Powell, William (1839–1917)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

William Powell, promoter of Hereford cattle, was born on December 12, 1839, at Arkshire Court in Herefordshire, England. He was descended from Styles Powell, one of the earliest breeders of the cattle that made that shire world-famous. Powell spent his early years on the family estate, where he mastered the various facets of livestock breeding and management. In his early twenties he assumed operation of one of his father's farm properties and held a British government position of overseer. However, seeking a greater fortune elsewhere, in May 1866 he immigrated to the United States and settled initially at Pittsfield, Ohio. There he acquired half-interest in champion Hereford bulls and developed a small flock of Cotswold sheep. In 1871 he moved to Beecher, Illinois, where he became associated with T. L. Miller, a Chicago insurance salesman. Powell and Miller started a Hereford cattle-breeding operation, the first in the central United States, and began promoting the breed. Four years later Powell began his own breeding establishment, Poplar Farm, west of Beecher. His exhibitions soon attracted the attention of cattle raisers nationwide, and in 1876 several of his animals won first prizes at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.

Powell's success with his champion Herefords inspired others to raise the breed. In 1876 he took several of his finest cattle to Texas, where he later formed a partnership with B. C. Rhome of Fort Worth. He maintained his Illinois interests until 1886, when declining health prompted him to move to the milder climate of Texas. For three years he and Rhome operated near Childress the first Hereford-breeding ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Then in 1888 Powell acquired a 12,000-acre tract in Hartley County near the new rail townsite of Channing. There he began his famous Home Herd, which became a supplier of purebred Herefords for many ranchers throughout Texas. Powell devoted the remainder of his life to improving his purebreds and adapting them to the Panhandle environment. In 1896 his younger brother James, who had bred Herefords near Cheyenne, Wyoming, joined him in Channing as a partner in the ranch. By 1904 the Powell family's livestock ranch was the largest Hereford-breeding establishment in the United States. In 1913 the Powells sold a large portion of their acreage to F. E. Thomas, who parceled it into lots for a new addition to Channing. After William Powell's death in 1917, James and his two sons continued to breed registered Herefords.

John M. Hazleton, History and Handbook of Hereford Cattle and Hereford Bull Index (Kansas City: Walker, 1935). Lillie Mae Hunter, The Book of Years: A History of Dallam and Hartley Counties (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1969). National Live Stock Association, Prose and Poetry of the Livestock Industry of the United States (Kansas City, Missouri: Hudson-Kimberly, 1904). Donald R. Ornduff, The Hereford in America (Kansas City, 1957; 2d ed. 1960). F. Stanley, The Channing, Texas, Story (Nazareth, Texas, 1974).


  • Peoples
  • English
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

H. Allen Anderson, “Powell, William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 27, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/powell-william.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995