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DIAMOND TAIL RANCH

DIAMOND TAIL RANCH. The Diamond Tail brand was first used in the late 1860s, when Mose Dameron of Jack County began running cattle on land now in De Baca and Roosevelt counties, New Mexico. In 1870, however, Dameron sold it, along with his herd, to the brothers Jim C. and William R. Curtis in Jack County. After securing a government contract to supply beef to the Fort Reno and Fort Sill Indian reservations, the Curtises were allowed to graze their herd along Cache Creek near Fort Sill. When the contract expired, the brothers established their first Diamond Tail headquarters, on the Big Wichita River in Clay County, near Cambridge. To this range they drove from the Indian Territory 13,000 cattle in one herd, the largest trail drive ever reported in Northwest Texas. Soon the range was crowded. After his brother's death Bill Curtis formed a new partnership with Tom J. Atkinson. In 1878 they moved the Diamond Tail herd north to Groesbeck Creek, near the site of what is now Quanah, and set up a headquarters built from native stone.

Even then, Curtis had already cast eyes on the Panhandle and its abundant grasslands; early in 1879 Dave Bowers drove the first of the Diamond Tail cattle to a new pasture in southeastern Childress County. A small rock-walled dugout in the shelter of a bluff at the mouth of Gypsum Creek served as his headquarters, though it later became part of the Shoe Nail Ranch. A drift fence (see PANHANDLE DRIFT FENCES) was erected fifteen miles to the south and extended west to the site of Parnell, in Hall County. Later, Curtis moved his headquarters to Doe Creek in Collingsworth County, near the creek's junction with Buck Creek. There he and his men occupied a two-room shack with a kitchen nearby. They built dugouts and picket shacks as line camps on various sections of the Diamond Tail range, which at its peak covered portions of Childress, Collingsworth, Donley, Hall, and Greer counties. A supply store was maintained at the headquarters to sell to bullwhackers freighting north from Gainesville, and a stage stand was established there when a stage line from Wichita Falls to Mobeetie started. The Diamond Tail headquarters, at a site four miles north of the place where Memphis was later established, soon became known as Six-Shooter Camp or Pistol Palace, after one of the ranch employees, Scott (Six-Shooter) Ferguson. Bob Butterworth served as ranch bookkeeper, and other notable cowboys included John Dodson, Sam Bean, George Lewis (Tex) Rickardqv, Town (Timberleg) Embree, John Maddox, and Jim (Pie-Biter) Baker. Pat Wolfarth, Hall county sheriff, served also as foreman of the Diamond Tail until he shot Eugene de Bauerenfiend, publisher of the Hall County Herald, at Memphis on August 10, 1891. Wolfarth was later tried and given a fifteen-year prison sentence for second-degree murder, but Curtis subsequently obtained a pardon for him from Governor Charles A. Culberson. In the meantime, George Wilks succeeded Wolfarth as range boss.

Unlike many large Panhandle ranches, the Diamond Tail was never sold out to British capital during the height of the "Beef Bonanza." After the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway built through in 1887, the stage stand was discontinued, and the town of Giles became the Diamond Tail's leading shipping point and social center. In the lean years of the late 1880s, the ranch went bankrupt. It was then put into the hands of a receiver, Sam Lazarus, who within a few years put the enterprise back on a sound footing. The Diamond Tail herd was saved from the terrible blizzard of February 11, 1893, when Curtis cut his fences to let the cattle drift southward. To build up the blood of the Diamond Tail herd Curtis and Atkinson purchased fine cattle from Charles Goodnight of the JA Ranch. Throughout the peak years the partners branded from 10,000 to 15,000 calves and ran average herds of 60,000 head. From 1890 to 1895 nesters came to the ranch to claim school sections, with the result that the Diamond Tail reduced its operations, sold its cows, and operated as a steer ranch only. Curtis began moving his cattle to Chavez County, New Mexico, after 1895, keeping only 16,000 acres in Hall and Donley counties for blooded stock and a few fine bulls purchased from Charles W. Armour of Kansas City. Bill Curtis's oldest son, Jim, went with his bride to New Mexico to manage the Diamond Tails there; he gathered a large herd by buying out the DZ, the 9R, and other ranches. It took over two years to receive and brand all the cattle then belonging to the ranch. Jim Curtis and his brothers continued ranching in New Mexico for some time. Bill Curtis was accidentally killed in December 1901, and his heirs retained interest in twenty-five sections of Panhandle property until 1905, when they sold the land to John M. Browder. Browder, who continued the Diamond Tail brand, later divided the ranch among his children. In the 1970s his heirs were still using the brand.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Virginia Browder, Donley County: Land O' Promise (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex, 1975). Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943).

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, "DIAMOND TAIL RANCH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apd01), accessed November 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.