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Ochiltree County Ranches

Source: The Handbook of Texas Online



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, who had moved into the abandoned Jones and Plummer stockade farther downstream. 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 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.

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 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 , and the Cator brothers. 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.

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


This page was last updated January 9, 2014.