From the Annals of the Power Grid – In 1936, the first power line built under the program of the Rural Electrification Administration was powered up. The 58 mile line near Bartlett brought electricity within reach of nearby farms and ranches. The REA was created under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 with the goal of bringing electrification to rural areas. When created only about 2 percent of the farms and ranches in Texas (and about 10 percent nationally) had access to electricity. The REA was primarily a lending agency under its enabling statute that was cosponsored by Texas Rep. Sam Rayburn. The Bartlett line was made possible by a $33,000 loan to a group of farmers. It is almost impossible to overstate the impact of the REA in raising the standard of living for vast numbers of rural residents who had never had access to electricity. By 1965, only 2 percent of Texas farms and ranches were still without electricity.
From the Annals of the Big Ranches – In 1879, the New York and Texas Land Company was formed. New Yorkers, John S. Kennedy, Samuel Thorne, and William Walter Phelps purchased all of the land owned by the consolidated International-Great Northern Railroad Company to form the NYTLC. The company ultimately owned over 5.5 million acres – one of the largest privately financed land companies to operate in post-Civil War Texas. The holdings extended into fifty-one counties in the Panhandle. Under the guidance of T. D. Hobart, the NYTLC began an extensive development program of fencing, well drilling, windmill building, and water impoundment. By 1900 most of the Panhandle lands had been developed and sold. Many of the largest ranches in Texas were carved out from the NYTLC holdings. The company was dissolved in 1918.
From the Annals of Cattle Ranching – In 1912, the XIT Ranch of Texas sold its last head of cattle. The XIT was once one of the largest cattle ranches in Texas, and the land was received in exchange for financing the construction of the state capitol building in Austin. Thus, the XIT it was not owned by the iconic independent cattle ranching pioneer popular in Western mythology. In fact, many of the biggest cow operations in the 1800’s were owned by big-city capitalists and stockholders. The Chicago capitalists behind the XIT—also known as the Capitol Syndicate Ranch—were leveraging their capital and banking on the growing American appetite for fresh beef.
The CSR determined that ranching would be the only profitable use for their new land. The built a a large and highly efficient cattle-raising operation that stretched over parts of nine Texas counties. At its peak, the XIT had more than 160,000 head of cattle, employed 150 cowboys, and operated on 3 million acres of the Texas panhandle.
Increasing land prices and declining beef prices, convinced the CSR that they could make more money by selling their land. By 1912, the XIT abandoned ranching altogether with the sale of its last herd of cattle. As the land was sold off the XIT holdings shrunk. By 1950, the XIT consisted of less than 20,000 acres.
Map from the XIT Museum.
The Waggoner Ranch, reputed to be the largest contiguous ranch in the U.S., is going on the market for a mere $725,000,000. The price tag has captured the imagination of news outlets around the world. The Daily Mail reports on the sale of the massive Texas ranch which spans parts of six counties.
The biggest ranch in America that stretches over 510,000 continuous acres – that’s 796 square miles, making it a plot of land bigger than the island of Oahu – has gone on sale for $725 million. Realtors are hoping the Waggoner ranch in north Texas will become the most expensive estate in the world – after slapping the huge price tag on it in the hopes of attracting a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or oil tycoon. Cattle baron Dan Waggoner established the estate in 1849 – and it has operated with its backwards ‘D’ logo ever since. The estate includes the 510,000-acre ranch spread over six North Texas counties, with two main compounds, hundreds of homes, about 20 cowboy camps, hundreds of quarter-horses, thousands of heads of cattle, and 30,000 acres of cultivated land, according to Dallas-based broker Bernie Uechtritz, who is handling the sale along with broker Sam Middleton of Lubbock.