Mallet Ranch

The Mallet Ranch has had a long life in West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico for many years. The core of the property originated in the holdings of D. P. Atwood who once held the cattle brand. We have seen the name either spelled with one t and two ts at the end. We will assume that “Mallet” is the correct spelling for purposes of this article for entities after Atwood’s.

The Mallet brand somewhat resembled the head of a hammer or mallet. Some call it a croquet mallet. The brand was acquired around 1885, after the Atwood group had begun to dispose of its interests, by David DeVitt and John Scharbauer who incorporated their own entity in 1903.

Like many other Texas families, members of the DeVitt family had originally come from the eastern United States. Phillip DeVitt was the first to arrive in Texas and David came shortly afterward. Newly married, Phillip moved around 1877 while David remained in New York, working as a journalist for two or three more years. Phillip had settled near Brady and David joined him in 1880. Together they braved hardships of the life and operated a sheep ranch. Difficulties that they encountered included raids from the native tribes, range fires, severe weather and other natural calamities in addition to hostility from local cattle ranchers. By about 1882, they had elected to move further west and were living in Howard and Midland counties, still raising sheep.

The brothers assisted in relocating their mother Elizabeth to Fort Worth around 1883. Their mother had become a widow in the mid 1850s when her husband, also named David DeVitt, had reportedly died in 1855 or 1856 as a result of injuries sustained in a carriage accident in Baltimore, Maryland. No record can be located describing the accident, but the brothers’ uncle, also named Phillip DeVitt, handled the decedent’s estate around 1857.

The brother David married the former Florence Bailey of Fort Worth in 1884 and their daughter Christine was born the following year. A son named Harold was born around 1887. Phillip and David and their families relocated for a time in San Angelo. After a while they elected to dissolve their partnership. About 1893, Phillip sold his interest and moved to Fort Worth where he would reside for the rest of his life. There he was primarily engaged in the real estate business and by all accounts was quite successful.

David’s new partner was John Scharbauer. John had come from New York to Eastland, Texas in 1880, which just happened to be where the rail line stopped at that time. After some time working in unrelated jobs, including being a dishwasher, John also had established a sheep ranch.  A few years later, he next moved further west to the Sweetwater and Abilene area. In 1884 he moved once more to Mitchell County in the general vicinity of Colorado City.  His sheep business had continued to be successful, and John also became interested in raising cattle, purchasing his first bulls and cows in the 1880s.

John’s parents were Ferdinand and Rosana Scharbauer who were born in Germany. They had settled in New York where John was born along with about seven other siblings. Other members of the Scharbauer family decided to join him in Texas. In 1889, the Christian Scharbauer family followed him, settling in Midland. John had married the former Kate Tompkins in 1876 and the couple had their only child, a daughter, two years later.

Many people and companies had also begun to come to West Texas to engage in the livestock business. Two of these individuals were Dwight P. Atwood and Roswell A. Neal who, along with other investors, had formed the Mallett Cattle Company in the state of Connecticut during 1883 with headquarters near Colorado City, Texas. At one point their holdings extended from West Texas on further north and west to just into New Mexico, in Lea County, with total holdings of around ninety thousand acres. During the 1890s, due to various factors the company’s fortunes had declined to the point where it was forced to take bankruptcy in 1893.

Bankruptcy receivers sold off assets to different individuals and companies. Scharbauer and DeVitt had earlier acquired the mallet cattle brand. One of the buyers in West Texas included Theodore Schuster who operated a livestock business there for a short time, but ultimately sold to DeVitt and Scharbauer around 1895.

The DeVitt and Scharbauer became partners in this venture and their operation continued the name Mallet, or Mallet Ranch, following the custom of adopting the brand which was the dominant one for its holdings. Together, the partners operated and expanded their combined holdings and improved the ranch to the point where it operated in Yoakum, Terry, Cochran and Hockley counties. The ranch headquarters were moved to a location about halfway between Plains and Levelland, Texas.

The ranch expanded into some farming and oil was also later discovered to supplement the ranching income. David DeVitt, Sr. and Florence had four children: two daughters and two sons. The eldest son, Harold, was killed in a West Texas hunting accident in 1901. The second son, David DeVitt, Jr. died in 1930 from injuries sustained in a West Texas automobile accident. David, Sr. passed away in 1934 and Florence followed him in death in 1945. Each are buried in separate locations in Los Angeles County of California. For many years following the death of David, Sr. the ranch was managed by the sisters, primarily Christine, the oldest daughter. She and her sister Helen resided in the Lubbock area and together have been great benefactors of the area. Through their charitable foundations, their many and widely varied civic and charitable interests include the Ranching Heritage Museum on the campus of Texas Tech University which was the repository for many of the historic ranch records.

John Scharbauer continued to expand his holdings in addition to his joint interests with David DeVitt. He and other Scharbauer family members founded the Scharbauer Cattle Company which is still in operation. His investments included interests in banking and other corporations. The interests also benefited from the discovery of oil. John was once honored by a group of his peers with an engraved “loving cup” on which was inscribed “Going Strong Since 1851 – 83 Years of Service. A Pioneer, a Patriot, a Splendid Citizen, a Loyal Friend.” Scharbauer passed away from complications of a heart attack in 1941 at the age of eighty-nine. Kate had predeceased him in 1935 and both are buried in Greenwood Memorial Park in Fort Worth.

The Mallet Ranch headquarters building still stands. It is reportedly in a deteriorating condition, but we understand that there have been discussions by some to restore it.

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