From the Annals of Granite – In 1882, building commissioners Nimrod Norton and Joseph Lee dug the ceremonial first hole for the Texas Capitol. The cost of construction was financed by the sale of three million acres of public land in the Panhandle – which became the famed XIT Ranch. The Capitol was built from red granite from Marble Mountain near Marble Falls. The Nations Capitol was the model for the Renaissance Revival structure. Construction took over six years and cost approximately $3.75 million. The Capitol was the tallest building in Texas until the building of the San Jacinto Monument.
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.