XIT Ranch (place)
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Back in 1879, the Texas Legislature appropriated three million acres of land in the Panhandle to finance the construction of a new state capitol. In a special legislative session in 1882, the Lege contracted with Charles B. and John V. Farwell of Chicago, along with a syndicate of mostly British investors, to build a $3 million state capitol building in Austin in exchange for the three million acres of land.
Col. Amos C. Babcock, one of the Farwells' investors, conducted the initial survey of the property, accompanied by William S. Mabry, a surveyor from Tascosa, Texas, C.R. Vivian, the Oldham County clerk, a number of cowboys, a Mexican cook, a four-mule ambulance, an equipment wagon, and a small wall tent. It took 36 days to survey the ranch, but Babcock was satisfied with what he found and recommended that it be fenced and stocked with cattle as soon as possible.
The Farwells' new ranch stretched 200 miles along the New Mexico border, with widths varying between 20-30 miles wide. It encompassed all or parts of ten Texas counties -- Bailey, Castro, Cochran, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Hartley, Hockley, Lamb, Oldham, and Parmer. The ranch's division headquarters was located at Buffalo Springs, 32 miles north of Dalhart in Dallam County.
It's been claimed that the ranch's name stood for "Ten In Texas," referring to the ten counties it covered. However, it was, like most ranches, named after its brand, which was chosen because it was more difficult for cattle rustlers to alter.
At the ranch's peak, it included 150,000 head of cattle and contained 100 dams, 325 windmills, and 1,500 miles of fencing. At the time, it held the largest fenced range in the whole world. The XIT employed 150 cowboys, who rode 1,000 horses (not all at once). The ranch instituted very strict rules for cowboys working for the outfit, including bans on alcohol, gambling, abuse of cattle, and even use of weapons.
Despite the ranch's size and successes, it was hit hard when cattle prices plummeted in 1886-87, and the XIT had difficulty selling cattle or making a profit by the fall of 1888. The ranch was also plagued by varmints of both the two-legged and four-legged varieties. Predation by wolves was common, and rustlers were a frequent problem. These problems, combined with the high costs of running such a large ranch, as well as the occasional drought, blizzard, and fire, meant that the XIT only rarely turned a profit. In 1901, the syndicate that owned the ranch began selling off the land to pay its debts. By 1905, most of the ranch had been subdivided, with tracts sold to other cattlemen and to farmers. The last batch of XIT cattle were sold in the fall of 1912, effectively ending the XIT as an official ranch.
Several of the ranch's structures still stand at Buffalo Springs and are classified as the oldest buildings in Dallam County. Other towns throughout the Panhandle advertise their connections to the XIT, and one of the ranch's old headquarters building is displayed at the Ranching Heritage Center museum in Lubbock, Texas. The ranch records are housed in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, while Dalhart is the home of the XIT Museum and an annual XIT Reunion festival. The XIT may not have been as long-lasting, as profitable, or as influential as ranches like the 6666, the King Ranch, or the JA, it's probably the ranch that had the most impact on the history and culture of the Panhandle.
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