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BOX T RANCH

BOX T RANCH. The operation that later evolved into the Box T Ranch began in 1879 when James Monroe Day arrived from Austin and began grazing cattle on Camp Creek, a tributary of Wolf Creek in southeastern Lipscomb County. His brother Tony had a homestead on Wolf Creek near Fort Supply, Oklahoma, and a brother-in-law, Alexander Young, started the YL Ranch in Beaver County, Oklahoma. In the 1880 census the Day brothers were listed as large operators in Lipscomb County, with livestock valued at $100,000, including 10,000 cattle and 100 horses. Their hired cowhands were paid a total of $6,000 that year. In addition to the Wolf Creek range, the Days also owned grazing land in the disputed Greer County, Oklahoma. Cattle on both of these ranges carried their DAY brand.

In the summer of 1882 the Days sold their Wolf Creek holdings, including 18,000 cattle, to the Dominion Cattle Company of Canada for $450,000. The new owners moved the headquarters to the Cherokee Outlet in what is presently Ellis County, Oklahoma, and began using the Box T brand and running cattle on range leased from the Indians. That arrangement continued until 1885, when President Grover Cleveland ordered all white ranchers out of Indian Territory. A new headquarters was then constructed on Camp Creek, but until fences were erected grazing continued across the line into the territory. The twin brothers John and Sam Douglas were among the first to arrive and work for the Dominion Company. Lishe Stevens, Gaston Smith, James F. Bryson, and Frank Biggers served successively as foremen. The Box T employees helped sponsor the organization of Lipscomb County in 1886 and attempted to make their proposed townsite of Dominion, in the heart of their range, county seat. That honor went instead to Lipscomb, near the boundary of the neighboring Seven K Ranch. Higgins became the Box T's railhead and supply center. By 1887 the Dominion Company owned roughly 30,000 cattle and 400 horses.

In 1888, after settlers began coming into the area, the Dominion Company sold the Box T to a man named Dameron, who hired Patrick Doyle as range manager. Doyle purchased an interest in the ranch the following year and brought his bride, Harriet, back from his native Canada. By 1900 the Doyles had purchased the remainder of the Box T; they continued to run it on a reduced scale. Their most famous cowhand was George Sennitt, who became legendary for his wild shenanigans. A favorite story with the Doyles' three sons was that Sennitt once challenged Will Rogers, who was working for Perry Ewing's Little Rob Ranch in Oklahoma, to a horse race in Higgins. Bets were quickly made and exchanged among cowboys and townspeople; Rogers won the race by a head. Later, Rogers immortalized Sennitt as the "Irish Lad" in his newspaper columns and radio broadcasts.

After her husband's death, Harriet Doyle married John A. May, who managed the ranch until 1940, when he was killed in an accident in Amarillo. Her sons, Frank and Robert Doyle, then took over management of the Box T. In 1955 Vester L. Smith and Willis Price bought most of the ranch, and Smith became the manager. In 1986 the Doyle family still owned a share of the Box T, the only pioneer ranch extant in Lipscomb County.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). A History of Lipscomb County, Texas, 1876–1976 (Lipscomb, Texas: Lipscomb County Historical Survey Committee, 1976).

H. Allen Anderson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

H. Allen Anderson, "BOX T RANCH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apb02), accessed July 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.