Quitaque Ranch

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: General Entry

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: April 30, 2019

The Quitaque (Lazy F) Ranch was begun by the brothers George and Jim Baker of San Saba County, who formed a cattle partnership. It was named for its location on Quitaque Creek, near its confluence with the Tongue and Pease rivers and near the site of the Valley of Tears, where Comancheros traded with Indians until the Red River War of 1874. This site was well watered by the three rivers, and before 1878 Jake Fields, a buffalo hunter, was the only area resident. In the summer of 1878 the Baker brothers hired Leigh R. Dyer to drive the first herd to the Quitaque country from their Cimarron River range. These cattle, mostly high-grade shorthorns, bore the Lazy F brand. O. J. Wiren, hired as foreman by the Bakers, brought in the second herd a month later and was placed in charge of the ranch. Mixed in with this Lazy F herd were a number of Wiren's own, branded with his Square-Topped Hat. The first headquarters was a cluster of dugouts built in the bank of the creek by the cowhands. Smaller line camps were also constructed on the range. Shortly after the ranch was established, Wiren was taken into partnership with the Bakers. In 1880 he and two Wisconsin lumbermen, Kellogg and McCoy, bought out the Baker interests. In addition to the Lazy F and Hat brands, the Dipper was also used by the new partnership. Noted cowboys on the Quitaque Ranch included John Farrington and the brothers Al and Jim Cook, who reportedly went to great lengths to keep New Mexican sheepmen from drifting onto the range.

By 1882 the Quitaque Ranch covered 140,000 acres in Briscoe, Floyd, and Hall counties. Early that year, allegedly to prevent a range war, Kellogg, McCoy, and Wiren sold their holdings to Charles Goodnight, who, at the request of his JA Ranch partner John G. Adair, was buying up most of the land around Quitaque Creek for Adair's wife, Cornelia. Goodnight purchased the ranchland at twenty-two cents an acre. At that time the ranch contained about twice the purchased acres, counting interspersed, state-owned school lands left free for grazing. Including the 2,000 head of Lazy F cattle, Goodnight invested some $100,000 in the Quitaque purchase. Under Goodnight's management, the Lazy F prospered for a time. A five-room headquarters was built, along with various outbuildings, out of lumber freighted in by wagon from Fort Worth. Walter Dyer, Goodnight's brother-in-law and range foreman, erected a spacious house on the upper reaches of the Quitaque. In 1883 Goodnight fenced the Quitaque pastures with barbed wire hauled to the site by freighters, who made profits from the return loads of buffalo bones they gathered on the range (see BONE BUSINESS).

After Adair died in 1885, Goodnight continued to manage the Quitaque for Mrs. Adair until December 1887, when they divided the JA property. As part of the negotiation Goodnight assumed full ownership of the Quitaque. The following year, to ease the financial strain, he sold a half-interest in the ranch to L. R. Moore of Kansas City and continued using the Lazy F brand. By 1890, with the influx of farmers into the area, Goodnight and Moore began experiencing occasional problems: mavericking of Lazy F stock, set grass fires, and vandalism of ranch fences. That year Goodnight disposed of his remaining half-interest to Moore in order to pursue his silver-mining venture in Mexico. A new ranch headquarters was located on the junction of Quitaque and Los Lingos creeks in 1894. Moore retained sole ownership of the Quitaque until 1904, when he sold the Lazy F cattle to Henry W. Cresswell and A. J. (Tony) Day. These cattle were shipped by four consecutive rail lines to pastures in Canada. Cresswell and Day then parceled out the Quitaque range to farmers, and the Lazy F brand was discontinued. The town of Quitaque was located on a portion of this land, eight miles north of the former ranch headquarters.

Briscoe County Historical Survey Committee, Footprints of Time in Briscoe County (Dallas: Taylor, 1976). Harley True Burton, A History of the JA Ranch (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1928; rpt., New York: Argonaut, 1966). J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949). 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

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Quitaque Ranch,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/quitaque-ranch.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
April 30, 2019