RO Ranch

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: General Entry

Published: June 1, 1995

Updated: August 4, 2020

The RO (Rowe) Ranch was named for its founder, Alfred Rowe. It began in 1878 when the adventurous Englishman erected a dugout on Glenwood Creek, just above its junction with the Salt Fork in Donley County, and began buying cattle. His first herd, which he branded with the RO, consisted of longhorns trailed up from South Texas by James Hughes, Joe Horn, and a man named McCormick. Charles Goodnight helped Rowe choose his first cattle and, as a favor, also lent him an employee, Green McCullum. In 1880 Rowe located his foundation herd on Skillet Creek and built a two-room adobe headquarters. After forming a partnership with his brothers Vincent and Barnard, Rowe negotiated with neighboring ranches for the purchase of additional grazing lands with choice water supply. Gradually he extended his range over an area of about thirty square miles, parts of four counties, most of which was eventually fenced. Beginning in July 1887 the Rowes leased sixty-three sections in northwestern Collingsworth County for two years. In 1898 the partnership was terminated, with Alfred retaining sole ownership. By 1900 the RO covered 100,000 acres (200 square miles) and ran 15,000 cattle, which had been improved with the purchase of Hereford and Durham bulls.

By 1885 a seven-room frame ranchhouse had been constructed just north of the adobe, which was subsequently used as a messhall and bunkhouse. Jasper Stevens, the range boss who hauled the lumber in by oxcart from Dodge City, and his bride were the first occupants of this house. Later L. C. Beverly, formerly of the JA Ranch, and his wife resided there after his appointment as manager of the RO. A garden provided vegetables not only for RO employees but also those of neighboring ranches. About 1894 Rowe bought from R. B. Edgell another ranchhouse within five miles of Clarendon overlooking the Salt Fork of the Red River. He enlarged it into nine rooms with lumber hauled from Wichita Falls. After its completion Rowe set up the "River Ranch" as a second RO headquarters and guest house, furnishing it with solid pieces from England, old clocks, and hunting prints. It was to this new headquarters that Rowe took his bride, Constance Ethel Kingsley, in 1901. Corrals, sheds, barns, and a new bunkhouse were added to this isolated bit of England. Bob Muir and Matthew (Bones) Hooks were among the notable cowboys who worked for the RO. William Beverley, Joe Williams, and Jim Christal served successively as foremen.

After Rowe's death in the Titanic disaster of 1912, the family continued to run the ranch. W. H. Patrick, Rowe's banker in Clarendon, administered the Texas properties until the appointment of Bernard Rowe as permanent administrator of the estate. By that time the RO range had been reduced to 72,000 acres in Donley and Gray counties. In 1917 William J. Lewis, a former top hand for the RO, arranged to purchase this acreage and the cattle from the Rowes for $595,113.26. The deed, which was formally signed on July 1, 1918, required $565.50 worth of revenue stamps. Lewis and his son, Will, Jr., continued to use the RO brand and Rowe's policies over the years. By 1936 the ranch covered 62,289 acres and ran more than 8,000 cattle. After the younger Lewis's death in 1961 the family sold much of the ranch. The large, rambling English-style ranchhouse, built by Rowe in the 1880s and backdropped by gaunt cottonwood trees planted by Jasper Stevens, stands near Skillet Creek about five miles south of McLean, which Rowe helped found at the turn of the century.

Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Willie Newbury Lewis, Between Sun and Sod (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1938; rev. ed., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976). Willie Newbury Lewis, Tapadero: The Making of a Cowboy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972). Estelle D. Tinkler, "Nobility's Ranche: A History of the Rocking Chair Ranche," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 15 (1942). J. N. Weaver, History of the Rowe Ranch (MS, Interview Files, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas, 1934).


  • Peoples
  • English
  • Business
  • 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, “RO Ranch,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 28, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995
August 4, 2020