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FOUR SIXES RANCH

FOUR SIXES RANCH. The Four Sixes (6666) brand was established by Samuel Burk Burnett in the early 1870s. Although legend persists that Burnett's brand was devised to honor a winning poker hand of four sixes that he once held, sources indicate that Burnett, after successfully completing his first drive to Kansas as trail boss for his father's herd in 1867, saved his earnings and in 1871 used them to buy 100 cattle bearing the Four Sixes brand from Frank Crowley in Denton County. Burnett's brother Bruce used the brand in reverse (9999) for his ranching operation, which he moved to Knox County in 1889. In 1874 Burnett moved his cattle to the region of the Wichita River, bought land, and established his ranch headquarters near the site of present Wichita Falls. Due to the drought of 1881 Burnett was forced to drive his cattle to the Red River to survive. He subsequently leased 300,000 acres of Comanche-Kiowa reservation land. In 1893 he began the process of purchasing the Old Eight Ranch, 140,000 acres and 1,500 head of stock, from the Louisville Land and Cattle Company of Kentucky. The purchase was finalized in 1900, and Burnett moved his 6666 Ranch headquarters to King County.

By 1900, when the government opened the Kiowa-Comanche reservation for settlement and ordered the cattlemen to vacate their leases, Burnett obtained from President Theodore Roosevelt a two-year extension to enable him and his fellow cattlemen to move out and dispose of their herds in an orderly fashion. In 1902 Burnett bought 107,520 acres in Carson and Hutchinson counties from the British-owned White Deer Lands (see FRANCKLYN LAND AND CATTLE COMPANY) for $2.65 per acre. This choice Panhandle range, which had previously been leased to Al Popham and J. L. Harrison, was located along Dixon Creek and contained abundant water. It became known as the Burnett-Dixon Creek-6666 Ranch. Over the next few years Burnett acquired sufficient adjoining range land to constitute an operation totaling almost a third of a million acres.

On his Four Six ranges Burnett began improving his cattle by careful culling of cows and importation of purebred Herefordqv and Durham bulls. The resultant offspring soon became consistent winners as feeder cattle in livestock shows nationwide. The Dixon Creek Division, sometimes known as the Stocker Ranch, was set up to receive calves produced on the other Burnett properties. Gradually, the Four Sixes became a strictly Hereford operation, and Burnett's cattle were among the first to be spayed to better fatten them prior to slaughter. The Four Sixes acquired its first cow horses from Burnett's father-in-law, Col. M. B. Lloyd of Fort Worth; since then all horses on the ranch have been branded with the letter L on the left shoulder. Burnett's purebred quarter horses likewise became well known throughout the Southwest. Outstanding Four Six employees during its early years, some of whom had worked for the Eight Ranch before Burnett bought it, included John Humphreys, Jim Gibson, Sid Williams, Charlie Hart, Joe Crystal, and Oak (Coley) Owens. Bud Arnett was retained as the first foreman. The Four Sixes brand was used on the Burnett properties in Wichita County, headquartered at Iowa Park, until 1910, when Burnett leased them to his son Thomas L. Burnett, who subsequently adopted Colonel Lloyd's Triangle brand as his own.

Although Burk Burnett at first utilized the Old Eight Camp as his headquarters in King County, he later moved it west to the county seat of Guthrie and in 1917 built his magnificent $100,000 stone ranch house on a hill overlooking the town. Barns, corrals, a bunkhouse, and other outbuildings were erected around it. In 1918 a severe Panhandle blizzard wiped out 2,000 cattle on the Dixon Creek Division, but the losses were practically forgotten in 1921, when the first seven of Carson County's oil and gas wells, including Eugene S. Blasdel's Gulf No. 1 and No. 2, were drilled on the ranch.

After Burnett's death in 1922 the Four Sixes was inherited by his granddaughter, Anne Burnett Tandyqv. Known affectionately among the ranch people as "Miss Anne," she became nationally famous as a judge and breeder of horses; among the well-known champion racers and show horses acquired by or bred on the Four Sixes were Grey Badger II and Hollywood Gold. The ranch and its overseers were prime movers in the organization of the American Quarter Horse Association. When Bud Arnett retired as foreman in 1930, his son-in-law filled the position for two years and then was succeeded by a second-generation Four Sixes cowhand, George P. Humphreys. By 1936 around 20,000 Hereford cattle stocked the Four Six ranges, ably run by the S. B. Burnett Estate in Fort Worth, of which John C. Burns served as trustee for many years. In 1961 John Boyce (Jay) Humphrey III was appointed as trustee and general manager; he held the position until 1980.

The Four Sixes Ranch, which occupies some 208,000 acres, continues to be the primary economic mainstay of King County. The imposing ranch house, occupied by the foreman and his family, stands at the end of a paved driveway just off U.S. Highway 82. A rock watertower stands behind it, and other ranch facilities, including barns and corrals, a dining room, and a bunkhouse for single employees, cover about eighteen acres. Four line camps, the South, North, Old Eight, and Taylor, are located on the ranch. Each camp is run by an overseer, who looks after an allotted number of acres and cattle. Living quarters are furnished for him and his family. The wagon boss and other married ranch employees reside with their families in Guthrie, in furnished, rent-free housing. The town's high school and nondenominational church are supported by tax money from the ranch, and the Four Sixes Supply Store is another well-known landmark. The ranch continues to use the old horse-drawn chuckwagon, where cowboys and visitors are welcome to a Western-style meal out on the range at roundup time. The Dixon Creek Division (108,000 acres) in Carson and Hutchinson counties contains several producing oil and gas wells and a spacious stone headquarters house, which is easily spotted from State Highway 207 north of Panhandle.

After Miss Anne's death in 1980, the Four Sixes was passed on to her daughter Anne V. (Little Anne) Windfohr Sowell and granddaughter Windi Phillips. George Humphreys, known in later years as the "Little Sheriff" of King County, remained as foreman until his retirement in 1970. His successor was another second-generation employee, James J. Gibson, Jr. In addition to conducting an extensive brush-control project, Gibson's main contribution in recent years has been the introduction and crossbreeding of Brangus cattle with ranch Herefords to produce the Black Baldie, a hardy breed more resilient to cedar flies, a common pest in the cedar brakes of West Texas. Champion quarter horses continue to reap profits for the Four Sixes. George (Coon) Jeffers became foreman of the Dixon Creek Division in 1949. In the 1980s Gibson became general manager of the ranch. Mike Gibson was the foreman in 1994.

In addition to its high-grade livestock, the Four Sixes has won fame as a setting for several Marlboro cigarette television ads during the 1960s, with certain ranch employees posing as the "Marlboro Man." Portions of the movie Mackintosh and T. J., which starred Roy Rogers, were filmed at the Old Eight Camp in 1975. The ranch has likewise been a favorite subject for paintings by area artists such as Tom Ryan and Mondel Rogers. One of the original red Four Sixes barns, which was for years a prominent landmark in Guthrie, is now on the grounds of the Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

James Cox, Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry (2 vols., St. Louis: Woodward and Tiernan Printing, 1894, 1895; rpt., with an introduction by J. Frank Dobie, New York: Antiquarian, 1959). Dallas Morning News, September 4, 1991. C. L. Douglas, Cattle Kings of Texas (Dallas: Baugh, 1939; rpt., Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1968). Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). King County Historical Society, King County: Windmills and Barbed Wire (Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1976). Dorothy Abbott McCoy, Texas Ranchmen (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966–72). Mondel Rogers, Old Ranches of the Texas Plains (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976). Jesse Wallace Williams, The Big Ranch Country (Wichita Falls: Terry, 1954; 2d ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1971).

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, "FOUR SIXES RANCH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apf01), accessed September 01, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.