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SR RANCH

SR RANCH. The SR Ranch was established in Crosby County by Capt. James Calvin McNeill, Sr., in 1882, when he bought 8,000 acres, or one-half of the odd-numbered sections in a fifty-section tract designated Block Twenty-eight by the Houston and Great Northern Railroad. On the same date the other one-half of the sections were bought by the newly-formed Kentucky Cattle Raising Company of Louisville. The Kentucky company offered to buy out the SR ranch, but McNeill refused their offers, and the two landowners instead made a verbal agreement to jointly occupy the shared land. The arrangement was apparently worked out in such a way that the Kentucky company also assumed some of the management of McNeill's cattle, and he did not have to live at the ranch. McNeill had acquired the SR brand in Brazoria County in 1867, when he bought all the cattle belonging to Samuel Rowe, who first registered the brand in 1857. In 1883 McNeill shipped 1,500 cattle from Brazoria County to Albany, then drove them on to his Crosby County lands, and established headquarters in a dugout on Waddell Draw, across the White River from the COE Spring. There the cattle were branded with a C as well as the SR, to identify their home county of Crosby. Although McNeill spent some of his time there, he never made his home on the ranch. In 1890 he placed his wife's nephew, George M. Williamson, in charge, and gradually reduced his visits in the ensuing years.

By 1888, following a series of mishaps brought on by inadequate communication and unclear guidelines on how the cooperative management of the land was to be handled, relations between the Kentucky company and the SR ranch had deteriorated considerably. The Kentucky company used its strength as the larger landowner to force McNeill's herds into a restricted range. At the time this was seen by some as an attempt to starve the SR herd out of business. If it was, the plan backfired, for at the same time it restricted McNeill's rangeland, the Kentucky company also restricted its own, thus exacerbating the already unfavorable conditions of drought and declining markets. The Kentucky company went into liquidation beginning in 1893. In 1894 a house was erected, to which Williamson brought his bride, Mary (Mamie) Reese Cox, the first woman to live on the ranch. In 1900 Captain McNeill solidified and expanded his acreage in Block Twenty-eight, making a quadrangular tract of 18,240 acres, or 28½ sections, lying across White River and the mouth of Blanco Canyon.

James "Jim" Calvin McNeill, Jr., took over local management in 1902, when Williamson left to enter the cattle business in New Mexico. In 1900 McNeill married Mary Cox's younger sister Frances of Brazoria County, and in 1903 the young couple bought a small adjoining ranch from Handy P. Cole, to which they moved in 1904, with no change in management of the captain's local interests. In 1907 the captain's daughter Alice and her husband, Thomas Hill Ballowe, moved into the SR ranch house and accumulated a small herd branded with a Spanish Y. In 1912 McNeill, Jr., bought twenty registered Hereford cows from the estate of Charles W. Armour at Kansas City, Missouri. It was the foundation of a registered Hereford herd that has been maintained into the 1980s. He added to his acreage and named his place the Alamo Stock Farm. In 1917 a house, barn, and stock pens were built west of White River on Sandrock Draw to accommodate ranch employees. SR Camp is its name. The captain never visited the ranch after 1908, entrusting local control to his son Jim. In 1930 he directed that the cattle be divided among five living heirs and specified a pattern for division of the land. He died on December 17, 1933. Though some of the land west of White River has been sold, through leases and rental arrangements the remainder of both estates is operated as a unit. Jim McNeill died on May 17, 1949, and operation of the ranch was continued by his son, J. C. "Cap" McNeill III, and more recently by his grandson, George D. McNeill.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Fred Arrington, A History of Dickens County: Ranches and Rolling Plains (Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1971). James A. Creighton, A Narrative History of Brazoria County (Angleton, Texas: Brazoria County Historical Commission, 1975). Crosby County Pioneer Memorial Museum, A History of Crosby County, 1876–1977 (Dallas: Taylor, 1978). J. C. McNeill III, The McNeills' SR Ranch: 100 Years in Blanco Canyon (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1988). Nellie Witt Spikes and Temple Ann Ellis, Through the Years: A History of Crosby County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1952).

J. C. McNeill III

Citation

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

J. C. McNeill III, "SR RANCH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/aps17), accessed April 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.