Texas

Texas

Several Spanish expeditions contributed to the early exploration of Texas, beginning in 1519. Expeditions were sent out repeatedly in the next few years, but gold was never found.French explorers visited Texas in the 1680s, and La Salle claimed much of Texas as part of his huge claim of land for France. However, the border issue was resolved through treaty.Growing numbers of American settlers, who were at first welcomed, began to concern Mexico. Independence was declared and after a war that saw defeat at the Alamo and victory at the Battle of San Jacinto, Texas emerged as a Republic. After the Mexican war of 1846 to 1848, Mexico gave up all claims to Texas.Although Texas joined the Confederacy during the Civil War, there was considerable pro-Union sentiment in the state. The final battle of the Civil War was fought near the mouth of the Rio Grande by soldiers who were unaware that the war had ended a month earlier.During the Reconstruction of Texas, a legal controversy arose regarding the legal nature of the Texas secession. According to its supporters, the secession of Texas from the Union had been null and void from the very beginning, and consequently all laws derived from the secession and all public and private relations based on those laws were in turn null and void.The majority view rejected this extreme position, and the Republicans, the party of Reconstruction, were deeply divided for a period of three years. In the end, the latter group prevailed, albeit with certain compromises.Texas continued to grow rapidly. In the 1870s, cattle from Texas was driven to market along trails to Missouri and Kansas. Starting with the discovery of the Spindletop oil field in 1901, Texas` petroleum and natural gas industries grew to be the largest in the United States.Texas, in common with other Southern states, attempted to restrict the voting rights of blacks despite the provisions of Amendment XV giving them suffrage. Texas enacted a statute in 1923 which stated that, "in no event shall a Negro be eligible to participate in a Democratic Party primary election held in the state of Texas." In the one-party South, the Democratic primary was tantamount to the general election, so this rule effectively disenfranchised blacks in Texas.In 1927, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Nixon v. Herndon, with Oliver Wendell Holmes writing the opinion, that the Texas law violated the Fifteenth Amendment.


See also Andrews, Texas and Texas.


Texas History Timeline – 50 Events that Shaped Texas

We’ve compiled a timeline of the 50 most significant historical events that shaped the great state of Texas. Without these events Texas might look much different than it does today.

Early Exploration and Development

Before 1500 – Prior to the arrival of the first European explorers, numerous tribes of the Indians of Texas occupied the region between the Rio Grande to the south and the Red River to the north.

Mid-1519 – Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, a Spanish adventurer, sailed from a base in Jamaica to become the first known European to explore and map the Texas coastline.

November 1528 – Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked on what is believed today to be Galveston Island. After trading in the region for some six years, he later explored the Texas interior on his way to Mexico.

1540-1542– In search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led an expedition into the present southwestern United States and across northern Texas.

February 18, 1685 –Robert Cavelier, Sieur de LaSalle established Fort St. Louis at Matagorda Bay, and formed the basis for France’s claim to Texas. Two years later, LaSalle was murdered by his own men.

April 22, 1689 – During an expedition planned to reestablish Spanish presence in Texas, Mexican explorer Alonso de Leon reached Fort St. Louis and found it abandoned,

1716-1789 – Throughout the 18th century, Spain established Catholic missions in Texas as well as the towns of San Antonio, Goliad, and Nacogdoches.

August 8, 1812 – The Gutierrez-Magee Expedition with about 130-men, crossed the Sabine River from Louisiana in a rebel movement against Spanish rule in Texas.

1817-1820 – Jean Laffite occupied Galveston Island and used it as a base for his smuggling and privateering operation.

January 3, 1823 –Stephen F. Austin received a grant from the Mexican government and began colonization in the region of the Brazos River.

Mid-1824 – The Constitution of 1824 gave Mexico a republican form of government. It failed, however, to define the rights of the states within the republic, including Texas.

April 6, 1830 – Relations between the Texans and Mexico reached a new low when Mexico forbid further emigration into Texas by settlers from the United States.

June 26, 1832 – The Battle of Velasco resulted in the first casualties in Texas’ relations with Mexico. After several days of fighting, the Mexicans under Domingo de Ugartechea were forced to surrender for lack of ammunition.

1832-1833 – Dissatisfaction with the policies by the government in Mexico City triggered the Convention of 1832 and the Convention of 1833 in Texas.

The Revolution and the Republic

October 2, 1835 – Texans drove back troops of the Mexican cavalry at the Battle of Gonzales. The revolution began.

October 9, 1835 – The Goliad Campaign of 1835 ended when George Collingsworth, Ben Milam, and forty-nine other Texans stormed the presidio at Goliad and a small troop of Mexican defenders.

October 28, 1835 –Jim Bowie, James Fannin, and 90 Texans defeated 450 Mexicans at the Battle of Concepcion, near San Antonio.

November 3, 1835 – The Consultation met to consider options for the more autonomous rule for Texas. A document known as the Organic Law outlined the organization and functions of a new Provisional Government.

November 8, 1835 – The Grass Fight near San Antonio was won by the Texans under Jim Bowie and Ed Burleson. Instead of silver, however, the Texans gained a worthless bounty of grass.

December 11, 1835 –Mexicans under Gen. Cos surrendered San Antonio to the Texans following the Siege of Bexar. Ben Milam was killed during the extended siege.

March 2, 1836 – The Texas Declaration of Independence was signed by members of the Convention of 1836. An ad interim government was formed for the newly created Republic of Texas.

March 6, 1836 – Texans under Col. William B. Travis were overwhelmed by the Mexican army after a two-week siege at the Battle of the Alamo in San Antonio. The Runaway Scrape began.

March 10, 1836 – Sam Houston abandoned Gonzales in a general retreat eastward to avoid the invading Mexican army.

March 27, 1836 –James Fannin and nearly 400 Texans were executed by the Mexicans at the Goliad Massacre, under the order of Santa Anna.

April 21, 1836 – Texans under Sam Houston routed the Mexican forces of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. Thus, independence was won in one of the most decisive battles in history.

November 1839 – The Texas Congress first met in Austin, the frontier site selected for the capital of the Republic.

August 11, 1840 – The Battle of Plum Creek, near present-day Lockhart, ended the boldest and most penetrating Comanche challenge to the Texas Republic.

June 1841 – The Texan Santa Fe Expedition set out for New Mexico. Near Sante Fe, they were intercepted by Mexican forces and marched 2000 miles to prison in Mexico City.

March 5, 1842 – A Mexican force of over 500 men under Rafael Vasquez invaded Texas for the first time since the revolution. They briefly occupied San Antonio, but soon headed back to the Rio Grande.

September 11, 1842 – San Antonio was again captured, this time by 1400 Mexican troops under Adrian Woll. Again, the Mexicans retreated, but this time with prisoners.

Fall 1842 – Sam Houston authorized Alexander Somervell to lead a retaliatory raid into Mexico. The resulting Somervell Expedition dissolved, however, after briefly taking the border towns of Laredo and Guerreo.

December 20, 1842 – Some 300 members of the Somervell force set out to continue raids into Mexico. Ten days and 20 miles later, the ill-fated Mier Expedition surrendered at the Mexican town of Mier.

December 29, 1842 – Under orders of Sam Houston, officials arrived in Austin to remove the records of the Republic of Texas to the city of Houston, touching off the bloodless Archives War.

March 25, 1843 – Seventeen Texans were executed in what became known as the Black Bean Episode, which resulted from the Mier Expedition, one of several raids by the Texans into Mexico.

May 27, 1843 – The Texan’s Snively Expedition reached the Santa Fe Trail, expecting to capture Mexican wagons crossing territory claimed by Texas. The campaign stalled, however, when American troops intervened.

Statehood and Beyond

December 29, 1845 –U. S. President James Polk followed through on a campaign platform promising to annex Texas and signed legislation making Texas the 28th state of the United States.

April 25, 1846 –The Mexican-American War ignited as a result of disputes over claims to Texas boundaries. The outcome of the war fixed Texas’ southern boundary at the Rio Grande River.

November 25, 1850 –In a plan to settle boundary disputes and pay her public debt, Texas relinquished about one-third of her territory in the Compromise of 1850, in exchange for $10,000,000 from the United States.

May 1852 – The first Lone Star State Fair in Corpus Christi symbolized a period of relative prosperity in Texas during the 1850’s. Organizer Henry L. Kinney persuaded Dr. Ashbel Smith to be the fair’s manager.

April 29, 1856 – Backed by the US military, a shipment of 32 camels arrived at the port of Indianola. The resulting Texas Camel Experiment used the animals to transport supplies over the “Great American Desert.”

February 1, 1861 – Texas seceded from the Federal Union following a 171 to 6 vote by the Secession Convention. Governor Sam Houston was one of a small minority opposed to secession.

October 22, 1861 – Advance units of the newly formed Brigade of General H. H. Sibley marched westward from San Antonio to claim New Mexico and the American southwest for the Confederacy.

January 1, 1863 – After several weeks of Federal occupation of Texas’ most important seaport, the Battle of Galveston restored the island to Texas control for the remainder of the Civil War.

May 13, 1865 – The last land engagement of the Civil War was fought at the Battle of Palmito Ranch in far south Texas, more than a month after Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, VA.

1866 – The abundance of longhorn cattle in south Texas and the return of Confederate soldiers to a poor reconstruction economy marked the beginning of the era of Texas trail drives to northern markets.

March 30, 1870 – The United States Congress readmitted Texas into the Union. Reconstruction continued, however, for another four years.

January 17, 1874 –Coke-Davis Dispute ended peacefully in Austin as E. J. Davis relinquished the governor’s office. Richard Coke began a democratic party dynasty in Texas that continued unbroken for over 100 years.

October 4, 1876 – Now known as Texas A&M, the opening of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas marked the state’s first venture into public higher education. Tuition totaled $10 per semester.

September 15, 1883 – The University of Texas opened its doors in Austin for its inaugural session. First courses were offered in the Academic Department and a Law Department.

May 16, 1888 – The dedication of the present state capital in Austin ended seven years of planning and construction. The building was funded with 3,000,000 acres of land in north Texas.

January 20, 1891 – Based on a campaign platform calling for the regulation of railroads and big business, James Hogg took office as the first native-born governor of Texas.

January 10, 1901 – The discovery of “black gold” at the Spindletop oil field near Beaumont launched Texas into a century of oil exploration, electronics, and manned space travel.


Texas Culture and Interesting Facts

The Lone Star State

Texas is famous for its sense of local identity and itsof independence. The Lone Star State puts a premium on its unique history and traditions. The amusement park Six Flags comes from Texas, named after the six flags that have flown over Texas?Spain,France,Mexico, theRepublic of Texas, theUnited States of America, and theConfederate States of America. The outline of Texas is popular on consumer goods like belt buckles and waffle irons. In the last several decades, the environmental slogan "Don't Mess with Texas" has become a slogan for Texan pride. And, more so than in any other state, there remains today a notable movement for Texas independence from the United States.

Live Music Capital of the World

Austin, Texas is well-known by its slogan "the Live Music Capital of the World." Austin has more live concerts per capita than any other city in the United States. Estimates say that on a given night in Austin there are 100 live music performances, spanning a wide range of genres. Austin's music history stretches back to the 1800s, but it really took off in the 1960s. The city opened several large venues, and cultivated an alternative country music scene from the more conventional musicians centered around Nashville. Today the city has major scenes for folk, country, jazz,tejano,zydeco,punk, andindiemusic.

Ranching in Texas

The cowboy is widely seen as iconic of Texas. While Old West cowboys aren't common in Texas today, it is still the ranching capital of the United States. Texas is the top wool producer in the country, and also has massive herds of cattle. King Ranch in Texas is larger than the state of Rhode Island, and houses over 35,000 cattle. The ranching culture extends into other areas of Texas life, influencing fashion and entertainment?rodeo, a sport that tests various ranching skills like roping cattle and riding bucking animals, is the official state sport of Texas.

Tex-Mex Cuisine

Perhaps Texas's biggest culturalexport to the rest of the country is its food. Tex-Mex food originates with the states large Mexican-American population (also known as Tejanos), especially along the southern border with Mexico. Tex-Mex cuisine, like northern Mexican cuisine, is a fusion of Spanish food with local native food traditions, often using ingredients related to the ranching industry. After the 1960s, Tex-Mex became more Americanized with ingredients like yellow cheese, and started becoming more popular throughout the country. Today, Mexican food (largely Americanized Tex-Mex) generates more than $40 billion per year in the U.S.

Famous Texas Natives and Residents

Alvin Aileychoreographer
Wes Andersonfilmmaker
Mary Kay Ashcosmetics entrepreneur
Stephen Fuller Austinfounding father of Texas
Gene Autrysinger and actor
Carol Burnettcomedienne
George W. Bushpresident
Cyd Charisseactress and dancer
Denton A. Cooleyheart surgeon
Joan Crawfordactress
Dwight David Eisenhowerpresident
Tom Forddesigner, director
A. J. Foytauto racer
Ben Hogangolfer
Sam Houstonstatesman

Howard Hughesindustrialist and film producer
Jack Johnsonboxer
Lyndon B. Johnsonpresident
George Jonessinger
Tommy Lee Jonesactor
Janis Joplinsinger
Scott Joplincomposer
Beyonce Knowlessinger/performer
Trini Lopezsinger
Mary Martinsinger and actress
Matthew McConaugheyactor
Spanky McFarlandactor
Audie Murphyactor and war hero
Chester Nimitzadmiral
Sandra Day O'Connorjurist

Buck Owenssinger
Selenasinger
Lou Diamond Phillipsactor
Katherine Anne Porternovelist
Wiley Postaviator
Dan RatherTV newscaster
Robert Rauschenbergpainter
Tex Rittersinger
Robert Rodriguezfimmaker
Rip Tornactor and director
Tommy Tunedancer and choreographer
Stevie Ray Vaughanmusician
Lupe Velezactress
Dooley Wilsonactor and musician
Babe Didrikson Zahariasathlete and golfer.


The Handbook of Texas was the brainchild of past TSHA President Walter Prescott Webb, who boldly declared it would be “a reference to practically any topic on Texas history.” The initial Handbook was published as a two-volume set in 1952, with a supplemental volume published in 1976.

Today, the Handbook is entirely online and includes 27,346 encyclopedic entries on the influential people, eras, and events of Texas history. Its staff of editors continuously works to add and update entries to ensure its accuracy and comprehensiveness.


Handbook of Texas

The Handbook of Texas is a digital state encyclopedia developed by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) that is free and accessible on the Internet for students, teachers, scholars, and the general public. The Handbook consists of overview, general, and biographical entries focused on the entire history of Texas from the indigenous Native Americans and the Prehistoric Era to the state’s diverse population and the Modern Age. These entries emphasize the role Texans played in state, national, and world history. The TSHA continuously expands the Handbook through multi-year special projects that focus on diverse topics to preserve all Texans’ history. In 2016 the Handbook website experienced 10,454,137 page views with 4,657,707 unique users from 201 countries and territories, making it not only a Texas resource, but a global one.

The Handbook of Texas project began in 1939 as an effort led by University of Texas Professor Walter Prescott Webb to preserve Texas history and create “the most useful book that has ever been published in Texas.” Webb admitted that his goal might be “an impossible dream,” but his leadership facilitated the funding, staffing, and publication of the original two-volume Handbook in 1952 with a supplemental third volume in 1976. The University of Texas at Austin supported scholarship focused on Texas history and maintained a continuous relationship with the TSHA by providing office space and employing staff members as University faculty. In 1996 the six-volume Handbook included 23,640 entries and 687 illustrations within 6,945 pages. Leadership at the TSHA recognized the growth of personal computers and chose to bypass an interactive CD-ROM in favor of digitizing the entire Handbook for release on the Internet. The Handbook of Texas Online launched in February 1999 and was among the first digital encyclopedias accessible for free on the Internet to the general public.

The Handbook currently includes 27,346 encyclopedic entries. These entries are written by volunteer historians and professionals, reviewed by TSHA staff, vetted by scholars, and approved by the TSHA Chief Historian before appearing online. The development of new entries is driven by current events, user suggestions, and internal identification of missing topics, which are reviewed by the Chief Historian for consideration. Existing entries are continuously revised or updated according to user suggestions and a routine revision schedule. Authors utilize secondary and primary sources such as books, census records, newspapers, military service records, obituaries, diaries, and letters to craft historically accurate entries. The sources are compiled into a bibliography and updated regularly to provide readers with the most current scholarship. The Handbook editors fact-check, copyedit, and format entries using appropriate language for users ranging from middle school to college.

The Handbook began as a printed reference resource without images, but the expansion to six volumes included the addition of photographs and other illustrations. The Handbook staff recognized the need to update the digital Handbook with appropriate media, such as images, videos, audio, and interactive maps. The staff now includes media with every new entry and has added media to the most viewed entries. As a result, the Handbook now includes thousands of images, hundreds of audio samples, and dozens of video clips from the TSHA Texas Talks webinars. The media captions identify the title, copyright owner, and location of the media, as well as link to the original source. The staff disabled the right-click feature within the Handbook website to limit reproduction of the images and encourage users to visit the participating digital repositories and archives for access and republication. The TSHA has compiled promotional eBooks composed of Handbook entries focused on a variety of topics including: African Americans, Civil War, Tejanos, Texas Revolution, Women, and Music in Texas. Furthermore, Handbook content facilitated the development of Texas Day By Day, a program that provides daily updates to users’ computers, tablets, and smartphones on notable people, places, and events Texas history.

After more than 69 years the Handbook project continues to promote scholarship and encourage the study of Texas history. The TSHA and Handbook staff collaborate with historical associations within Texas and across the United States to promote the study of state and local history. The Handbook project provides opportunities for graduate students, lay historians, scholars, and professors to preserve history by researching and authoring concise entries for educational purposes and the betterment of society. The Handbook entries are cited in thousands of books, articles, documentaries, and webpages such as Wikipedia, Legislative Reference Library of Texas, Find-a-Grave, and Ancestry. Professor Webb could not have possibly imagined the ways in which the Handbook has grown and changed over time, but he certainly would be pleased that the public demand for scholarship remains so strong. We strive to assure the Handbook remains accessible, inclusive, accurate, and meets current scholarly standards.

The Handbook of Texas project began in 1939 as an effort led by University of Texas Professor Walter Prescott Webb to preserve Texas history and create “the most useful book that has ever been published in Texas.” Webb admitted that his goal might be “an impossible dream,” but his leadership facilitated the funding, staffing, and publication of the original two-volume Handbook in 1952 with a supplemental third volume in 1976. The University of Texas at Austin supported scholarship focused on Texas history and maintained a continuous relationship with the TSHA by providing office space and employing staff members as University faculty. In 1996 the six-volume Handbook included 23,640 entries and 687 illustrations within 6,945 pages. Leadership at the TSHA recognized the growth of personal computers and chose to bypass an interactive CD-ROM in favor of digitizing the entire Handbook for release on the Internet. The Handbook of Texas Online launched in February 1999 and was among the first digital encyclopedias accessible for free on the Internet to the general public.

The Handbook currently includes 27,346 encyclopedic entries. These entries are written by volunteer historians and professionals, reviewed by TSHA staff, vetted by scholars, and approved by the TSHA Chief Historian before appearing online. The development of new entries is driven by current events, user suggestions, and internal identification of missing topics, which are reviewed by the Chief Historian for consideration. Existing entries are continuously revised or updated according to user suggestions and a routine revision schedule. Authors utilize secondary and primary sources such as books, census records, newspapers, military service records, obituaries, diaries, and letters to craft historically accurate entries. The sources are compiled into a bibliography and updated regularly to provide readers with the most current scholarship. The Handbook editors fact-check, copyedit, and format entries using appropriate language for users ranging from middle school to college.

The Handbook began as a printed reference resource without images, but the expansion to six volumes included the addition of photographs and other illustrations. The Handbook staff recognized the need to update the digital Handbook with appropriate media, such as images, videos, audio, and interactive maps. The staff now includes media with every new entry and has added media to the most viewed entries. As a result, the Handbook now includes thousands of images, hundreds of audio samples, and dozens of video clips from the TSHA Texas Talks webinars. The media captions identify the title, copyright owner, and location of the media, as well as link to the original source. The staff disabled the right-click feature within the Handbook website to limit reproduction of the images and encourage users to visit the participating digital repositories and archives for access and republication. The TSHA has compiled promotional eBooks composed of Handbook entries focused on a variety of topics including: African Americans, Civil War, Tejanos, Texas Revolution, Women, and Music in Texas. Furthermore, Handbook content facilitated the development of Texas Day By Day, a program that provides daily updates to users’ computers, tablets, and smartphones on notable people, places, and events Texas history.

After more than 69 years the Handbook project continues to promote scholarship and encourage the study of Texas history. The TSHA and Handbook staff collaborate with historical associations within Texas and across the United States to promote the study of state and local history. The Handbook project provides opportunities for graduate students, lay historians, scholars, and professors to preserve history by researching and authoring concise entries for educational purposes and the betterment of society. The Handbook entries are cited in thousands of books, articles, documentaries, and webpages such as Wikipedia, Legislative Reference Library of Texas, Find-a-Grave, and Ancestry. Professor Webb could not have possibly imagined the ways in which the Handbook has grown and changed over time, but he certainly would be pleased that the public demand for scholarship remains so strong. We strive to assure the Handbook remains accessible, inclusive, accurate, and meets current scholarly standards.


Texas - History

225 million B.C. to 65 million B.C.

At least 16 types of dinosaurs roamed Texas from 225 million years ago to about 65 million years ago, at which time dinosaurs disappeared. . . . (more)

European Exploration and Development

April 30 - A ceremony of thanksgiving is held near present-day El Paso by Juan de Oñate, the members of his expedition and natives of the region. The Spaniards provide game and the Indians supply fish for a feast, Franciscan missionaries celebrate mass, and Oñate claims all land drained by the Rio Grande in the name of the King Philip II of Spain. . . . (more)

Revolution and the Republic of Texas

March 6 &ndash A 13-day siege of the Alamo by Mexican troops led by Santa Anna ends on this day with a battle in which all remaining defenders are killed. . . . (more)

Annexation and Statehood

Nov. 25 &ndash Texas' governor signs the Compromise of 1850, in which Texas gives up its claim to land that includes more than half of what is now New Mexico, about a third of Colorado, a corner of Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, and a small portion of Wyoming in exchange for the United States' assumption of $10 million in debt Texas keeps its public lands. . . . (more)

Secession and Civil War

Feb. 13 &ndash Robert E. Lee is ordered to return to Washington from regimental headquarters at Fort Mason to assume command of the Union Army. Instead, Lee resigns his commission he assumes command of Confederate forces by June 1862. . . . (more)


Union prisoners from Camp Ford near Tyler. Library of Congress.

Reconstruction to the 20th Century

Cattle drives, which had been occasional in the 1830s, sporadic during the 1840s and 1850s, and almost nonexistent during the Civil War, begin in earnest, mostly to markets and railheads in Midwest. They are at their peak for only about 20 years, until the proliferation of railroads makes them unnecessary. . . . (more)

'Branding Cattle on the Texas Prairie,' by James E. Taylor, 1867. Library of Congress.

The 20th Century

Jan. 10 - A gusher drilled by mining engineer Capt. A.F. Lucas at Spindletop near Beaumont catapults Texas into the petroleum age. . . . (more)


An oil field in Wichita County.

Texas - History

Map shows location of headquarters. Most were or are not contiguous. Click to enlarge.

By Mike Cox

On July 16, 1820, Canary Island immigrant Juan Ignacio Perez sat before the proper officials in the Spanish city of San Antonio de Bexar and executed his last will and testament. The document the 59-year-old Perez signed included a declaration that he owned a substantial amount of property along the Medina River in what is now southern Bexar County.

Col. Perez possessed four leagues of land on one side of the river and another league on the opposite side awarded to him by Gov. Manuel María de Salcedo for his service in the Spanish military. A Spanish unit of measurement, a league amounted to 4,428.4 acres. That meant Perez had 22,142 acres.

&ldquoOn this [land],&rdquo the will further recorded, &ldquothere is a stone house and wooden corrals. . . . On these pasture lands there is some large stock both branded and unbranded, which I consider part of the property.&rdquo The veteran Indian fighter also owned &ldquoall the horses and mules marked with my brand. . . . &rdquo

Perez acquired his first league in 1794 and the other four in 1808. One of the oldest ranches in Texas, the land Perez described that long ago summer day would stay in the same family well into the 1990s.

Ranching already had a strong foothold in Texas even before Perez began raising stock along the Medina. Capt. Blas Maria de la Garza Falcon established the Rancho Carnestolendas in 1752 on the Rio Grande where the future town of Rio Grande City would rise nearly a century later. Spanish ranchos along the Rio Grande and stock-raising operations along the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers, which supplied beef to the missions in San Antonio and Goliad, constituted the beginning of the American cattle industry.

Also in the early 1750s, one of the San Antonio missions, San Francisco de la Espada, established a ranch about 30 miles away near present-day Floresville in Wilson County. Named Rancho de las Cabras (Ranch of the Goats), the new ranch did not represent any desire for expansion or efficiency on the part of the Spanish friars, but came as a response to complaints from San Antonio residents who grew tired of mission cattle trampling their crops. By 1756, the fortress-like ranch had 700 head of cattle, nearly 2,000 sheep, and a remuda of more than 100 horses. Three decades later, Texas still a Spanish province, a ranch connected to one of the Goliad missions had 50,000 head of cattle.

With the closing of the missions, private ranching developed as Texas attracted more settlers.

James Taylor LaBlanc&mdasha Louisianan who Texanized his last name to White&mdashfounded the first Anglo-owned cattle ranch in Texas in 1828 near Anahuac in present-day Chambers County. From an initial stock of only a dozen cattle, White grew his herd to some 10,000 head. One visitor to White&rsquos ranch in the 1840s described the stock as &ldquopure Spanish breed&rdquo (longhorns).

White not only pioneered cattle-raising in Southeast Texas, he developed what would stand for many years as the industry&rsquos prime business model&mdashtrailing cattle from the ranch where they were raised to market. Following the Texas Revolution, White and his cowhands drove cattle to buyers in New Orleans, more than 300 miles to the east.

No trace remains of White&rsquos ranch, but Texas today has more ranches and more cattle than any other state. Texas being Texas, the state also has some of the largest ranches in the world. How much land it takes for a particular holding to be considered a ranch as opposed to simply a piece of rural property depends on its location.

In his book Historic Ranches of Texas, historian Lawrence Clayton wrote that a piece of land in East Texas with good creek or river frontage can support a cow per acre in years of normal precipitation. With that ratio, Clayton said, a landowner could justifiably call only a few hundred acres a ranch.

Along the 98th meridian, the eastern edge of the half of Texas that sees the least rainfall even in wet years, it takes 20&ndash25 acres per cow. Farther west, the ratio increases three to four times. Accordingly, ranches in West Texas often are described by the number of sections they cover, not acres. (A section is 640 acres, or one square mile.)

The Texas Department of Agriculture says the state has 247,500 farms and ranches totaling 130.4 million acres. For 37 years, the department&rsquos Family Land Heritage Program has been honoring families whose farms or ranches have been in continuous family ownership for more than 100 years. As of 2012, the agency has recognized 5,020 such properties.

Most of the land holdings listed by TDA are known only to their owners and families, or in their local area. But some Texas ranches&mdashpast and present&mdashare Lone Star icons, as much a part of the state&rsquos image as bluebonnets, oil wells, or rangy longhorns. These are some of Texas&rsquos most historic ranches:

The King Ranch reigns not only as Texas&rsquos largest spread (825,000 acres), it also has a larger-than-life history, an epic tale told over the years in numerous books, articles, and films, including a definitive volume, The King Ranch, by artist and author Tom Lea.

This 1952 photo shows Bob Kleberg trading cattle in McMullen County for the King Ranch. UNT Portal of Texas History.

Though the state&rsquos best-known ranch is named for founder Captain Richard King (1824&ndash1885)&mdashan Irish immigrant who came to Texas by way of New York and who piloted steamboats on the lower Rio Grande&mdashit could have turned out differently.

When King met newspaperman and former Texas Ranger Gideon K. &ldquoLegs&rdquo Lewis in Corpus Christi in 1853, the two men decided to go into the cattle business together. They set up a fortified cow camp on high ground near a spring at the head of Santa Gertrudis Creek about 45 miles southwest of Corpus Christi. That summer King bought 15,500 acres for $300, and in November 1853, he sold Lewis an undivided half-interest in the land for $2,000.

Lewis bought some additional land nearby and in turn sold King half-interest. In less than a year, the two men owned more than 68,000 acres and a substantial herd of cattle and horses, called the Santa Gertrudis Ranch.

The partnership likely would have continued had not Lewis, a handsome man with an eye for pretty women, become involved with the wife of a Corpus Christi doctor. The offended doctor prescribed for Lewis a lethal dose of buckshot. With no heirs, Lewis&rsquos estate&mdashwhich included his half interest in the South Texas ranch&mdashwent on the auction block at the Nueces County Courthouse. King successfully bid on Lewis&rsquos share of the ranch, and any possibility that the property would come to be known as the King-Lewis Ranch was as dead as the ex-ranger.

Captain King and his wife, Henrietta Chamberlain King, continued to acquire land over the years. In the spring of 1874, only a couple of decades after its founding, King Ranch gained national publicity when newspapers across the country published a column-long piece on the ranch headlined, &ldquoA Little Texas Farm.&rdquo The anonymous writer observed&mdashquite presciently

&mdashthat, &ldquoThe whole of this immense scope of country consists of the finest pasture lands in Western Texas, and must some future day be of almost incalculable value.&rdquo

When King died in 1885, Henrietta, with help from her husband&rsquos advisors, managed the ranch for a year. In 1886, she appointed her new son-in-law, Robert Kleberg, ranch manager. By the time of Henrietta&rsquos death in 1925, the ranch consisted of well over 1.25 million acres and supported 125,000 head of cattle and 2,500 horses. Robert Kleberg ran the ranch until his health declined. In 1918, Robert Kleberg Jr. (Mr. Bob) took the reins and continued as manager well after his father&rsquos death in 1932.

Though King initially stocked his ranch with the wild longhorns then common all over South Texas, by crossbreeding Shorthorns and Brahmas, the ranch developed its own breed of cattle, the Santa Gertrudis. It is the first American breed of beef cattle recognized by the USDA (in 1940) and was the first new breed to be recognized worldwide in more than a century. In 1994, the ranch introduced the King Ranch Santa Cruz, a composite breed developed to meet the modern consumers&rsquo beef expectations.

Under the leadership of Robert Kleberg Jr., who studied genetics in college and had an avid interest in livestock breeding, the King Ranch also achieved a legacy with both Thoroughbred and Quarter horses. By acquiring and breeding superior foundation stallions, the King Ranch Quarter Horse program produced Wimpy, which was awarded the number-one registration in the American Quarter Horse Association Stud Book and Registry, as well as Mr. San Peppy and Peppy San Badger, two of the all-time leading money-making sires in the National Cutting Horse Association.

In addition to its Quarter Horse lineage, the ranch produced numerous prized Thoroughbreds, including Assault, the 1946 Triple Crown winner (the only Texas horse to win the Triple Crown), and Middleground, the 1950 winner of the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Organized as a private corporation in 1934, King Ranch land in South Texas was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961 by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Its properties near Kingsville cover nearly 1,300 square miles on four divisions&mdashSanta Gertrudis, Laureles, Norias, and Encino&mdashand is larger than the state of Rhode Island. These divisions are located in six counties (Brooks, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, and Willacy) and contain terrain that varies from fertile black farmland to low-lying coastal marshes to mesquite pastures that mark the beginning of the Texas brush country.

King Ranch is still owned by the descendants of its founder and, today, is a diversified agribusiness corporation, with interests in cattle ranching, feedlot operations, farming (cotton, milo, sugar cane, and turfgrass), citrus groves, pecan processing, commodity marketing, and recreational hunting. Its retail operations include luggage, leather goods and home furnishings, farm equipment, commercial printing, and ecotourism.

One summer day in 1876, Charles Goodnight and a Mexican guide, who had told Goodnight of a giant canyon that nature had gouged through the High Plains, reined their horses at the rim of Palo Duro Canyon, south of present-day Amarillo. Taking in the vastness that lay before him, the former Texas Ranger and pioneer cattleman immediately realized he had found perhaps the best location for a ranch anywhere in the Southwest. The canyon&rsquos steep walls afforded a natural fence, and on its floor ample water flowing along the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River would keep the mouths of his livestock wet and nourish the grass that would fill their bellies.

That visit marked the beginning of the JA Ranch, which Goodnight founded later that year with Irish-born investor John George Adair, who operated out of Denver. What began as a high-interest loan evolved into a business partnership, with Adair having two-thirds interest in the ranch and Goodnight the other third plus a salary for managing the property. Growing from an initial herd of 1,600 cattle on 2,500 acres, at its peak, the ranch grazed 100,000 head on 1.3 million acres extending across six Panhandle counties.

When Adair died in 1885, his widow, Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie, assumed her late husband&rsquos ownership of the sprawling ranch. Two years later, Goodnight quit the partnership and started his own ranch. The ranch is still owned by Adair heirs.

At its largest, the King Ranch never covered more than a third the size of the storied XIT&mdasha Panhandle ranch that no longer exists. However, the XIT&rsquos failure to survive into the modern era does not diminish its significance to Texas history.

XIT cowboys, 1891. UNT Portal of Texas History.

Its founders were bean-counting businessmen from Chicago, not rugged individualists like Richard King, and by the time the ranch started stringing barbed wire across its vast holdings, the buffalo and the Indians had vanished from the High Plains like so many mirages. What makes the ranch unique is its connection to the red-granite State Capitol in Austin. Then cash poor but land rich, the state conveyed public land in the far northwest corner of the Panhandle to the group of investors in 1882 to finance construction of the new statehouse, an imposing structure that would architecturally rival the nation&rsquos Capitol.

Once the biggest ranch in the world, the XIT spread over 3 million acres and stretched nearly 200 miles long and up to 30 miles wide from Hockley County on the south all the way north to the Oklahoma border. The ranch covered parts of ten High Plains counties. At its height, enclosed by 6,000 miles of barbed wire fence, the ranch ran 150,000 head of cattle, had 1,500 horses, and kept 150 cowboys on its payroll.

In the early 1900s, the XIT&rsquos owners&mdashstruggling for a return on investment they had yet to realize&mdashdecided to discontinue raising cattle. Their strategy would be to make back their money by breaking up the huge acreage the syndicate owned and selling smaller parcels as ranches or farms. Two-thirds of the ranch had been sold by 1906, and by 1912, the last XIT cattle had been sent to market. The final piece of XIT land was conveyed to another owner in 1963.

Matador Ranch

The Matador Ranch is the third historic Texas ranch that once had more than a million acres inside its fence lines. Col. Alfred M. Britton, his nephew Cata (whose full name seems to have been lost to history), Henry Harrison Campbell, Spottswood W. Lomax, and John W. Nichols founded the ranch in 1879. By 1882, the Matador consisted of 1.5 million acres west of Wichita Falls in Cottle, Dickens, Floyd, and Motley counties. Later that year, several investors from Scotland bought the ranch, renaming it the Matador Land and Cattle Co.

Under its Scottish management, the ranch prospered and grew. At its peak period of operation, the company controlled 3 million acres, counting substantial holdings in Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Canada.

By 1951, the ranch had been sold down to roughly 800,000 acres. Lazard Freres and Co. of London bought the ranch and then subdivided it for resale. A year later, Fred C. Koch, co-founder of what later became Koch Industries, purchased a substantial amount of Matador acreage. When Koch died in 1967, his son Charles inherited the business. Today, the ranch is owned by the Matador Cattle Co., a division of the Koch Agricultural Co. In addition to continuing its long history as a cattle and horse-raising operation, the Matador offers paid hunting and guest lodging.

Four Sixes Ranch

Legend holds that Samuel Burk Burnett won the Four Sixes Ranch in a poker game holding a nearly unbeatable hand of four sixes. That makes a great story, but the 6666 brand that gave the ranch its name traces to 1868, when the then 19-year-old Burnett bought 100 head of cattle with 6666 burned on their flanks from a cattleman in Denton County.

Four Sixes cowboys. Undated, UNT Portal of Texas History.

Originally from Missouri, Burnett drove longhorn herds up the Chisholm Trail from South Texas and ranched elsewhere on leased land before acquiring the acreage in King County in 1900 that became the Four Sixes. During its peak years, the Four Sixes had four separate divisions sprawling across nearly a third of a million acres.

In 1917, Burnett built a $100,000 ranch house at Guthrie to serve as residence for his manager and guests, as well as ranch headquarters. Stone quarried on the ranch went into the construction of the giant 11-bedroom structure, which Burnett rightly called &ldquothe finest ranch house in West Texas.&rdquo

Three years later, though Burnett already was a wealthy man, producing oil wells came in on his Dixon Creek Ranch near the town of Panhandle in Carson County. Shortly before his death in 1922, Burnett opined that oil might make a rancher more money than cattle.

The Burnett family holdings now consist of 275,000 acres, including the Dixon Creek Ranch. Today the ranch still raises cattle and thoroughbred quarter horses. The current owner is Burnett&rsquos great-granddaughter, Anne Burnett Windfohr Marion.

Swenson Ranches

Swedish immigrant Swante M. Swenson, who came to Texas in 1838, personified the American rags-to-riches dream. When he arrived virtually pennyless in the U.S., he didn&rsquot even speak English. When he died in 1896, he owned one of Texas&rsquos largest and most famous ranches, the SMS.

As a merchant and hotelier in Austin in the 1850s, Swenson began acquiring vast tracts of public land well beyond the frontier line in unsettled West Texas. Forced to leave Texas in 1863 because of his opposition to secession, Swenson stayed in Mexico until after the Civil War. Moving to New York, he began a banking business.

Meanwhile, Swenson retained all his inexpensively purchased land in Texas. But that asset became a liability when the Texas Legislature began organizing new counties in West Texas and his extensive land holdings suddenly became subject to taxation.

In 1881, he tried to sell all his Texas real estate but either couldn&rsquot find a buyer or didn&rsquot like the offers he got. Determined to begin realizing a return on his investment, in 1882, Swenson turned management of his property over to his two sons, Eric and S. Albin Swenson. After visiting the Texas property for the first time, they divided the land into three ranches that Swenson named after his children: Ericksdahl, Mount Albin, and Elenora. Later, the Elenora was renamed the Throckmorton Ranch and Mount Albin became the Flat Top Ranch.

The Swensons, having found that they could make money off their property, continued to buy land, including in 1898 the Tongue River Ranch in King, Motley, and Dickens counties.

In 1902, the Swensons hired Frank S. Hastings as SMS manager. Over the next 20 years, Hastings produced and marketed high-grade beef and brought about numerous ranching innovations. A pioneer public relations practitioner, Hastings crafted the ranch&rsquos slogan, &ldquoIt takes a great land to produce great beef!&rdquo

The Swensons donated land for the town of Stamford on the Jones-Haskell county line, built a hotel, attracted a rail line, and even assisted in getting the town a Carnegie Library. In 1924, they constructed a brick-and-stone office building in Stamford to serve as the ranch headquarters.

Swenson family members also played a prominent role in organizing the Texas Cowboy Reunion in 1930, a rodeo and celebration held in Stamford every July 4th weekend since then. Over the years, many of the old cowboys honored at the event were waddies who had spent their entire career on one of the Swenson ranches.

In 1978, the Swenson family split the SMS Ranches into four separate companies, each owned by a group of family members. Since then, the ranches have been sold outside the family.

Through the 1920s, if a person wanted to take a deer off someone&rsquos land, about all he needed to do was ask. But starting in the 1930s, with cattle prices suppressed by a national depression, it occurred to some ranchers that they could charge for the privilege of hunting on their land. Today, some Texas ranches make a large portion of their income by leasing land for hunting, or charging by the day or by the game animal.

One of the first ranches to diversify in this way is also one of Texas&rsquos most historic, the famed YO Ranch in Kerr County.

Former Texas Ranger captain Charles A. Schreiner acquired more than a half million acres on the Edwards Plateau beginning in 1880. He got his start rounding up and selling longhorns, but diversified into banking and retail sales. In 1914, he divided his holdings among his eight children.

Son Walter got 69,000 acres about 40 miles west of Kerrville, the property still known as the YO. Walter managed the ranch through the terrible drought of 1917&ndash1918 and into the Great Depression. When he died in 1933, his widow, Myrtle Schreiner, took over the operation of the ranch. A particularly forward-thinking businesswoman, she is credited with being the first Texas rancher to come up with the idea of leasing a ranch for deer and turkey hunting.

Her son Charles Schreiner III began managing the ranch in the 1950s about the time a drought even worse than the 1917 dry spell took hold. Money earned from hunters helped mitigate the impact of the drought on the ranch. Later, Schreiner started a registry for longhorn cattle and almost single-handedly saved the historic breed. He also introduced imported exotic wildlife to the ranch, pioneering another new way to make money off the land by offering hunts for trophy African game animals in the Texas Hill Country.

Schreiner&rsquos son Louie took over operation of the ranch in the late 1980s. Following Louie&rsquos death, Charles IV and his wife, Mary, began running the ranch, which continues to flourish as a hunting and outdoor recreation destination, as well as a working traditional ranch.

The Waggoner Ranch

While not as well known as the King Ranch, this Northwest Texas spread is three years older and at 550,000 acres, more than half its size. But unlike the King Ranch, which is made up of several non-contiguous divisions, the Waggoner Ranch is Texas&rsquos largest cattle fiefdom behind a single fence. It stretches from near Wichita Falls eastward to Vernon, covering parts of Archer, Baylor, Foard, Knox, Wichita, and Wilbarger counties.

Dan Waggoner acquired 15,000 acres in 1850 in Wise County, registering a brand for his longhorns that consisted of three backward-facing Ds. Four years later, he dropped two of the Ds, but for years the Waggoner Ranch was best known as the Three D Ranch.

When Waggoner died in 1903, his son W.T. took over operation of the property. In 1910, he divided the ranch among his children, but in 1923 the holdings were reunited and placed into a family trust.

Cowboy humorist Will Rogers was a close friend of the Waggoner family and often visited the ranch. &ldquoI see there&rsquos an oil well for every cow,&rdquo Rogers famously observed on one visit to the ranch in the early 1930s.

Rogers&rsquo comment aside, Texas etiquette holds that it&rsquos impolite to ask a rancher how many acres or sections he owns. Nor is it considered proper to inquire as to how many head a rancher runs on his place. One writer found that out when he visited the ranch in the early 1960s. When he asked a long-time Waggoner hand how many cattle grazed on the Three D, he replied, &ldquoNot as many as before the drought of the fifties.&rdquo So, how many cattle was the ranch running on the place prior to the drought, the writer asked. &ldquoMore than now,&rdquo the cowboy answered.

Like its top-tier peers, the Waggoner Ranch raises cattle and quarter horses, its bottom line bolstered by oil and gas production. The company also has round 26,000 acres in cultivation.

Its cow herd is approximately 60 percent straight Hereford with 40 percent Angus-Hereford and Brangus-Hereford cross. Horses are bred for ranch work, and many still carry the bloodline of the famous quarter horse Poco Bueno.

Since its origin in the mid-1700s when Texas was a Spanish colonial province, ranching in Texas has changed dramatically. But writer-academician J. Frank Dobie, a man who grew up on a South Texas ranch before deciding that wrangling words and students beat punching cattle, remained bullish on the industry, and ranches in particular.

&ldquoAs long as Western land grows grass but does not receive enough rainfall to make farming practicable,&rdquo he wrote in Up the Trail from Texas, &ldquothere will be cattle ranches and cowboys.&rdquo

&ndash written by Mike Cox for the Texas Almanac 2014&ndash2015. Mr. Cox is an author of many books, articles, and columns about Texas.


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