David Thomas Beals, merchant, rancher, and banker, was born in North Abington, Massachusetts, on March 8, 1832, the youngest child of Thomas and Ruth (Faxon) Beals. His father was a boot and shoe manufacturer. Beals received a public school education and briefly attended New Hampshire Academy. He entered business at the age of fifteen as a clerk for a Boston merchant but after some months returned to Abington to learn the shoe trade. In 1859 he traveled west and established several boot and shoe businesses, first in Missouri, then in mining districts in Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Utah. In 1873 he sold his mercantile interests, went east and secured several partners, and started a ranch on the Arkansas River near Granada in southern Colorado. In July 1877 he organized the Beals Cattle Company in Dodge City, Kansas, and sent W. H. "Deacon" Bates into the Texas Panhandle with a small herd to locate a range. Bates selected a pasture for the LX Ranch that extended along the Canadian River for twenty-five miles, south twenty miles to the site of Amarillo, and from the river north thirty-five miles to the headwaters of Blue Creek. Line camps were placed on the borders. The headquarters were located on Ranch Creek, two miles east of a small trading store, later the Wheeler post office, at the mouth of Pitcher Creek. Within two years Beals had driven his cattle from Colorado to the Canadian and brought down a series of steer herds from Kansas to accumulate a holding of 50,000 head.
Unlike other Texas ranchers seeking free grass, Beals, beginning in 1881, systematically bought land–first from the Houston and Texas Central Railway (23,680 acres) and later from Jot Gunter and William B. Munson (100,000 acres); Gunter and Munson had received various tracts as payment for their services as state surveyors. Beals occasionally visited the ranch, but left its operation to a series of managers. When settlers began entering the area he purchased more land, especially tracts with water. However, he was allowed to buy only two sections out of every four–hence the checkerboard pattern of LX lands on contemporary maps.
Beals made a major effort to produce and market improved stock. He imported blooded Durham and Hereford bulls and set up satellite "feeding" ranches in the Cherokee Strip and Caldwell, Kansas, to fatten his cattle for sale. He also sent fine horseflesh to the LX, where trotting and running sires were mated with half-breed mares to produce unusually fast and durable animals.
In the summer of 1884 he and his partners sold the LX Ranch to the American Pastoral Company of London, England, at a price variously listed from $1,200,000 to $1,650,000. The sale included 187,141 acres, 34,000 cattle, and 1,000 horses. Before the sale of the LX, Beals had settled in Kansas City, Missouri. There in 1887 he organized the Union National Bank and amassed large holdings in real estate, including the LX Building. But he maintained his ties with the Texas cattle industry and in 1908 purchased a major interest in the extensive Callaghan Ranch at Encinal, near San Antonio.
Beals married Ruth Cobb of Maine on April 20, 1851, and they had two children. Ruth died in 1881. On October 14, 1884, Beals married Arista Thurston of Mount Vernon, Ohio, and they had two children. Beals was a Unitarian. He became sick in San Antonio and died in Kansas City on April 21, 1910.