Muleshoe Ranches

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: December 2, 2020

Several Texas ranches have registered and used a muleshoe brand in various forms (typically an inverted U shape). The earliest known use of this brand in Texas was about 1844, when Mrs. B. C. Oliver reportedly designed a crude muleshoe brand for her family's cattle in Red River County. By 1861 the Olivers had moved to Nueces County, for it was there that the brand was registered on July 9 of that year. Near Corpus Christi the Olivers set up their Mota Ralla Ranch, which by 1884 covered more than 15,000 acres and ran 200 head of cattle, 100 horses, and 20,000 sheep, all bearing their muleshoe brand. On October 6, 1892, ownership of the ranch was transferred to E. R. Oliver, Sr., who in turn passed it on to his son, E. R., Jr., on June 20, 1900. Oliver descendants continued to use the brand in subsequent years.

A similar brand was started in 1856 (though not actually registered until 1860) by Henry Black in Fannin County. He subsequently moved west to Stephens County, where he purchased land and established the Muleshoe Ranch; he used the brand for the next fifty years.

A muleshoe brand of a different design was introduced in 1860 by W. W. Cochran, the first White settler in Palo Pinto County to settle west of the Brazos River. Later his son, W. C. Cochran, transferred it to Ector County.

A brand of similar design was begun in December 1891 by John T. Holland, who ran it in Runnels County for a few years and then moved it to Armstrong County, where he settled near the town of Wayside in 1898. In 1908, after moving to Canyon in Randall County, Holland sold the brand to Dan L. Adams, who continued to use it on his stock farms near Happy and Wayside.

In addition, Daniel Waggoner was said to have used a crude muleshoe brand for a brief time. When he first established his ranch on Paradise Prairie in Wise County, Waggoner had no branding iron with him. On spotting a cast-off muleshoe, he heated it and applied it to his cattle, using fire tongs to handle it. From that temporary substitute, Waggoner reportedly developed his famous Three D brand.

A muleshoe brand that reclines on its side (a letter C shape) was registered in Karnes County on February 29, 1884, by J. M. Nichols. It reportedly was selected because it had no crosses and peeled off smoothly. In later years this brand was continued by his sons, J. W. and A. E. Nichols, on their respective operations in Bee and Live Oak counties.

The most famous Muleshoe Ranch, however, was the one that gave its name to the town of Muleshoe in Bailey County. Originally part of the vast XIT Ranch, the Muleshoe Ranch was begun in 1903, when Edward K. Warren and his son Charles, owners of the Warren Featherbone Company (a manufacturer of women's corsets in Three Oaks, Michigan), bought the YL Ranch, consisting of 40,000 acres, from J. L. Clark of Tennessee for $100,000. It became part of the Muleshoe Ranch, to which the Warrens added even more former XIT acreage from the brothers W. D. and F. W. Johnson in 1907, thus doubling their holdings. Within the next two years the Warrens had nearly $500,000 invested in Texas land and cattle. By 1910 subsequent purchases and leases had enlarged their empire to 150,000 acres along Blackwater Draw, covering portions of Bailey, Lamb, Castro, and Parmer counties. The headquarters for this operation was established west of the future townsite. One building, dating from the 1890s, was moved from Bovina to the headquarters and made into a combination bunkhouse and mess hall. The origin of the Muleshoe name for this enterprise is obscure; it was said that Charles Warren, as he was pondering a name, came across an old rusty muleshoe. Even so, the Warrens for the first five years referred to the ranch as the YL; the muleshoe brand was allegedly used first by the Johnson brothers on their Borden County ranch, and after buying land from them, Warren perhaps used the muleshoe brand briefly. However, after acquiring the 200,000-acre Ojitos Ranch in northern Mexico from Lord Beresford of England in 1910, he began applying that operation's U Bar brand to all of his herds; Beresford reportedly had designed that brand in 1889 as a warning to cow thieves (see CATTLE RUSTLING), meaning "You are barred." Nevertheless, the resemblance between the U Bar and muleshoe brands was close enough to perpetuate the latter name for the Warrens' Texas ranch—and ultimately for the new Bailey County seat.

The Muleshoe Ranch prospered when the Santa Fe's Clovis cutoff line was built through its property, increasing area land values and launching the town of Muleshoe at the site of the ranch's loading pens in 1913. Charles Warren thus began selling tillable real estate to incoming farmers. After the death of his father in 1919, Charles and other family members incorporated their holdings as E. K. Warren and Son, with Charles as president and chief stockholder. By then he also owned the Alamo Hueco Ranch in southwestern New Mexico, as well as the Ojitos, which was subject for a few years to frequent depredations by insurgents under such revolutionaries as Ynez Salazar and Francisco (Pancho) Villa. Whatever losses Warren sustained in Mexico were made up in part from the profits of the Muleshoe, which sold cattle for as much as $9.08 an animal in 1915. At one time some 10,000 head of cattle grazed the Muleshoe range. Tom Clayton managed operations there for several years, and William H. Kramer was elevated from office boy to the ranch's secretary-treasurer and unofficial manager. By 1924 the Warren corporation had reached its zenith.

After Charles Warren's death in 1932, his ranching interests were maintained and expanded by other stockholders, largely under the direction of his brother-in-law and longtime associate, George Lackey. Charles Warren's son, E. K. Warren, assumed the company's presidency in 1940, while William Kramer served as its secretary-treasurer and acting manager. In 1944 and 1945 two more ranches—in New Mexico and Colorado—were obtained. The Ojitos properties, however, were lost, as the corporation was compelled to sell out its Mexican interests in 1947 at a third of the 1910 purchase price. By 1954 the older Warren family members no longer retained a controlling interest in the company. The Muleshoe, along with the other remaining ranches, was sold, thus bringing to an end the once-vast Warren cattle empire. In the late 1980s the old Muleshoe Ranch cookhouse and bunkhouse stood near Farm Road 1760 west of Muleshoe. Surrounded by farmland, the building had been designated a historic landmark and had received a Texas Historical Commission marker. Records of the Muleshoe Ranch and other Warren company interests are housed in the Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University, Lubbock.

Armstrong County Historical Association, A Collection of Memories: A History of Armstrong County, 1876–1965 (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1965). Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). LaVonne McKillip, ed., Early Bailey County History (Muleshoe, Texas, 1978). David J. Murrah, "From Corset Stays to Cattle Ranching: Charles K. Warren and the Muleshoe Ranch," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 51 (1975).


  • 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, “Muleshoe Ranches,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 2, 2020