Pecos Land and Cattle Company

By: Julia Cauble Smith

Type: General Entry

Published: May 1, 1995

The Pecos Land and Cattle Company was organized in 1884 by investors from Attleboro, Massachusetts, who hoped to turn a good profit. Headquarters were located near Meyers Spring, seven miles east of the railroad station at Dryden in south central Terrell County. Although the owners had no experience in ranching, they bought 106 checkerboard sections, or 67,840 acres, of land from the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway for a dollar an acre. In 1884 the company purchased a nearby recently established ranch, the King Spring Cattle Company. Sometime later the company added the cattle of the KL brand and the O Bar brand to its holdings. The headquarters of the Pecos Land and Cattle Company were then moved to Dryden, where the management built three structures north of the railroad and opposite the depot. In 1886 W. W. Simonds, general manager of the ranch, patented the section of school land where the townsite of Dryden was laid out. He built a large two-story building for a store, a post office, and sleeping quarters. Two adobe buildings were constructed near the store. One of these was home to the family of ranch foreman Daniel G. Franks.

One of the problems the management of the ranch faced was that of providing water for the large herds. They leased land surrounding Cedar and Meyers springs from John L. Bullis, giving access to those natural sources. Water was also taken from King Spring and from the Rio Grande. The company eventually resorted to drilling for water. After a hired contractor was unsuccessful, they bought drilling equipment and found water themselves at only 600 feet. A second problem in operating the ranch was that of rounding up the cattle. The company began roundups at the mouth of the Pecos River and drove towards Dryden. Area ranchers who joined in the roundups to separate their cattle included H. C. Tardy, John R. Billings, Joe Kincaid, George Miller, Bob and Ross Neighbors, and the operators of the T5, Mule Shoe, NA, S, TX, and Gage (see A. S. GAGE RANCHES) ranches. The livestock was gathered, and the calves were branded. All stock was driven to home range or to market. In the spring of 1886 the Pecos Land and Cattle Company gathered 2,027 calves for sale.

Although the ranch showed a profit in good years, it lost money in poor ones. The owners had chosen to enter ranching on a large scale at the end of the open range. They paid top dollar for land, whereas earlier cattlemen had used free grass to build fortunes. In 1892 D. R. Baret moved from Atlantic City, New Jersey, to replace Simonds as general manager of the company, but the company was already fading by this time. In 1895 it was dissolved. N. G. King bought thirty-two sections of the original land for thirty-two cents an acre. D. Hart purchased the remainder for twenty-seven cents an acre. John Doak of Del Rio bought the horses and the remaining livestock. In the late 1970s one of the adobe ranch buildings was still standing in Dryden, a timeworn reminder of a costly attempt at Texas ranching.

R. D. Holt, "Early-Day Stockmen of the Lower Trans-Pecos," Cattleman, November 1937. Terrell County Heritage Commission, Terrell County, Texas (San Angelo: Anchor, 1978).
  • Ranching and Cowboys
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Julia Cauble Smith, “Pecos Land and Cattle Company,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995