The Laurel Leaf, or Horseshoe, Ranch had its beginning in 1878, when Frank Karrick first brought cattle to the Lake Creek range in southeastern Hemphill County, between the Canadian and Washita rivers. Karrick established the Horseshoe Ranch, but by 1879 he had sold it to J. V. Andrews, who in turn sold out to a man named Burdick. William H. (Bee) Hopkins, who was made foreman of the Horseshoe by Andrews, later commented that this rapid succession of owners "sold the outfit...so fast that I didn't know who to check on." In 1882 the Texas Land and Cattle Company bought rights to the range around Lake Creek and added to it a portion of the Gunter-Munson survey along the Canadian River, centered around Cat Creek, a tributary. Soon afterward the syndicate began using the Laurel Leaf brand in place of the Horseshoe.
The Laurel Leaf brand was first registered on April 18, 1868, in Nueces and Cameron counties by Mifflin Kenedy. It was derived from the name of his ranch, Los Laureles, after the laurel trees on the property. When the Texas Land and Cattle Company bought the Laureles Ranch it also purchased the brand and maintained the South Texas ranch as a division of its holdings. By 1883 the syndicate had registered the brand in Hemphill County; the brand was altered for the trail. Steers were the specialty of the Laurel Leaf's northern range, which at its peak extended into Roger Mills County, Indian Territory, while cows and calves were left on the Laureles division downstate. The number of steers in the regular herd along the Canadian River seldom attained more than 10,000. Some of these were often sold as food to reservation Indians. Hopkins was maintained by the company as range foreman for the Laurel Leaf, and Edgar Wilson, a native of Iowa, was hired as general manager. Wilson's domineering attitude and attempts to run off nesters and small stockmen created friction between him and other ranch employees. In 1885 the state of Texas demanded payment of a lease from the company on threat of eviction, causing Hopkins and other employees to fear ruin.
Such fears were realized in 1888, when reverses from land legislation, falling cattle prices, and severe weather compelled the Texas Land and Cattle Company to sell its Panhandle holdings. Part of the Laurel Leaf range went to the YL Ranch of Beaver County, Oklahoma, with Charles Rheynerson as range foreman. The new owners moved the headquarters from Lake Creek to Oasis Creek, north of the Canadian River, and added 11,400 Laurel Leaf cattle to their original herd. A few months after the purchase the YL company decided to close out its entire holdings and shipped five carloads of cattle a week to Chicago from Higgins, until the entire YL herd was transported and sold to northern markets. A smaller portion of the old Laurel Leaf range went to its longtime foreman, Bee Hopkins, and his brother Joseph Houston, who made it into a successful ranching enterprise in which David M. Hargrave served as manager. Hopkins continued to use the Laurel Leaf brand for some time. In 1901 Robert Driscoll sold it to Henrietta M. King. In turn, Mrs. King gave the right to use it to John G. Kenedy, who used it for horses. After his death the brand was inherited by his daughter, Sarita Kenedy East, whose heirs still use it. Since 1883 several ranches in South and West Texas have used a modified horseshoe brand, most notably the Reilly, Lee, and Childress ranch in Tom Green County.
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Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). Tom Lea, The King Ranch (2 vols., Boston: Little, Brown, 1957). Millie Jones Porter, Memory Cups of Panhandle Pioneers (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1945). Glyndon M. Riley, The History of Hemphill County (M.A. thesis, West Texas State College, 1939). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876–1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981).
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.
H. Allen Anderson,
“Laurel Leaf Ranch,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
March 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 6, 2019