Briscoe County Ranches

Briscoe County Ranches

SHOE BAR RANCH
QUITAQUE RANCH
JA RANCH

SHOE BAR RANCH

The Shoe Bar Ranch, noted for its frequent changes of ownership, began in 1879 when Leigh R. Dyer, after the sale of his Randall County ranchhouse, moved his herd to Deep Lake, between the Little Red and Prairie Dog Town forks of the Red River in Hall County. On Oxbow Creek, near its junction with the Little Red, he built a rock house, probably for a headquarters. Afterward, part of Dyer's herd was reportedly lost to Texas fever caught from cattle that had recently arrived from South Texas. In 1880 L. C. (Uncle Luke) Coleman, who had ranched in southern Colorado north of Raton Pass, formed a partnership with Dyer after wintering his herd near the site of present-day Canyon. In September of that year they bought acreage along Antelope Creek in Hall and Briscoe counties. About this time Leigh's brother, Walter, and sister, Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight, brought from the JA Ranch their joint herd of Flying T cattle. Although there was never a written agreement, they shared the Dyer-Coleman range and secured a one-third interest in Coleman and Company. The Shoe Bar brand probably came into use as early as 1882, when Thomas S. Bugbee and Orville H. Nelson bought the 2,500 Flying T cattle and the one-third interest for $110,000. After adding another 15,000 head, including 8,000 from the JA, Bugbee and Nelson were able to buy enough interest from Coleman and Dyer to give them half interest in the ranch. Coleman officially registered the Shoe Bar brand on August 7, 1883. Bugbee built an adobe headquarters on Oakes Creek, two miles north of the site of present-day Lakeview, with lumber hauled in from Dodge City. From there he ran his and Nelson's share of the herd, while Coleman operated from a dugout on Oxbow Creek.

At its peak the Shoe Bar range covered 350,000 acres of leased land and 110,000 acres of land bought in Donley, Hall, and Briscoe counties. The cattle numbered around 50,000 head, with an annual calf crop of 14,000. Both underground and surface water were always plentiful. Although Coleman was initially opposed to fencing the ranch, he later relented and supervised the erection of 100 miles of fence over a seemingly limitless sea of grass. John Pope served as foreman from 1881 to 1898, and other outstanding ranch employees included Bob Crabb, Joe Merrick, Roy Allard, and Joe Horn. In 1886 Chris Rudolph and James E. Southwood helped drive the Shoe Bar's first Herefords from Dodge City to their new range. In 1886 Nelson sold his interest in the Shoe Bar to Bugbee in order to devote more time to his townsite-company projects. Soon afterward Dyer sold his share to Coleman. Although Uncle Luke's family lived in Kansas City, he spent much time at the ranch and became a favorite among the cowboys. When the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway was built through the Panhandle in 1887, Giles became the Shoe Bar's main shipping point. The final details of organizing Hall County were completed in the Oakes Creek headquarters on May 4 of that year.

After Coleman died in 1894, his widow sold her share of the Shoe Bar to J. K. Zimmerman, an eccentric bachelor of about sixty who was said to have made a fortune in mining and had large ranch holdings in Oklahoma. Andrew J. Snyder purchased the Bugbee interest, but the following year he was taken "to a hundred-thousand-dollar cleaning" when Zimmerman bought him out in a "give-or-take" proposition. Although he was extremely nearsighted, Zimmerman spent much time at the ranch living at the Oxbow headquarters. He encouraged Shoe Bar employees to become financially independent and often helped them purchase land and stock of their own. After Zimmerman's death in 1898, F. P. Neal, of the Union National Bank of Kansas City, managed the estate and kept the Shoe Bar going until 1906. That year he sold the ranch to Edward F. Swift of the Chicago packing company (see SWIFT AND COMPANY) for about $1.5 million. William H. Craven, who made the deal for Swift, became manager and built a large ranchhouse east of Lakeview, where he lived for several years. Almost immediately after the Swift purchase, Craven began shipping the Shoe Bar cattle out and selling the land in individual tracts to farmers and smaller ranchers, a process he completed by 1913. The largest sale was made in 1910 to William J. Lewis of Clarendon, about 43,000 acres south of the Red River. Lewis ran the Shoe Bar brand from the old Oxbow Creek headquarters. After his death in 1960, the brand was continued by his daughter-in-law, Vera Lewis. The Oakes Creek headquarters and the land surrounding it were sold by Craven to W. D. Beck in 1907. After 1928 this historic ranch dwelling was owned and occupied by the family of J. H. Barbee.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Inez Baker, Yesterday in Hall County (Memphis, Texas, 1940). Virginia Browder, Donley County: Land O' Promise (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex, 1975). 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



QUITAQUE RANCH

The Quitaque (Lazy F) Ranch was begun by the brothers George and Jim Baker of San Saba County, who formed a cattle partnership. It was named for its location on Quitaque Creek, near its confluence with the Tongue and Pease rivers and near the site of the Valley of Tears, where Comancheros traded with Indians until the Red River War of 1874. This site was well watered by the three rivers, and before 1878 Jake Fields, a buffalo hunter, was the only area resident. In the summer of 1878 the Baker brothers hired Leigh R. Dyer to drive the first herd to the Quitaque country from their Cimarron River range. These cattle, mostly high-grade shorthorns, bore the Lazy F brand. O. J. Wiren, hired as foreman by the Bakers, brought in the second herd a month later and was placed in charge of the ranch. Mixed in with this Lazy F herd were a number of Wiren's own, branded with his Square-Topped Hat. The first headquarters was a cluster of dugouts built in the bank of the creek by the cowhands. Smaller line camps were also constructed on the range. Shortly after the ranch was established, Wiren was taken into partnership with the Bakers. In 1880 he and two Wisconsin lumbermen, Kellogg and McCoy, bought out the Baker interests. In addition to the Lazy F and Hat brands, the Dipper was also used by the new partnership. Noted cowboys on the Quitaque Ranch included John Farrington and the brothers Al and Jim Cook, who reportedly went to great lengths to keep New Mexican sheepmen from drifting onto the range.

By 1882 the Quitaque Ranch covered 140,000 acres in Briscoe, Floyd, and Hall counties. Early that year, allegedly to prevent a range war, Kellogg, McCoy, and Wiren sold their holdings to Charles Goodnight, who, at the request of his JA Ranch partner John G. Adair, was buying up most of the land around Quitaque Creek for Adair's wife, Cornelia. Goodnight purchased the ranchland at twenty-two cents an acre. At that time the ranch contained about twice the purchased acres, counting interspersed, state-owned school lands left free for grazing. Including the 2,000 head of Lazy F cattle, Goodnight invested some $100,000 in the Quitaque purchase. Under Goodnight's management, the Lazy F prospered for a time. A five-room headquarters was built, along with various outbuildings, out of lumber freighted in by wagon from Fort Worth. Walter Dyer, Goodnight's brother-in-law and range foreman, erected a spacious house on the upper reaches of the Quitaque. In 1883 Goodnight fenced the Quitaque pastures with barbed wire hauled to the site by freighters, who made profits from the return loads of buffalo bones they gathered on the range (see BONE BUSINESS).

After Adair died in 1885, Goodnight continued to manage the Quitaque for Mrs. Adair until December 1887, when they divided the JA property. As part of the negotiation Goodnight assumed full ownership of the Quitaque. The following year, to ease the financial strain, he sold a half-interest in the ranch to L. R. Moore of Kansas City and continued using the Lazy F brand. By 1890, with the influx of farmers into the area, Goodnight and Moore began experiencing occasional problems: mavericking of Lazy F stock, set grass fires, and vandalism of ranch fences. That year Goodnight disposed of his remaining half-interest to Moore in order to pursue his silver-mining venture in Mexico. A new ranch headquarters was located on the junction of Quitaque and Los Lingos creeks in 1894. Moore retained sole ownership of the Quitaque until 1904, when he sold the Lazy F cattle to Henry W. Cresswell and A. J. (Tony) Day. These cattle were shipped by four consecutive rail lines to pastures in Canada. Cresswell and Day then parceled out the Quitaque range to farmers, and the Lazy F brand was discontinued. The town of Quitaque was located on a portion of this land, eight miles north of the former ranch headquarters.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Briscoe County Historical Survey Committee, Footprints of Time in Briscoe County (Dallas: Taylor, 1976). Harley True Burton, A History of the JA Ranch (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1928; rpt., New York: Argonaut, 1966). J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876-1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981).

H. Allen Anderson

JA RANCH

The JA Ranch is the oldest privately owned cattle operation in the Panhandle. Its beginning may be traced back to the summer and fall of 1876, when Charles Goodnight drove 1,600 longhorn cattle from Pueblo, Colorado, to the Palo Duro Canyon, where he established his "Home Ranch" near the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River in southwestern Armstrong County. After getting his men and cattle settled in for the winter, Goodnight returned to Colorado to make arrangements to bring his wife, Mary Ann (Molly) Goodnight, to the new homestead. In Denver he met John G. Adair, an English aristocrat who was interested in going into the cattle business himself. As a result of their meeting, Adair agreed to furnish the capital Goodnight needed to build up the ranch. In May 1877 the Goodnights and Adair, along with four cowboys, arrived at the Home Ranch with 100 Durham bulls and four wagons loaded with provisions. On June 18, before the Adairs left for Ireland, the partners drew up a five-year contract under which two-thirds of the property and profits were to go to Adair and one-third to Goodnight. There were to be as many as 1,500 cattle and 2,500 acres of land. Goodnight, who borrowed his third of the investment from Adair at 10 percent interest, was to receive an annual salary of $2,500. At Goodnight's suggestion the ranch was named Adair's initials. The letters of the JA brand at first were separated; three years later the present connected design was adopted.

After the money was made available, Goodnight bought the first 12,000 acres from Jot Gunter and William B. Munson, Sr.,q who agreed that he could pick the land wherever he pleased. Over the next two years he continued buying choice pieces of property crazy-quilt fashion in and around a seventy-five-mile stretch of Palo Duro Canyon, carefully selecting areas with good grazing land and water, until the ranch was solidified. In 1878 he drove the first JA trail herd, led by his famous bell ox Old Blue, north to Dodge City, Kansas, then the nearest railhead. In 1879, desiring a more central location for the ranch headquarters, Goodnight moved it to a choice site at the foot of the Caprock, twenty-five miles east of the old Home Ranch. There he built a new four-room house of cedar logs and supervised the construction of several other buildings, including a bunkhouse, a bookkeeper's house, a wagon boss's house, a blacksmith shop, a wagonyard, and an ingenious milk and meat cooler. Later on, the two-story, nineteen-room main house was added. The old Home Ranch house was used as a line camp until it burned down on Christmas Eve, 1904.

As manager of the JA, Goodnight allowed no gambling, whiskey, or fighting, and would not take anyone who had been fired elsewhere for drunkenness or theft. Even so, he usually was able to hire the men he needed. Cape (Caleb B.) Willingham, Wint Bairfield, Jim (James T.) Christian,q Frank Mitchell, J. W. Kent, George Doshier, Mitch Bell, and the brothers Judd, Jeff, and Lige Campbell were among the outstanding JA employees during its early years. Goodnight's brothers-in-law, Walter and Leigh R. Dyer, also worked off and on for the JA, particularly during traildrives and roundups. Almost from the start, Goodnight had sought to improve the quality of the JA cattle by bringing in blooded stock. In 1882 he built what is thought to have been the Panhandle's first barbed wire drift fence across a canyon bed above the Home Ranch to separate the purebred cattle, on which he used a JJ brand, from the main JA herd. He also kept a buffalo herd which he sought to cross with cattle to produce the "cattalo."

By the time their contract expired in 1882, Goodnight and Adair had bought 93,000 acres and were looking for more. In addition, Goodnight had purchased the Quitaque (Lazy F) range in Briscoe County for Cornelia Adair, and the Palo Duro post office had been established at the JA headquarters. To Adair's satisfaction, the enterprise had realized more than $512,000 in profits; thus the partners opted to extend the contract for another five-year period. In 1883 Goodnight fenced the Quitaque properties and added the Tule Ranch in Swisher County, which he fenced in 1884-85, to the JA properties. He also made other purchases from Gunter and Munson, the railroads, and the state that increased the ranch's size to 1,325,000 acres in parts of Randall, Armstrong, Donley, Hall, Briscoe, and Swisher counties.

After John Adair's death in 1885, following his third visit to the JA, his widow continued the partnership with Goodnight. By 1887, however, with the building of the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway, falling beef prices, the influx of settlers, and attempts by politicians to curb large-scale ranching, the colonel was ready to sell out and limit his ranching activities; thus their partnership was terminated on the expiration of the contract. Nevertheless, Goodnight, who acquired the Quitaque Ranch in the division of property, continued to act as manager until 1888, when he was succeeded by John C. Farrington, who served in that position for three years. James W. (Jack) Ritchie, Mrs. Adair's son by her first marriage, served briefly as foreman of the ranch's steer division in Tule Canyon before returning to New York City to handle the purchase of JA horses for the New York police department. Arthur Tisdale managed the JA in 1891 and was succeeded the following year by Richard Walsh, an Irish immigrant who had been with the ranch since 1885. Under his leadership, improvements continued to be made through crossbreeding with blooded Hereford and Angus stock in the JA herd, which had increased to 101,023 head by 1889. Walsh soon built up one of the finest-quality herds of cattle in the nation.

As the railroads brought in more settlers, the JA began leasing and selling much of its excess pasture. When several nesters located on school lands within the JA boundaries, Walsh shrewdly purchased their claims or traded land outside the range for their holdings within, thus consolidating the JA properties. In 1891 a school was opened for the children of ranch employees and neighboring settlers, in the Palo Duro community near the ranch headquarters. Over the years the ranch was gradually reduced in size as longtime employees like George Doshier, Wint Bairfield, Mitch Bell, and Jim Christian began their own operations on former JA lands. In 1917 Edward D. Harrell purchased the acreage where the old Home Ranch was located, and the Mulberry Ranch, named for the creek that drains it, was formed out of the JA's Mulberry Division.

After Walsh resigned as a manager in 1910, John S. Summerfield served for a year in that capacity and then was succeeded by James W. Wadsworth, Jr., a nephew of Cornelia Adair. Wadsworth held that position until 1915, when he was elected to the United States Senate from his home state of New York. At that time, Timothy D. Hobart of Pampa was named to succeed him; he and Henry C. Coke, a Dallas attorney, were named executors of Cornelia Adair's estate after her death in December 1921. In her will she left the bulk of the JA properties to her son, Jack Ritchie, and his heirs. Clinton Henry came as the ranch bookkeeper in 1924 and assisted Hobart in the management. In 1935, after Hobart and Coke died, Montgomery H. W. (Monte) Ritchie took over as manager. J. W. Kent retired in 1940, after having worked for a record number of years (since 1883) for the JA. Not until 1948 was the Adair estate, with its accompanying debts and inheritances, entirely settled.

By 1945 the JA's operations were confined to 335,000 acres in Armstrong, Briscoe, Donley, and Hall counties. Subsequently, a tract of 130,000 acres was divided into eight leaseholds to decrease labor and costs further. Watered by the Prairie Dog Town Fork and its tributaries plus several hundred natural lakes, dirt tanks, and fifty-eight wells, the ranch had twelve winter branch camps and five farms that raised feed for the livestock. The winter range in Palo Duro Canyon afforded maximum protection, and the summer range was singularly free from land waste. Nearly two-thirds of the extant JA properties was rolling pastureland; even the land north and west of the headquarters was relatively flat. As of 1990 the ranch was substantially fenced and cross-fenced and noted for its purebred Herefords and Angus bulls. Quarter horses were raised primarily for ranch use, and a small buffalo herd was maintained; some commercial hunting of buffalo and deer was allowed. Tillable land continued to be leased. The Ritchie family also owned ranchland at Larkspur, Colorado, near Colorado Springs.

In 1988 the JA headquarters comprised several ranch outbuildings, including a supply store and garage, and was dominated by the "Big House," whose grounds were well manicured. A herd of longhorns, courtesy of the JA, roamed in Palo Duro Canyon State Scenic Park. In 1960 the house was designated a national historic landmark. Two of the JA's historic buildings, the old milk house and an oat bin, were given by Monte Ritchie to the Ranching Heritage Center at Lubbock in 1971 and 1988, respectively.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Armstrong County Historical Association, A Collection of Memories: A History of Armstrong County, 1876-1965 (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1965). Harley True Burton, A History of the JA Ranch (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1928; rpt., New York: Argonaut, 1966). Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949). JA Ranch Records, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum Research Center, Canyon, Texas. Dorothy Abbott McCoy, Texas Ranchmen (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876-1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981).

H. Allen Anderson

(information from The Handbook of Texas Online --
a multidisciplinary encyclopedia of Texas history, geography, and culture.)

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This page last updated August 16, 2000.