N Bar N Ranch

By: Charles G. Davis

Type: General Entry

Published: May 1, 1995

The N Bar N Ranch was established in 1886 by William F. and Frederick W. Niedringhaus. During the 1850s the Niedringhaus family had immigrated to St. Louis from Westphalia and established a hardware store and tin factory. Soon they accumulated a fortune after discovering a unique process for making enameled kitchenware. Graniteware, as this product was called, caught on rapidly, and the brothers founded the Granite City Steel Company in Illinois. The Niedringhaus brothers invested part of their fortune in the "beef bonanza" and were among those utilizing state grasslands in Northwest Texas as free grazing lands. When the newly reorganized White Deer Lands Trust offered 650,000 acres for lease, the Niedringhaus brothers contracted for the land in Carson and neighboring counties for their Home Land and Cattle Company of St. Louis, and operated it under the N Bar N brand in connection with their main holdings in Montana. J. L. Harrison was hired to manage these Panhandle leases and moved his headquarters from near Clayton, New Mexico, to Carson County, Texas, where he operated from a ranchhouse near the site of White Deer built in 1887. A wooden frame house in Panhandle City, built of lumber hauled in by oxcart from Dodge City, was also used as a headquarters by the N Bar N. Henry L. Niedringhaus made frequent trips to Texas to look after his brothers' interests. In the 1890s the Niedringhaus cattle were among the large herds ordered off the range when the reorganized White Deer Lands decided to sell. With ranch manager Harrison in charge and T. L. (Tom) Coffee as drover, N Bar N personnel moved 25,000 head in 1892 and 40,000 head in 1893, in the last big cattle drives north from Texas. It took five months to make the drives to their Wolf Creek, Montana, range. After crossing the Canadian River at Adobe Walls, they received news of the quarantine in Kansas that compelled them to skirt that state. The herds were divided into groups of 2,500, each with ten cowboys.

The N Bar N is also famous as one of the ranches where Charles Marion Russell launched his artistic career after he left St. Louis for Montana in 1880 to seek adventure. In fact, the house occupied by the Harrison and Coffee families after the big drives from Texas was later a headquarters for the cowboy artist. For years the Niedringhaus family owned the largest collection of Russell paintings, which they sold to various museums and individuals nationwide. William Niedringhaus promoted Russell's artwork, giving him commissions and encouraging him to take up painting full-time. Several of his Russell paintings are now housed at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth. On August 6, 1966, descendants of William Niedringhaus, J. L. Harrison, and Tom Coffee met at White Deer for a reunion, seventy-three years after the historic last drives. The occasion was the town's sixtieth anniversary. The restored white frame house in Panhandle, once utilized by the N Bar N, is now the nucleus of the Carson County Square House Museum.

Lana Payne Barnett and Elizabeth Brooks Buhrkuhl, eds., Presenting the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Lan-Bea, 1979). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966–72). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876–1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Francklyn Land & Cattle Company (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963).
  • 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.

Charles G. Davis, “N Bar N Ranch,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/n-bar-n-ranch.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995