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FRANCKLYN LAND AND CATTLE COMPANY

FRANCKLYN LAND AND CATTLE COMPANY. The Francklyn Land and Cattle Company was an English syndicate chartered in 1881 to invest in the "Beef Bonanza." It was headed by and named for Charles G. Francklyn, a son-in-law of E. G. Cunard, owner of the Cunard Steamship Line, who helped finance the venture. The syndicate purchased a total of 631,000 acres of land in the Panhandle counties of Carson, Gray, Roberts, and Hutchinson, and also in Greer County, Oklahoma, then considered a part of Texas. The purchase price was $880,000; Francklyn bought with a partial down payment. Later the company issued mortgage bonds for $1,450,000, the greatest part subscribed by Cunard and other British citizens. For a resident manager the syndicate acquired the services of B. B. Groom, a relative of Francklyn, who for several years had bred cattle in Kentucky. Groom decided to make a stock ranch of the Greer County holdings and start a steer ranch in the Panhandle, where he would fatten cattle for market. Always an optimist, he took out a ten-year lease on 529,920 acres in the four Panhandle counties, to begin on February 10, 1882, and already paid up to August 9, 1883. Among the smaller outfits he bought out was D. C. Cantwell's Key-No Ranch on White Deer Creek. With approval from the Francklyn Company, Groom designed the Diamond F brand for the Panhandle range and turned it over to his son Harrison T. Groom, while he took personal charge of the Bar X in Greer County, which he had bought from E. B. Harrold and William S. Ikard. Harrison Groom and his wife made their home in Cantwell's cottonwood log cabin in northeastern Carson County. Because Mrs. Groom never liked living in such isolation, with the post office thirty miles away in Mobeetie, after three years B. B. Groom hired a Swiss immigrant, Henry Thut, to assist in managing the Diamond F. The ranch grew as the Grooms added other herds to their ranges, and employment reached a peak of forty-five men on the Diamond F and ninety on the Bar X. Perry LeFors, Rip Arnold, and Billy Frazier served successively as foreman. Between the two ranges the Francklyn Company owned 700,000 acres and controlled 1,000 sections. The combined herds of cattle numbered between 70,000 and 100,000 at the highest count. Among these was a herd of polled Angus that B. B. Groom imported from Scotland. From Kentucky he brought in several shorthorns and thoroughbred horses. Although the cattle carried several brands, which the company registered, they were all eventually rebranded with the Diamond F in the Panhandle and the Bar X in Greer County. Since the Diamond F was a dry range, Groom was one of the first to hire well-drillers to fill his cattle tanks. The colonel's extravagance was further exemplified in the fine corrals, sheds, and living quarters he constructed, and also in the miles of barbed wire he had shipped in from Dodge City to enclose a pasture twenty-eight miles wide and forty-two miles long.

Such liberal spending, in addition to the terrible January blizzard, was partially responsible for the bankruptcy of the ranch in 1886. That year the Francklyn Company failed to pay bonds due ($2,182,330, including interest), and bondholders brought suit in the federal court at Dallas, asking that the land be sold and payments foreclosed. The syndicate was thus reorganized as the White Deer Lands Trust, which soon became known as White Deer Land Company or simply as White Deer Lands, although still branding the Diamond F. Two New York capitalists, Frederic de P. Foster and Cornelius C. Cuyler, came into possession of the lands. Other names associated with this new venture through the ensuing years included Russell Benedict, who was made trustee of the White Deer Lands, Sir Robert Williams, and Sir Gordon Cunard. George Tyng served as resident manager until his resignation in 1903, when he was succeeded by Timothy Dwight Hobart.

As manager of the White Deer Lands, Hobart was in charge of settling them with farmers. Henry Thut and Perry LeFors were among the first settlers to buy. Agricultural communities like LeFors and Groom were founded, and the company office was located in the new rail town of Pampa. Beginning in the 1890s the Diamond F Ranch, then consisting of 630,000 acres, sold its cattle and leased its land to various cattle outfits, including the Frying Pan, the Matador, and the N Bar N ranches. By the turn of the century the White Deer Lands had succeeded in selling most of the remaining 400,000 acres of land. Among the buyers was Samuel Burk Burnett of the Four Sixes Ranch, who bought 107,520 acres of former Diamond F land and established his Dixon Creek division headquarters in Carson County south of present Borger. After the discovery of oil on Burnett's ranch in 1921, White Deer Lands adopted a policy of reserving one-half or all of the mineral rights on lands sold. During the Dust Bowl era the company remained stable and deposited $150,000 with the stipulation that it be lent to area farmers affected by the drought. With the prosperity brought on by World War II, increasing oil income, along with income tax problems involving foreign investments in the company, drove taxes sometimes as high as 90 percent. Finally in 1949 a change in the Texas corporation laws, plus the purchase of most of the British interests by Cecil V. P. Buckler and other United States citizens, enabled the company to reduce taxes to about 50 percent. The White Deer Corporation was formed with Williston Benedict in New York City as president and Buckler as vice president and Texas agent. By 1957 the directors decided to liquidate the corporation by paying the stockholders and prorating the mineral rights among them. M. K. Brown bought the remainder of the property, including the red brick office building in Pampa, for $70,000. Since then this building, which dates from 1916, has been converted into the White Deer Land Museum. The company records are housed in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Sylvia Grider, "`He's for Progress': C. P. Buckler and the White Deer Land Company," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 43 (1967). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Francklyn Land & Cattle Company (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Life and Times of Timothy Dwight Hobart (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1950).

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, "FRANCKLYN LAND AND CATTLE COMPANY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dsf02), accessed November 26, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.