Callaghan Ranch

By: Paul I. Wellman and Hal R. Taylor

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: June 1, 1995

The Callaghan Ranch, lying athwart the Old San Antonio Road between Laredo and San Antonio, covered an area of 250,000 acres, with headquarters near Encinal, Texas. The ranch was started after the Civil War as an eighty-acre homestead south of old Fort Ewell on which Charles Callaghan, a young veteran of the Confederate Army, undertook to raise sheep. Before Callaghan died in 1874, he employed Col. William R. Jones, a former officer under Robert E. Lee in Virginia, as superintendent. Jones carried on the work for the heirs and built up the ranch by purchase and lease until at its height it ran 100,000 sheep and 6,000 goats and owned 125,000 acres outright, besides 100,000 more under lease. Because of its sheep-raising function, the ranch became the focus of the bitter Sheep Wars in the 1880s. Two of the Callaghan sheepmen were killed; Jones with a posse trailed and captured the killers, who were imprisoned. The Callaghan Ranch also survived various Indian raids between the period of its founding and the middle 1880s. During the period following the Indian difficulties William Sydney Porter, later world famous as O. Henry, became acquainted with the Callaghan territory. Fort Ewell was the post office to which he came for his mail, and many of his Western tales deal with the Callaghan terrain. A transition in the function and policy of the ranch came in 1908, when it was purchased by David T. Beals, and George D. Ford, both of Kansas City, and Thomas Atlee Coleman, a veteran Texas cattleman. The ranch, incorporated as the Callaghan Land and Pastoral Company, was converted into a cattle operation, and a new and vigorous scheme of expansion was undertaken. In 1946 the ranch comprised 218,500 acres owned outright and 31,500 under lease, in a single block of 250,000 acres, upon which the Swinging Eleven brand was carried by more than 20,000 Hereford cattle. The Callaghan was one of the best improved ranches in the country, and many of its employees, chiefly Mexican Americans, were born and lived their entire lives on the ranch. From 1923 to 1947 Joe B. Finley was general manager of the ranch, which was operated in the 1960s by the Finley family. On June 12 of the following year, the Callaghan Ranch was partially liquidated and original stockholders retired from the company. Acreage at that time was reduced to 131,000 acres owned and 46,000 leased.

Paul H. Carlson, Texas Woolybacks: The Range Sheep and Goat Industry (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982). Val W. Lehmann, Forgotten Legions: Sheep in the Rio Grande Plain of Texas, Vol. 3 (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1969). Paul Iselin Wellman, The Callaghan, Yesterday and Today (Encinal, Texas: Callaghan Land and Pastoral Company, 1944?).
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranches Established After 1835

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

Paul I. Wellman and Hal R. Taylor, “Callaghan Ranch,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995