, Colorado, who used the S Bar T brand. For fifteen years this firm leased choice grassland along Mammoth Creek and its tributaries to fatten cattle shipped into the county from other places.

When ready, the cattle were driven to Higgins, shipped to northern markets, and replaced by more cattle-a method similar to that used by modern feedlots. Hiram Black and Henry Hazelwood managed the S Bar T range and employed T. H. Black as a wrangler. By 1904 the range was being resettled with immigrant land-seekers. The S Bar T ceased to run cattle, and George McClure ended its operation.

The headquarters became the nucleus of the Peugh Ranch in 1907-08 and later was purchased by William A. Wilson, who also bought five sections of land adjoining it. Wilson ran the ranch until 1928, when his daughter and son-in-law, John A. Gex, assumed its management.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: A History of Lipscomb County, Texas, 1876-1976 (Lipscomb, Texas: Lipscomb County Historical Survey Committee, 1976). 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 operation that later evolved into the Box T Ranch began in 1879 when James Monroe Day arrived from Austin and began grazing cattle on Camp Creek, a tributary of Wolf Creek in southeastern Lipscomb County. His brother Tony had a homestead on Wolf Creek near Fort Supply, Oklahoma, and a brother-in-law, Alexander Young, started the YL Ranch in Beaver County, Oklahoma.

In the 1880 census the Day brothers were listed as large operators in Lipscomb County, with livestock valued at $100,000, including 10,000 cattle and 100 horses. Their hired cowhands were paid a total of $6,000 that year. In addition to the Wolf Creek range, the Days also owned grazing land in the disputed Greer County, Oklahoma. Cattle on both of these ranges carried their DAY brand.

In the summer of 1882 the Days sold their Wolf Creek holdings, including 18,000 cattle, to the Dominion Cattle Company of Canada for $450,000. The new owners moved the headquarters to the Cherokee Outlet in what is presently Ellis County, Oklahoma, and began using the Box T brand and running cattle on range leased from the Indians. That arrangement continued until 1885, when President Grover Cleveland ordered all white ranchers out of Indian Territory. A new headquarters was then constructed on Camp Creek, but until fences were erected grazing continued across the line into the territory.

The twin brothers John and Sam Douglas were among the first to arrive and work for the Dominion Company. Lishe Stevens, Gaston Smith, James F. Bryson, and Frank Biggers served successively as foremen. The Box T employees helped sponsor the organization of Lipscomb County in 1886 and attempted to make their proposed townsite of Dominion, in the heart of their range, county seat. That honor went instead to Lipscomb, near the boundary of the neighboring Seven K Ranch. Higgins became the Box T's railhead and supply center. By 1887 the Dominion Company owned roughly 30,000 cattle and 400 horses.

In 1888, after settlers began coming into the area, the Dominion Company sold the Box T to a man named Dameron, who hired Patrick Doyle as range manager. Doyle purchased an interest in the ranch the following year and brought his bride, Harriet, back from his native Canada. By 1900 the Doyles had purchased the remainder of the Box T; they continued to run it on a reduced scale. Their most famous cowhand was George Sennitt, who became legendary for his wild shenanigans. A favorite story with the Doyles' three sons was that Sennitt once challenged Will Rogers, who was working for Perry Ewing's Little Rob Ranch in Oklahoma, to a horse race in Higgins. Bets were quickly made and exchanged among cowboys and townspeople; Rogers won the race by a head. Later, Rogers immortalized Sennitt as the "Irish Lad" in his newspaper columns and radio broadcasts.

After her husband's death, Harriet Doyle married John A. May, who managed the ranch until 1940, when he was killed in an accident in Amarillo. Her sons, Frank and Robert Doyle, then took over management of the Box T. In 1955 Vester L. Smith and Willis Price bought most of the ranch, and Smith became the manager. In 1986 the Doyle family still owned a share of the Box T, the only pioneer ranch extant in Lipscomb County.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). A History of Lipscomb County, Texas, 1876-1976 (Lipscomb, Texas: Lipscomb County Historical Survey Committee, 1976).

H. Allen Anderson


The first ranch in Ochiltree County was established by Thomas Connell and J. D. (Dee) Eubank, both of whom came from Burnet County. In 1876 Connell and Eubank drove cattle from Winters, in Runnels County, to seek a suitable ranch site. They initially attempted the valley of the Purgatoire River in Colorado, but two successive hard winters there decimated their herds.

With about thirty cattle left, the two young cowmen headed south from Kansas. They camped at a small playa near the site of present-day Perryton on December 20, 1878. They decided Wolf Creek was the most promising location for their ranch, herded their longhorn cattle into the creek draw, and occupied the dugout recently vacated by their friends Alfred H. and D. Wilborn Barton,q who had moved into the abandoned Jones and Plummer stockade farther downstream (see JONES AND PLUMMER TRAIL).

Another neighbor was Charles A. Dietrich, who helped them round up wild mustangs and often cooked for them. Within two years Connell and Eubank had increased their individual herds and established their own ranches, Eubank in eastern Ochiltree County and Connell two miles to the east in Lipscomb County.

Just before this separation, Dee's letters had prompted his brother, Henry T. Eubank, to move his family to Wolf Creek from McCulloch County, where he had served as county sheriff. In 1887 Henry Eubank registered a Triangle F brand. Two years later, when Ochiltree County was organized, he was elected a county commissioner. From 1894 to 1900 he served as county judge. Dee Eubank helped establish Ochiltree County's first school, known locally as "Raw Hide College," across Wolf Creek from his homestead. In later years the Eubank heirs leased the ranch property and eventually sold it to Carl Freeman.

Tom Connell, who recorded a D brand in 1881, built a comfortable ranchhouse with a stone fireplace on Wolf Creek in western Lipscomb County. The county line was his property's western boundary. In 1886 he erected a fence along a strip two miles wide and eight miles long and connected it with the old drift fence (see PANHANDLE DRIFT FENCES) to the south. In 1885 Connell married Jannie Watson at Mobeetie; they had two sons and two daughters.

When Lipscomb County was organized in 1887, Connell was elected its first county judge. He also established a mercantile and butcher shop in Lipscomb. Business was conducted there in a way most unusual, even for the frontier. Connell would hang a fresh beef carcass in his shop, place a pencil and tablet near the meat block, go away, and leave the door unlocked. Each customer would cut off the portion of meat he wanted, weigh it on Connell's scales and write his name and the amount of purchase on the pad. At his convenience the customer looked up the judge and paid him. Connell ran this meat business successfully for several years before selling it and moving in 1905 to Canadian, where he and his wife spent their remaining years.

The Eubank and Connell ranches were never large like that of their neighbor, Henry W. Cresswell. They have remained basically intact, although under different brands and owners. The site of Connell and Eubank's original dugout on Wolf Creek is now on the Walter Daniel ranch.

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 Seven K, the first ranch in Lipscomb County, was established in 1878 by George Anderson, who drove a herd in the spring of that year from Colorado over the Jones and Plummer Trail, which ran through the western part of the county. He found the terrain on both sides of Wolf Creek to be ideal grazing land. He established his headquarters on the south side of Wolf Creek, started using the Seven K brand, and hired Frank Biggers as range foreman.

In 1884 Anderson sold the ranch to the Washita Land and Cattle Company, owned by the firm of York, Draper, and Parker. This company, based in St. Louis, operated under the AV brand in Indian Territory until President Grover Cleveland ordered all white ranchers out of the territory in 1885. Subsequently, the company merged the AV with the Seven K. York, a Dodge City merchant, became manager of the ranch, with R. K. McMordie as his assistant. Since York was an absentee owner, actual management of the Seven K fell to McMordie, who remained until 1898.

Seven K cowhands were paid an average salary of thirty-five dollars a month plus board. At first they drove cattle annually over the Jones and Plummer Trail to Dodge City but later shipped them by rail from Higgins to Kansas City. During the annual spring roundup the ranch usually branded between 3,000 and 4,000 calves. The Seven K encompassed 30,000 acres, and various accounts numbered the herd from 6,000 to 15,000 head. Frank Biggers was retained as a range boss by the Washita Company until the "Big Die-up" of January 1886, when a blizzard killed great numbers of trapped cattle. When Biggers asked to cut the Panhandle drift fence to let cattle retreat south from the northers rather than die, the management refused permission. Consequently Biggers quit the Seven K and took the job of range foreman for the neighboring Box T.

The Seven K helped sponsor the organization of Lipscomb County in 1886 and was probably instrumental in making Lipscomb the county seat. As more settlers came into the area, the Seven K reduced its holdings, and during the Oklahoma land runs it leased much of its property for three cents an acre. O. R. McMordie, R. K.'s nephew and later Hemphill county judge, remarked that the "ranchmen only leased watering places and used grass free of charge." By 1900 the ranch had stopped business and sold its holdings to small ranchers and farmers, unlike the Box T, which is still in operation.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 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: Paramount, 1981).

H. Allen Anderson


The Cresswell (or Bar CC) Ranch was established in 1877 by the Cresswell Land and Cattle Company of Colorado. This syndicate was formed when O. H. P. Baxter and the brothers J. A. and M. D. Thatcher, owners of bank stocks, mines, and farms, decided to back Henry W. Cresswell, who was enthusiastic about building up a ranch in the Panhandle. Accordingly, Cresswell drove a herd southward and selected as headquarters a site in Ochiltree County on a small tributary of the Canadian known as Home Ranch Creek.

He marked his cattle with the Bar CC brand he had first registered in Colorado and cropped their left ears. Another Colorado herd trailed to the area in 1878 increased the Bar CC cattle to 27,000 head. Soon Cresswell expanded his range and became a favorite personality among his neighbors, including Robert Moody, Joseph Morgan, Dee Eubank, Tom Connell (see CONNELL AND EUBANK RANCHES), and the Cator brothers (see CATOR, JAMES HAMILTON). When Morgan died of smallpox in 1883, Cresswell aided the family and bought the Morgan Triangle cattle from the widow. Eventually the Bar CC range covered 1,250,000 acres that extended from the Canadian north to the state line. The great Panhandle drift fence was erected across this range.

In order to move his headquarters to a more central location, Cresswell bought from Alfred H. Barton the old picket stockade and storehouse built by Charles Edward Jones and Joseph H. Plummerq on Wolf Creek in eastern Ochiltree County. In 1882 the Prairie Cattle Company offered to buy out Cresswell, whose herd by then was estimated to be over 31,000 head. Although that deal fell through, some of the Prairie stockholders succeeded in joining the Bar CC operation in 1885. A new syndicate, composed of these English investors along with the old cattle company, was formed and called the Cresswell Ranch and Cattle Company. It bought the ranch for $1.5 million, and Cresswell retained $20,000 interest.

This transfer took some time, and it proved a time of troubles. The Cresswell Ranch was plagued in 1885-86 by a slump in the market, the "Big Die-up" that winter, a prairie fire, and wolves. Nevertheless, Cresswell doggedly overcame his financial losses by purchasing 11,000 cattle from Charles Goodnight and fattening them in Indian Territory. The new company retained Cresswell as head of the ranch, and he remained with the Bar CC until 1889. James McKenzie, a Scot from Kansas City, was named general manager, and W. J. Todd, who had counted cattle in the transfer, became superintendent.

Laura V. Todd recalled how she and her infant son traveled by train to Dodge City from Trinidad, and then for two days by horse-drawn buggy from Dodge to the ranch headquarters, where she lived in a tent until a new frame house was completed. Mrs. Todd brought potted plants and had furniture shipped in by mule freight. She tells of an infestation of bedbugs and the death of her baby in 1886. By Christmas she had a second son, Jep, and joined in efforts to give the cowboys a real celebration, complete with a dance, wild turkeys for the feast, and a multitiered cake decorated with store-bought candles. Jack Meade, Dave Pope, Archie King, Dave Lard, O. R. McMordie, and Edward H. Brainard, who was later made range foreman, were among the Bar CC cowhands who helped host that memorable Christmas gathering.

In January 1894 the Barcee post office was established at the ranch headquarters with Laura Todd as postmistress. Until then mail had been left there for distribution to area settlers. The office lasted only until May 1895, when mail was routed to Ochiltree. By then the Cresswell company had more than 25,000 cattle, including purebred shorthorn and Hereford bulls, and 300 saddle horses. However, fluctuating cattle prices and pressures of settlers caused the company to decline. Around 1900 it closed its operations and divided the ranch. Snyder and Sears of Kansas City bought the last of the original Bar CC herd. The brand, made with two irons, was used until 1937 by the ranch of Mrs. John Jones and her son-in-law, F. C. McMordie, located on Home Ranch Creek, the site of Cresswell's first headquarters.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960). A History of Lipscomb County, Texas, 1876-1976 (Lipscomb, Texas: Lipscomb County Historical Survey Committee, 1976). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876-1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981). Wheatheart of the Plains: An Early History of Ochiltree County (Perryton, Texas: Ochiltree County Historical Survey Committee, 1969).

H. Allen Anderson


The Springer Ranch was the first ranch in the Panhandle, but because of its brief, checkered life, as opposed to the still-extant JA Ranch, the latter also claims that honor. After the Red River War, in the spring of 1875 A. G. (Jim) Springer appropriated a spot of land in present Hemphill County on Boggy Creek just north of its junction with the Canadian River. Here he constructed a multiroom dugout to serve as a general store, hotel, and saloon, as well as living quarters. In addition, he dug a tunnel from the all-purpose roadhouse to a nearby corral and stable that he built out of pickets.

Since Springer's hostelry was on the military route from Fort Supply to Fort Elliott, it quickly became a supply depot and gathering place for transient buffalo hunters, soldiers, and cowboys. Black troops stationed at Fort Elliott, in particular, found it the only place in the Panhandle where they were welcome to play cards and enjoy good whiskey and tobacco. "Old Springer" soon won considerable notoriety as a shrewd poker player. His roadhouse later became a regular stagecoach stop, and in October 1878 a post office was established there under the name of Boggy Station. However, it was closed after only two months' operation, and mail was routed to Fort Supply.

Springer's role as a frontier rancher began by chance. In 1875 an outfit driving a herd of 2,000 cattle crossed the Canadian River near the roadhouse rather than at the usual crossing on the trail some distance to the east. These cowmen sold Springer 300 head and left a young trail hand, Tom Leadbetter, to help manage them. Springer, however, enlisted Leadbetter to wait on customers at the store and bar, while the cattle, which bore their new owner's hastily burned AGS brand, freely roamed the nearby range with little attention from anyone.

In 1877 the two men began constructing a "real house" from carefully selected cottonwood pickets, with a thatch and dirt roof. One added feature was a blockhouse loopholed on all sides to accommodate gun barrels in case of an Indian attack. On November 17, 1878, Springer and Leadbetter were killed in a gunfight with disgruntled buffalo soldiers over a poker game. They were buried at the ranch. A subsequent army investigation at Mobeetie resulted in the troopers' acquittal.

The ranch entered a new phase after Jim Springer's brother sold the business to men named Tuttle and Chapman from Dodge City. Before long Tuttle bought out Chapman's interest, married in Mobeetie, and personally operated the Springer Ranch for the next two years. He adopted a CT brand, perhaps after his initials, and increased the herd to 1,800 head. Tuttle also blazed a more direct route than the Jones and Plummer Trail north to Dodge City, where he periodically sold cattle and bought supplies. The Tuttle Trail was subsequently used by other area ranchers. During Tuttle's brief tenure, the post office was reestablished in September 1879 under the name Springer Ranch; it remained in operation until February 1885.

In 1881 Tuttle sold out to a Denver horse ranch partnership, the Rhodes and Aldridge Company. Rhodes was the son of a wealthy manufacturer in Aston Mills, near Philadelphia, and Reginald Aldridge was English. They changed the brand to Quarter Circle U and operated the ranch as absentee owners, although Aldridge did spend his summers there. It was from his experiences here that he wrote a lively range-cattle guidebook, Ranch Notes (1884). Rhodes and Aldridge reorganized their Texas holdings as the Springer Ranch Company. As manager they hired Mose Wesley Hays, an experienced cowman who, with his brother-in-law Joseph Morgan, had driven cattle to Hemphill County from Padre Island in 1878.

His wife, Lou Turner Hays, became legendary among area cowboys for her hospitality. Around 1889 the Springer Ranch Company sold out all its holdings piecemeal. The former roadhouse was abandoned, and the ranch gradually ceased to exist. The Hays family settled on Commission Creek in Lipscomb County south of Higgins, where Lou Hays died in 1910. Bonnie Hays Lake, near their homesite, bears the name of their daughter. Mose Hays, who at one time ran a general merchandise store in Canadian, later remarried and moved to San Antonio, where he died in 1938. Since the 1940s part of the Springer roadhouse site has been covered by Lake Marvin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Reginald Aldridge, Life on a Ranch: Ranch Notes in Kansas, Colorado, the Indian Territory, and Northern Texas (New York: Appleton, 1884; rpt., New York: Argonaut Press, 1966). Angie Debo, ed., Cowman's Southwest: Being the Reminiscences of Oliver Nelson (Glendale, California: Clark, 1953). Glyndon M. Riley, The History of Hemphill County (M.A. thesis, West Texas State College, 1939). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876-1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981). F. Stanley, Rodeo Town (Canadian, Texas) (Denver: World, 1953). Lonnie J. White, comp., "Dodge City Times, 1877-1885," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 40 (1967).

H. Allen Anderson


This page was last updated January 9, 2014.