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NEW ZEALAND SHEEP COMPANY

NEW ZEALAND SHEEP COMPANY. The New Zealand Sheep Company was a wool-growing enterprise established through the partnership of three Britishers, Edward George Godwin-Austen and A. B. Ledgard from England and James Campbell, a native of Scotland. It was probably the first British enterprise to engage in large-scale livestock raising on the Canadian River valley of Texas. During the late 1860s the partners had attempted sheep ranching in New Zealand. However, poor marketing conditions prompted them to try America. They arrived at San Francisco early in 1870, purchased 10,000 sheep in Sacramento, and trailed them by easy stages to New Mexico, where they arrived in late summer. They initially located at the base of Tucumcari Mountain and established headquarters near Tierra Blanca (later Liberty). The company hired Hispanic herders to graze their flocks in the wide, shallow valleys cut by various tributaries of the upper Canadian. In 1872 Campbell conducted a drive of some 15,000 sheep overland to market in Los Angeles. By 1877 the company's flocks were grazing eastward into the Texas Panhandle. Following the example of the Panhandle pastores, the company squatted on Alamocitos Creek a few miles south of its confluence with the Canadian in Oldham County. There, in the fall of 1878, Ledgard supervised the building of a two-room stone house as a new headquarters near a spring.

By the summer of 1879 the flocks had grown to between 60,000 and 100,000 head, and the partners divided their holdings. Campbell and Godwin-Austen bought land north of the river from the Gunter and Munson firm and continued running sheep over an area twenty miles to the north and east. However, they sold this well-watered tract in May 1880 to William McDole Lee and Albert E. Reynolds, owners of the LE Ranch, and moved to Rita Blanca Creek in Hartley County, where they grazed some 25,000 sheep and 3,500 cattle. During the winter of 1880–81 northers caused the loss of a large number of company sheep. As a result in 1881 the two partners readily sold out to Lee and Lucien B. Scott, who were forming the LS Ranch. Ledgard, who had continued to graze sheep in Oldham County, sold out to the LS the following year. Campbell and Godwin-Austen retained their partnership and built up a successful sheep and cattle raising empire in the vicinity of Watrous and Fort Union, New Mexico. They both maintained residences in Las Vegas, where they became wealthy and influential citizens. In 1885 Campbell became manager for the American Pastoral Company, which had bought the vast LX Ranch in the Panhandle. Four months after his marriage to Eliza Eads of Missouri, Campbell died from injuries sustained in a buggy accident. Godwin-Austen continued to run the ranch and lived on for several more decades, as did Ledgard, who likewise made Las Vegas his home. The rock house that Ledgard built on Alamocitos Creek is used by the Scharbauer family's ranching interests.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Amarillo Globe-News, Golden Anniversary Edition, August 14, 1938. John Arnot, "My Recollections of Tascosa Before and After the Coming of the Law," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 6 (1933). Paul H. Carlson, Texas Woolybacks: The Range Sheep and Goat Industry (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982). Seymour V. Connor, "Early Ranching Operations in the Panhandle: A Report on the Agricultural Schedules of the 1880 Census," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 27 (1954). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Oldham County Historical Commission, Oldham County (Dallas: Taylor, 1981).

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, "NEW ZEALAND SHEEP COMPANY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apn03), accessed December 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.