Designed to permanently commemorate
the open-range era in the West, 18 life-size
bronzes of rangy Longhorns were sculpted and
placed in a natural setting in front of the
DeVitt-Mallet Museum Building at the National
Ranching Heritage Center. The park-like area
was named to honor the memory of longtime Four
Sixes Ranch Manager J.J. Gibson of Guthrie,
David M. DeVitt
Mallet Ranch Museum Building
Modern-day stress fades at
the main entrance of the DeVitt-Mallet Museum
Building. Inside, the pace slows; the tension
eases. The feeling of being in a sprawling ranch
building is real—the museum was designed by
architects Bill Cantrell Planners Inc. to reflect
the character of Texas and Southwestern ranch
In 1999, the Texas Tech Board
of Regents designated the 16 acres of the National
Ranching Heritage Center as Proctor Park in
honor of Foy Proctor (1896-1988). Raised on
his parents' West Texas Ranch. Mr. Proctor began
ranching independently in 1917, eventually owning
cattle ranches in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona
and a large cattle buying partnership in Nebraska.
His primary ranches were the C Ranch north of
Midland, Texas, and the Proctor Ranch, which
included 95 sections of the old XIT in Hartley
County, Texas. The ranches received awards for
cattle breeding and soil and water conservation
practices. In 1984, he received the National
Golden Spur Award honoring his leadership in
the livestock industry. Mr. Proctor's legacy
continues to support education and youth through
his bequest to Texas Tech University.
Click here to view
the dedication plaque.
For more than two decades,
land at the National Ranching Heritage Center
stood vacant, awaiting Los Corralitos, the “Little
Corrals.” What the Ranch Headquarters Planning
Committee did not know when they identified
the old fortified home for placement in the
historical park were the secrets that had been
sealed inside it for more than 200 years. Those
secrets would eventually cause Los Corralitos
to be the only total reproduction at the National
Ranching Heritage Center.
It is a paradox that a crude
log cabin, so ordinary in character and clouded
by uncertainties, could boast an eminent genealogy.
El Capote has been linked with royalty, politicians,
war heroes and a future United States President.
The Old West is a story with
many chapters, each one comprised of the people
who played a role in the settlement of the new
frontier. The log house from south of Fort Mason,
Texas, represents one of those chapters. It’s
a story of 7,000 German immigrants to Texas,
an unsolved murder and the transformation of
a building as the times called for a change.
Stories of Indian attacks,
cattle drives and the women left behind to tend
the ranch have been recreated in movies and
other works of fiction. The prototype for those
stories could have been created by the family
who lived in the stone house on the JOLY Ranch
in Palo Pinto County, Texas.
Just inside the west boundary
of Knox County, Texas, some 25 miles northeast
of Guthrie, a 12-foot by 16-foot rock building
stands alone in the Mare Pasture of the Lowrance
Ranch. Known by ranch hands over the years as
the Mail Camp, the structure may have been built
in the late 1870s near a military road, later
used as a stage line route.
Civilization pushed West of
the Mississippi River, erecting homes as it
went. It stopped short of West Texas, however,
stunned by the arid, flat country. The land
was said to be an “uninhabitable wasteland”
by Army explorer R.B. Marcy. So most people
avoided the area and moved elsewhere. True adventurers
who saw the West Texas plains as a place where
cattle could get fat, cautiously ventured in.
There, they encountered an environment void
of anything to disrupt the endless horizon.
For shelter, they scooped out a hole in the
The Waggoner Ranch Commissary
represents the large ranch that provided for
its own during the growth and development of
the cattle industry in the West. It stands for
family continuity over the generations and for
the impact of oil discovery on ranch land.
Almost anything was possible
in the American West, when determination was
behind a goal. Christopher Columbus Slaughter
(1837-1919) is a perfect example of such a story.
His ranch, including leased land, at one time
totaled more than two million acres. Yet it
started out as a mere hole in the ground. His
Long S Whiteface Camp headquarters is a link
between the simplest of dugouts and later homes
built when the railroad made lumber accessible.
A ranch wife refused to move
West with her husband until he promised to build
her a frame house above ground. She told him,
“I will not have dirt over my head until I die.”
So, he built her a box and strip house, which
may or may not have made her happy. Although
economical, these houses had no insulation.
The walls moved in and out during a strong wind.
In a snowstorm, streaks of snow that corresponded
exactly with the cracks in the wall formed on
The usual ranch schoolhouse
was a one-room building named for the rancher
or the ranch. Others had colorful monikers like
Lick Skillet, Possum Trot, Cedar Ridge, Hell
Roaring Holler and Chicken Foot. The Bairfield
Schoolhouse was briefly called Polecat University,
after an encounter with a skunk. Like the 16-by-16-foot
Bairfield Schoolhouse from near Clarendon, Texas,
the schools remained as long as children needed
It took four owners and 34 years
to build the house that was situated in a quiet
draw beside Hackberry Creek in Scurry County.
But it only took the sisters Fay and Myrtle
Harrell, plus “a jackleg carpenter,” a little
more than a year to totally restore it from
near total dilapidation. The dwelling sheltered
families during the era that began with free-range
ranching and ended with barbed wire and agriculture.
The Harrell House is typical of home expansion.
The rancher or farmer could ill afford to discard
any building. As families grew and fortunes
improved, houses, likewise, expanded.
“Home was wherever a cowboy
hung his hat.” The cliché had truth to it. Cowboys
of the American West were vagabonds, roaming
from place to place. At the ranch headquarters,
the bunkhouse was their home until they moved
The latest addition to Proctor
Park reminds visitors of the contributions of
Daniel Webster "80 John" Wallace to the history
The XIT, according to author/historian
Joe B. Frantz, was the largest ranch under fence
in the United States and probably the world.
It was not a financial success, he said, but
the ranch was significant. “It showed there
need not be a conflict between now and the future.
As civilization crowded in, the XIT made room
for it and welcomed it, and so became a part
of the folklore of history. The investors intended
from the beginning to sell out, to become a
great land development company to bring settlers
The JA is among the best-known
ranches in Texas and perhaps the entire Southwest.
Well-run through more than 100 years, its good
management plus the cast of players who owned
and operated the ranch have propelled the JA
into a prominent place in history. The people
behind the formation of the JA Ranch were Charles
Goodnight, John Adair and Cornelia Wadsworth
Ritchie Adair, an unlikely partnership, or so
The 400,000-acre Matador Ranch
was one of several huge spreads owned or backed
by foreign investors. Unlike some that were
bought to ultimately be sold again as farm and
ranch development property, the Matador was
bought for the long haul. From the beginning,
it was managed to be a profit-making, productive
ranch. Because of close supervision by its Scottish
owners of everything from cowboy etiquette to
the books, the business was profitable far into
the 20th century.
It was the dream of Joseph James
Barton to have his elegant, two-and-a-half-story
house located near a railroad depot and train.
Although with much effort to make the dream
a reality, it didn’t materialize. The Bartons’
home was the first structure in a planned community
on a railroad line that never came through.
distinct sound on a ranch was the ring of a
blacksmith’s hammer hitting iron. The smell
of coal or burning mesquite wood filled the
air, as bar iron glowed red in the hot fire.
In short order, the skilled blacksmith created
a new rim for a wagon wheel, a pair of shoes
for the mule team, a branding iron for the ranch
hands and repaired the windmill for the ranch.
On a large spread, one of the first structures
built was the blacksmith’s shop. And one of
the most valuable ranch hands was the smithy.
Spur Granary and Stables
Granary was built with “sweat equity,” long
before anyone knew what those words meant. Ultimately,
it was designed to make an easier job each day
of feeding the ranch’s horses. At the time of
its donation to the National Ranching Heritage
Center in 1969, the structure was still operative,
but it was presented for preservation and interpretation
because of its historical value. The granary
represents human ingenuity and innovation, byproducts
of this well-known ranch.
rancher had a carriage house, and certainly
not those just starting out. The building housed
fine buggies and surreys, pulled by excellent
horses. The carriage house was a possession
aspired to by many young men. It came with prosperity
and usually a wife and children, as most dignified
ladies did not ride long distances horseback.
The carriage house was an accouterment of John
B. Slaughter’s fine ranch headquarters in Post,
Texas, made possible from years of hard work
and smart business transactions.
In the 1920s,
the Canon Ranch in southwest Texas built this
sheep hospital shed to aid in the battle against
the screwworm infestation. Prior to the 1962
screwworm eradication program along the Texas/Mexico
border, the worms were killing hundreds of head
of livestock every year. The cowboys on the
ranch carried medicine in their saddlebags to
treat wounds on animals in the pasture, but
there was only so much that could be done to
help in the pasture. More severe cases of infestation
were brought to the hospital shed where the
livestock could be protected from flies while
the wounds were treated.
business could be a good life for those who
worked hard and were lucky. Money made from
cattle drives often built homes and barns on
ranches throughout the West. One such sizeable
structure became the stable for Thoroughbred
race horses and game cocks, not the kind of
livestock found on a typical ranch.
depot was an exciting place. With people coming
and going and cowhands returning from cattle
markets, all sorts of news was brought from
other towns to the far-flung settlements in
the West. In the depot, all the arrangements
were made for cattle movement, package and freight
shipment and passenger travel. Most depots looked
similar—even the paint colors were standardized
by the railroad company that built them. In
some towns, the depot was just one of several
buildings comprising a railhead.
could speak, what might this old barn tell?
It was built by one of the most influential
and prosperous ranchers in Texas and eventually
housed expensive horses with fine bloodlines,
animals admired by some of the wealthiest men
and women in the West. For many years a landmark
in Guthrie, Texas, the 6666 (pronounced “Four
Sixes”) Barn stood near the imposing home Samuel
Burk Burnett built in 1917 to be “the finest
ranch house in West Texas,” headquarters of
his ranching empire.
The simple wood-frame structure
was a sanctuary for family reunions, birthday
parties and, of course, daily meals for the
ranch hands and cowboys as early as 1900. The
building sat just a few yards away from the
Big House, where many of the Pitchfork ranch
managers made their home. A few yards out the
back door of the Cookhouse, the land drops off
to the north bank of the South Wichita River.
Horses graze in nearby pastures. Tamed wild
turkeys milled around nearby eating corn chips
thrown out for them by the cook. And at every
mealtime, the old dinner bell was rung to call
everyone in to eat.
A rancher built for the
long run, but the pioneer "made do." The settler
heading for a new life in the west used materials
at hand to construct a shelter for himself and
his family. Where he could find trees, he built
a log cabin. In hill country, he used river
rock and stones. On the plains he shoveled a
hole in the ground for a dugout.
Far West Texas was a country between trees
and hills and plains, with no rocks or trees
and the soil was sandy. Here were crumbly caliche,
small brush and desert plants. But the land
was available to homesteaders, if they could
handle the life it required of them.