XIT RANCH HISTORY

The XIT
Ranch

The XIT Ranch in the 1880’s was the largest ranch in the world under fence, and it all laid in the Texas Panhandle. Its three million acres sprawled from the old Yellowhouse headquarters near what is now Lubbock, Texas, northward to the Oklahoma Panhandle, in an irregular strip that was roughly about thirty miles wide.

It covered portions of ten counties: Dallam, Hartley, Oldham, Deaf Smith, Parmer, Castro, Bailey, Lamb, Cochran and Hockley which has apparently helped perpetuate the misbelief that the brand — XIT — stands for “Ten in Texas.” The brand, in fact, was originated to thwart rustlers; one of the two originators, Ab Blocker, usually attended the XIT Reunions prior to his death at Freer, Texas, in the early 1940’s.

[XIT Ranch, ca. 1881]photographDate Unknown; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth38237/m1/1/?q=xit%20ranchaccessed August 28, 2022), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas at Arlington Library.

Dolph Briscoe Center for American History | University of Texas at Austin

XIT and the Texas State Capital

XIT history is a triangle of superlatives. The XIT range was the largest in the world under fence. Texas, the biggest state in the Union, used it to pay for its red granite capitol, still the biggest state capitol on the North American continent. The Austin structure, after almost seventy years, still houses the Lone Star state government, and as capitols go, is second only in size to the one at Washington, D. C. In one respect it is even bigger than the U.S. Capitol. Its dome stands seven feet higher.

The long lasso of time must drop back to 1875. The Lone Star government was getting cramped in its old capitol, and the Texas Constitutional Convention set aside three million Panhandle acres with which to get a new capitol.

Action dragged till fire destroyed the old capitol on November 9, 1881. Governor Oren M. Roberts called a special session of the legislature. It struck a bargain with Charles B. and John V. Farwell, brothers of Chicago, under which they agreed to build a $3,000,000 capitol and accept the three million Panhandle acres in payment.

Ground for the capitol was broken in 1882. By ox-power and a specially built railroad, Burnet County’s famous red granite was transported to Austin for the historic structure.

The First Cattle

The Farwell’s borrowed money in England to develop the ranch, and on this fact was hung the one-time myth that the ranch belonged to the Englishmen. The debt was liquidated in 1909.

In 1885 the first cattle, long of leg and horn, rolled onto the XIT. Thousands of hoofs drummed along the trail, and the Longhorns were pushed on to the No. 1 Division Headquarters at Buffalo Springs, 32 miles North of Dalhart, now easily accessible by modern highway. Once the ranch ran 150,000 cattle. The corrals, foreman’s residence and bunkhouse had just been built at the Springs, and still stand, the oldest structures in Dallam County.

Ab Blocker, a South Texas trail driver, and B. H. (Barbecue) Campbell, first general manager of the ranch, who once ordered a carload of brown cigarette papers, squatted on their boot heels and in the corral dust at Buffalo Springs figured out a brand that could be run with a straight iron and that rustlers could not successfully burn over. Blocker ran the first “XIT” then and there.

WBAP-TV (Television station : Fort Worth, Tex.). [XIT ranch headquarters], photograph, 1962; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1335179/m1/1/?q=xit: accessed August 28, 2022), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.

[Cowboys Eating], photograph, 1901; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth13597/m1/1/?q=xit: accessed August 28, 2022), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Deaf Smith County Library.

The Annual XIT Reunion

Rustlers could never entirely circumvent Blocker and Campbell, but they did learn to make XIT into a Star Cross if the “T” was crossed and crooked.

For more than four decades the ranch has been slowly selling into smaller ranges and farms until at this time there remains perhaps less than 2% of the original acreage intact. These holdings are in charge of the Capitol Freehold Land Trust, with Texas headquarters at Farwell, and the general headquarters in Chicago, where heirs of the first owners are still in the saddle.

Roaming and living in the Southwest and many parts of the world, are old cowpokes who once pounded leather and smelled six-gun smoke on the XIT. It is to honor these men and their families that the annual XIT Reunion is held. Fort Worth started it in 1936. The second reunion came to Dalhart, and former XIT cowhands, comprising the XIT Association, voted Dalhart the permanent reunion home.

The latchstring on the XIT headquarters in Dalhart is always on the outside.

The 22nd Annual XIT Reunion and Rodeo will be held in Dalhart July 31, August 1 and 2, 1958.

Our History

Founded in 1885, the original XIT Ranch spanned 3 million acres.

Ranching & Cattle

Our grass-fed Black Angus produces some of the highest quality beef on the market.

Recipes

We care about where our food comes from, and we want to share it with everyone.” – Chef Abby Knowles

Fat Off Grass