LE Ranch

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: General Entry

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: August 6, 2020

The LE Ranch was established in 1879 in Oldham County by government contract freighters William M. D. Lee and Albert E. Reynolds, whose wagontrains had freighted between Fort Elliott and the military posts in Indian Territory since 1875. When competing lines caused their business to slacken, Reynolds joined his brother Charles F. Reynolds in a mining venture near Creede, Colorado, while Lee sold the sutler store he had operated at Mobeetie since 1878 and disposed of his goods at Fort Supply. There he gathered a cattle herd and drove them to the Panhandle under the supervision of his longtime wagonmaster, Jordan E. McAllister. In the summer of 1879 Lee wrote his old partner in Creede, offering him half-interest in the cattle ranch for $75,000, and Reynolds accepted. They put a herd of Durham bulls, imported from Scotland, on Trujillo Creek in Oldham County. For a headquarters, Lee purchased a native stone house on Alamocitos Creek from James Campbell and Edward George Godwin-Austen, representatives of the New Zealand Sheep Company. In 1880 Lee bought the picturesque home of Dolores Duran in Romero Canyon, thirty miles above Tascosa, and made it the nucleus of ranch activities. For a brand, the partners selected the letters LE connected. By 1881 their herd had grown to more than 20,000 head. Mose Tate, who had arrived from the JA Ranch with Charles Goodnight's endorsement, was made range manager, and Reynolds returned to his mining venture.

Lee met Lucien B. Scott, a wealthy banker and coal-mine owner in Leavenworth, Kansas. In 1882 Lee decided to form a new partnership with Scott and wired Reynolds in Colorado requesting his return to the LE. When Reynolds arrived, Lee gave him the choice of buying or selling in a dissolution of their partnership. To Lee's surprise, Reynolds asked for ten days to decide, rode to the railroad depot at Trinidad, Colorado, and took the train to Denver. There he conferred with John M. Bond of the Scottish-based Alliance Trust, took Bond by rail with him to New York, and secured enough money to organize the Reynolds Land and Cattle Company. After returning with his brother to the LE within the ten-day period, Reynolds negotiated with Lee. According to Oldham County records, the Reynolds brothers paid $187,500 for Lee's part of the LE. They kept the cattle, the LE brand, and the western half of the range, including the Romero Canyon headquarters. McAllister succeeded Tate as range manager. Tate went with Lee, who retained the stone house on the Alamocitos. The dissolution of the Lee and Reynolds partnership was bitter, and neither spoke to the other again.

The Reynolds brothers ran the LE successfully for twenty years, with Albert as general manager and Charles as local operator. Albert hired G. W. (Monchy) Russell, his onetime bullwhacker with the freight wagons, to serve as range foreman. When the Prairie Cattle Company, whose LIT Ranch range was being crowded by nesters, needed more grazing land, it negotiated with the Reynolds brothers in 1902 to purchase all LE lands, both north and south of the Canadian River, except for a small section in the north to graze the LE cattle until they could be sold. When the sale was accomplished, the Reynolds brothers sold the remainder of their holdings to the Prairie Company and went back to their Colorado mines. Prairie cattle occupied the LE range from 1902 until May 1, 1915, when John M. Shelton, an Amarillo cattleman, bought the 221,062 acres for $3.50 an acre. Since his new range was divided by the Canadian River, Shelton sold the land south of the river to the Matador Land and Cattle Company and bought from the XIT Ranch its 111,000-acre Bravo Division, north of the river. Shelton continued to use the LE brand, but after his death in December 1923 his children retired it and adopted the Lazy J brand, which he had brought from downstate. Shelton's sons and their descendants operated ranches of their own on former LE range, and his daughter, Martha Shelton Houghton, fell heir to the old Romero Canyon headquarters and the Lazy J brand. After the Matador Ranch sold its Alamocitos Division in the 1950s, Royce H. Fulton of Lubbock purchased 96,800 acres of the old LE range and converted it into his now-famous Quien Sabe Ranch. The Scharbauer family's Alamocitas Ranch was also carved from former LE holdings.

Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). W. M. Pearce, The Matador Land and Cattle Company (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876–1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981). Dulcie Sullivan, The LS Brand (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968).

  • 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, “LE Ranch,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 13, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/le-ranch.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995
August 6, 2020