The King Ranch lies between Corpus Christi and Brownsville and is currently the largest ranch in Texas. Historically, it was even larger when it was known as the Santa Gertrudis under a land grand from the King of Spain to José Domingo de la Garza. It was later conveyed to José Pérez Ray whose descendants conveyed it in turn to Richard King.
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Goodnight is a name that calls to mind cattle drives from North Texas to Wyoming or Montana and also the start of ranching in the Panhandle. Charles Foxwing Goodnight, Jr. was born in Illinois, not too far north of St. Louis, Missouri to farmers Charles and Charlotte Collier Goodnight in 1836. His father died five years after this and his mother married Hiram Henry Daugherty, a farmer who lived nearby. A few years later in 1845, the family headed for Texas, settling between what is now Milam County between College Station to the east and Austin to the west. Charles did not receive much formal schooling and began working as a cowboy to help the family get by. His first stepfather Daughterty also died not long after arriving in Texas. His mother then married a minister by the name of Adam Sheek in 1853. Goodnight and a step brother, John Wesley Sheek, began a ranching operation and around 1857 they relocated it further up the Brazos to what is now Palo Pinto County. Once they got settled, they brought the family with them.
This famous ranch was founded by Charles Armand Schreiner, who was born in 1838 in Alsace-Lorraine, an area that lay between Germany and France. He came to the still young United States of America with his parents and family in 1852, settling in Bexar County. In an unexpected turn of events, both of his parents died shortly thereafter. His father Gustav passed as the result of a rattlesnake bite within a year from their arrival, followed by his mother Charlotte’s death four years later. His family was dispersed at that point, with his only sister getting married, one brother leaving for California to find gold and two other brothers remaining in San Antonio where they had found employment.
(image credit: tshaonline.org)
The XIT was once one of the largest ranches in Texas, comprising 3 million acres along the Texas-New Mexico border in the Panhandle area of the state. In 1879, the State of Texas was looking for funds with which to build the Capitol building. The Texas Legislature appropriated the remote Panhandle acreage to a syndicate led by Illinois natives John and Charles Farwell in exchange for an agreement to build the Austin structure. The original cost of the Capitol building was projected to be $1,500,000 but wound up costing about $3.7 million with the syndicate funding all but about $500,000 that the state picked up.
The name of this ranch is a familiar one to many from West Texas. I grew up within about 20 miles of the ranch and several of my parents’ friends had either worked or lived on the ranch at one time or another. The eastern boundaries of the very oldest part of the ranch began around Brownfield, Texas and extended to the Pecos River across the current state line, almost to Carlsbad, New Mexico. It originated when a Scotsman named Kennedy learned of the availability of some open land. R. F. Kennedy was to acquire it for the estate of the Earl of Aylesford. The Earl had come to Texas to try and purchase ranch land and had been temporarily been residing in the Big Spring, Texas area. As agent for the Earl, Kennedy consummated the purchase from some local buffalo hunters, one of whom went by the name of “Peg Leg” Whalen, in 1885 using his own funds. However, before Kennedy could be reimbursed for the cost of the land, the Earl unexpectedly died, leaving the ownership in the name of Kennedy.