The Quarter Circle T Ranch, the second ranch in the Panhandle, was established in late November 1876 when Thomas Sherman Bugbee brought his family, trail hands, two wagons, and about 1,800 cattle to the Panhandle from the vicinity of what is now Lakin, Kansas. An early blizzard caused the Bugbee cattle to drift south to the Canadian River breaks in an area that is now Hutchinson County, where the family decided to stay. The resourceful Mary Catherine Bugbee chose a spot in the earthen wall of a riverbank near the creek that now bears her husband's name. Here she constructed a "half-human," or family-sized, dugout of mud and pickets with deerskin windows and buffalo-hide carpets as a home for their two small children. The cattle grazed on the abundant grasses in the sheltered breaks. Buffalo were still numerous in the area, and Molly, who was a crack shot, had no trouble supplying fresh meat. The buffalo also were a menace, however, and Bugbee was compelled to hire extra men to keep them away from his cattle and their grazing areas. He adopted his Quarter Circle T brand in 1876, and Tom Coffee served as range boss. The Quarter Circle T made its own trail to Dodge City, a 200-mile, ten-day journey by wagon. All supplies were freighted by ox teams. This connection helped alleviate the family's isolation; as many as three months might pass without mail or news from the outside world. The nearest neighbors were Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight, seventy-five miles away in Palo Duro Canyon.
Mrs. Nancy Thompson, Molly's mother from Kansas, soon joined the young family. In 1878 the Bugbees hired two itinerant Portuguese stonemasons to construct a five-room ranchhouse from native stone quarried near the site. A milkhouse was erected over a nearby spring, with troughs where water could cool dairy products and trickle down to water a garden. Barns and corrals completed the Quarter Circle T headquarters. In the new house, the Bugbees' third child, Ruby, was born, the first White child born in Hutchinson County. With proceeds from cattle sales Bugbee purchased more stock, and his herds rapidly grew. When the Prairie Cattle Company offered $175,000 for the ranch in 1881, Mrs. Bugbee persuaded him to wait for a higher price. In December 1882 they accepted a $350,000 bid from the Hansford Land and Cattle Company. At that time Bugbee's cattle numbered 12,500. The Bugbees moved to Kansas City and later to Clarendon after he became involved in further ranching ventures.
The Quarter Circle T brand ceased to be used after the sale. The land and cattle were added to the Hansford company's Turkey Track Ranch. Cape Willingham , manager of this enterprise, moved his family into the stone house and made it the Turkey Track's main headquarters. The house, located ten miles east of Stinnett, continued more than 100 years later to serve the Turkey Track's owners, the Whittenburg family, who preserved its original atmosphere. The portholes made to fire through during Indian raids and the porch from which Mrs. Bugbee shot buffalo are still prominent features. The spring that kept milk and vegetables cool for the Bugbees now feeds a concrete swimming pool.
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C. L. Douglas, Cattle Kings of Texas (Dallas: Baugh, 1939; rpt., Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1968). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876–1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981).
Ranching and Cowboys
Ranches Established After 1835
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
H. Allen Anderson,
“Quarter Circle T Ranch,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 18, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 14, 2021