Campbell, Henry Harrison (1840–1911)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: December 1, 1994

Henry Harrison (Hank) Campbell, rancher, son of F. and Effie (McLean) Campbell, was born on August 31, 1840, in Cumberland County, North Carolina, where his father was a planter. The family moved to Texas in 1854 and lived successively in Waller, Grimes, and Ellis counties. During the Civil War Campbell served with the Twentieth Texas Regiment in Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Indian Territory; he was wounded three times before he was mustered out in Houston.

He returned to Ellis County, where he contracted to drive his neighbors' cattle to market in California, New Orleans, or Chicago for wages, shares, and later investment. In 1879, as working partner-manager, he secured $50,000 from Alfred M. Britton of Chicago, a Mr. Cato of New York, S. W. Lomax, and John Nichols of Fort Worth to establish the Matador Cattle Company at Ballard Springs on the Pease River. The ranch began operations with a small herd of some 1,300 cattle. Steers sold for seventy-five dollars a head in 1881, and within a few years the Matador under Campbell was branding from 15,000 to 20,000 calves a year. In 1882 the ranch was sold to a group of Scottish investors and became the Matador Land and Cattle Company. By the time of Campbell's resignation from the post of superintendent in 1890, the ranch had grown to include a million and a half acres in three different ranges and a total herd of some 90,000 head.

Campbell married Elizabeth Bundy of Navarro County in 1871, and they had two children. His first home on the ranch was in an old buffalo hunter's dugout at Ballard Springs; he later built a frame home there. By the time he left the ranch in early 1891, he had bought a section of land a mile northeast of Ballard Springs. On this he founded the town of Matador. Also in 1891, in order to organize the county formally, he brought in cowboys from the ranch who set up temporary "businesses" so that a patent could be obtained from the land office. Campbell was appointed the first county judge of Motley County and served two one-year terms. He then bought another ranch and operated it for several years before turning it over to his son. He lived in Matador until his death, on May 23, 1911. He was buried at the Myrtle Cemetery in Ennis, Texas.

Harry H. Campbell, The Early History of Motley County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1958; 2d ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1971). Mary Whatley Clarke, A Century of Cow Business: A History of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (Fort Worth: Evans, 1976). James Cox, Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry (2 vols., St. Louis: Woodward and Tiernan Printing, 1894, 1895; rpt., with an introduction by J. Frank Dobie, New York: Antiquarian, 1959). W. M. Pearce, The Matador Land and Cattle Company (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964). Eleanor Traweek, Of Such as These: A History of Motley County and Its Families (Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1973).
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Campbell, Henry Harrison,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994