Bonds Ranch, Saginaw, Texas
P.R. (Bob) Bonds was born in Nocona, Texas in 1891. Returning from Europe after World War I, he left the family’s north Texas farm in pursuit of oil. After hitting wells in Ranger, Texas and throughout east Texas, he returned to north Texas, and in 1933 purchased 5,000 acres of the Mary Hicks Ranch located in Hicks, Texas and started what is now known as Bonds Ranch. Bob then hired Jack Bullard as the first ranch foreman to manage the 400 head Hereford operation. In 1944, Owen J. (Big Pete) Burnett was hired as ranch foreman. Big Pete, a cowboy’s cowboy, believed in raising the best cattle and horses and he maintained that tradition at Bonds Ranch until his death in 1984.
Pete Bonds, Bob’s youngest son, was mentored by Burnett. As a child, Pete was so fond of shadowing Big Pete and learning the ins and outs of a ranch and being a cowboy that he earned the nickname “Little Pete.” In 1973, Pete graduated from Texas Christian University’s Ranch Management Program and in 1975 he finished his degree in Business from TCU. A year later, Pete married Lily Josephene (Jo) Tabb and they raised their family on the ranch headquarters in Saginaw, Texas in the same ranch house in which he’d grown up.
As a family operation, Pete relies on his family for the management of the ranch. He continues to manage Bonds Ranch with Jo at his side, and their three daughters, Missy, Bonnie and April all grew up working the ranch like their father before them. Missy now works alongside Pete (just as Pete did with Big Pete) at the ranch headquarters and manages the age and source verified calves and the non-hormone treated cattle that qualify for export to the European Union and Japan. Bonnie and her husband Clint Anderson, along with their daughters Kaycee and Larkin split their time between their yearling operation in Texas and Colorado. April has lived the past 4 years in Mexico and will be in Washington, D.C. in the fall to pursue her MBA.
R.A. Brown Ranch – Throckmorton, Texas
R.A. Brown Ranch has been a family business since 1895 and continues to be recognized as a leader in raising top quality cattle and Quarter Horses. The ranch has received both the NCBA Cattle Business of the Century Award and the AQHA/NCBA Best Remuda Award. The ranch covers 33,000 acres in Texas and Colorado.
R.A. Brown Ranch is known best for its powerful breeding bulls that they sell each October. Five breeds make up the cow herd: Angus, Red Angus, SimAngus, Simmental and Hotlander ™ (a composite breed developed on the ranch).
The entire ranch has developed through merging Brown, Thomas, and Donnell family ranch land, some dating back as early as 1876. R.H. Brown, managing partner of a livestock commission company of the historic Fort Worth stockyards, established the Brown Ranch in Throckmorton just after the turn of the century. His son, R.A. Brown, Sr. managed the ranch and also helped organize the American Quarter Horse Association and was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. R.A. (Rob) Brown, Jr., served as President of AQHA and has also been inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.
R.A. Brown Ranch is currently operated by Rob Brown and his wife Peggy, son Donnell and his wife Kelli, and daughter Betsy and her husband Jody Bellah. Though recognized as a working family ranch for five generations, the Brown family gives much recognition to their loyal, dedicated, and hard-working employees who work daily with them to reach the Ranch’s goals.
Circle Bar Ranch – Truscott, Texas
The Circle Bar Ranch was founded in 1982 by Jerry Bob (JB) and Eugenie Daniel. They began purchasing and leasing property in the Truscott, Texas area where the ranch is presently headquartered. They have operated in Foard, Cottle, King and Knox counties but in 1991 decided to focus operations in Knox County. They are a cow/calf and wheat stocker operation.
Their ranch operation consists of 43,000 acres which was established mainly from three historic ranches located in Truscott. Those ranch families were the Craig, Browder, and Shawver’s. Jim Craig registered his brand in 1883 and later moved to Truscott in 1885 where the half dugout they occupied for three years still exists. C. I. Browder registered his brand in 1883 and later moved to Truscott in 1896. Since 1926 five generations of that same family have been cattlemen or cowboyed in the Truscott and western Foard county area.
Eugenie’s family founded the Pitchfork Ranch near Guthrie, Texas in 1883. She manages the horse operation and breeding of Circle Bar Pistol, the ranch stallion. Circle Bar Pistol has accomplishments in AQHA shows in Ranch Versatility, RHAA and ranch rodeos winning top horse at four ranch rodeos since September 2007.
They also have an all angus cow herd which was started from heifer’s Jerry Bob’s father acquired from D. S. and Ila Masterson Ellis in 1960. The foundation from the Daniel’s cow breeding program has been angus for over fifty years. In 1985 they purchased heifers from Bill Masterson located in King county west of Truscott and the Floyce Masterson ranch in that same area of King county in 1991. The Masterson’s were noted as having brought the angus breed to this country.
Burns Ranch – Henrietta, Texas
In 1890, Aldolphus W. Raht of German descent bought a large portion of the Red River Cattle Company in northern Texas. His headquarters was the original Block Bar Ranch located in southern Clay County. He raised high quality ranch horses and Hereford cattle.
Aldolphus and Ella Mae raised one son on the ranch, Carlyle Graham. Carlyle later in life became an author. One of his books titled “Old Buck and I” is a collection of first-hand stories on the ranch during a time of Indian raids and fence wars.
In 1928, blizzards, droughts and disease finally forced the Rahts to deed the ranch to banker Carl Worsham of Henrietta. In 1934, Lillian and L.T. Burns of Wichita Falls purchased the ranch from the Worsham Estate. The sales price was $9.70 per acre. Lillian’s grandfather, C.L. “Kit” Carter was a prominent cattleman near Palo Pinto. Kit served as the first president of the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association in 1877. The TSCRA continues to play a vital role in the cattle industry and ranching traditions.
Becky Burns Johnson, granddaughter of Lillian and L.T., grew up in Wichita Falls. She spent summers on the ranch with her grandparents and three brothers. In the 1980s, she acquired sole ownership of the ranch. She continues adding acreage to the ranch in Clay and Jack counties.
Today, Becky lives in and preserves the original Raht Ranch house built in the early 1890s. Her son, Graham, lives on the ranch and serves as ranch manager. They run a commercial Black Angus cow/calf operation, background yearlings and raise a small registered Angus herd.
Each generation continues to take great pride in improving the land and livestock while preserving the ranching heritage on the Burns Ranch.
Pitchfork Land & Cattle Company – Guthrie, Texas
From all accounts, the Pitchfork Land & Cattle Company would not exist were it not for the life-long friendship of two men–Daniel Baldwin Gardner and Eugene Flewellyn Williams. Both men were born in the South in 1851 to plantation-owning families.
In 1871, tales of abundant opportunity in Texas lured Gardner to Fort Griffin, located near present-day Albany. In February of 1877, Gardner was one of 17 men who drafted plans for what was to become one of the most powerful and prestigious livestock organizations in the world, which is known today as the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
In the summer of 1881, Gardner learned that Jerry Savage, who had been running cattle on the South Wichita River under a Pitchfork brand, was interested in selling land, equipment and stock. Needing capital, Gardner thought of his boyhood friend, Eugene Williams.
In 1881, Williams journeyed to Fort Worth and after a dinner meeting announced he was ready to close the deal, without seeing either the land or the cattle. Williams said he was investing in the venture solely because he had the highest regard for his friend, Dan Gardner. Williams wrote a check and took the night train back to St. Louis.
The property Gardner and Williams purchased included 2,600 longhorn cattle, 70 horses, wagons and camp equipment, but little land. They did obtain rights to the ranch that bordered the South Wichita River in eastern Dickens and western King counties.
Wishing to expand, but lacking capital, the two men found two willing investors from Texas, A.P. Bush Jr. and Samuel Lazarus and two from St. Louis, A.D. Brown and W. H. Carroll.
In St. Louis on December 29, 1883, the partners gathered to adopt the by-laws and elect officers of the newly formed corporation known as the Pitchfork Land & Cattle Company. Gardner was chosen to be general manager, a position he held until his death in June of 1928.
Only six managers have filled the vacancy left by Gardner. These included 0.A. “Red Mud” Lambert, D. Burns, Jim Humphreys and Bob Moorhouse. Today, the ranch is managed by Brooks Hodges.
The Pitchfork Land & Cattle Company stretches some 181,000 acres in three west Texas counties and newly acquired acreage in Waurika, Oklahoma known as the Pitchfork OK Ranch. The descendants of Eugene Williams continue to operate the 128-year-old ranch in the same conservative manner as did the ranch’s founders.
Rocker b Ranch – Barnhart, Texas
The Rocker b Ranch may not be as well-known as some of the other large Texas ranches; however, it has a rich history that has left a mark on many lives. The Rocker b is located approximately 50 miles west of San Angelo and covers a large portion of Irion and Reagan counties in the state’s Edwards Plateau region. The ranch consists of 173,000 contiguous acres of gently rolling mesquite and cactus prairie with the Middle Concho River and Centrailia Draw crossing its north side.
The Rocker b Ranch, formerly known as the Bar-S Ranch, was assembled during a four decade period 1871 through 1910 by the Sawyer Cattle Company. The ranch was originally carved out of a portion of the old Bexar District and later became part of both Irion (1885) and Reagan (1903) counties.
The ranch’s first barbed-wire fence establishing exterior boundary lines was constructed in 1884. Cattle, horses and many species of wildlife have grazed within the confines of the Rocker b since that time.
In 1954, the Bar-S was purchased by William Blakley, a Dallas lawyer, banker, businessman and U.S. Senator. After the purchase, Senator Blakley changed the name of the ranch and its brand to the Rocker b. Under Blakley’s ownership the ranch continued its reputation as a premier Texas cattle ranch.
In May 1964, the Rocker b Ranch was deeded by Senator Blakley to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. This act of generosity has helped Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children to become one of the nation’s leading pediatric centers, treating thousands of children each year from every corner of the state for orthopedic conditions and learning disorders, like dyslexia.
The Rocker b has a fascinating history and is facing a bright future. A progressive breeding program involving the ranch’s Angus and Hereford cattle, along with raising quality ranch horses, maintains the Rocker b’s reputation as a top cattle ranch. The common thread which has been woven throughout the history of the ranch is one of being blessed with abundant natural resources and progressive hard-working people.
Spade Ranches – Lubbock, Texas
The Spade Ranches legacy began in 1889, when DeKalb, Illinois natives Colonel Isaac Ellwood and his son, W.L. Ellwood, made a simple business trip to West Texas. In 1874, Ellwood became one of the original patent holders of barbed wire, when he and his neighbor developed an economical way to keep livestock out of the area’s farms. The invention quickly changed the Midwest farmland, but the Ellwoods saw a burgeoning market in the vast expanses of the West Texas plains.
They went as far as the rails would take them to Colorado City, the “Cowman’s Capital,” where landowners, ranchers and cowboys gathered to network. While sales were the primary purpose of the trip, Ellwood also saw investment opportunity in the local real estate. Among the ranchers the Ellwoods met were the Snyder brothers. The brothers must have been shrewd businessmen themselves because not only did they resist Ellwood’s sales pitch, they convinced him to buy their 130,000 acre ranch. The ranch was headquartered at Renderbrook Springs. Renderbrook took its name, in the rather distorted form, from Captain Rendlebrock of Fort Concho, Texas, who camped at the spring and had a small skirmish with the Comanche in 1872.
The elder Ellwood quickly put his son, W.L., to work purchasing a herd to stock the new ranch. He found 800 head of cows from J.F. “Spade” Evans, branded with the distinctive spade. Along with the cows, he bought the brand and the ranch took on the name.
By the 1960’s, the Spade Ranches began a planned crossbreeding program in the cow-calf operation that continues today, although adjusting with changing market demands. Today, the ranches use composite bulls (Simm/Angus and Balancer) crossing the heifers from one mating to the other composite. Today’s horse program crosses the daughters of their own son of Peptoboonsmal with their son of High Brow Cat and vice versa. The objective is to use unrelated bloodlines to produce functional ranch horses with lots of cow sense and bottom.
The Spade Ranches today consist of six outfits: the original Renderbrook Spade in Mitchell, Sterling and Coke counties; the Borden Spade in Borden County; the Wagon Creek Spade in Throckmorton and Baylor counties; the North Spade in Briscoe and Motley counties; the Panhandle Spade in Roberts County; and the Alpine Spade in Brewster and Presidio counties totaling about 275,000 acres. John Welch is the President and C.E.O. of Spade Ranches and the board of directors consist of six great-great-grandchildren of Isaac Ellwood along with outside directors.
Swenson Land & Cattle Company – Swenson, Texas
In 1854 Svante Magnus Swenson, a Swedish merchant and banker, bought Texas acreage, then a barren, unsettled wilderness, before the Civil War. He later gave his sons, E.P. and S.A. Swenson, the land to develop and as a result, the Swenson Brothers ranch was born.
The brothers purchased additional land, and by the early 1900’s ranch operations compromised almost 500,000 acres in four separate units, referred to as Flat Top; Throckmorton, Tongue River, and Spur Ranches, the last two of which have been sold. The enterprise was incorporated under the name of Swenson Land and Cattle Co. Inc. in 1926.
The brothers started ranching originally with native Texas longhorns which were branded with an SMS in honor of their father. Later, purebred Hereford and shorthorn cattle were introduced to upgrade the native stock and ultimately, selective breeding produced an entire herd of Herefords.
The ranch started a new era of cattle marketing in 1903 with a unique mail order catalogue which marketed cattle in carload lots, and was issued to Corn Belt farmers. The system is still in use.
In 1978 the company was partitioned into four separate family-owned corporations. Today’s SMS is owned by the Bruce and Parry Swenson families, both are great-great grandsons of SM Swenson. The ranch today consists of The Flat Top and a Portion of the Throckmorton units.
Today the ranch consists of cow/calf operations producing feeder calves and yearlings. Stocker calves are pastured on company wheat lands. The SMS Horse program has been reborn and 41 mares are now being run on the ranch to produce both replacement geldings for the ranch remuda, and for sale to the public. The SMS’s new mission is to maintain quality cattle and horses, mold business to today’s modern demands, yet maintain history and heritage. In 2005 the dust was blown off the old chuck wagon and today it stays out six weeks a year for both spring and fall works.
Tongue River Ranch – Dumont, Texas
In 1898 Eric and Albin Swenson purchased the 79,000 acre Scab 8 Ranch. The ranch was located in the excellent ranch country of King, Cottle, Motley and Dickens counties. The brothers renamed it Tongue River Ranch (TRR) because of its location on the Tongue (South Pease) River, aptly named in reference to black tongue, a nineteenth century disease which wiped out many buffalo in the region. Folklore also states that the many different Indian tribes in the area nicknamed the river “River of Many Tongues” which was later shortened to Tongue River.
Present day owner, Millard Morris purchased Tongue River at its current size of 89,000 acres in 1997, and added the New Mexico division in 2005. In 2007, the 30,000 acre Big Baldy Ranch was added to the New Mexico division. The facilities are modern, but the feel of the ranch is that of the old west. The cowboys roll out the chuck wagon pulled by a team of mules twice a year for two weeks in the fall and spring. The cattle are worked just as they were 100 years ago.
The Ranch Manager is Tom Moorhouse. Tom and his wife Becky have been instrumental in preserving the ranch heritage.
Paramount to the Tongue River Ranch operation is their outstanding horse program. TRR has concentrated on raising horses that are well built, highly intelligent and incredible athletes. This is evidenced by the numerous ranch rodeo wins and top horse honors TRR has received.
Tongue River Ranch takes great pride in preserving the land for future generations. Continuing tradition and preserving history is a way of life, not a job at Tongue River Ranch.
W.T. Waggoner Ranch – Vernon, Texas
The Waggoner Ranch began with Dan Waggoner, father of W.T. Waggoner. Dan Waggoner was born in Tennessee in 1828. He moved to Texas with his family at the age of 10, and they settled in Red River County. He married in 1849, and W.T. (Tom) was born in August of 1852. In 1854, Dan moved his possessions and family to a location near Decatur, Texas. Soon Dan began buying land in western Wise County. Tom grew up during the Civil War and the hard times of the Indian uprising. In 1870, Dan and Tom drove a herd of cattle to market in Kansas and returned with $55,000, which was considered as fortune at that time. They began to expand their land to the west, and operated under the name Dan Waggoner & Son. Dan Waggoner died in 1903, and Tom continued expansion of his ranching interests on his own until 1923, when he formed what is today known as the W.T. Waggoner Estate. Tom served as Trustee, and his three children Guy Waggoner, Electra Waggoner and E. Paul Waggoner comprised the Board of Directors. The ranch today is owned by A.B. Wharton and Electra Waggoner Biggs Family Trusts, who are descendents of the original Board of Directors.
Today, the W.T. Waggoner Estate consists of approximately 520,000 acres, stretching into six counties. Headquarters are in Vernon, Texas. Main interests of the company are ranching, horses, farming and oil operations.
The cowherd consists of approximately 65% Hereford, 30% Angus Cross and 5% Brangus Cross. The cows are bred to Hereford, Angus and Charolais bulls. Much study and attention is given to bull selection each year in order to stay abreast of modern marketing.
The Waggoner Estate has a historic but modern horse operation. Ranch stallions like Pretty Boy, Blackburn and others made a strong foundation for the ranch remuda and the Quarter Horse industry itself. Waggoner won the AQHA Best Remuda Award in 1994 and a large number of the top horses in the show world today have Waggoner blood flowing through their veins. Near Electra, the ranch has a modern breeding and training facility with great young stallions. The ranch breeds not only its own, but also mares owned by the public.
The Estate has approximately 26,000 acres in cultivation, with wheat, oats and hay being the primary crops.