Large tracts of Texas acreage have been part of the folklore of Texas ever since it achieved statehood in 1845. Following are just a few examples of individuals and families, who accumulated substantial acreage holdings
The 825,000-acre King Ranch was founded in 1853 by Richard King, a riverboat captain and entrepreneur. The King Ranch, covering parts of six counties, is located in southern Texas, between Corpus Christi and Brownsville. It is one of the largest ranches in the world.
The Waggoner Ranch was founded in the 1870s by Dan Waggoner. The ranch, located west of Wichita Falls, comprises 520,000 acres. The Waggoner Ranch is the second largest ranch in Texas today, after the King Ranch.
Another large acreage holding is the Pitchfork Ranch, located east of Lubbock. This ranch, organized in 1883, contains 181,000 acres and has 3,000 miles of fences. The Pitchfork Ranch is still operated by descendents of the original financial backer, Eugene Williams, from St. Louis.
Perhaps one of the most interesting stories involving huge tracts of Texas acreage would be the history of the XIT Ranch. In 1879, the Texas legislators appropriated 3,000,000 acres of land in the Panhandle to be used to finance a new state capitol. They then struck a deal with Charles and John Farwell. The Farwells agreed to form a syndicate, raise $3 million to build the new capitol, and accept the 3,000,000 acres as payment. That 3,000,000 acres became the XIT Ranch, and cattle operations commenced in 1885.
Soon thereafter, the cattle market collapsed, and by 1888, the ranch was losing money. By 1901, the syndicate that owned the ranch began selling land to pay off foreign investors. By 1905, most of the land was gone, with tracts being sold to other cattlemen and small farmers.The XIT Ranch is a prime example of the idea that Texas acreage can only increase in value through the years—and if it is purchased cheaply enough, it is impossible to lose money owning the land. Yet the XIT Ranch syndicate purchased 3,000,000 acres for $1 per acre and eventually lost the land. What if the syndicate hadn’t thrown away money on cattle, and instead had treated the 3,000,000 acres as a land investment? In other words, what would 3,000,000 acres of even the cheapest land in Texas be worth today? At just $500 per acre, it would be worth $1.5 billion!
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