The nucleus of the LS Ranch was formed in December 1880 when Lucien Scott, a Leavenworth, Kansas, banker, purchased approximately 35,000 acres in Oldham and Hartley counties in the Texas Panhandle. Although the initials LS originally signified only Scott, their meaning was altered in early 1882 to reflect a new partnership, the Lee-Scott Cattle Company, formed when William McDole Lee joined the enterprise. Lee also owned half interest in an adjoining Panhandle ranch, the LE. By 1883 the LS had nearly doubled its size by absorbing Lee's share of the LE, the nearby Ellsworth Torrey spread, Hispanic plazas, and several original land patents. The LS Ranch headquarters was on Alamocitas Creek until 1886, when it was moved to the Alamosa as a result of an exchange of lands with the XIT Ranch. Satellite ranches existed on a range near the Yellowstone River in Montana from 1883 to 1888 and on several hundred acres adjacent to the Canadian River in New Mexico. Scott also organized stock farms near his residence at Leavenworth, Kansas. Scott's operation, Ridgewood, bred purebred Herefords; Lee's farm exclusively pastured Aberdeen-Angus. In 1881 Lee imported thirty-nine head of Angus, the first of the breed to be pastured west of the Mississippi. Lee was a charter member of the American Angus Association; Scott was an early member of the American Hereford Association.
Lee and Scott maintained their partnership until the fall of 1891, when Lee sold out to Scott. Scott and his wife, Julia, were the principal managers of the LS Ranch until Scott's death in 1893, when Scott's brother-in-law, Charles Whitman, assumed control. On Whitman's death in 1899, his wife, Pauline, and her brother, Will Lingenbrink, continued management of the operation. A new partnership was joined in 1902, when Pauline married Frederick H. Kreismann of St. Louis, Missouri. A division of the ranch came in 1904 when the Landergin brothers leased (with an option to buy) the western half of the business. In 1905 they bought their leased half, and Swift and Company acquired the remainder. In the 1980s divisions of the ranch were controlled by the Ware family of Amarillo, who still used the LS brand, the Quien Sabe Ranch of Lubbock, and the XL organization of Amarillo. LS cowpunchers were active participants in the Cowboy Strike of 1883. The LS subsequently employed Patrick F. Garrett to organize the LS Rangers, a vigilante posse, to patrol the Panhandle during the annual round-up. Four LS cowboys were killed during a gunfight in 1886 in Tascosa over issues that related to the earlier strike. Also during this decade the north Panhandle drift fence was built (1881–82), and the cattle trail from the Panhandle to Montana was begun (1883).