Tag Archives: Texas Ranching

Today in Texas History – March 31

From the Annals of the Cowboys –  In 1883, a large group of Texas cowboys went on strike.  The cowboys were complaining about new working rules that were coming with the closing of the open range.  The large ranchers were imposing new conditions on their workers.  Cowboys would no longer be able to brand mavericks, keep small herds of their own, or receive part of their pay in calves.  Some ranches even forbade the cowboy from keeping his own horse which meant that if he quit he was afoot in the vast ranges of the Panhandle.  At its peak, the strikers numbered about 300 cowboys. The cowboys were unprepared for the big moneyed ranches response and plenty of men were seeking work.  It didn’t help that the big ranchers had paid off local judges and politicians.  The strike was broken within a couple of months.  The cowboys’ strike was the inspiration for Elmer Kelton’s novel The Day the Cowboys Quit.     Red recommends almost anything written by Kelton.

Today in Texas History – November 2

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.