THE LX RANCH IN TEXAS
By Margaret Sheers
From J. Marvin Hunter's Frontier Times Magazine, February, 1952
The LX Ranch had its beginning not on the grassy plains of Texas, but on the Arkansas near Granada, Colorado, in 1876. As the Colorado country became overstocked, the owners looked toward the Panhandle for their future.
Feeling the lure of the open range and the free grass, David T. Beals and "Deacon" Bates, two Bostonians, who had associated with them "Deacon" Brown, Erskine Clement, and Rosencrans, determined to cast their lot with the early ranchmen of the Texas Panhandle. Consequently, the LX Ranch of Randall, Potter, Carson, Moore and Hutchinson counties became a reality in 1877, when Bates and Beals drove a herd from their ranch on the Arkansas in Colorado down to the Canadian in Texas.
Charles A. Siringo, a cowboy with Bates and Beals, tells the story of the location of this ranch as follows: "Soon after the Fourth of July, I secured a job with the David T. Beals' outfit to drive a herd of young steers to the Panhandle of Texas, where a new ranch was to be established. Bill Allen, of Corpus Christi, Texas, was the boss, and Owl-head Johnson the cook and driver of the mess wagon. "Deacon" Bates, one of Mr. Beals' partners, accompanied us for the purpose of selecting the new range. After crossing the Cimarron River into No-man's Land (now a part of Oklahoma) we saw our first herd of buffalo grazing a few miles south. Mr. Bates asked me to ride on ahead of him and get fresh buffalo meat. I roped my first buffalo a day or two later. I had left my pistol and bowie-knife in camp. On arriving at North Paladura Creek, we saw our first house since leaving Crooked Creek, twenty-five miles south of Dodge City, a buffalo hunter's trade store. Within fifty miles of the Canadian River, camp was established until "Deacon " Bates and I could locate a range large enough for fifty thousand cattle. We started with a pack horse loaded with grub and bedding and rode down the river twenty-five miles to the mouth of Pitcher Creek, where a Mr. Pitcher kept a buffalo hunter's trading store. Across the river three hundred Apache Indians from Arizona were camped. Mr. Bates and I put in a week riding down the river, nearly to Adobe Walls. Finally, Mr. Bates selected the site for the home ranch on a little creek about a mile east of Pitcher Creek. This was to be the center of the future LX cattle range, which was to extend twenty miles up the river and the same distance downstream, twenty miles south to the foot of the Llano Estacado, and twenty miles north to the foot of the North Staked Plains. This constituted a free range of forty miles square. Thousands of buffalo, deer and antelope were roaming over the plains. Finally, we returned to the herd and moved it to the site of the home ranch, where the cattle were turned loose to fatten on the fine buffalo grass. Mr. Bates went to Granada, Colorado, to oversee the moving of their one thousand well-bred shorthorned cattle to this new ranch in the Panhandle. Beals and Erskine Clement (a partner also) were kept busy in Dodge City buying longhorn steers for the new range. This company went into the cattle business on a large scale and by the time the snow began to fall there were thousands of cattle grazing upon the nutritious grasses of the LX range." In the year 1879 the ranch in Colorado was abandoned, and Dr. E. F. True, now of Amarillo, brought their horses to Texas. The mares of this herd were highly bred stock and were mated with either trotting or running sires. The breeding from this cross made great saddle horses and they were known all over the Panhandle for their endurance and speed.
The appeal which the country made to the cattlemen, because of the climatic conditions and the advantages of the open range, resulted in the establishment of a number of ranches in the Panhandle between 1876 and 1885. The following ranchers took advantage of the free grass, along the Canadian and established ranches adjoining the LX's in this period; the Frying Pan's and LIT's were on the west, the Turkey Track on the east, and the T-Anchor on the south. The line dividing the LX from these ranches cannot be accurately given, but it corresponded to a line drawn between the Palo Duro Canyon and Chalk Hollow on the south and extended north sixtyfive miles to within a mile of the present site of Dumas, Texas, with the Canadian River dividing th e range. It also extended thirty-five miles east and west. Bates chose the general headquarters of the ranch a spot located two miles east of Pitcher Creek on what was called Home Ranch Creek, about twenty miles north of the present city of Amarillo, and east of the highway bridge that now spans the Canadian River. Here he built the headquarters and the warehouse out of rock, held together by common mud.
The nearest town was Tascosa, an interior town in the early days, and until 1884 the nearest shipping point from this new location was Dodge City, Kansas. At the time of the establishment of the ranch the territory that Amarillo now includes was unorganized country known as the Jack Land District. This territory was attached to Oldham county for judicial purposes where the records were kept with the Oldham county records at Tascosa. When the surrounding counties were organized, the records were transferred to the new county seats. Potter county, with Amarillo as the county seat, was organized in 1887 by a small group of men composed mostly of LX and Frying Pan cowboys, and one or two settlers. "And it has been remarked that Amarillo is made up of men from Colorado City, Abilene, Tascosa, LX cowboys and a sprinkling from everywhere else. "
Eventually, some title had to be acquired by Bates and Beals to the land in the vast public domain of Texas where these cowmen had chosen to develop a new ranch. The LX range was originally composed of land given to the Houston and Texas Central Railway for railroad construction, sixteen sections being the amount usually given for each mile of road construction. When the Republic of Texas became a part of the United States in 1845, she had been allowed to keep her public domain. This act on the part of the federal government had entitled Texas to pay her debts and to use the land for state enterprises. The most important form of public aid given to the railway in Texas was undoubtedly the grants of land that were made from the public domain. The Houston and Texas Central Railway received 4,764,160 acres, most of it in West Texas, for road construction begun by them in the early seventies. Gunter and Munson had received their share of this land for doing the surveying. The lands adjoining the Canadian River on the north and also those adjoining this river on the south, in the northeastern part of Potter county, granted by the State to the Houston and Texas Central, were purchased by David T. Beals on December 4, 1882, for a consideration of $59,200, and consisted of 23,680 acres. Other lands granted to Gunter and Munson, state surveyors, were acquired by David T. Beals in small tracts at various times. Some of these sales by Gunter and Munson to Bates and Beals were: Nov. 12, 1881, 8,320 acres; Jan. 16, 1882, 41,920; March 18, 1882, 9,600 acres; March 27, 1883, 19,485 acres; Feb. 11, 1884, 20,920 acres. Mr. Beals, the principal owner of the ranch, acquired other land from various sources, but the greater portion was contained in the two purchases mentioned.
Beals took a leading part in both the purchase of these lands and also in buying the cattle for the range. He had already had a colorful career in the west. In his early life he had worked as a shoe maker in Boston. After accumulating a little money at this trade he went west. In the early days he would go to points on the Mississippi River, buy good mules and wagon, load them with merchandise, and drive to Salt Lake City, where he would dispose of his whole outfit. In this way he had acquired his money to invest in the LX Company and its properties. After the range had been stocked the owners were seldom on the ranch continuously for any length of time. Therefore, the general managemen t of the ranch was left to the range boss. All business affairs, such as hiring and firing of the cow hands, rounding up and branding of cattle and driving them to market was under his direction.
The first manager of the LX's was one Mr. Allen, but soon after the ranch was established, he returned to his home in Corpus Christi, Texas. Wm. C. Moore, who had previously been the manager of th e large Swan Cattle Company at Cheyenne, Wyoming, succeeded Allen. Moore had previously killed his negro coachman and had escaped from the law in Wyoming and landed at the LX's on a broken down pony in 1877. He had come to Wyoming as a fugitive from justice after killing his brother-in-law in the state of California. It is said that Bill Moore, a natural leader of men and one of the best cowmen in th e west, could get more work out of a bunch of cowhands than any man on the range. He managed the LX's until August 1, 1881, but while working for this company he stole from them and started a brand of his own. He, with two other LX cowboys who were associated with him on these steals, established a ranch on Coldwater Springs in No-Man's Land in the Panhandle of Oklahoma.
About the middle of April, 1878, Moore took twenty-five cowboys and two well-filled chuck wagons, and headed for Tascosa, where he met several other outfits from different parts of the country. When these outfits pulled out from Tascosa for the upper Canadian, there were a dozen chuck wagons and more than a hundred cow punchers. This general round-up, the first ever held in the Panhandle, started work near Fort Bascom, New Mexico, and worked the whole Canadian River Valley down to the line of the Indian Territory. This roundup, which ended in June, netted the LX's thousands of cattle and they were thrown into the summer range in 4Blue Creek north of the river.
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In the middle of June, 1878, Moore sent Siringo to take charge of a herd of twenty-five hundred steers, which had been placed on th e grasses of the South Staked Plains to fatten. About the first of October eight hundred fat steers were cut out of this herd and started for Dodge City, Kansas. These steers were grazed slowly up the trail to Dodge, where they were shipped to the Chicago markets. From this time until the end of the trail driving period the LX's pushed many herds up the trail where they were either shipped to the eastern markets or continued to follow the trail to the pastures of Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas.
After the coming of the railroads to the Panhandle in 1887 and 1888 most of the trail driving to Dodge was stopped, but the LX Company continued to drive two-year-old steers to the northern pastures until the nineties. After this all cattle moving to the eastern markets from the LX range passed over the rails. At this time this company was shipping about thirty-five hundred head of cattle annually.
When the Santa Fe Railroad opened a line to Caldwell, Kansas, and later to Kiowa, cattle were driven there in 1885 and 1886. The drive from the LX's to Kiowa took about twenty-five days, and the distance was about 225 or 250 miles. One drive to Kiowa in 1885 had abou t twelve hundred steers handled by eight riders with a horse wrangler and a cook extra. The last drive to this point was in 1886. In the early eighties the LX firm had purchased a ranch on Turkey Creek in the Indian Territory where the steers were first driven to fatten before being sent to market. However, the ranchmen were driven out of this strip in 1889, and this practice was discontinued. Not only were the steers driven away from the plains, but practically every year three or four thousand South Texas steers were driven to the Panhandle and turned loose upon LX pasture. On July 1, 1880, 3,700 head of these steers owned by Charlie Wood, arrived on the LX range.
In the spring of 1878, shortly after Moore took charge, the first mail route in the Panhandle of Texas was established from Fort Elliott, Texas, to Las Vegas, New Mexico, a distance of approximately three hundred miles. The home ranch was made Wheeler Post Office and was the first post office in Potter county. The mail prior to this time had come by private conveyance from Fort Bascom, New Mexico, 225 miles west on the upper Canadian. Each letter sent or received cost twenty-five cents, newspapers the same. A Mexican had the contract and gave a tri-weekly service. He carried the mail in a one-seated buckboard.
Moore quit the LX outfit in the spring of 1881, to look after his own cattle in the American Valley of Western New Mexico. A few months later John Hollicott, a slow, easy going Scotch cowboy, was selected as general manager of the ranch to take Moore's place. Hollicott became associated with the LX firm after going to Dodge City, where he left his place with the LIT's to join the LX outfit. John Hollicott had a good reputation among the early settlers, if we may judge by the following accounts concerning him in the Tascosa Pioneer: "John Hollicutt, the well-liked manager of the LX ranch, has been circulating among us for several days," and "John Hollicott of LX fame, the best ranch manager in the country, is in today."
The coming of the settlers brough t about rapid changes in the cattle business and presented many difficult and delicate problems to the ranchers. It was at the time these nesters began to come in that Hollicott, the energetic and faithful guardian of the LX range, had to face the problem of illegal enclosures and fencing of land. Therefore, as the "fool hoe-men" were settling the country, Mr. Beals began buying up all the land which bordered on the streams or took in the watering places on the LX range. He was allowed to purchase only two sections out of four, every alternate section of land up and down the Canadian, buying it either from the railroad or from private individuals, title to the latter being in the form of land scrip. The other sections belonged to the public schools and were subject to settlement. Settlers could file on four sections of land and pay one dollar per acre for grazing lands, and three dollars for agricultural lands, but they had to live three years on the land before they could pay it out. This was optional as they had forty years to acquire title to the land. A large per cent of the settlers sold out to the big cattle companies at the end of three years, generally making a bonus of one or two dollars per acre. Likewise, the cattle companies paid the state the part due it.
With the coming of these nesters to Northwest Texas, also came the investment of foreign capital to aid in overcoming the new obstacle of the cattle industry. Naturally, after acquiring so vast an amount of land, David T. Beals was quite ready and willing to help in establishing foreign money in this region. In 1884 he sold the ranch to the American Pastoral Company of London, England, where the officers, directors, and stockholders for this company lived. The headquarters of the same organization in the United States was located at Denver, Colorado. Mr. Beals conveyed to the trustees for the American Pastoral Company 187,141 acres of land for a total consideration of 91,727 pounds and delivered to the same company between 36,000 and 45,000 head of cattle by rounding up and actual count upon the range. Trustees for the Scotch Company were James William Barclay of London, England; Andrew Whitton of Couston, Scotland; Joseph Hyde Sparks of London, England; James Duff, and Walter P. Miller, both of Denver, Colorado. The trustees of the company then conveyed to the American Pastoral Company, Limited, on July 7 1889, a total of 210,597.50 acres.
As is true in all other instances of foreign investment in the Panhandle, the new owners began to make improvements and try new ideas. One novel experiment was the building of the only electric fence ever operated in the Panhandle. This was built by the LX Company about 1889 or 1890. The Power station was located just south of where the Children's Home is now located at Amarillo. The fence ran east from this point along the edge of the plains to the Carson county line. Here it separated them from the Hansford Land and Cattle Company, better known as the Turkey Track Company. To enclose all lands owned and leased by the company and to eliminate the expense of a $25.00 per month fence rider was the purpose and scheme of the LX outfit. "The electric fence company has secured an order from the LX manager for a trial fence to enclose their horse pasture. It will be a five-mile line, and an order for fencing their twenty-five mile pasture with the system is only contingent on the success of this experiment. The Pioneer has to confess itself completely won by this electric telephonic fence, the success of which it has in part seen and in part known of by the tests made, and is glad to see business opening to them and the ranchmen adopting a system neither so inhuman nor in the long run so costly as the barbed wire. However the enormous expense in operating two huge dynamos and paying high salaried electricians proved the experiment a failure. Moreover, the cattle were prone to jump into the fence rather than away from it when they received the electric shock. After a year's trial the fence was torn down.
John Hollicott managed the LX range from 1881 to 1898, a period of seventeen years, with the exception of 1880-1885, when Bob Campbell was manager. At that time he was succeeded by Jim Clark, who not long after met a tragic death by fire in New Mexico. Henry C. Harding, now of Plainview, Texas, succeeded Clark on July 6, 1900. It seems that Clark and the nesters did not agree. The nesters felt that Clark was putting them out of business. If the nester's cow was found in a bog, the cowboy would let it stay, get his own out, and ride on. However, when Harding became manager, he made, some arrangement with the nester to protect his cattle.
During the year 1902 Harding tore down the old headquarters at the south of Ranch Creek on the north side of the Canadian River, and built new quarters on the south side at the mouth of Bofiita Creek. This still stands today and is owned and used by the Lee Bivins Estate. The manager's house was made of lumber with a native stone foundation. In the southwest corner of the foundation, C. Cristoph, who did the rock work, noticed a square receptable in a huge rock. Into this rock Mr. Harding and Mr. Cristoph placed a tin box containing some coins, together with a list of the ranch payroll, the workmen, and the names of everyone connected with the ranch in America. This was sealed with mortar and another stone placed on top of it.
The English company made money, but finally had to sell to private individuals because the nester, as well as the stock market, was ruining its trade. Thus it was that Bivins, Masterson, and others purchased this cattle range in the first of the twentieth century. Mr. Harding, who had resigned in 1906, later came back to take the agency of the lands until the company was dissolved.
In the year 1900 the LX Company owned 163,545 acres in Potter county alone, the acreage for the other counties not being available at this time. On October 6, 1910, Lee Bivins purchased from the American Pastoral Company 30,353.7 acres which included the famous LX headquarters built by Mr. Harding in 1902.This purchase amounted to $79,038.45, and on May 19, 1915, Mr. Bivins again bought from the same company 53,328.95 acres for $203,- 491.32. Additional purchases made at various times both from the company and individuals, increased Mr. Bivins' holdings, which lie south of the Canadian River, in this ranch to nearly 100,000 acres.
Mr. Lee Bivins, sometimes spoken of as the largest cattle owner in the world, died in Wichita Falls, on January 17, 1929. For more than a quarter of a century he was recognized as one of the largest cattle operators in the country and during the past five years is said to have been the largest individual cattle owner in the world, frequently owning as many as 60,000 cattle at one time. After his death his holdings wer e divided between his two sons, Miles G. and Julian L. Bivins, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Bivins. When Mr. Bivins purchased the portion of the LX ranch north of the city of Amarillo, he acquired the right to use the LX brand, which is now famous around the world. The cattle owned by Mrs. Bivins today are branded with the original brand of the LX firm of David T. Beals. Miles G. and Julian Bivins have changed the brand to suit their particular needs. Although other individuals have purchased sections of this ranch, the Bivins holdings are spoken of as LX property.
Of the lands north of the Canadian River the American Pastoral Company sold to Morgan Jones, Sidney Webb and R. E. Brooks, at various times during the year 1910 and 1911, a total of 89,139.3 acres for a consideration of $208,183.
On June 1, 1911, Webb, Brooks and Jones conveyed to R. B. Masterson the same for the total, amount of $334,272.37. Like Mr. Bivins, Mr. Masterson also made other purchases which increased his holdings to approximately 95,000 acres. On September 22, 1924, Mr. Masterson divided his lands among his four daughters, Mrs. Anna Belle Kritser, Mrs. Fanny Fern Weymouth, Mrs. Sallie Lee Scott, Mrs. Mary Masterson Fain, and his son, R. B. Masterson, Jr., who are the present owners.
It was on the Masterson lands that the first gas well in the Texas Panhandle was discovered in 1917. A group of local citizens of Amarillo composed of M. C. Nobles, S. F. Sullenberger, F. J. Storm, M. W. Cunningham, and J. M. Neely took an oil and gas lease on 75,000 acres of land and formed a company named the Amarillo Oil Company which drilled the first well on Section No. 65, Block No. C-18, D. & P. Ry., a part of the Masterson lands in Potter county. The first well was begun in January, 1918, and completed in 1919 at a total depth of 2,395 feet and with a capacity of six to ten million cubic feet of gas daily. Dr. Chas. M. Gould was the geologist who located the field and C. M. Hapgood was the driller. This is the major portion of the largest gas field in the world. It produces sweet gas while some other portions of the field produces "sour" or "sulphur" gas. The city of Amarillo obtains its gas supply from this field, and the gas has been piped south to Canyon, Lubbock and as far as Midland, Texas, north to Denver, Colorado, and east to St. Louis, Des Moines, Chicago and Indianapolis.
This account of one of the leading ranches of the Panhandle is typical enough to show that the old ranches of the open range have been rapidly transformed into a land of waving wheat fields and a place of diversified farming. However, farming upon the LX range has never been very successful. The company owned an alfalfa farm, but this was practically all that the LX firm did in the way of farming. John Arnot did the first farming in Moore county in 1888 where he planted ten acres of sorghum. In 1889 J. H. Henry tried to raise about thirty acres of Johnson grass for hay but failed. The lands in the southern part of Potter county and northern part of Randall county, being smooth plains lands, were sold to farmers, and are now one of the contributing causes for the overproduction of wheat.
Pioneering in the Texas Panhandle is of necessity, essentially different from that in any other section. The story of the LX, indeed, may be compared with that of other ranches, such as the Frying Pan, LS and LIT, but after all each has a romance all its own. Beginning in the late seventies with its individual owner and experiencing a period of prosperity and rapid growth, the ranch in 1884 was invaded by foreign capital which ruled until the nester pushed it out. This, certainly, had its effect upon closing the day of free grass, free range and cattle trails. Yet the Staked Plains of the Panhandle remains today an important center for the cattle industry. Although it is not carried on on such a large scale as in previous years, the people are imbued with the spirit of the cattle trade. And as it has been well started by someone else, "But for most Texans—West Texans, at any rate—there is enough sentiment attached to ranching to make them glad that something of the old industry still survives."
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